Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guang Ping Tai Chi: Push Hands Forms

In popular Tai chi, push hands training takes many different forms. When I studied with Gary Torres who taught from the Guang Ping Yang system, I learned not only push hands sets but also the martial aspects of these forms.

* There are many forms and techniques. Like many branches, all emanate from the same trunk. Don't just look at a form or technique and say "Wow! I never saw that before!" and be amazed. Rather, look for the underlying principle. All forms and techniques are based on principle. When you understand the principle, meaning, when you can manifest the principle and not just intellectually explain it, then the multiple forms and the 10,000 techniques will readily come out. It's like doing math. You might know that 2 + 2 = 4 but if you don't understand the principle, then you can't do 1 + 3.
(I think this above note is from outside of Gary's class but is in the Gary notebook. It's a good note, so I included it here.)
* Tai chi as a martial art is based on Yin-Yang; soft and hard. The defender should feel (to the attacker) like what is in an empty bucket; nothing. On attack, the attack should feel like a pipe wrench hitting concrete; hard. Nothing and extreme hardness, this is how tai-chi works.

* "Uprooting" simply means getting the opponent to out of their "root", to lose balance in any direction with either pushing or pulling.

* For every Chin-na application there is a reversal. Must learn both because you must know how to get out of a Chin-na put on you.

* There are only nine ways to attack and be attacked (another system says 13). This is the system of "nines". When you know these, then you learn which move best defends against each "mode" of attack. Tai-chi developed moves to not get hit by each one of these nine attacks and simultaneously attack the attacker. Learn the tai chi form with the end in mind.

* From defensive position, attacks will only come in nine ways, from your:

* Push hands
Incoming force can be directed up or down. Most push hands exercises only teach taking force to the left or right. This is too limiting. In truth, the incoming force can be directed in any of the 360 degrees.

* Four Patterns of Push Hands (推 手; tuī shǒu) :
1. Single or Simple Push Hands (单 推 手 ; dān tuī shǒu)
2. Paired or Double Push Hands (双 推 手 ; shuāng tuī shǒu)
2A. Little Pull Fixed Step (小 _ 定 步 ; xiǎo lu dìng bù)
2B. Little Pull Moving Step ( 小 _ _ 步 ; xiǎo lu huo bù)
* Four combinations of Single Push Hands. Each has a different feel. Learn these four feelings. Each has an advantage and disadvantage on defense. Play differently:
  • Left arm with left foot forward
  • Left arm with right foot forward
  • Right arm with left foot forward
  • Right arm with right foot forward
(These push hands exercises were repeated, reviewed, practiced and refined in almost every class according to my notes. Pay attention and practice these forms in relation to the nine gates. I understand better now how these push hands forms train fundamental fighting skills that are used in the fighting form and conversely, how the fighting form is based on these basic push hands forms. Unfortunately, my earliest push hands experience in the Cheng Man-ching system did not include Xiao-lu and Da-lu.)
* The details of the combat form may say step here and here. Consider these as guidelines. Each body type must adjust to itself.

* The combat form teaches body position. But each individual must grasp the principle of what is correct position for their body size. Tall and short will position themselves differently in relation to their partner to get maximum power.

For example, moving in with a shoulder strike, position yourself so 60% in back leg and 40% in front leg at point of contact. Then shift 10% to 50/50 to unbalance your opponent - the minimum energy needed for maximum effect.
(I am rather tall. I was impressed with Gary's awareness to speak to different strategies based on body size.)
* And with that, I began to learn the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Fighting Form; Loose Hand Two Man Combat Form (San Shou Dui Da).

* * * * * * *

This is the forth and final part of a four part series presenting what I learned while briefly studying with Master Gary Torres from January to September 2000. Gary learned from Peter Kwok, the founder of Peter Kwok's Kung Fu Academy in the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi lineage. Gary is the head of the Phoenix Dragon Kung Fu Academy.

Although I never completed the fighting form, I later saw two of Gary's students who not only completed learning the fighting form but also practiced "speeding it up" to the point where it started to look like a well choreographed kung-fu movie! Completely awesome!

In my opinion, the fighting form is suppose to train you for full-speed, full-contact fighting. So I am dismayed when I see, for example, YouTube videos of Tai chi fighting forms that only show the first level of accomplishment; having learned the basic mechanical moves. At that level, the "fighting form" looks more like a traditional dance set than fighting - the players seem to be missing the martial intention. I think a fighting form curriculum might be:
  1. Learn the basic mechanical moves.
  2. Speed it up, amp it up.
  3. Drop back to a slower speed and be spontaneous; mix up the set.
  4. Speed it up.
  5. Now film a video for YouTube or get a supporting role in the next Tai chi Master movie!
I hope you've enjoyed this series as much as I've enjoyed looking back at all the wonderful education and training I received! Happy training!

See also:
Gary Torres: Journal Notes #10
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi: Martial Stances
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi: Basic Training
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi: Martial Intent

1 comment:

  1. This is really excellent stuff you sharing. Thanks.