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Push Hands / Tui Shou
by Mike Abosch
 (Mike is a multiple gold-medalist in fixed-step and moving-step push hands and San Shou (free-fighting) at international level, as you will see from our records of his achievements at the British Open and European Championships over several years.  In addition to his collection of medals, he was also presented with a Chinese Sword for his services to the Martial Arts.)
1. Technical
Push Hands is basically a two-person practice, where partners or opponents attempt to unbalance each other, whilst also defending against the same.
This should be done with hands or arms in continuous contact until one of you clearly discharges or unbalances the other.  As one progresses into moving-step push hands, joint-locking, throwing, sweeps and other variations can be added.
There are many drills that can be learnt along the way, for example:
Fixed step - single-handed, double-handed, 9 Palace, under or over-arm drills and free-style
Moving step - 7 star stepping, 9 Palace stepping, da-lu and free style
These drills can be practiced hard or soft, slow or fast - until eventually you are able to inter-change seamlessly between them.
I will not attempt to describe these here, as you need an experienced instructor and training partners to work with to understand the subtleties involved.  I will, however, mention what I believe is a general misconception that some people have on sensitivity in push hands:
It could be presumend that sensitivity is only in slow, gentle, fluid push hands - this is where you learn sensitivity with a partner to feel where their power and energy is and how to use it to your advantage.  When people see push hands being done in a combative scenario with speed and physical force, they may think that it's not Tai Chi - there is no skill there.  Indeed the opposite can be true - the skill is to find your opponent's power and energy in this difficult situation and to use it to your advantage.  If you can do it in this situation you have thus developed sensitivity.
 2. What is Push Hands for?
Is it:
*  Gentle partner work?
*  A practice to help deal with life situations?
*  A bridge to learn free-fighting?
*  A tool to improve forms?
*  To win medals in tournaments?
*  To have fun?
*  Other?
It can be one or all of these things, depending on the individual.
3. Personal Experience / Skills Learnt / Outcomes of Push Hands Practice
It may be worth considering how the following skills relate to the seven points listed in (2) above:
*  The development of sensitivity.
*  The development of rooting ability.
*  The development of structure (incorrect structure will soon become apparent in push hands).
*  Learning to relax/flow when under pressure (physical and emotional) instead of freezing up.
*  When to move / stay still / apply force (jing).
*  How to use an opponent's speed / power/ weight / movement and intention against them (well, it's something to aspire to!)  :)
4. I've gained many benefits from push hands:
I have achieved a better understanding of Tai Chi in general, won tournaments and had fun.
I have built trust and friendships with training partners and it has been a productive way in to establishing a good relationship with my adopted son.
After 17 years of practice, I am still learning.  I am also excited by the new levels of possibilities that open up.
What do you get from your push hands practice and how can you develop it....?????
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