DEVELOPING COMBAT SKILLS IN PUSHING HANDS

Intensive Taijiquan Course

The video clips released in this series serve four main functions:

  1. To provide resources for those who have taken the Intensive Taijiquan Course to review what they have learnt.
  2. To provide material for those who wish to prepare for attending an Intensive Taijiquan Course in future.
  3. To provide some guidance for those who may wish to benefit from our teaching.
  4. To provide some reference for those who have read about Taijiquan principles but have no idea of their practical manifestations.

Tui Shou or Pushing Hands

After learning the basics and a Taijiquan set, course participants progress to learn Tui Shou or Pushing Hands.

Pushing Hands is a very important aspect of Taijiquan, but it is often neglected. One main reason for its neglect is that it is seldom explained in Taijiquan books. In a Taijiquan book of a hundred pages, for example, typically only two or three pages are devoted to Pushing Hands, with the remaining devoted to forms or theory. This gives a mis-conception that Pushing Hands forms only a minor part in Taijiquan training.

One main reason why there is little description on Pushing Hands, even in Taijiquan classics, is because Pushing Hands involves skills rather than techniques. As skills are “invisible” there may not be much description or illustration for it, unlike techniques which are visible and can be readily illustrated in forms.

Pushing Hands is an ingenuous method to develop many combat skills in Taijiquan. While such methods are also found in other kungfu styles, like “Sticking Hands” in Wing Choon and “Kneading Hands” in Wuzuquan, it is in Taijiquan that this method has evolved to be most sophisticated.

The video clips below show course participants to the Intensive Taijiquan Course of January 2006 in Malaysia develop various Taijiquan combat skills.

Developing Ting-Jing or Sensing Skill

Intensive Taijiquan Course

Course participants ensure that their stance is correct and comfortable as they are going to be in the same poise for some time. The initiator moves his right hand forward to touch the right shoulder of his training partner. The partner will not resist (though he may have the force to), but just yields or lets go to allow the initiator's hand in. His objective is to sense the attack. Sifu Wong reminds the participants that their left hand must be “alive”, as neglecting their left hand is a common mistake in such practice.

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Hua-Jing or Neutralizing Skill

Intensive Taijiquan Course

Have you wondered why “Pushing Hands” is often carried on in circles? Indeed some Taiji practitioners, ignorant of the underlying meaning, merely move their hands in circles while performing Pushing Hands. The reason is that the circle is an effective way to neutralize an opponent's force as well as direction. When an opponent strikes you, instead of meeting his strike head-on, you yield or follow his strike a short distance, then using his momentum deflect it and turn it back to him. You opponent may do the same too, hence resulting in circular movements. This aspect of Pushing Hands, where one yields, deflect and counters in one smooth movement, known as “hua-jing” or neutralizing-force, is practiced here in stationary pose, without moving the body or the legs. This is neutralizing using “shou-fa”, or hand-technique.

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Neutralizing with Body-Movement

Intensive Taijiquan Course

If an opponent's attack is too close, neutralizing with hand-technique alone may be insufficient. In this case you can sink your body backward without moving your legs, neutralizing his attack at the same time. This is neutralizing with “shen-fa”, or body movement. Neutralizing with “shou-fa”, or hand-technique, is effective when the attack is short-range, and neutralizing with “shen-fa”, or body-movement, is effective when the attack is mid range. If the attack is long range, like when an opponent moves right into you, unless you are very skillful, using hand-technique or body-movement alone may not be sufficient.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Neutralizing with Footwork

Intensive Taijiquan Course

If an attack is long range, like an opponent moving his leg into you, unless you are skillful with other techniques which will be learnt later, you would have to move your leg or legs backward. This is neutralizing with “bo-fa”, or footwork. This will be practiced in the next progression of mobile Pushing Hands. Meanwhile, Sifu Wong explains some mistakes to avoid in stationary Pushing Hands, where an opponent has moved in but the practitioner leans back awkwardly.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Glide in Frontal Push

Intensive Taijiquan Course

This video clip shows a progression from stationary Pushing Hands to mobile Pushing Hands. First, Sifu Wong shows the mistakes one should avoid in Pushing Hands. There should be leverage in pushing. One should push from his back leg, and not from his shoulders. It should be noted that this gliding in to push is meant as a practice to develop certain skills. In actual combat the practitioner could have struck the opponent. Secondly, it is very important to “close” or “cover-up” the opponent so that it would be difficult for him to strike while you push. This “safety first” principle is often neglected by many students.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Pushing from the Back Leg

Intensive Taijiquan Course

When you push, you should push from your back leg, and not from your shoulder. This is expressed in Taijiquan principles as “starting with the back leg, controlled by the wasitt, and ending at the hands.” It should not be the reverse, as in Boxing, where the Boxer starts with his hand to punch, throw his body weight forward, and end with his raised back leg. This pushing from the back leg in Taijiquan enables the practitioner to push with his whole body weight, but it is from pushing in Wrestling where the wrestler throws his body forward as in a “shoot”. In a Taijiquan push, the back leg remains firmly rooted.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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The Importance of Coverage

Intensive Taijiquan Course

While pushing, it is important to close or cover not only an opponent's hands but also other parts of his body, such as his head and legs, so that he has little or no opportunity to counter strike. Sifu Wong shows a common mistake in foot placement where the opponent may kick the practitioner's groin. Sifu Wong stresses that it is not a question of whether the opponent knows how to exploit the weskness but that we do not give away this weakness in the first place. Notice that with good technique, a lady can push away a hefty man.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Defence against the Glide in Frontal Push

Intensive Taijiquan Course

As an opponent glide his front leg forward for a frontal push, move back accordingly. The defence lies not just in the footwork but also in the body-movement and hand-technique. Besides spacing, timing is important. Sifu Wong advises the responder to relax and be pushed backward. Resisting may result in the initiator's internal force hurting the responder's body.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Step-Forward Frontal Push

Intensive Taijiquan Course

Instead of gliding your front leg forward, you may step your back leg forward for a frontal push. It is very important to cover the opponent so that he cannot counter strike. The push starts from the back leg, controlled by the waist and end with the hands. The practitioner must be stable at the end of his push.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Defence against the Step Forward Frontal Push

Intensive Taijiquan Course

As the initiator steps his back leg forward for the frontal push, the responder steps his front leg backward to neutralize this long range attack. Besides the footwork, body-movement and hand-technique are also involved. This corresponding retreat, i.e. stepping back against stepping forward, and gliding back against gliding forward, is for the purpose of practice. In actual combat, you should use whatever mode of retreat, or advance, that gives you the best advantage.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Changing Hands and Changing Footwork

Intensive Taijiquan Course

One way to gain a technical advantage over your opponent is use your preferred hand-mode or leg-mode against his unaccustomed hand-mode or leg-mode. For example, if your opponent's favorable mode is to have his right hand and right leg in front, if you can maneuver him to use his left hand and left leg in front, you would gain a technical advantage. One way you can achieve this is by changing hands or changing footwork. There are, however, some weaknesses you need to guard against while doing so.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Keeping in Contact

Intensive Taijiquan Course

After pushing from the front, course participants progress to pushing from the sides. Sifu Wong explains that one should stay in contact while neutralizing pushes so as to gain certain advantages. Sifu Wong demonstrates some counters one may use after neutralizing the push. These counters, nevertheless, would be learnt later.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Getting to an Opponent's Back

Intensive Taijiquan Course

Sifu Wong demonstrates how to get to the opponent's back. In actual combat we would strike him, but in this practice session we would push him from the back. We must be careful of various ways the opponent can strike us in surprise while getting to his back.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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The Tactic of Continued Attacks

Intensive Taijiquan Course

After learning various techniques in pushing, course participants progress to the use of tactics. Sifu Wong pushes Joko twice, but Joko can defence effectively. Sifu tries again, but this time linking the two attacks together as if they were one attack, and successfully pushes Joko away. Sifu Wong explains that although the same two techniques are used, Joko can neutralize the first two pushes because he knows the defence techniques, but he can not neutralize the second attempt because although the technqies are the same, Sifu Wong uses the tactic of continued attacks.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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Continued Attacks and Confusing Attacks

Intensive Taijiquan Course

Course participants use the tactic of continued attacks as well as the tactic of confusing attacks. Their training partners can neutralize the attacks despite the use of tactics because they know the tactics. Should they apply the tactics to an opponent who does not know, he would have difficulty defending himself although he may know the defence techniques (but not the hidden tactics).

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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The Tactic of Interception

Intensive Taijiquan Course

As Peter attacks, Sifu Wong intercepts and neutralizes the attack before Peter can complete it, then pushes Peter away. This is the tactic of interception. Earlier the course participants have learnt the tactic of instant counter. The difference between instant counter and interception is that in the former the responder allows the attack to be completed, then counter-attack instantly, whereas in the latter the responder intercepts the attack and counter-attacks before the initial attack is completed. In these two tactics, the practitioner lets the opponent takes the initiative, and exploits his initiative. In the tactics of continuous attack and the tactic of confusing attack, the practitioner takes the initiative.

The size of the video clip is 3.12 MB.

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