Tui shou (Push Hands)
Push hands practice is key to developing practical skill in taijiquan. An opponent or partner allows you to work on your alignment when facing various forces, neutralization skills, sense of feeling, timing, ... The following collection of push hands drills are practices that we have taken from Chen, Wu, and Yang style.
Neutralization drills (transforming)
Single hand methods
Two-handed-cross-body methods with stepping
Light and heavy practices
Slow and fast
The notes below will not attempt to describe the exercises themselves. Rather, the notes are intended to clarify some concepts within these practices. Many of the comments made for the earlier practices extend to the more complex methods that follow below, but are not repeated in the interest of brevity.
The comments and focus described below for each pattern certainly are not the only useful perspective. Different approaches to these same patterns can be very worthwhile. My current perspective, interest and knowledge have a definite influence on the focus.
Neutralization (Hua) drills
Often called transformation energy. Learn to be soft when you want to be soft. Learn to lead by creating emptiness. A common fault is creating emptiness at the cost of losing your central equilibrium. Transformation (hua) should imply that you are leading the opponents force into your advantage, not yield until you cant yield any more.
1. Four corners (shoulder, hips)
Single Hand Methods
The least martial due to the large number of constraints. Learn basic concepts to be used on more complex patterns and in applications. A significant lesson is training the rotation about the axis of your body.
1. Horizontal circles with axis turning forearm
- Key Concepts: Role your forearm to accelerate the opponent and to not alert them to your intention.
2. Vertical Circles
- Key Concepts: Minimum deflection rather than block. Learn extend with intent rather than a hard arm strike. Perform both emphasizing the role of the kwa.
- Strengths: Great kwa training.
- Weaknesses: Footwork is horribly static. Diagonal rolling back and pulling to expose the opponents back should also be well trained. Minimum deflection alone is too simplistic a strategy. Should balance that strategy with roll-backs (sort of a pull) to a diagonal that exposes the opponents back.
3. Figure 8s
- Key Concepts: Attack open target, but yield when deflected, learn to deflect your turning of your hip and torso.
- Related move in taiji form: Brush knee twist step
- Strengths: Clearly and simply distinguishes attacking power from emptiness. This is one of the most fundamental aspects of push hands and most practitioners do not exhibit ability in this baseline area.
- Weaknesses: The defender can get lulled into thinking that all attackers go empty upon deflect, when most attackers will actually attempt to power through a deflection. Large movements are useful for training the yielding reflex (yielding when deflected), but they do not make sense martially. The large pattern would have the defender pulling a head attack down to their hip instead of the more natural upward direction.
- Interesting details: yang ba zhi hand for the deflector to add relaxed strength.
4. Attacking elbows
- Key Concepts: Control an arm just above the elbow. Draw the opponent in for close range attack e.g., neck break.
- Related move in taiji form: Attack the heart
- Strengths: Very good for learning where to position yourself on an incoming arm. Good for training the reaction to attack at the right distance for elbow strikes.
- Weaknesses: Drawing an opponent close to you can be risky if the opponent is very strong, skilled, or fast (or lucky).
- Interesting details: For the controlling arm, learn to make good hooks using the curved outer edge of the thumb and wrist or curved wrist and fingers.
- Other comments: Adding a step behind with a neck break turns this drill into a devastating and common taijiquan move. Stay close to the opponent, wrap your outer arm around their neck, securing their head in place, shoulder on back of head, hand cupping chin. Step back and twist to break neck and throw.
1. Rolling shoulders
- Key Concepts: Load your body with potential while drawing your opponent.
- Related move in taiji form: Opening the form
- Strengths: Great conditioning for upper torso. Simple, effective.
- Weaknesses: Static footwork.
- Interesting details: Should be the first application learned by taiji practitioners because it is a common application for the first move.
- Other comments: Instead of attacking the chest or ribs, the fingers can attack the throat or area under the jaw. Could also be used in a throw (push back) if you can get the opponents arms behind them and they are holding tension in their arms (a lot of ifs).
2. Turning flowers
- Key Concepts: Concept of wrapping performed in an extremely large setting. Can also train principle of vertical force can break horizontal force. It is sort of an outer wrap version of rolling shoulders, which could be considered an inner wrap.
- Related move in taiji form: Double wind to ears (ribs). Six sealing four closing. Push with both hands.
- Strengths: Leads to a common and devastating shoulder attack to the sternum.
- Weaknesses: Usually performed without a martial focus.
- Other comments: A variation can include shoulder banging. Use front of the shoulder against opponents shoulder for work with friends. In serious martial settings use head of shoulder against sternum DANGER!
3. Rolling arms
- Key Concepts: Similar to turning flowers, but arms are not it phase.
- Related move in taiji form: Oblique step, brush knee twist step
- Strengths: The arms being in a different phase of their respective circle is a more realistic scenario than the same phase scenario.
- Weaknesses: Usually performed without a martial focus.
Stepping and leg methods
1. Grounded entry (thigh/hip/shoulder bumping)
- Key Concepts: Enter with grounded power through the gate of an opponents stance.
- Related move in taiji form: Many steps.
- Strengths: Very important concept to martial arts
- Weaknesses: You could learn incorrect timing to a partner, since the pattern does not actual enter, rather it is set up for a mutual bump.
- Other comments: Dont rattle your partner too hard. There is not much to be gained by hard banging. Learn the grounded entry habit, not masochistic hitting and receiving.
- Key Concepts: A common outer leg-wrapping method that breaks down an opponents stance.
- Related move in taiji form: Many steps with a toe-in in forms can be an entrapments
- Strengths: Important to have attacks above and below. This move can be threat to draw the opponents attention below, while you attack above, or it can be the follow-up attack after an upper attack. Also, makes your legs more sensitive and aware.
- Weaknesses: Practitioners often look down at the leg they are going to trap. That glance leaves them open and gives away their intention
- Interesting details: Use a quick knee press, like a hit, followed by pull in the direction of the side of their foot.
3. Knee circles (same side, opposite sides)
- Key Concepts: Learn to be soft and yielding with the legs. Yield, reverse, and attack with the knee, all within a continuous cycle.
- Strengths: Fundamental legwork used to develop leg abilities similar to upper body abilities.
- Weaknesses: Yielding with your knee could get it broken unless you are well trained.
- Interesting details: Attack the knee from its side, not the front.
- Other comments: Seems to work better with people of similar height. So fundamental that it is usually the first taught two-person leg drill. To make the yielding more martial you should add picking up the leg at the end of the yield and them bring it to the opposite side of the opponents leg.
- Key Concepts: Control the wrist and area just above the elbow. Lead your opponent into you and with little sensation on their part, move your hands into position to control and lock their arm. Continuous contact. Work peng lu jia ahn abilities.
- Related move in taiji form:
- Strengths: Good start for teaching sense of feeling in chin na
- Weaknesses: Static footwork
- Interesting details: Position on the elbow. Slightly above the elbow is better.
Two-handed-cross-body methods with stepping
1. One step peng lu ji ahn
- Key Concepts: A natural and very needed extension of the static version. Prior to the step forward you have exposed the opponents face. Attack it with your palm while advancing. Control their elbow while advancing. On the roll back, follow their attack to your face with your hand, not your full arm. Lead them in deep to take their balance. Learn to follow center to center (draw their center, attack their center). Introduces a very clear ji, (squeeze in and elbow strike) which forces the opponent to learn a good peng (ward off their entry into the strike).
- Strengths: Many. Stepping nimbleness and stability with leg entrapment. More realistic leading and following.
- Weaknesses: The step back would be more effective with a significant pivot. Stepping on the opposite side of the opponents leg can lead to a more effective lieh (splitting the body).
- Interesting details: Has potential for shoulder strikes.
- Other comments: The static footwork on the early exercises can lead to many bad habits. This exercise is critical to offset the lead foot syndrome.
2. One-step da lu
- Key Concepts: The extra circle performed in the low position is used for conditioning the kwa and waist turning. The extra circle attacks the opponents center when he thinks he has pulled you into vulnerability.
3. Multi-step da lu
- Key Concepts: More practical, mobile version of da lu. Uses body pivots when rolling back (puller pivots on a heel, thereby turning a small circle, while pullee must move fast along a larger circle). The person being pulled learns to follow, but stay in control to avoid having momentum used against them.
- Weaknesses: The person following the rollback often develops too much commitment and momentum that can be used against them.
- Other comments: Can work the stepping alone to train leg entrapment. Similar stepping is used in taiji swai jiao drills to learn set-ups for throws.
4. Chen taiji ba gua
- Key Concepts: Use ba qua toe in circle walking around the opponent while working chin na control of the arms above.
5. Chi Son (Body Sticking)
The following is from Ian Ball, a Wu style practicioner in Montreal
Chi-Sun literally means "Stick
- Body". The name implies that the individual must stick to their
partner while in stationary or moving postures. Chi Sun is purported
originated when Wu Tai Kwai was trained by his grandfather, Wu Chien
Chuan. According to reliable sources of the history of the Wu family,
Wu Chien Chuan invited a Mongolian wrestler to stay at his home and
train. Wu Tah Kwei developed and adapted his throw down techniques based
on his interaction with the Mongolian wrestler. Although the Wu family
officially does not recognize Chi Sun, many of the students of Wu Tah
Kwei have knowledge or have actively practiced Chi Sun. WTK number two
student, Lee Cheung Shik, taught Chi Sun on a regular basis. LCS birthday
banquet always included Chi Sun demonstrations. The basic objective
of Chi-Sun is to train a person to dynamical respond to attacks in real
time by using circular walking methods, and a variety of throw down
techniques in conjunction