This one is quite a workout and a great deal of fun.
Two-person exercise used to gain an understanding of the body’s energy and how to work with a partner to achieve awareness of how to utilize this energy. This practice contributes to an understanding of balance, flexibility, strength, awareness, sensitivity, and all the principles of Tai Chi. There are actually International competitions in Push Hands, and a student can train in that direction if he or she wishes. Most students are interested in the sensitivity aspects of this work. Push Hands is quite a workout and a great deal of fun.
Tai Chi Push Hands is a training exercise for developing many different skills associated with Tai Chi. They include:
1) Sensitivity training
2) Understanding empty and full, substantial and insubstantial
3) Improving balance, flexibility, coordination
4) Knowing oneself and others
5) Working with Tai Chi classics
6) Understanding of fighting principles
7) Jing training
I personally don’t think a student can understand Tai Chi without doing Push Hands. There are many levels to training Push Hands skills. The most usual pattern I work with is:
1) Learning to root
2) Learning to neutralize 3) Learning to push
4) Learning Tai Chi Push Hands Forms (Single and double hands with fixed or moving step)
5) Free Form Push Hands (Single and double hands with fixed or moving)
Push Hands can not be understood by reading. It must be experienced. It can be one of the most informative tools for assessing one’s understanding of Tai Chi principles. It can be a great deal of fun if approached in that way. Tournament Push Hands has a long way to go before it truly tests one’s skills in this art, but Studio Push Hands can be quite effective. Don’t be afraid to get pushed over time and time again. If you approach each encounter as a learning opportunity, you gain invaluable information about yourself and others. Some points I think are helpful and important are:
Listen and Feel
These are the two most important points of push hands practice. Without these abilities, you can practice a thousand days and make no progress. We listen with all our senses, with all parts of our body. As they always told us in school: Stop, Look, and Listen. In push hands it is very good advice. Stop the mind from wandering, look at the situation right now, and listen to your opponent. He will tell you what to do. Develop your sense of feel so you will not be misled. Be here now!
Yield (Neutralize), Lead, Relax, Return the Energy
This process is of utmost importance in push hands practice. Always deal with the incoming energy first even if your mind has already started an attack. Join with the energy and lead it into your center (close) so as to borrow the opponent’s energy. Don’t try to redirect this energy. Once you have borrowed the energy, relax and let it sink to your spine and root. Only then should you be in a position to release and return the energy back to the source. All this happens in an instant, almost simultaneous.
Training at the Studio includes two hands and four hands fixed and active stepping exercises, as well as free style practice. If students are interested they may train for tournament play.