Friday, August 23, 2013

Stages In Pushing Hands

I think there are a few stages to pushing hands.

Stage 1: Using brute force, still don't know what is relax. This is the beginner stage. There is a chance of injury if both you and your opponent play rough.

Stage 2: Start to relax and can sense force. However, still cannot use your opponent's force against him. Still got some chance of getting injured if your opponent plays rough.

Stage 3: Start to be able to use your opponent's force against him, but still not able to fully return his force to him. This is usually the case when you are able to be more relaxed than your opponent. Less chance of injury because you are better able to protect yourself now when your opponent plays rough.

Stage 4: Like a mirror, returns whatever force is thrown at you. This is actually the most dangerous stage in training, because there is a chance of you injuring your training partner if he plays rough.

Stage 5: Able to control force exactly. You can control what you actually return. No one gets injured because you control everything.

Just my thoughts...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Inkling: Between Want and Don't Want

My teacher was sharing that the key to being able to use your opponent's force is "between want and don't want, between have and don't have (在要与不要之间,在有跟没有之间)". It is very similar to the rest of taiji principles, about how to use force. To be too focused on the intention leads to rigidity. To lack intention, however, leads to a void that can be exploited. So there must be an intention, but it is not strong and can thus be changed when needed. There is something there, but it doesn't take shape; and when it has no shape, it cannot be easily discerned by your opponent and thus he finds it hard to react.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pair Practice

When I was in Japan two years ago, I joined a pushing hands class there. Although they practised a different style and did things a bit different, I think I can now see the benefit of their training too.

In their training, they take turns to be the one who pushes. Draw a circle, then another, and then push. But both sides try to be as soft as possible. I see the benefit as:
- It trains the one pushing on how to push with as little brute strength as possible.
- It trains the one being pushed on how to relax so as to neutralise force.
Such pair practice is actually useful in learning how to use force.

I actually came to realise this when I was pushing hands with my teacher the other day. He was teaching me how to push, and it became a pair practice with me trying to push him. It struck my mind that this was very similar to what I did in Japan, not in terms of the actual movements, but the form of practice.

To learn to apply taiji, pair practice is thus very important.

Pushing hands teaches you how to sense force and neutralise it. It will also teach you how to use force. Repeated practice trains up a reflex action that automatically neutralises force when your body senses it.

Practising the application of the taiji movements (with a partner) allows you to feel for yourself how the force that is applied feels like. Repeated practice also helps train up reflex action, in terms of reacting in a certain way in a certain situation.

But never forget that the foundation lies in the routines. Without a strong foundation, everything else is nought.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Master Kwek Lee Hwa's Facebook Page

This is the link to my taiji teacher, Master Kwek Lee Hwa's Facebook page.

Those interested in learning taiji can check the page for updates on classes. The page is actually maintained by his students (myself included). While I post taiji thoughts there using my own name, some of the other admins sometimes post their own thoughts using my teacher's name. Please don't take it that those are my teacher's thoughts. As far as I know, he doesn't post anything on that page.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Relax When Pushing, Not Stiff When Pushing Revisited

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to be relaxed when pushing.

The thing is, it is not just the upper body that needs to be relaxed when pushing. Even though the force comes from the legs, the lower body needs to be relaxed too, in order to be able to push correctly.

Relax, then push. But I had misunderstood the part about pushing with the back leg. Yes, the force is generated by the back leg, but in the process, the legs must still remain flexible and the joints relaxed.

I came to realise this when pushing hands with my teacher. No matter how much I relax my upper body, every time I try to push him, he will tell me that he can sense my force, that I am still stiff when pushing.

His words got me thinking. I thought about how I am able to push my fellow students when they use brute force, but when they spring back and push me back, I lose my balance too. Now I know that it is because when I push, even though my upper body is relaxed, my hip joint actually stiffens at the end of the push. This locks me into place, making me rigid and thus susceptible to retaliation.

The key to pushing is to relax every joint in the body, and then move in the direction of the push. And the key to being able to achieve that is to keep practising it when practising routines. And then keep putting it to use during pushing hands.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Inkling: Keep Moving

I have been telling other fellow students to keep moving when they are pushing hands. I told them that to stop is to become stiff.

And I was told the same thing today by my teacher.

Relax is about staying flexible. Once you stop moving, you have a fixed posture, which is thus rigid and not flexible. Relax means to keep moving, but not to directly go against your opponent's force. Relax doesn't mean to collapse, it doesn't mean to run away.

Keep moving, keep up the flow and ebb. It is about keeping the balance, and thus when your opponent uses force, you draw it in; when his force is at the end of its exertion, you move in with your own force.

Keep moving, keep the balance.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Finding My Own Place For More Practice

I used to practise a lot of taiji. I mean, compared to the average Singaporean, of course. Most people here turn up for classes once a week, and that's about it. Some may practise a bit at home, maybe 2 times each week outside class, totalling 3 times a week. For me, I used to regularly turn up for 5 taiji classes and 2 pushing hands classes each week. The peak (which lasted about 3 months) was 9 taiji classes (turning up for 2 classes each day on the weekends) and 1 pushing hands class each week.

Nowadays, I turn up for only 2 taiji classes and 2 pushing hands classes each week. That's a sharp drop in practice for me. And even when I do turn up for classes, a lot of the time, it is for my own practice; I don't get a lot of instruction from my teacher. But these classes are still important, since everyone once in a while, he will notice something about my routines and tell me.

What I need now, though, is a place of my own for my own practice. Because I don't practice enough, I keep making the same mistakes, and thus there is nothing new for my teacher to tell me. I need to practise more so that I can correct those mistakes and move on to the next stage. Some place where I can practise on my own, near where I stay (so I cut down on travel time and maximise training time), sheltered (so that I don't have to cease training because of rain), public (so that I don't have to pay) and yet not crowded (so that people don't interrupt the training, especially when training with weapons).

Wish me luck in finding such a place!