"In modern day Tai Chi Chuan, no one seems to understand or train the Yang family Tai Chi Chuan "Dynamic Pushing Hand", except the students of late Grandmaster Yang, Sau-Chung & their students. As for the "Dynamic Pushing Hand", the original Chinese name is "Pushing Hands". The word "Dynamic" was created & added in order to differentiate from the modern versions of pushing hands. In the absence of "Dynamic Pushing Hand", these modern tai chi practitioners are leaving out the most important principle of Tai Chi Chuan. As for the purpose of "Dynamic Pushing Hand", it develops "Peng Jing energy", the famous internal power of Yang Lu-Chan, Yang Chien-Hou, Yang Cheng-Fu, etc.--the much sought after internal power. If "Chi" is the internal energy, then "Peng Jing energy" is the internal power. As for the kind of pushing hands one sees these days in competitions or in most tai chi schools, they are not the traditional Yang family pushing hands, & they will "NOT" develop the internal power. "Dynamic Pushing Hand" is a time-honored, power training method that all the Yang masters & their disciples have practiced throughout the generations. It requires a lineage & knowledgeable masters. As for the actual attainment & understanding of it, it demands "the time & the perseverance" because of its profound principles. As for the modern tai chi stylists, they have no idea.
Holding the certain postures, performing the various forms, executing the body movements, or feeling for whatever cannot attain Peng Jing energy. Seesawing back & forth doing rollback, push, or whatever, will not serve in attaining Peng Jing energy--in this, one is merely executing the each technique without the understanding of Peng Jing energy. One has to understand the principle of Peng Jing energy before all these things. Therefore, one needs to develop Peng Jing energy first by training in "Dynamic Pushing Hand" in order to establish the foundation for the development of the internal power. In the course of developing Peng Jing energy, other things will simultaneously occur as well. For example, one strengthens the hands, the feet, & the joints throughout the body; as a result, one attains a strong body, understands how to align & relax the body, & learns how to push. Thus slowly, one begins to build "gong li", which is also known as internal strength, not to be confused with physical strength. In addition, as the body gets stronger, it starts to change its physiology. The muscles in the arms, the legs, & the body begin to become softer & sponge like. The tendons become like tree roots. After this stage, they eventually take on the quality of elasticity. For many, the arms become heavier after long period of training.
The principle of the internal connection is not about the body alignment, but rather, it is the presence of Peng Jing energy throughout the body. A reference of moving as one unit refers to this connection of Peng Jing energy. If one executes the movements with Peng Jing energy as one unit, then that person understands the principle of "Stillness in Motion". Therefore, the principle of the internal connection is not about the way the body moves in snapping or waving motion, from feet to hands in a sequential, external "physical" manner which one often sees in other styles. Thus, the "connection" has to be "internal". Moreover, with the presence of Peng Jing energy & as it gets stronger, the stronger the internal connection becomes. As one attains stronger Peng Jing energy, one eventually learns how to yield, listen, discharge, etc. Again, it is therefore Peng Jing energy before the techniques, the velocity, or the postures. Meanwhile, as Peng Jing energy becomes stronger, one continuously refines this energy. With this refinement, there comes the actual, internal power of Tai Chi Chuan, & not some brute force. There is no place for brute force in Tai Chi Chuan, except the steel within one's cottony arms. It is this connection of Peng Jing energy, which makes the power of Tai Chi Chuan soft & effortless. Many people have certain notions that the internal power of Tai Chi Chuan is an effortless power, which comes from training effortlessly. Thinking that one-day this effortless power will appear out of nowhere--thus, such statement, "...tai chi takes long time to learn & because of it, I can't show it even though I've been studying it for 20 years or more..." For the power to be effortless, that particular power has to be very powerful, so when it is released, it seems effortless. Yang Cheng-Fu's power was effortless because he was extremely powerful, & he dedicated his entire life training for this "power". Therefore, with this power, one doesn't have to shove & yank like so-many modern pushing hand practitioners. Imagine Yang, Lu-Chan & Yang, Cheng-Fu becoming "Invincible Fighters" by shoving & yanking their opponents! Not very likely. They simply & effortlessly knocked out their opponents with their steel like arms & hands...now, that's power!
When two traditional Tai Chi Chuan practitioners who have trained in "Dynamic Pushing Hand" interact, one can witness the tremendous explosiveness of the internal power of Tai Chi Chuan. It is so explosive that the whole thing seems to be staged for one's viewing, which is quite understandable considering their ignorance of the nature of Peng Jing energy. But, when a non-traditional practitioner or anyone tries to push one of us, the feeling they experience is like pushing on an oak tree. Recently, I had a 6' 4", 275-pound visitor push my 140-pound student. Result? My skinny Shin stood there with a beaming smile as Patrick shook Shin's hand. Patrick pushed, pushed, & pushed, & he couldn't move Shin! Tai Chi Chuan is about "internal power", contrary to a certain view from Singapore. However, it is not about the unbendable arm of Aikido as I have seen many non-traditional practitioners, who have borrowed this concept to supplement their training. What makes Shin unmovable is the connection of Peng Jing energy. It is the release of this energy that gives Tai Chi Chuan its unique power. The internal power of Tai Chi Chuan is so powerful that one only need to release 4 ounces of power, effortlessly, to cause a severe damage or injury to an opponent, who would feel as if thousand pounds have struck. To one’s opponents, my 4 ounces of power equate to thousand pounds of their power. Therefore, this power comes to exist within one's body. It is not about the mental focus, as in other styles. In Tai Chi Chuan, mental focus enhances the already existing power within. Thus, when the body, the mind, "Chi", & "Peng Jing" are combined with "Time", one’s full potential power is immeasurable. As a result, this manifestation of power is very subtle, fast & unnoticeable, giving the impression that this power is soft all around--again, effortlessness & certain confusions within tai chi community. But, that’s only true to the extent that the Peng Jing energy is soft whereas the internal power itself can be released effortlessly & felt in number of different devastating ways.
Modern versions of tai chi forms will develops "Chi"--then again, any exercise done softly can too as long as there is an emphasis on energy--but, those forms alone cannot give persons the internal power; neither does the modern tai chi pushing hands. Importing the principles of Shaolin, Karate, Yi Chuan, Xing Yi, Western Boxing, etc., which is so frequent, will not assist in developing the traditional internal power of Tai Chi Chuan. The common mistake is that people believe all power is alike; therefore, it is "OK" to combine, but this is not true! Contrary to common understanding, not all styles have originated from Shaolin system. Western boxing will teach you one-two combos, but what is that got to do with Tai Chi Chuan? In Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, one tries to "minimize the motion while maximize the power", whereas most technique or velocity-oriented styles increase the motion in order to maximize the power, "physical power"--not exactly "Stillness in Motion". While many believe that practicing softly will give power one day, none of these practitioners has ever achieved such status although many believe & strut in illusion. Many are hopelessly awed to the misinterpretations & poorly executed techniques. In fact, having interacted with such practitioners, I found in them virtually no understanding of the internal power. These beliefs by many modern tai chi practitioners are misleading, to themselves & others. In harsh truth, regardless of what one is told by these famous masters or of how long one practice softly, this mythical power will not come. Practicing softly is only effective if it is done with the internal power, in this case, which comes from "Peng Jing energy".
Once the principles are properly understood, then one will realize that the traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan is a very sensible martial art that requires diligent practice. The road to understanding it is often very painful & extremely tiring; but in the end, one can attain the much sought after power. The principles of internal power of Tai Chi Chuan are simple, yet very complex; at the same time, in many ways, they are extremely complex, yet very simple. With the softness comes the hardness of The Tai Chi Chuan power, but it has to be nurtured by "Dynamic Pushing Hand"."
What are dynamic pushing hands and how does this training method differ from other push hands methods? What methods are used to create internal power that is different from that of Hsing I or Pakua (besides the movements and basic training themselves creating a specific body structure and mindset)? Thanks.
There are many valid approachs to push-hands and martial tactics, even within the Yang-style, much less when you cross into the other family styles. Unfortunately, there are so many varied ways to exploit body mechanics that many teachers will, consciously or otherwise, choose to emphasis the things that they do best. It's human nature. I do it and so does every other good instructor that I have experienced. So, as I have said in class, a heavier taller teacher will emphasize the methods that work for him and a shorter, lighter teacher will emphasize the skills that work for him. Students will adapt, or fail to adapt, to this according to their apptitude and effort.
Sometimes an attempt is made to teach a variety of approaches (ie., diagonal power, vertical power, horizontal power or blending at least two out of three); most often one line is emphasized. So, it can be difficult for the students of one approach to work with someone who uses a different "power" much less cope with the intricacies of detail which often differentiate one push-hands method from another.
Exercises similar to what I call "uprooting" are often done by students of different styles to test safely their ability to be balanced, rooted and sensitive all activities which are essential basics in any taiji style. Once you get beyond that though you get into pointless arguments about "my style does roll-back, this way and only my way is correct".
For example, some students are told to stop when their partner uses stiff force and this is done to avoid reacting automatically to using force when your partner does and this is a useful way to train, if both practitioners are trying to learn only about softness. Unfortunately, real softness in martial terms can only be achieved by having passed through years of training which involve hard effort and the learning of physical skills that can actually deflect a punch or committed attack. In other words, martial softness is the end-product of years of hard-work. It is not something that you can find only through practising softness unless you already have a great deal of martial experience under your belt.
Why am I doing this stuff? is a question that I think many, if not all of my students, must ask themselves on those class nights where I say “Switch partners and try it again!” for what seems like the umpteenth time. The relative beginners are already nursing stiffening shoulders and those with martial experience are grumbling because they want to do “the interesting stuff”. Well, after 27 years of various push-hands methods, I still find it interesting to try and get push-hands to be even a pale reflection of the great martial learning tool that it can be.
I think there is a great deal of truth in the rumours that push-hands was invented as a relatively safe manner of training basic taiji-style close-quarters tactics. Some of these martial “abstractions” are still useful for developing tactile sensitivity combined with an offensive and defensive use of the those quintessential taiji tacticsjust mentioned.
Such methods don't have to have to be brutal to be effective learning tools; however, you shouldn't take it too far the other way. Sadly, most modern versions of push-hands have become overly sanitised to make them safer to practice in a large group setting or for competitive purposes that they have become devoid of practical martial purpose.
It sounds like "Dynamic Push Hands" is a variation of a partnered, isometric training methodolgy commonly called "Lao Niu Jing." It is popular in the Yang style.
The basic method is to assume a posture (Ward-off for example) while your partner assumes a complementary posture ("Push" for example). The partner in Push will slowly add pressure to the partner in Ward-offs arm, as the Ward-off partner uses his alignment to resist the push. Pressure is increased on both sides until a great isometric tension is reached. The partners push against each other maintaining the counter isometric tension for a length of time then swith to other positions.
The depth of your knowledge still strikes me. (oof)
Seriously, I have trained in the Yang Sau Chung lineage and you described the concept very well. The only thing I would add is the one person may push the other back, and I was taught that even if you are pushed off your root, you continue to maintain your strcture and project your energy/force forward.
BTW, congratulations on your Black Belt. I know I come off a little stiff with the way I write (occupational hazard)but I really admire your continued dedication, your thirst for knowledge, your ability to think critically while maintaining an open mind, and your incredible discipline and skill.
Your students are lucky to have you not only as a teacher, but as an example.
Your contributions have always been an asset to this board.