Push Hands Patterns
All the work we put in on improving our posture and balance in the Standing Meditation, qigong and taiji forms, is put to the practical test in our “Interactive Training” game of push-hands.
The essence of the game of push-hands is two fold. First, and foremost, the goal is to avoid being maneuvered into loosing your balance by your opponent.
Secondly, the goal is to do to your opponent what she wants to do to you and capture her center and cause her to loose balance.
The art of push-hands entails an almost bewildering variety of interactive movement patterns that mimic the flow of various types of attack and defense.
Yet, on a deeper level, all these numerous techniques are all just simply different ways of doing the same thing: practicing and honing the twin skills of integration and responsiveness, the yin-yang polarity essence of the internal martial arts.
Bouncing is a method of training and testing the integration of all parts of the body into an elastic frame capable of sudden spherical expansion -what the internal martial arts traditions call jin, or explosive power.
The neuromuscular basis for this skill is developed in our qigong training as it teaches us how to harmonize the contraction/expansion rhythm of our breath and postural frame with the internal resistance between opposing muscle groups that power the slow movements of the forms.
Initially, in bouncing practice, the effort used in testing and cultivating the frame is kept to a minimum. Likewise, the execution is initially slow and gradual to acquire the sensitivity necessary for timing accuracy in the delivery of its power.
In the expert martial usage of jin, however, the expansion, initiated and controlled by the mind, can be sudden and explosive, resulting in the uprooting and bouncing away of the opponent.
Whether inside or outside of push-hands, there is one condition that must be satisfied before one can push or bounce an opponent with jin.
That condition is this: one must been able to “land” on an opponent, i.e. find a spot of tension and resistance where the jin, or explosive power, can be applied.
From this it follows that the antidote, or defense, against the explosive power of jin, is our ability to relax and not to let an opponent land on us. That ability is based on timing and sensitivity acquired in our Responsiveness Training.
Responsiveness training involves acquiring several skills that prevent an opponent from being able to land on us, and discharge his energy to bounce us.
Chief among these is the skill of yielding. In a successful yield, we disable our opponent by causing him to loose balance.
Why? Because in yielding we do not resist the incoming force of a push or a punch. Instead, we go along with it, merge with it and then redirect its momentum away from us, causing our opponent to “fall into emptiness” and loose balance.
Now, the moment he looses balance, he will stiffen instinctively to stop his fall, and it is this momentary rigidity that allows us to take control and bounce or pull him.
It can be seen that yielding often involves circular movement, as the attacking energy of the opponent is accepted, turned around and returned to the originator in the counter attack.
Practically, the yielding strategy is a high and difficult art to master. It requires enormous responsiveness as perceptual awareness and appropriate motor response must occur simultaneously.
When all is said and done, the commitment to the “never throw the FIRST punch” philosophy of yielding provides the internal martial artist with an unshakeable moral foundation and high ground for his martial art.
Moreover, from the point of view of human growth and development, yielding and other responsiveness skills are deeply transformative practices. Over time, they become an acquired “second nature “ that increasingly replaces our instinctive “first nature” of being reactive and using counterforce in a conflict situation.
Indeed, “Enlightenment” for the internal martial artist consists precisely of the progressive letting go of the burden of involuntary patterns of somatic and emotional tension and resistance that weigh us down and constrain our movements and our spirit.
What is being demonstrated here is a two person, or partnered, taiji form called “sansau.” The sansau form, though short, incorporates many of the techniques, postures and movements of attack and defense that are contained in the solo set of Taijiquan.
Playing sansau is part and parcel of our Responsiveness Training. It it is performed in a slow and light way to nurture and hone a continuous sensitivity and awareness in us of our own and our partners balance and imbalances.