Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 2
Ian Sinclair teaches tai chi tuishou (Pushing Hands) with the assistance of Adrian Bhatti.
In this lesson, we discuss the principles of sticking, following, and the importance of these skills in self defence.
One of the biggest mistakes that students make when they encounter an incoming force is trying to actually do something about it. That is to say that they try to control the incoming force. This response fails because you become focused on the attack while the opponent is focused on you as a target. You may defeat the first attack, but that only succeeds in changing the way in which you are defeated.
Trying to control the opponent’s attack, causes you to actually decrease your ability to defend yourself. You end up attacking the opponent’s weapon, and abandoning your own balance and structure to do so. The opponent’s attack may then be changed, but his or her energy continues toward your centre, which is now without any defence.
The key to successfully defending against an incoming force is maintaining awareness of that which you are trying to defend. You must then use your superior structure and balance to engage the opponent’s force and move at right angles to the attack without compromising your own structure. With proper basic training and by cultivating awareness or your centre and your opponent’s structure, you will be able to “neutralize a thousand pounds with four ounces.”
This is why tai chi is practised slowly. Slow tai ch practice enables you to build strong thighs, and a relaxed internal power that can respond to force without using force.
If I fight against the opponent’s strengths then I will leave myself open.
Tai chi classics say “Bu diu, Bu ding” (don’t against, don’t back too soon). You don’t fight against the force and you don’t retreat from it. Instead you learn to engage the attack without force, and to find the part of the attacker that is tempted to resist but not able to resist effectively.
Tai Chi is very useful for cross training in other styles such as judo or jiu jitsu, and is often taught to suaijiao competitors. Push hands can help you to refine your awareness of angles for throws and take downs. It will help you to feel where the opponent’s centre is and how the structure of the body and the intent are aligned.
Tai Chi can also help you to avoid the tendency to get attached to what they think is an advantageous position. Often a student will get to a position where they are so convinced of their superior position that they abandon sensitivity and commit to what they think is a sure thing. As soon as they do that, the opponent has a chance to change shape without being detected.
Tai Chi push hands skill is recognized by advanced martial artists of many other styles, because it teaches what Takuan called “cutting the line between before and after.”
Part 3 (Addendum)
When you can stay on the opponent’s centre without letting them engage your centre effectively, they will be confused and unable to effectively manipulate your centre. This is a skill which transcends both speed and timing.
It is not about what you do. It is about how you are.
There is much talk about a straight line being the most direct path between two points. But physics tells us that a curved line can be a faster path than the most direct one.
However, there is nothing faster than already being there. That is the secret of tai chi.
– Ian Sinclair