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Tai Chi Tuishou for Striking and Mid-Range Grappling

"Tuishou is about more than pushing. The skills developed in mid-range grappling can also be applied in long-range and mid-range striking. This lesson was a pleasure to teach because I got the opportunity to teach someone who is quite capable of ripping my arm off and pummelling me with it."
Tuishou is considered a mid-range skill. But the principles of tuishou can also be applied in other ranges. Likewise, principles of good grappling can also be applied in long-range and mid-range.  
This requires proper cultivation of structure, relaxation, and fundamental push hands skills (sticking and following in a circle, peng, lu, ji, an, zai, lieh, zhou, kao). 

As we see in this video, the important skills cultivated by a grappler are often forgotten when switching to long range. While a person might be very relaxed and well aligned during close-range grappling, that structure is sometimes abandoned when the switch is made to long range. Tuishou is a valuable exercise for teaching students to make the transition between different ranges without abandoning the key attributes that should be common to all ranges.


Tai Chi Borrowing Power

Tai Chi Borrowing Power

This video shows a Taijiquan (Tai Chi) exercise for practising "Borrowing Power"

Borrowing Power is the ability to connect the opponent's force to the earth, combine it with your own power, and redirect it back into them. It is the art of conserving momentum (p=mv) with minimal energetic output. We employ different types of levers within the body, and must have fairly good core strength.

Relaxation is key.

Any attempt to use local muscle force will break the connection and cause inelastic collisions. Momentum would be lost and our structure would be broken.

One must practice the tai chi form and/or zhan zhuang for several months in order for this power to manifest naturally.

What you see in this video is a relatively low-level version of borrowing power. With higher levels of skill, one can be almost upright on one leg, and issue power that blasts the opponent backwards.

This is not magic. It is basic Newtonian mechanics. The skill is rare, only because the method is so counter-intuitive.


Insights from a tai chi tuishou class. - Part 2

Tai Chi Tuishou Class 21-04-12

Part 2

Continuing on from part 1, this video includes discussions on the difference between small circle techniques and large circles techniques.

We also discuss the importance of being able to translate the close range and long range skills developed in tuishou practice, into long range techniques for martial sport and self defence.

We discuss some of the pros and cons of martial sport, and where tai chi and traditional martial arts might fit in.


Insights from a tai chi tuishou class. - Part 1

Tai Chi Tuishou Class 21-04-12

Part 1

Depending on the context within which it is taught, Tai chi tuishou can seem mysterious, subtle, wimpy, brutal, rough, violent, serene, meditative, or powerful.
In the classes which I teach, it is up to the student to decide how they wish to practise tuishou, and it is up to the student to decide what they want to practise it for.
Of course, I set certain parameters for the sake of safety, and I require that beginners practice differently from advanced students.

This video shows the tai chi practice of conserving momentum and applying leverage to borrow the opponents force.
The result is that a smaller person can send a larger person into the air with very little movement and no real effort whatsoever.

One person sets their position as solidly as possible, with the intent of not being moved from that position. Their plan is to resist in what ever direction is necessary to maintain position and balance.

The partner must be sure to avoid forcing it. They sink the chest, relax the shoulders, align the posture and open the joints. They allow their posture to align in such a way that any resistance from their partner will go into the ground through a series of natural arcs.
When they apply the leverage, they do so with maximum mass and minimal motion. They apply leverage that allows for maximum momentum with minimal kinetic energy. This way, the opponent cannot stop the push, but will also be unable to sense its direction.

The movement is so imperceptible that it often looks fake.

But it can all be explained in terms of simple Newtonian mechanics

Ek= (mv2)/2

If you are used to watching fights on TV where everyone is making wide swinging attacks and huge movements they are swinging with the wrong end of the lever.

People don’t tend to cultivate efficient power because they don't get any immediate satisfaction from it.
Since they are not using any effort as they would in other exercises like weight lifting or running, they don't get the burn that proves that they are getting results.

That is why so many people have difficulty grasping it. It is so subtle it doesn't provide that satisfaction you get when you punch a heavy bag or something.
When you work out with a bag, you know that you hit that bag, that you damaged it, and you get that sense of accomplishment.

It seems to defy belief, because it is not like four ounces merely redirects a thousand-pounds or four ounces neutralizes a thousand-pounds.
Four ounces actually defeats a thousand pounds. Four ounces opposes a thousand pounds and the four ounces wins.

There is only one way to explain that with Newtonian mechanics.

It's like a wheel or like any other kind of lever.

And it is facilitated by the mind and the body being relaxed and empty.


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 1 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Self Defence

Fighting Strategy


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 5 (The Original Series)

Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 5

Wrist spiral and rolling hand method is another basic single-handed tuishou drill which incorporates peng, lu, ji, and an.
This exercise should be practised with minimal pressure but with maximum awareness of the vectors of force and the types of power involved.


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 4 (The Original Series)

Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 4

This lesson explores the application of the "Four Directions" ( Peng, Lu, Ji, An) in the context of a single-handed two-person exercise.

Peng ~ "Ward-off", or "Boing"
Lu ~ "Rolling" and neutralizing in order to maintain engagement with the opponent's centre.
Ji ~ "Cramming" - a focused, horizontal energy
An ~ "Pressing" or "Pushing" - a downward and forward energy

Equally important, or even more important, is developing the ability to let go of the four basic energies when they become obsolete.
In order to apply each energy correctly, we must become equally skilled at not applying them.

This exercise is often taught as nothing more than a simple horizontal circle. It is a universal exercise common to all styles of tai chi. This is because, in spite of its apparent simplicity, it teaches some of the most important concepts in the practice of martial arts.


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 3 (The Original Series)

Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 3

- part 1, Horizontal Peng and Lu

This is one of the first tai chi push hands exercises that most people learn. Unfortunately, few students actually develop a complete understanding of the importance of this drill. They usually get bored before they find out how interesting it is. It is regrettable that this is often the fault of the teacher, who never learned the profound nature and importance of basic exercises.

This exercise is about the addition of vectors. It teaches us to add energy to the opponent's push without resisting against it. We don't try to take anything away from the attack. Instead we add to it the energy that will make the attack miss.

It also teaches us to avoid the most common error in martial arts, which is the emotional response that makes us use force against the attacker. This error actually prevents the attacker from missing. It gives the attacker a way to feel where your centre is and what you are doing.

If you are not sure that you are doing the exercise correctly, think of it terms of a martial context. Would your strategy work if the attacker were trying to punch, kick, or throw you?

First do nothing. Next do less then nothing. Then, quit doing that, too.

- Ian Sinclair

Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 3


part 2 vertical circles


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 2 (The Original Series)

Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 2

Ian Sinclair teaches tai chi tuishou (Pushing Hands) with the assistance of Adrian Bhatti.
In this lesson, we discuss the principles of sticking, following, and the importance of these skills in self defence.

Part 1

One of the biggest mistakes that students make when they encounter an incoming force is trying to actually do something about it. That is to say that they try to control the incoming force. This response fails because you become focused on the attack while the opponent is focused on you as a target. You may defeat the first attack, but that only succeeds in changing the way in which you are defeated.

Trying to control the opponent's attack, causes you to actually decrease your ability to defend yourself. You end up attacking the opponent's weapon, and abandoning your own balance and structure to do so. The opponent's attack may then be changed, but his or her energy continues toward your centre, which is now without any defence.

The key to successfully defending against an incoming force is maintaining awareness of that which you are trying to defend. You must then use your superior structure and balance to engage the opponent's force and move at right angles to the attack without compromising your own structure. With proper basic training and by cultivating awareness or your centre and your opponent's structure, you will be able to "neutralize a thousand pounds with four ounces."

This is why tai chi is practised slowly. Slow tai ch practice enables you to build strong thighs, and a relaxed internal power that can respond to force without using force.

Part 2

If I fight against the opponent's strengths then I will leave myself open.
Tai chi classics say "Bu diu, Bu ding" (don't against, don't back too soon). You don't fight against the force and you don't retreat from it. Instead you learn to engage the attack without force, and to find the part of the attacker that is tempted to resist but not able to resist effectively.

Tai Chi is very useful for cross training in other styles such as judo or jiu jitsu, and is often taught to suaijiao competitors. Push hands can help you to refine your awareness of angles for throws and take downs. It will help you to feel where the opponent's centre is and how the structure of the body and the intent are aligned.

Tai Chi can also help you to avoid the tendency to get attached to what they think is an advantageous position. Often a student will get to a position where they are so convinced of their superior position that they abandon sensitivity and commit to what they think is a sure thing. As soon as they do that, the opponent has a chance to change shape without being detected.

Tai Chi push hands skill is recognized by advanced martial artists of many other styles, because it teaches what Takuan called "cutting the line between before and after."

Part 3 (Addendum)

When you can stay on the opponent's centre without letting them engage your centre effectively, they will be confused and unable to effectively manipulate your centre. This is a skill which transcends both speed and timing.

It is not about what you do. It is about how you are.

There is much talk about a straight line being the most direct path between two points. But physics tells us that a curved line can be a faster path than the most direct one.

However, there is nothing faster than already being there. That is the secret of tai chi.

- Ian Sinclair


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 9 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands)

Lesson 9 - Outer elbow spiral and rolling method


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 8 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 8

- Basic neutralization practice

Neutralizing the opponent's force without using force requires the ability to sense the opponent's intent before the have applied it, but after they have committed to it. This is where we get the tai chi proverb, "If my opponent doesn't move, I don't move. If my opponent moves, I move first."

In this exercise, we learn to use our structure and intent to neutralize the opponent's attack before the attack has moved.

It important that this exercise is done cooperatively and safely, but with real intent and honest energy.
Don't try to win. This is not a competition. It is an exercise. You will never win an exercise.

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 7 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands)

Lesson 7

- Four Hands (Continued)


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 6 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands)

Lesson 6

- Four Hands

This is the bread and butter of tai chi training.
In a perfect world, you would be able to defend yourself against all attackers, and in your daily life get through every challenge, by using only the four perfect energies of Peng, Lu, Ji, and An.

These four energies don't always work, however, because things happen. Sometimes the opponent is lucky, and sometimes the opponent is just better at this stuff. (When Peng Lu, Ji and An fail, then we have to fall back on secondary techniques like Zai, Lieh, Zhou, and Kao. But we will talk about them later.)

Four hands deals with just about every hand technique you can imagine, including punches, pushes, grabs, joint locks, pressure points, etc. And the energies apply equally to techniques of all kinds, including kicks, sweeps, and even ground techniques.

It is hard for beginners to understand the importance and universal application of this exercise. But that is why it is an advanced art. Only advanced martial artists will really understand what the practice is all about.

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 12 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 12

- Tai Chi vs Muscle Testing (Applied Kinesiology)


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 11 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 11

- Forearm circling in vertical rotation method


Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 10 (The Original Series)

Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) Lesson 10

- Inner elbow spiral and rolling method

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