I started practicing Taijiquan more than a decade ago. And back then, I knew that Taijqiuan is a martial art, but I wasn’t aware that there are actually fighting exercises. I was lucky to have teacher who would do a lot of tests on us and show applications of all the different Taijiquan poses. But we weren’t doing a lot of Push Hands.
(If you don’t know what Push Hands is, see here for my post on what is Pushing Hands or Tui Shou).
When I was introduced to Push Hands some time later, it felt very intimidating. I was fascinated, but also intimidated. Everyone in that group was way ahead of me skillwise and I felt really stupid. Like I really didn’t know what to do. And it was quite clear that I really did not know what to do!
And even now, after all these years, I still feel stupid whenever I do Push Hands. It is really the part of Taijiquan I struggle most with.
I mean, I love Qi Gong. I find it easy to memorize a form. Or being tested on my structure. Or testing someone else. Or learning an application and then showing it to someone else.
But Push Hands? It’s still a big mystery to me. Somehow, I am supposed to feel something I don’t feel, like Qi. Or the other person.
And it’s not only that, it’s also the psychological aspect. We usually don’t talk much about psychology in Taijiquan. But I think that is the difference between martial sports and martial arts: it’s not only about the body. It’s also about the mind.
Let me tell you about what happens in my head when I start pushing hands with someone, let’s say a woman. This is a little part of my little internal monologue as we stand opposite in bow stance:
“Ok, I can do this, just relax. I don’t need to win, just relax and learn.” – we touch – “uh, yeah, I can relax, it’s fine. I can feel her, but, hm, I don’t really feel much. Am I supposed to feel more? What am I am supposed to feel? This maybe? Oh, she is getting faster with the moves. Oh, wow that is too fast for me! I think she wants to win. But I want to win. Ok, I will become faster too. Oh no, this is really too fast. I don’t feel anything when it’s this fast. And I am supposed to relax. Ok, let’s try to relax. Maybe I can slow this down. Ok, slower, but what am I doing here? Am I doing it right? Am I making a fool out of myself? Somehow she seems to know what to do. I don’t know what to do. Well, I’ll just try to relax and keep on going as long as possible…”.
Whenever I do push hands, my mind is instantly on alert. I want to learn it and I know how important it is. But it is also so completely mysterious to me. What is actually going on? How can I figure this out?
Actually, sometimes I think that a lot of people cannot explain what is going on during push hands. How can one explain how to FEEL another person?
I just know that I always feel like an absolute beginner when I do push hands. And maybe that is even a good thing, to remember that even after all these years practicing Taijiquan, I am still a beginner. Thus I continue going to push hands classes and workshops, but it is hard.
And I read books. Because they help me to understand things. I read this interesting section in the book “Steal My Art” about Taiijiquan Master T.T. Liang:
Ok, so next time I practice Push Hands, I will stop my internal monologue and try to find my opponent’s center.
Uh, I am not so sure if I will succeed. But I’ll try anyway.
What is your experience with Push Hands? Tell me in the comments below!