Some thoughts on push hands (tui shou)

From a historical and functional perspective, Taiji Quan belongs to the ancient Chinese tradition of strategy and the art of fighting. It is interesting to note that even in the Tao Te Ching (Daode jing), a number of passages deal with strategy.
However, one must not forget that the concept of fighting in Chinese tradition cannot be reduced to the idea of a punch-up with a real opponent. Fighting also means struggling with all the difficulties that we encounter in our daily life, fighting our inner demons, etc. It is often said that we are our own greatest enemy, and somehow I think in many ways we would do well to keep this thought in mind whenever we reflect on the purpose of push hands (tui shou).

Practising the Taiji Quan “set” (8, 28, 85, etc) can be seen as a way to gradually build up inner strength, which can then be further developed during partner work. Besides, partner work enables us to become more sensitive, more perceptive; we discover ourselves and our partner and how we are when we interact with others.

The point is not to be stronger than our partner, but rather to form a whole together, to be in harmony. We and our partner complement one another and want to preserve that harmony. So our hands need to become more and more sensitive, so that even if only our hands and forearms are in contact, we can perceive the slightest change or movement in our partner’s body. Eventually, this enables us to guess our partner’s intention before the actual body movement takes place.

I am currently reading Taiji Quan – art martial, technique de longue vie by Catherine Despeux (Guy Trédaniel 1981), and the thoughts above have been inspired by that book.

If you would like to prepare for Nils Klug’s seminar in September, I highly recommend that you visit

https://taiji-forum.com/tai-chi-taiji/partner-work/push-hands-beginners-guide/

I could not have written such a beautiful introduction to the art of tui shou myself.

 

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Pearl of wisdom

Have recently received the 5oth issue of the TCUGB magazine (that’s the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain).
Here is one short excerpt from an article that made me think.

“[…] any teacher will tell you that, if you really want to get to the heart of tai chi, it’s better to learn two or three moves well than to spend your whole life collecting forms and end up a “Jack of all trades, master of none”! Each part contains the whole. You just need to learn how to look and especially how to feel properly.”

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Duan Wei

The Duan Wei System was set up by the Chinese Wushu Association in conjunction with the National Sport Commission and the Chinese Wushu Research Institute in an effort to provide an international standard for Wushu / Tai Chi gradings. The term Duan means level and Wei means grading. There are nine Duan: Elementary Levels (1 to 3), Intermediate Levels (4 to 6) and Advanced Levels (7 to 9).

Elementary Levels (1 to 3)
If a student is dedicated to their studies, developing their skills through effort and hard work, it is possible to gain a 1st, possibly a 2nd Duan Wei in one year of continuous study if they should pass the required examinations. One must be a full-time student of Chinese martial arts between one to two years before being allowed to test for the 3rd Duan Wei. Average students do not acquire these levels easily though, usually attaining only one level per year of continuous study.

Intermediate Levels (4 to 6)
These levels are for students and teachers of Wushu who are able to instruct and have undergone many years of study and/or coaching experience, depending on the level applied for. In order to obtain a 4th Duan Wei, the least amount of time required to apply for the test is two years of continuous, full-time study. One must be able to teach, to use one’s skills in combat and above all, practise good moral conduct to attain 4th Duan Wei. From the 5th Duan Wei application onwards, there must be proof of either: training of your own Duan Wei level tested students, publications, instructional DVDs, or scientific research in your chosen martial art. After obtaining the 6th Duan Wei, one may start to use the title of Master. The 6th Duan Wei is also the highest technical grade.

Advanced Levels (7 to 9)
These prestigious Duan Wei level ranks are reserved for the rare few who have attained an excellent reputation through their practice and have done a lot of work to promote martial arts. Such lauded masters may officially use the term “Grand Master” when referring to their title.

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Duan Wei 1
Advance / jìn bù   进步 / iskorak:
Deflect, parry, punch / bān lán chuí   搬拦捶 / skretanje, odbijanje i udarac

Retreat / tuì bù   退步 / korak unazad:
Piercing palm / chuān   穿 / prodorni dlan    +    Push / àn   按 / pritisnuti

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Thought for the day (2nd May 2016)

“Every effective force issued from our body is met with an equal and opposite force. As we push forward, our back foot pushes us forward and our forward foot acts as a brake by pushing upward and back. If the hands are pushing straight ahead, the center of the back pushes backwards. If we push downward, the top of the head pushes up. When kicking, the kicking foot moves outward while the standing foot is pushed down. It sounds so complicated, yet this is just the natural way that the body deals with such activities. In Tai Chi and other internal arts, we break movements down until they seem very unnatural in order to understand the dynamics involved, then we put them back together in a natural way, with the possibility that we may have corrected any unnatural elements that might have been present before we started our exploration.”

Extract from Michael Gilman’s

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[Available on Amazon.]

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Could that be …… ?

Something to make us think about the process of experiencing learning Tai Chi (and other related arts) …
Note the play on words as well, by the way. In English, the pronunciation of ‘worrier’ is very close to that of ‘warrior’.
(This drawing is here reproduced with kind permission of the artist, Gemma Correll. Discover her works at: http://www.gemmacorrell.com/).
worrier_pose.jpg

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The 8 Postures of Master Zhao Youbin’s Yang-style Taiji Quan

Here are the links to two quality videos of the Tai Chi set we are practising:

Front view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD19fTKTILw
Back view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHWp14UrI4M

Marc doesn’t perform this set in exactly the same way as we do, but the differences are inconsequential, so just ignore them.

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28 – 30 May 2016: International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Seminar with Grand Master Yang Jun in Veliko Turnovo (Bulgaria)

I’d like to draw your attention to this event, as it is not very often that someone of this calibre holds a seminar in the region. Mr Yang Jun is not only the 6th Generation descendant of the creator of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, he is also an excellent teacher, and I certainly enjoyed his seminar in Ljubljana a couple of years ago. His style differs somewhat from Mr Zhao Youbin’s Yang Family Tai Chi, but of course the principles are the same.

For more information about this event, go to: Registration form-ENG-2016

By the way, the distance Podgorica – Veliko Tarnovo is just over 800km.

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Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang Al Huang is regarded by many as one of the greatest Taiji masters of our times.
His book Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain (first published in 1973 by Celestial Arts, now published by Singing Dragon) greatly helped to popularise Taiji in the West. It became an international bestseller and went on to be translated into 14 languages.

To read an excerpt from Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, go to: https://crnagorataiji.wordpress.com/library/

For a truly inspiring lecture on the philosophy of Taiji by Chungliang, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TSEnoAa39s

Chungliang runs workshops in the USA and also in Europe. This year, he will be in Switzerland at the end of March. For more information, go to: https://www.livingtao.org/seminars-events/events/?p=0

 

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PODGORICA: NOVI TAI CHI KURS ZA POCETNIKE / NEW TAI CHI COURSE FOR BEGINNERS IN PODGORICA

  • Uvodni kurs traje tri mjeseca. Počinje 2. februara i završava se 28. aprila.
  • Sadržaj kursa: do kraja kursa polaznici će biti upoznati sa Master Zhao Youbinovim osam formi Yang-stila iz Tai Chi Chuan seta, kao i sa cjelokupnom formom ba duan jin (“osam djelova brokata”) iz qigonga. Polaznici će moći da izvode ove forme samostalno u cilju očuvanja i poboljšanja svog zdravlja.
    Ukoliko želite da vidite kako izgleda Tai Chi stil koji mi podučavamo , pogledajte našeg Učitelja na
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-n2VW0UW2E
  • Mjesto održavanja kursa: Umjetnička škola za muziku i balet „Vasa Pavić“(Novaka Miloševa br.15, Podgorica).
  • Vrijeme: svakog utorka i četvrtka od 19:45 do 20:45.
  • Instruktor: Lida Vukmanović-Tabaš
  • Za više informacija, ili ako želite da se prijavite na kurs, molim vas kontaktirajte Lidu Vukmanović-Tabaš što prije, jer upis je već u toku:
    069 155 511 ili 067 283 410
    e-mail ngjuniorme@gmail.com ili   vukmanovic@zuns.me

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  • Course content: by the end of the course, participants will be familiar with Master Zhao Youbin’s eight-form Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan set, as well as with the whole ba duan jin (“osam djelova brokata”) qigong form. Participants will be able to perform these forms when practising on their own in order to maintain or improve their health.
    If you would like to see the style of Tai Chi that we teach, watch our Master in action at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-n2VW0UW2E
  • Course venue: Umjetnička škola za muziku i balet „Vasa Pavić“ (Novaka Miloševa br.15, Podgorica).
  • Time: every Tuesday and Thursday, from 19:45 till 20:45.
  • Instructor: Lida Vukmanović-Tabaš
  • For further information, please contact Lida Vukmanović-Tabaš:
    069 155 511 or 067 283 410
    e-mail ngjuniorme@gmail.com or   vukmanovic@zuns.me
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Porijeklo Taiji Quan-a / The origins of Taiji Quan (augmented English version below)

Postoji pet glavnih stilova Taiji Quan-a koji danas postoje. Svaki stil je dobio ime po porodici iz koje je potekao:
Čen stil, porijeklom iz Čen Vang Tinga (1580-1660)
Yang stil, porijeklom iz Čena preko Yang Lu Čana (1799-1872)
Vu (Hao) stil, porijeklom iz Yanga i Čena preko Vu Ju-hsianga (1812-1880)
Vu stil (mali krug), porijeklom iz Yanga preko Vu Čuan Lua (1834-1902)
Sun stil, porijeklom iz Yanga, Vu (Hao), Ksinii i Bagua – Sun Lutanga (1861-1932)

Pošto je Yang stil kojim se ja bavim, evo još nekoliko detalja o njegovom porijeklu i razvoju.

Yang Lu Čan je radio kao sluga u porodici Čen i tamo naučio Taiji. Kasnije je naučio i druge borilačke vještine koje su takođe imale uticaja na vrstu Taijija koju je on razvio. Njegov unuk, Yang Čeng Fu (1883-1936), je dodatno dotjerao formu, a njegov stil od 85 položaja (ili 108, zavisno od toga kako su položaji grupisani i kako se broje) je taj koji je postepeno postao najpopularniji u svijetu.

Yang Čeng Fu je napisao dvije knjige o tom stilu: Primjena Metoda Taiji Quan-a (1931), kao i Suština i primjena Taiji Quan-a (1934). Ovu drugu je na engleski jezik preveo Luj Svajm 2005. godine (Blue Snake Books, Berkli, Kalifornija).

Fu Zongven (1903-1994), učenik Yang Čeng Fua koji je sklopvši brak postao i član porodice Yang, je takođe napisao veoma uticajnu knjigu, Ovladavanje Yang Stila Taiji Quan-a, koju je na engleski preveo Luj Svajm (1999; North Atlantic Books, Berkli, Kalifornija).

Prema drugoj školi mišljenja, porijeklo Taiji Quan-a datira od Džang Sanfenga, taoističkog sveštenika iz trinaestog vijeka za kojeg se vjeruje da je razvio taoistički ,,unutrašnji“ stil borilačkih vještina, za razliku od ,,spoljašnjeg“ stila budističke Šaolin tradicije borilačkih vještina.
Međutim, takve tvrdnje se ponekad odbacuju na osnovu nedostataka istorijskih dokaza.
Dva detaljna i veoma dobro istražena akademska članka o spornim korijenima Taiji Quan-a se mogu naći na adresi:
http://literati-tradition.com/zhang_sanfeng_camp.html
i
http://literati-tradition.com/chen_camp.html

Koju god teoriju da neko preferira, treba imati na umu da je kineska civilizacija stara 5.000 godina, a mnogi principi koji podupiru Taiji Quan mogu biti isto toliko stari – u svakom slučaju sigurno stari koliko i pojam jina i janga.

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I wrote the article above in 2011, and it has been available on our blog since then at https://crnagorataiji.wordpress.com/biblioteka/

Upon re-reading today – four years later -, there is nothing I would change. The last paragraph still reflects what I think:

“Whichever theory one favours, it should be borne in mind that Chinese civilization is almost 5,000 years old, and many of the principles that underpin Taiji Quan might be just as old, – in any case certainly as old as the concept of yin yang.”

The reason I am reposting some of that article today is that I realize many of you are curious about the origins of the art that we practise together, which is really great. I can only encourage you to continue to think critically.
You do not need to adopt either “the Chen version” or “the Zhang Sanfeng version / Wudang version”.
In some ways, the debate between these two “camps” is comparable to the dispute raging between creationists and evolutionists in the Western world, but in some ways only.
When it comes to the origins of Taiji, it is useful to be able to tell the difference between historical facts on the one hand, and myths and legends on the other.

My personal stance on this is that opting either for “the Chen version” or “the Zhang Sanfeng version / Wudang version” is somehow choosing to be dogmatic. Some of the truth may lie there, but much of the truth lies elsewhere. Chinese martial arts have a long history, and a lot of evidence suggests that they are as old as Chinese culture and civilization itself.

In the hope that they will help you better understand the history of Taiji, and also to tell the difference between fact and fiction, here are two articles I have found useful:

1) Legend in Tai Chi

2) Taiji and Daoism

 

 

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