Monday, November 14, 2016

Pushing Hands Was Never Designed For Competition

I have been watching small clips of pushing hands on Facebook often these few days (somehow, they often appear on my timeline). Most of them are clips taken during pushing hands competitions (I think there were a few recently) but there are also some clips taken during pushing hands practice sessions.

A trend I noticed is the people in these clips are all very focused on winning. Instead of the pushing hands that I know and practise, these clips look more like a mix between wrestling and judo. These people grapple at each other, try to throw each other, and basically just exert a lot of force. A lot more force than what taiji is about.

One even commented that he ran out of stamina because his opponent was much younger than him.

But if pushing hands is about exerting force and having stamina, then all those old masters, who are obviously not as strong or have as much stamina as fit young men, will definitely lose. But no, true masters of taiji do not lose with age. Instead, the more they practise, the better they get.

I find it sad that people are grappling and wrestling with each other and calling it pushing hands. No, that is not pushing hands. Pushing hands is a very specific exercise designed to teach people how to sense force. In the first place, it was never designed for competition. Turning it into a competitive sport is turning away people from what pushing hands is really about.

I hope more people can realise this, and bring pushing hands back to what it really is, an exercise designed for its practitioners to learn how to sense force. Those interested in competitive sports can always design their own system with a different name, just like sanda.


David said...

I wholeheartedly agree on every single word. You say "I find it sad that people are grappling and wrestling with each other and calling it pushing hands." I find it sad when people call Tai Chi wrestling or grappling. For me, Tai Chi is much more a kind of anti-wrestling and anti-grappling. It's about defending yourself from wrestling, grappling and any kind of violence or assault, but at the same time Tai Chi is also about do something else than what attacks you. It's about not acknowledging violence and being able to defend by not being aggressive and by not copying an aggressor. Overall a good post and to the point. Thanks, David

Chris | Martial Development said...

This is a problem that Tai Chi has brought upon itself, by admiring its own training games at the neglect of its fighting skills.

And honestly there is a corresponding weakness of character, whereby Tai Chi people want to focus on the fact that a wrestler cheated at push hands (according to some unwritten rule), and not on the fact that they themselves lost (according to the explicit rules).

Either the rules need to be tightened up, or the Tai Chi people need to train harder, or both.

Teck said...

Thanks for the comments.

I think what people do not realize most of the time is that pushing hands is meant only to train a specific part of taiji application, and it is actually just the basics. For one to be able to really apply taiji, there is a need to move beyond pushing hands. But nowadays, for all kinds of reasons (either of their own making or otherwise), most do not move onto this other part of taiji training. But without going into this other part of training, taiji remains an exercise, rather than a martial art for self-defense.

After all, in self-defense, there are no rules. Your attacker is not going to come at you in certain ways, with certain limitations, observing certain rules. Only by moving beyond pushing hands into this other part of training can taiji really be applied into defending oneself against a person (or persons) who do not fight under the same rules.

kavern tan said...

Dear Mr Teck,

I write to you with interest and eagerness to learn more about Taiji practices in Singapore.

I am an art student interested in documenting various Taiji practices locally and hope to learn more about the process, thoughts and philosophy of the different styles.

I particularly enjoyed this post regarding how pushing hands is about 'listening'/feeling force and to develop a sensitivity. At present, I am looking to create a video about pushing hands and was hoping that you would know a pair who practices these routine and would be interested in being a part of this. I would be grateful for any kind of help I can get and do let me know if you have any thoughts/questions about this project.


Kavern Tan

Teck said...

Hi Kavern, thank you for your interest. My apologies that I did not see this comment until today, as Blogspot had some issues with email notifications.

If you wish, you can talk to my teacher, Mr Kwek, about pushing hands and filming. You can contact him via the two community centres at which he teaches pushing hands: Tampines Changkat CC (every Sunday, 6-7pm), and Toa Payoh East CC (every Wednesday, 8-9:30pm). Let me know if you have problems contacting him via the CC.