Tai Chi Chuan is one of the main arts I practice and Tui Shou (aka Pushing Hands) is a key component of the art. Just like you do in Judo, wrestling or muay Thai, we also work on our grappling though at first glance it looks very different from those arts. There are some key principles when you do these drills and I’ll explain them in a bit but first the video:
Some thoughts on all this:
- Like I said, I usually don’t attack all that much. I’m pretty much always the heaviest guy around so it would be way too easy for me to use my weight advantage. It’d be easy to overpower my training partners but I don’t learn anything when I do that. So instead, I try to avoid using pure physical strength and place myself in vulnerable or difficult positions. That way, I am forced to work on getting more skilled instead of powering through everything I come across.
- This means I often practice in a way that looks a little funky but It helps me get better. For instance, at 15sec I sink into a very low stance and try to get underneath my partner’s center of gravity. As he’s smaller than me, this isn’t easy to do. Once there, I decided to absorb everything he did and slowly worked him towards a loss of balance. The same happens at 5.00min: I could have pushed my partner off balance there but instead, I just rose up from my lower stance and used my upper body to prevent him from easily regaining his balance. This forced him to bring his arm across and then I used that against him. Basically, I’m playing a chess game in which I try to force my opponent to waste his pieces away while keeping mine on the board; Eventually, he has nothing left and loses. I try to do the same thing here; bring him to the point where he has no other choice but to fall.
- I’m probably the worst possible guy to show pushing hands as because of my size, it always looks like I’m using muscle. I’m not, but there’s no way for me to prove that, other than to let people push hands with me so they can feel it. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or come to the Open Mat sessions (where I shot this footage) a buddy and I organize twice a year and play.
- A lot of people miss this obvious point but please remember that this is not fighting. It’s skill training. Pushing hands teaches many things: getting used to being in contact with an opponent, feeling what he’s doing when you clinch, use his movements against him, learn how to break his balance, learn how to keep your own, etc. Think of it like MMA guys practicing to get to a dominant position when they’re on the ground. The dominant position isn’t the end of the fight, but it does give you a better shot at striking, choking, joint locks, etc. The same goes for Tui Shou: the better you are at it, the better your striking, throwing and locking techniques can work.
- The key word in the previous sentence is “can“. Just because you play Pushing Hands a lot doesn’t mean you can use those skills to fight with. It takes additional training in which you incorporate those other techniques into the framework of what you saw in the video. If you train hard and diligently, it is indeed possible to use those skill for real. However, it probably won’t look anywhere near as flashy as what you do in free-style training. Which is as it should be. On the street, results count, not looking pretty.
- Before the tai chi purists get their chi in a twist: this is free-style training. It is not formal training. I do plenty of that as well.
- Also, feel free to disagree with the way I practice and call it Neanderthal tai chi if you like. That’s fine by me. But if you feel I’m using “brute strength”, then it should be very easy for you to use it against me with your superior skills, shouldn’t it? :-)
I hope you all enjoyed the clip and can find some use for it in your own training.