Taiji martial art skills have a significant foundation and it is called “Pushing Hands”.
There still appears to be some confusion about Pushing Hand, as a practioner we should often come across at least one of these questions about such technique :
- What is it used for?
- What are its healthy benefits?
- How can it be used in self-defense?
So let’s examine the first question:
1. What Is It Used For?
The first thing to establish is that it is not a complete system that operates separately from Taiji form and sparring but is an integral training link between the two.
There are numerous competitions/festivals held throughout the world that include Pushing Hands as a separate stand alone event which leads the viewing public to believe that this is how Taiji practitioners defend themselves.
Pushing Hands demonstrations should end with a performance of semi-contact sparring by two skilled players showing skilful usage of the 13 postures. A link can then be formed in the public’s mind between the two so they understand that Pushing Hands is foundation training only. (Figure No.1 showing Wave Hands In Clouds application, video below showing 13 postures’ applications.)
2. What Are Its Benefits to Health?
If regularly practiced you develop essential stamina which is vital to your success in a real fight. It stimulates the cardio vascular and respiratory systems in a smooth gradual build up rather than the shock to the system type sports such as squash, soccer, etc…
It develops the spheres known as the “5 bows” which allows a free flow of energy (Qi) without blockages throughout the body. It exercises and stimulates Qi in all the joints of the body keeping them healthy and flexible.
It trains you to conserve energy and not waste it by applying the principles of Yin and Yang, harmonizing with your partners energy.
It also develops rooting skill which is the result of a calm mind, relaxed body and good posture which have obvious health benefits. Its sensitivity training brings Qi to the surface of the skin and beyond which ultimately will be used in healing.
3. How Can It Be Used in Self-defense?
Well the short answer to this is you don’t use Pushing Hands in self-defense, instead you actually apply the resultant skills (hidden techniques, applications) developed by regular practice such as the instinctive usage of the 13 postures. (figures 2 and 3 shows Lu (Roll Back) reaction to a neck grab attack).
Pushing Hands is clearly structured in such a way that ensures the skills are polished e.g.: from single fixed and active step you progress to double from here to Da Lu then to free style which falls just short of sparring.
Around this time Sun Sau is usually introduced which is finally followed by free sparring. You now have it roof on your new house which has a golden foundation that we call PUSHING HANDS!
by Peter Newton
A High Level Pushing Hands Demonstration of Grandmaster Huang Sheng Shyan