(From Developing Skills to Applying Techniques)

Taijiquan Pushing Hands

Editorial Note: This is originally meant to be a private webpage for students of Shaolin Wahnam Institute. Nevertheless, as there is not much information on Pushing Hands and Striking Hands although they are crucial aspects of Taijiquan, some explanation is given so that other Taijiquan practitioners may also benefit.

After you have spent at least six months on Pushing Hands -- the longer the better -- you may proceed to Striking Hands. Pushing Hands and Striking Hands are complementary, the former develops fundamental combative skills like flow and agility as well as tactics like continuous attacks and interception, the latter familiarizes you with basic techniques for attack and defence.

Skills and techniques are the twin pillar for combat. It is helpful to have a sound understanding of the difference between them. A technique is a particular way or pattern you use to attack or defend, like a punch to the opponent's solar plexus or a ward-off against this punch. Skill refers to how well you execute the technique.

Basically there are three main aspects of skill, namely force, speed and precision. You may use a right technique for your attack or defence, but if it lacks sufficient force it will not serve its objective. Similarly if your attack or defence lacks speed or precision, it will be ineffective.

On the other hand, skills require techniques to carry them through. Nevertheless, especially at high level combat, it is usually skill that decides the winner. Hence, before you embark on learning basic attack and defence tecniques in these series of Striking Hands, make sure you have practised Pushing Hands sufficiently to have acquired the necessary combative skills.

Taijiquan Pushing Hands

As in Pushing Hands, in Striking Hands the practitioners commence their pratice by placing their firearns touching each other, as in the picture above. Then they move their arms as in Pushing Hands, sensing each other.

There are countless types of attacks, but past masters have classified them into four main categories, namely striking, kicking, felling and gripping. In the Chinese language, the first term in a group of terms is sometimes used to refer to the whole group.

Hence, Striking Hands refers not just to striking, but also to kicking, felling and gripping. In other words, Striking Hands is an ingenious method devised by Taijiquan masters to familiarize their students with various ways of attack by striking, kicking, felling and gripping, as well as the defence against them.

This series deals with striking. The remaining series deal with the other categories of attack.

Taijiquan Striking Hands Taijiquan Striking Hands

In the illustrations above, sensing an advantage or creating one if there isn't any, Roberto brushes his right arm along Attilio right arm and strikes Attilio's right shoulder with a right palm thrust. The left picture above shows the strike if Attilio fails to defend against the attack.

Sensing Roberto's impending attack, a skill Attilio has developed in Pushing hands, he moves his body slightly backward by sinking his stance, and simultaneously glides Roberto's attack away. Then they continue their Pushing Hands movements.

Taijiquan Striking Hands Taijiquan Striking Hands

Sensing another opportunity, Roberto penetrates his right arm through Attilio's right arm and attacks Attilio's left shoulder with a right palm strike. The left picutre shows the successful strike if Attilio fails to defend.

Sencing the approaching strike, Attilio sinks down his stance and wards off with his left arm using the "peng" technique, deflecting the attack to his left side. Alternatively (not shown in the illustrations) Attilio can also use his right arm instead of his left arm to deflect the attack to his right side.

Notice the importance of Roberto's left hand. Without this guard-hand, instantly after deflecting the attack and without any break of momentum, Attilio can easily strike Roberto's face employing the famous tactic frequently used in Taijiquan called "lian xiao dai da", or "linking defence with attack". You must develop this habit of the guard-hand irrespective of whether your opponent knows "lian xiao dai da".

Taijiquan Striking Hands Taijiquan Striking Hands

In the left picture above, Roberto sinks Attilio's right arm and strikes him with a right cup fist. Notice Roberto's guard-hand, without which he would expose himself dangerously to Attilio's possible counter-attack. Irrespectively of wether your opponent would ocunter-attack, you must always have your guard-hand ready.

Attilio sinks back his body and deflects Roberto's attack. Then they continue their Pushing Hands movements, seeking out opportunities if the opponent is careless enough to offer, or creating one if he is well covered.

Taijiquan Striking Hands Taijiquan Striking Hands

As Attilio does not show any opening, Roberto has to create one. In a surprised move he slips his left arm under his own right arm and instantly moves it diagonally upward to his left, thus deflecting Attilio's right hand outwards, and simultaneously strikes Attilio's abdominal dan tian, or energy fieled, with a right cup fist. Attilio sinks back his stance and brushes away Roberto's attack with his right hand. After this they can continue the Pushing Hands movements, or adopt other attack modes.

Three different modes of striking attacks are introduced in this series. It is recommended to practice just one mode until you can perform the movements well before proceeding to he next mode. Remember that the onus of combat is skills rather than techniques. You should emphasize developing skills rather than merely learning techniques. Nevertheless, more and more techniques will be introduced gradually.

Also take note that the palm thrust here is a representative striking attack. When you can strike skillfully with a palm strike, you can also use other hand forms in your attacks, such as a cup fist or a palm strike. Similarly when you can successfully counter a palm strike, you can also counter other forms of hand attacks.

Taijiquan Pushing Hands

Taijiquan Striking Hands


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