Excerpts: Notes from Daqingshan, 2007, May 5
Posted by Editor on February 9, 2010
Centered Action and Activation of Spatial Relationships in Push Hands
Principle: Taiji Push Hands is always about my mind, body, structure, angle, space, timing, etc. It is not an emphasis on responding to my opponent. It is always about
….. adjusting my structure, to sustain my center. It involves rotating joints, to reorganize my inner body relationships, creating appropriate angles, to occupy the optimal space for my center balance to be sustained, while my opponent’s space and center is taken away.
To “take away space”:
- I adjust relationships inside my body to create the correct angles within my own physical structure. That means my opponent is always presented with a 45 degree angle on any accessible external surface of my body. At the same time, my adjustments create a flat, 180 degree surface on accessible points of my opponent’s body. His “flat” surfaces offer me the opportunity to easily unbalance his uncentered structure.
- Alignment of my inner structure through joint rotation and midsection adjustments are the means to accomplish my own balanced structure. These internal micro adjustments reposition the angles on the outer surface of my structure, presenting different angles and positions of my hands, arms, and shoulders. This is quite different from outer body movements, which involve arms and hands moving in contact with an opponent, or moving independently from the torso, or hips and lower legs. Once I am in contact with my opponent, the inner actions cause the outer limbs to lengthen, to stretch. This expansion of my outer surface then serves to “take away” my opponent’s space, and reduces time for any reaction.
Any point “popping out” which occurs due to locking joints of the legs, or shoulder, or any joint which is engaged independently, rather than working with the other joints, integrated in their required respective actions, pulling into the center. Any “locked out” point will be vulnerable. The opponent could easily attach to such a vulnerable point and penetrate its destabilized structure.
So the objective is to “lengthen”, to expand (never collapsing) from our central balance point. We create a line, which intersects our center, associated with two further extended points. For example, a line might be drawn from a shoulder point near the neck, to connect with a point on the bicep above the elbow. This opens the shoulder, while letting it rotate into the center of our structure, instead of “popping” up or out (which would collapse the point).
We can always stretch from point to point. You can imagine a rod which extends in a line to a point on the ground, wall, or whatever, from a specific point of the body. You might create the imagined structure, which might be employed as if it were a third leg, providing support and leverage, and a grounding structure to direct energy according to your intention.
This process creates the effect of lengthening of body, with application of the separation of yin and yang. The ability to consciously and selectively manipulate the stretching all the different parts of the body with appropriate isolation of each, at the right time—– these are the physical requirements for the creation of the longer, more expanded spatial relationships. Development of these capabilities leads to the unique skills which reflect the higher levels of achievement, with Chen style Practical Method.
The Separation of Yin and Yang, as it is Applied to all Internal Physical Interactions
Isolation of Attention
The shoulder and kua must work together in a constant interaction, engaging in a proportional and timely active and counteractive process. For example, as the feet push and pull, with the kua joints rotating in adjustment to the force, the elbow must pull in, even as the hand is stretching out to the fingers.
“Keep pulling in” while “measuring”. This means, balancing every tiny internal action, which must move at the proper time and proportion, continually maintaining that proportional adjusting activity.
It is a compensatory process, like a scale, balancing in proportion, with all the centrifugal force of all movements going towards the self, pulling to the center.
When the elbow pulls in, while the fingers are expanding outward, this can be applied to any direction. In the application of our circle, the kua’s position and rotation determines the angle of our arm, hand, and fingers, extending energy up, left, right, down, etc.
Function like a Ball of Steel
In facing a larger opponent, we can “cut” their length, taking away their space, by directing attention to a point which would cut into their space, thereby destabilizing their structure, as it is cut off from its center. For example, we can direct a line of force which intersects their rear leg, breaking the connection between the opponent’s back foot and the ground.
We can equate the concept of “cutting time” with this process of “cutting space”. Likewise, the same action can be understood in terms of “cutting direction”. In terms of the functional outcome, the result is the same.
When we create the optimal structural relationship, with an appropriate “line” directed to our advantage, we must keep this line engaged in a direction which will cut into his space at an angle of 90 degrees.
The Chen Style Practical Method distinguishes between hard and soft, and defines the appropriate application of each value at all times. Joint rotation will apply the functional effect of softness, while at the same time retaining the hardness of “steel”. The effect will never present the quality of “tofu”, “loose” softness in Taiji applications. The full expansion of peng will be present at all times.
In terms of rotation while retaining the “steel” quality, we view the softness in its capacity to rotate, moving our feet to position for attaching and creating angles in our structure, to sustain our center, and make our center empty, inaccessible to the opponent.
Those who witnessed the push hands skills of Grandmaster Hong considered him to be very strong. But those who touched hands with him always said “you cannot grab him”, “you cannot catch him”. His exceptional ability to automatically adjust his internal rotational actions left his opponents without any access to any weak points to attack.
When we understand the true role and correct functions of internal rotational actions, we begin to gain a practical understanding of the concepts of “force” and “power” as applied to Taiji. From the Taiji perspective we might associate “force” with external physical movement. We can speak of “power” as the efficient direction and functional application of energy. We can view power in terms of where energy ”goes”. Once the energy is no longer moving, or being directed within the framework of our own aligned structure, we cannot “rotate it”. This is what happens if the structure, wobbles, goes out of alignment, with different body parts moving independently or outside the balanced proportions of a stable structure—- i.e. when the body is moving horizontally in space, without vertical alignment pulling and rotating energy towards the center of its structure.
Power VS Force: Always Pull Inward
Rotation (action) also always incorporates sinking.
For example, as elbows pull in towards the center, there is a simultaneous pull downwards at all times, harnessing the power of the force of gravity. This constant inward and downward force will constantly maintain the equal and opposite energy for its outward applications.
Chen Style Practical Method emphasizes the functional application of internal rotation, as the means to create the structure for power generation and direction of power. With this contextual framework, we can understand that power is measured by its effect.
In application, power is always intended to be directed through the opponent, expanding beyond any immediate limits of contact.
One very simple conclusion, for the adherence to an essential core principle, ever present in the practice of Chen Style Practical Method: we are always pulling in, so power always goes out, through the opponent. At all times, during all form or push hands practice, we always emphasize “Every push is a pull”, and “always pull inwards”.