Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

Something to Chew On 2

In the original post I mentioned observations from watching the video. Whilst we avoid fights in which the odds are naturally against us it does not mean that we should not learn to deal with it since there are times when avoidance is impossible.

Push hands can be a useful learning tool for understanding how to handle strength and pressure. To walk away with useful lessons we should avoid doing shoving matches in which the bigger, stronger and heavier person has the advantage. 

Instead, we should learn to apply principles and strategies that maximize what we have. We should also use techniques that does not put us in the disfavor of the law. For example, picking up a person and smashing him on the ground is spectacularly effective but makes you come across as the aggressor and using excessive force. If the matter goes to court and there is a video of the fight you will look bad in the eyes of the law.

Typical push hands holds many lessons in learning how to roll with the force, borrow it and return it to the opponent. The problem begins when techniques fly out the window in our obsession to push our partner far away. Going back to the video you can see why a shoving match is not a good idea what with obstacles around; yes you can push him into a window but don’t think you won’t get cut too etc. If one thing I learned is that the fight doesn’t just end there. If the law gets into the picture or the other guy drags you to civil court those battles will be a lot harder to fight and no Tai Chi skill will help unless you happen to be a lawyer. Otherwise, I would use push hands to train responses that makes me look like the victim, responding passively to the provocation whilst the reverse is the case.

A taller, bigger and heavier person naturally comes off looking like a bully when compared to a smaller, shorter and lighter person. Its the interaction dynamics that will then indicate to us who the aggressor is. So if the viewer can be made to see that the bigger person is acting aggressively then he will naturally be labelled the bully even though when the incident is seen as a whole that might not be the case. So in this case if I were to see just that part of the video where the taller guy is walking menacingly towards the guy in orange I may naturally assume that the aggressor is the guy in black. Actually, without a proper investigation I still have no idea what the full story is about. The thing here is that black is not always black nor white always white. The actual story could be a shade or perhaps multiple shades of grey.

Coming back to push hands, the handling of strength is a function of physics in use. Maximize your strengths whilst minimizing your opponent’s advantages should be our natural strategy. It sounds difficult and it is because this does not come naturally to us. This is where the form comes in to recondition the way we move and push hands is where we learn to use what we learn in the form unless we somehow got sucked right back into another shoving match in which case we will never be able to use our Tai Chi in a real situation where your opponent may not just shove you around. Or possibly there is more than one opponent in which case if you spend too much time locked in a shoving match or perhaps too engrossed to notice then a second opponent may creep up to attack you. You can see in the video that though we see two main protagonists the supporting actors aren’t exactly passive.

This is why in practicing Tai Chi if you just go through the motions then don’t be disappointed if you cannot use the art. To apply the principles of physics you have to understand how moving in a certain way versus another can activate the physics of the technique. And don’t become obsessed with fajing because knowing how to fajing without knowing how to open up the opponent’s defences is knowing only half the story. My contention is that you need to use a lot more strength to strike someone who is anticipating you. If you can make him lower his defence you can use a lot less effort for a more spectacular result. Ergo, Tai Chi should teach you to be smarter not dumber to rush in like a mad bull and try to gore your opponent because if your opponent turns out to have matador-like skills you may lose.



Author: ZenMindSword

Mushin is a practitioner, researcher and trainer for Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. He is also author of The Ip Man Koans, The Ip Man Questions and TaijiKinesis series of eBooks, as well as co-author of Complete Wing Chun.

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