Push Hands

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In the sixteenth century, the next great innovator of Tai Chi emerged from the Chen clan. Chen Wang Ting lived at the end of the Ming Dynasty period (approximate dates: 1597 – 1664), dwelling in the Chen village of Chen Chia Kou of the Wen district. He not only improved on the earlier form of Tai Chi Chuan, but also publicly documented its practice for the first time.

Hardly the hermit Chang had been, Chen Wang Ting was an accomplished warrior who devised many new skills for Tai Chi, including “the pushing hands” exercise for two people. He designed this practice in order to increase a person’s sensitivity by animating the limbs and torso with a spiraling form of chi. This mind and body exercise produced an incomparably flexible, yet tensile, strength in the body. Ingeniously combining the principles of Chi Kung and shadow boxing from Tai Chi Chuan, Chen Wang Ting developed his style into a very effective method for practicing internal martial techniques without fear of injury.

Chan Shu Jian – Silk Reeling – Push Hands

Normally, when chi is developed by an internal master, the blows from nei kung martial arts are very dangerous because they can disturb the flow of chi in the meridians and internal organs. The systems underlying this martial art exploit the mind’s ability to project and concentrate its intention, which turns the chi into jing, or “power chi.” Jing can also be conceived of as a concentrated form of “thought chi,” which is an “invisible,” intrinsically powerful martial weapon. Through Chen Wang Ting’s innovation, the extreme damage possible from nei kung attacks can be tempered and lessened. To prevent damage to chi and the body Chen developed ‘push hands’ in order to test the internal skills of combat without harm as well as building chi.

Chen Wang Ting also developed Chan Shu Jian, the Silk Cocoon Reeling, a technique that exploits the advantages of spiral movements. He was inspired to create this method after watching young Chinese girls, who would tirelessly draw delicate threads from silk worms. He observed that the girls could do this effortlessly, but only if the movements were naturally gentle, slow, controlled, and continuous. Their circular movements wound the silk thread without interruption; this natural yin, equated with feminine action, could tirelessly perform these actions without breaking the thread.

Beyond possessing peerless martial implications, Chan Shu Jian reinforces the chi within the meridians, primes the waist to twist and turn, and thus stimulates the kidney “essence” jing (that is, seminal essence) at the same time. Jing being the generative and primal motive energy of the body which, when animated by nei kung methods can be transmuted into chi.

Push Hands involves two-person, interactive, physical movements, drills, routines, practices, experiments. Push Hands practices can be stationary or moving. Push Hands (Tui Shou, Dalu) is a regular Tai Chi practice for developing and improving sensitivity, tactile skills, inter-active responsiveness, and martial skills.

An advanced Tai Chi practitioner will also practice push hands. This is an exercise done by two people in which one tries to unbalance or uproot the other with as little force as possible - only four ounces, according to the Tai Chi Classics. The practice helps develop the qualities of rootedness and yielding as well as listening, which is the ability to react with lightning quickness to the opponent's movements.

Push Hands / Pushing Hands / Sensing Hands / Tui Shou
Tui Shou

An exercise performed by two people who are attempting to improve their Tai Chi skills. Practicing the Tai Chi solo form teaches one to remain balanced, focused and relaxed while in motion.

Only through the practice of Tai Chi Push Hands does one improve these abilities while in physical contact with another human being. To be balanced and relaxed while in contact with another person who is moving is a difficult task. Attainment of this ability opens the door to mastery of martial skill through Tai Chi.

Push hands is an advanced form used for developing an understanding of the essential meaning of Tai Chi - "Subtle Energy Response." After one has memorised the basic Tai Chi form, and is beginning to refine the details of the form, one may begin to learn the art of or push hands. Push hands is an exercise involving two people, where the thirteen principle movements are applied in graceful succession, until one feels an opening in his opponent's energy flow, which one then attempts to take advantage of in order to unbalance one's opponent, and therefore defeat him.

Push hands goes hand in hand with the form. Each method helps to refine the other. After much patience and practise one may begin to truly excel in controlling one's chi, properly strengthening the body, improving balance (physically, mentally, and metaphysically), improving internal healthiness, relaxing the mind and body, and understanding how to defend one's self.

In class, push hands is normally taught using three basic methods: a stationary form of pushing hands called fixed step; and two moving forms of pushing hands called three step and four corners.

Please keep in mind that if you wish to benefit from Push Hands, you should finish learning a Tai Chi form first, so that you can know the principles that will distinguish Push Hands from an external sport. Depending on the Push Hands, sports such as indian wrestling and sumo wrestling come to mind. As you practise Push Hands, you should concentrate on being soft and applying the lessons of your Tai Chi form to your practice and to your opponent.

Sticky Hands - Nim Sau / Nian Shou
Nian Shou

Sticky Hands is an essential first step in learning how to feel one's opponent's energy flows. The idea is to keep the hands/arms of each person in contact, following or yielding to each other's movements, attempting to maintain control. One learns how to use one's own energy flow to gain more power when striking, and to gain more emptiness when being struck. This is where the true understanding of, "a force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds," is first obtained.

Fixed Step - Ding Bou / Ding Bu
Ding Bou Tui Shou

In fixed step pusing hands, one learns how to apply the 4 primary hands of the 13 principle postures: ward-off slanting upwards, pull back, press forward, and push forward. In this form the feet should remain flat on the floor at all times, forcing you to learn how to sink the chi in order to root yourself into the ground, and also how to use internal strength to uproot your opponent.

Three Step - Saam Bou / San Bu
san Bu Tui Shou

Three step is a moving form of fixed step. It teaches you how to apply the four primary hands of the thirteen principle postures, and to cultivate the coordination of the legs, waist, and hands while in motion. You must learn how to root yourself and apply internal strength when needed but be able to keep light on your feet while following or yielding when your opponent is in motion.

Four Corners - Daai Lei / Da Lu
da lu tui Shou (Si Yu Tui Shou)

Four corners is also a form of moving pushing hands. Again, the goal is to improve one's ability to respond to the energy flows of one's opponent, and to coordinate the feet, waist, and hands. In this exercise, the four primary hands of the thirteen principle postures are performed, as in three step, but this time the defender and aggressor tend to use the four corner hands to unbalance his opponent.