Tai chi Pushing Hands (Tuishou) : Why is it a thing?


This is “push hands” which is essential. But it is important to remember that there could also be strikes here. Just punch. I could do that or I could do that, He can not do it to me because he doesn’t have the connection or the alignment. I do. So, the setup is what determines whether or not I have that potential. It is not about trying to do something. This practice is really good because it teaches you not to break your training partner. •Laughter• As soon as he attacks me, if I have any kind of resistance I give him a gift. But if I can just sit there and absolutely go relaxed It is not limp It might feel that way to him. But it is relaxed. It is totally within yourself. I was using extension there. Extend. But do not protract. If I protract, I am creating tension and distal pressure. If I don’t. If I stay in there and I relax Then I am creating a connection. So, I am basically just assembling the plumbing. So it is like connecting the pipes for the gravity to flow through. And then, when I connect him to the ground I am basically opening the valve and letting all of the gravity flow into the earth. So, if I move him, I am actually connecting him to the earth. Don’t try to make me look good for the camera. Just be solid and do what you were doing before. So, here as I connect it to the ground I move the feet. As soon as I try to push him, I end up hanging on him. But if I maintain the plumbing into the ground Then he is always flowing into the earth. And, if I want to issue power then I suddenly issue a lot of gravity into the ground and it goes like that, and it moves him. …and he neutralizes because he is doing the same thing The tendency is to try to fight against what he is doing or to try to make something happen. But if I can just keep that energy flowing into the ground then it is fine. And then when he moves, I follow him When I follow him, I change that connection and the connection changes shape. As he moves and as the the point of centripetal engagement changes ….and then it suddenly changes a lot. Now, this is push hands essentials. But it is also important to remember that there could be strikes in here. We forget that in push hands a lot. We forget that there are fists and things So I can think, “Ah! I have got him.” But then “whap”. Guy: Not really. Ian: So, if he is engaging and he does a backfist, I have to engage in a way that keeps him away from me. So, if he does a backfist now, I am fine as long as I keep that engagement with the ground. As long as everything is going the right place. See. He is in a position where he should be able to hit me. But he can’t because of the engagement with the ground. I am not blocking his fist. I am maintaining the connection to the earth. But if I do it with the wrong point of contact that happens. Or, if I am like this Then he punches. Just punch. I am not stopping his punch. It is not part of the connection. I have to be able to identify what the threat is. As soon as I try to do this, when I try to push him, then I am on his feet. As long as I can keep him on my feet that happens. These are going to be small changes in tuishou practice. When we are doing push hands practice, these are going to be small changes. because we are going slowly enough that we can feel what we are doing. And that is also slow enough so that he can feel what he is doing and what I am doing. So, we are working at a higher level of intensity, but at a much slower rate of speed. So we are not trying to overwhelm him like that and scare him. Were are trying to find very very subtle changes and to be able to make subtle changes that can affect him without needing to over react. Guy: So you are both getting the full value of the learning experience. Ian: Exactly. We are both doing the same exercise at the same time. It is not like there is one attacker and one defender. Offence and defence are the same thing here. That is because the arms are about connecting to the feet and not about doing something to him. If the arms were about doing something to him then I would be doing a different exercise from what he is doing. And if he is really good at what he is doing then it would turn out badly for me. So maintaining that connection is what this practice is all about. If I try to do something to him then he is going to be able to neutralize it. There are so many changes that happen in a very short period of time …and this is what we were talking about before… This is a lousy spectator sport. It is even a really bad demonstration. I did a demonstration at the University of British Columbia years ago where I was one of many martial artists doing demonstrations. After I finished, there was some polite applause for me. I was doing martial applications and I thought I was doing the spectacular suff. Master Liang said, “Ah. This was very good. But the people don’t understand. And then they went up and did a demonstration that was beautiful and the crowd cheered wildly. What we do looks so subtle Guy: That is what I love about it. I love the subtlety of it all. Ian: We say, “The throw that gets you isn’t the one you see coming.” People will watch a boxing match and they think they know what they are looking at. They think, ‘Oh. He got punched in the head and got knocked out.’ Fine. That was the end of it. But there were 30 things that happened in the one or two seconds before that that really made the difference. And only the boxers themselves know what really happened. Well, one of them does. The other boxer knows what happened up to a certain point. So this tendency to want to do something really messes with you. But if you can just avoid that. It is like when you play volleyball. When you serve the ball, you first throw it up in the air and then you hit it. Tuishou practice is mostly about throwing the volleyball up in the air. It is not about the strike. It is not about a technique like a throw or a takedown. It is about getting the person uprooted. And then you get the opportunity to do the throws and takedowns. If I can go here, like this, they he is off balance and then I can to the technique. But that is not the tuishou practice. It is like judo or other martial arts where you go up to a point But you don’t actually do the throw most of the time. You just practise the setup. Because that is where the important skill is. This is about the setup. Even more important than setting up the other person, is knowing where you are in space and time. It is about feeling. It is about understanding where you are on the chess board. That was a technique. That was not the push hands skill. The technique is not the important thing. The important part is everything just before that. If I wanted to do a technique I would drive right into his trachea and elbow him in the ribs. ….like that… The setup depends on knowing where you are in space and time. That could have been a throw…Let’s do that again in slow motion. When you were here, you were uprooted. That’s fine. Then I bounced you instead of flipping you. If I flip you, you just do a shoulder roll…gently… Then that might have looked good for a demonstration. ‘Oh, he flipped him.’ People can see the technique. But here, I am done already. I’ve done what I need to do to win the fight. All that is left now is the winning. I can win in several ways. I can continue to roll him or continue the flip. Or I can just do that. But that is just the technique. Guy: It is not necessary for learning. Ian: Right. Not for practice. But practice makes a lousy demonstration. And when you do it right, it always looks fake. It should look fake. Now here is a joint lock. Now he has neutralized it. Nobody is going to see that. I had his fingers and I started to apply the pressure. But he just connected to the ground and he neutralized it. That’s peng and that’s really good, actually. From here, sure I could do that. I could do that. I could do that and that. Guy: “You could do a lot!” * laughs * Ian : We are in a dangerous place right here. I am in a dangerous zone. But I can do that because I have the connection. and he does not. He can not do it to me because he does not have the connection and the alignment. I do. So, the setup is what determines whether or not I have that. It is not about trying to do something. It is about that feeling of the connection to the ground. And this practice is really good because it teaches you how to not break your training partner. One of the most difficult things to do in martial arts is to find someone to train with. That is the biggest challenge. I can try to find people who want me to do that to them all day. At least one of you has to know what is going on. Trying to move the other person trying to do a technique…. Trying to do a technique is not very useful. Trying to do something practical against a non-cooperative training partner is not very practical. You want to practice your techniques against a cooperative training partner. Because the technique only works when the other person is allowing it to work. When they are not allowing it to, the technique doesn’t work anymore. Practising against resistance is counter productive. Instead, you find the part of the person that wants to move and you let them. Once you get them off balance, now you can do the technique. And if you do the technique very well, then you will still be doing tuishou when you do the technique, and the technique will make you more balanced and more relaxed than you were before. If you do it incorrectly, then it makes you imbalanced. Connect me to the ground. That is it. The technique that works is not the one that is planned. Unless the other person is on the wrong map entirely. If the other person is at a very low level of skill, and if they are not ready then you can usually just walk up to them and punch them in the face. * laughter * But if they are prepared then you punch them in the face..then this is going to happen long before you actually complete the punch. Do I need to learn how to punch somebody who is blocking my punch. or do I need to learn how to punch somebody when they are not blocking. There. You started doing something. Guy: Yep. As soon as I start doing something, I am baked. * Laughter *

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