Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

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Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Matt_Stampe on Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:56 am

It is common to hear in Taijiquan circles that you can measure a person’s skill by simply touching hands them (tui shou aka “push hands”). One teacher of mine said something about a saying in China that gentlemen push hands but thugs fight. To me I feel that when Taijiquan was emerging as a martial art and it was challenged by proponents of other styles, push hands was useless to a point. Other styles used strikes and kicks or other means and so Taijiquan needed to use more of its striking and neutralizing aspects more than trying to stick-follow-neutralize and counter. Many of the early stories of Taijiquan challenges involved devastating kicks to opponents tan tien, punch or palm strikes to the person chest or abdomen, or slamming them into a wall or ground so hard they were knocked unconscious. So how would a Taiji person measure a strikers skill if the striker doesn’t do push hands? This is where taiji people need to wise-up and train in striking to be able to match with non-push hands people. If tui shou is considered the highest level of Taijiquan, I feel really sorry for the taijiquan person, since it only makes them able to measure their skill vs. another taijiquan person and not vs. other style of fighters. They will only be as good as X-taiji guy and not Y-other style martial artist. while there are many benefits to Tui shou as mid-range grappling, it does make one a complete fighter.

Thoughts?

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  David A Ross on Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:13 pm

I believe that push hands is a good SKILL to have, but thinking that good push hands = good fighting is like thinking because you hit a heavy bag you are a good fighter.

The entire "internal art" thing is a manufacture of the late 19th century, more PR and political correctness than every reality. Unfortunately, even in China it caught on so well that very few know to pull the curtain back to see the man behind it.

General Qi Jiguang’s thirty-two forms were developed to train peasant volunteers for campaigns against Japanese and indigenous pirates, ie for COMBAT. Yet in them one can see techniques and basic theories similar to those which later appear in the so-called taijiquan classics.

In the late 1800's the so called "internal arts" were popular among those who used these methods for fighting and the fact was there was little discussion of Daoist philosophy or health maintenance. It was not until 1894, when Chen Tinghua, Liu Dekuan, Li Cunyi and Liu Wei Xiang formed a group that the "internal" designation first appeared. These four martial artists found their methods shared many common points and adopted the name "Nei Jia Quan."

Depending upon the source, some claim the four were unaware of an earlier art and book by Hung Bai Jia with the same name from the Ming Dynasty. Hung's "Nei Jia Pai" book claimed the art had Daoist origins and originated at Wu Dang Mountain. Thus, the public associated the three arts of Taiji, Hsing Yi and Bagua with Wu Dang.

It should be noted that it is known Chen Tinghua believed in the relationship between his art and Daoist philosophy and encouraged his students to go to Wu Dang to investigate and therefore it might not have been an "honest mistake."

Sun Lu tang was an educated person influenced by the "new culture movement" who tried to not only make martial arts acceptable, but also introduce them as a form of physical education.

I'm probably talking too much (again)
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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Mike Patterson on Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:52 pm

Anyone who thinks that push hands is tantamount to fighting, has not fought. Likewise however, anyone who believes push hands practice is not useful for fighting does not understand the nature of push hands.

Too many people nowadays have lost all context of what push hands was supposed to be, a middle ground stepping stone to free fighting. And moreover, if taught properly, it is a damn well organized pathway to get there. Push hands teaches valuable skills within the clinch, slipping and countering, provoking and then borrowing reactive momentum to capitalize on a loss of balance resulting in throw, etc. In this respect, it is no different than many other art forms in that it is a way to practice dealing with a resistant opponent to work close range skills repetitively.

Tai Chi's "tui shou" as most people know it to be, is only ONE method of practice amongst dozens of types of isolate push hands practice. The different isolate methods of push hands are there to work individual skill sets. Tui Shou deals primarily with only lateral, redirective movement. There are isolate methods for developing vertical axis rotation, shoulder crashing, elbow stroke, evasive stepping, etc. etc. etc. Ulitmately, long practice of the isolates is then supposed to be put into a "freestyle" format of push hands which really is to be an amalgum of close range striking, throwing, locking/submission/wrestling to be practiced in a quite vigorous manner. Unfortunately, again, most new age schools do not engage in such activity.

The fault is with the practitioner, not the exercise. "Internal" martial arts are martial arts, first and foremost. It is the fault of new age oriented practitioners that is denigrating the value of what we "internalists" do, NOT the fault of methods or the art form.

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  T. L. Roy on Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:51 pm

Yup. Push hands is a safe way of training certain skills and certain techniques. Defeating someone in push hands simply shows your superiority in push hands. I train primarily in Cheng Man Ching Tai Chi these days because I find it to be a superior fighting method for me. I test my ability to fight with my Tai Chi and apply the Tai Chi principles in combat by putting on the gloves and fighting whoever will fight me. I am often defeated in push hands by those who train exclusively for superiority in push hands, but I can't think of anyone who has defeated me in push hands who could also defeat me in a fight.

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Hermann Bohn on Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:16 am

Yes, all correct, but don't forget that most Taijiquan associations in Taiwan/China/abroad advocate PHs, with fixed steps and moving, as the only "touching contest". There is no free fighting and all practicioners with interest are supposed to compete in such play.
I wonder why those presidents, trainers,old teachers and experts leading those clubs don't talk of the other fields Taijiquan has to offer. Just because it became un-cultured to fight?
Just this morning, I was hit again by my Yang (Wang Zihe style) teacher, kicked and put to the ground.
Would you ever see that in an official competition? No!
Would you ever see my teacher at such a meeting? Maybe, meeting some old people, chatting and doing small talk. But he wouldn't perform, participate actively or even do referee work. Go figure!
Those abilities are still out there, but they are not mainstream anymore, and it's getting harder to find!

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Paul Sacramento on Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:22 am

Push hands tends to be viewed by some a lot like Chi Sao in Wing Chun: And end unto itself.
Like Chi Sao it is simply a training drill used to develop certain attributes, in this case the ability to "read" the application of force by ones opponent.
It is a sensitivity drill.
It CAN go to the next level of course and anyone that has seen Chen Push hands knows that it can end up looking like greco-roman wrestling at times ( and this is NOT a bad thing by the way).
Like chi sao ( for WC) it CAN become the "soul" of Taiji for some people, it can be what someone's Taiji is measured by and that is a gross miscarriage of justice IMO.

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  KENNETH DELVES on Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:17 pm

Sadly all of the above is true. I see people practicing push hands , often with strangers and it ends up as a wrestling match. I teach my Hsing yi students basic push hands as a sensitivity exercise, later this is superseded by two man 'soft fighting' in an effort to approximate to fighting, in all cases the object is to improve not win You learn fighting by fighting, IMHO the practitioner of 'Internal' MA should spend a minimum of 3-5 years in an 'external' MA before learning an IMA, a punch in the face is a great reality check. There are overlaps between IMA's and EMA's but IMA is a different animal-it takes development of an 'Internal' mind and jing. Incidentally Chisau has the appearance of push hands but goes way beyond it, it is for drilling techniques at the same time as developing sensitivity

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  AthenaW on Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:46 pm

I've always thought that the you can tell someone's skill by touching (or crossing) hands with them was more about, as soon as you touch them, you can tell how good they likely are. You sort of get a sense of how strong they are, if they have good structure, and so forth. If you were to do push hands with them, I'm sure you would get a very good idea of whether they could pull off a fight or not. However winning push hands in my opinion is not very to whether you would win in a fight or not, since it doesn't show if the person could last past the first hard punch or kick or not.
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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Paul Sacramento on Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:50 pm

Touching hands with someone in a push hands environment can give you an idea of how good they are...at push hands.
It will NOT give you any indication about their fighting skill simply because push hands is NOT fighting.
You would probably get a better idea of their fighting skill from going no contact sparring than from push hands ( to a certain degree).
Fighting is about dealing AND receiving punishment, about dealing with explosive expressions of power, many times with NO contact at all ( until impact that is).
You can't "read" by touch someone you are not touching and while the sensitivity one gets from push hands drills CAN carry over to clinch fighting, it doesn't address the striking that happens there.
In short, push hands has far too many "missing pieces" to be anything other than a drill to develop an attribute, an attribute that then must be made practical.
It CAN be argued that push hands is just an "extra step" that may or may not be necessary for a fighters development.

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Mike Patterson on Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:36 pm

Paul Sacramento wrote:You can't "read" by touch someone you are not touching and while the sensitivity one gets from push hands drills CAN carry over to clinch fighting, it doesn't address the striking that happens there.
In short, push hands has far too many "missing pieces" to be anything other than a drill to develop an attribute, an attribute that then must be made practical.

Push hands does indeed address the striking in clinch if practiced in a non-restrictive manner; what we call "freestyle". In other words, the "attributes" are cultivated in the isolate methods of push hands. Freestyle then becomes the the way to make all the attributes "practical". But again, most people do not practice push hands in the way I describe. So I think we may be talking about two different animals, Paul.

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  David A Ross on Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:17 am

The "push hands" most people think of these days probably doesn't include the striking, but just like pummeling with a good wrestler or locking up with a top judoka, I think you CAN learn something about them. nothing "mythical" or "mystical" about it, but you can appreciate skills

I think the type Shihfu Patterson is describing is a lot like MMA sparring, in the clinch, so YES of course it tells you quite a lot, it's fighting!

Generally, I don't have issues with either type, I just think we need MORE of ALL of it
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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Paul Sacramento on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:41 am

Mike Patterson wrote:
Paul Sacramento wrote:You can't "read" by touch someone you are not touching and while the sensitivity one gets from push hands drills CAN carry over to clinch fighting, it doesn't address the striking that happens there.
In short, push hands has far too many "missing pieces" to be anything other than a drill to develop an attribute, an attribute that then must be made practical.

Push hands does indeed address the striking in clinch if practiced in a non-restrictive manner; what we call "freestyle". In other words, the "attributes" are cultivated in the isolate methods of push hands. Freestyle then becomes the the way to make all the attributes "practical". But again, most people do not practice push hands in the way I describe. So I think we may be talking about two different animals, Paul.

Oh absolutely Sifu.
As Dave mentioned above, the typical push hands that the majority do does NOT address those issues ( though some may THINK they do).

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

Post  Paul Sacramento on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:44 am

When I trained in Chen Taiji my instructor did two types of PH:
One was the typical we see that was basically a sensitivity drill, a way of understanding force and how to direct and re-direct it in a slower and less "ballistic" method.
The other was more "intense" and was done basically like this:
Two people connect and BAM !!!
The options were either strictly grappling ( clinch fighting) or grappling with strikes ( with open handed gloves or slaps if no gloves were available).

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Re: Push hands as a measure of real fight skill? Not in my opinion.

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