Push Hands is an integral part of Tai Chi training. The principles and theories that we learn and practice in our forms training have to be tested and verified in the presence of external interference. Your push hands partner provides that external force that you have to interact with, teaching your body how to listen and react accordingly.
Once you understand the purpose of your push hands training, then regardless of what style, type or method of push hands, you will gain enormous benefit with each practice session.
Yang Style Single Hand Push
When we start our Push Hands training, one of the first exercises that we learn is the Yang Style Single Hand Push. The movement pattern is very simple, but within this simplicity is a host of challenges that takes a long time for our body to learn; as it requires strict disciplinary control of all body parts.
Before we delve into these challenges, let us first learn the movement pattern from this video.
- Stand facing your partner with feet shoulder width apart, raise your arms straight in front touching fists with your partner. This is to gauge the distance between you and your partner.
- Step forward with your right foot into a Yang style bow stance, i.e. your front toe is straight and your back toe is turned outwards 30 to 45 degrees. Raise your right arm in front, making contact with your partner’s arm just below the wrist.
Basic Movement Pattern
- Shift forward and extend your arm, your partner will follow by shifting back and bending his/her arm. Your partner will turn the body to the right to deflect your push, you follow by turning your body to the left.
- Now it is your partner’s turn to shift and push forward (extend arm), you follow by shifting back and bending your arm. Turn your body to the right to deflect your partner’s push, and your partner will follow by turning left.
- Repeat step 1 again and continue the pattern. You will notice the pattern you are making with your arm is a square moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
After you and your partner have learned the basic pattern, then you can proceed to enhance and improve your movements.
Enhanced Movement Pattern
- Improving the flow: Instead of making a square pattern, start rounding the corners and change your pattern into a circle. But make sure you still continue to fully complete each forward, backward and turning movement.
- Improving the connection: When pushing forward, rotate your arm outwards and angle your arm more horizontally. When retreating backward, rotate your arm inwards and angle your arm more vertically bringing the elbow down.
- Switching sides: While pushing forward, take a forward step forcing your partner to take a backward step. At the same time, raise your left arm and make contact with your partner’s left arm. You have now switched the exercise to your left side and you can repeat the pattern in a clockwise direction.
Applying Basic Principles
The challenges that we face arises when we begin to apply basic principles to the movements. These requirements include:
- Maintaining an upright posture and stable bow stance at all times.
- Extending and contracting the arm without breaking the arm bow.
- Storing elastic power in our body by stretching our five bows.
- Relaxing and sinking our weight into the ground.
This is just the first stage of our push hands training: SELF CONTROL. To achieve all the above basic requirements will take many months of diligent practice to accomplish.