Always move “just enough” (passive stepping)

Always move “just enough” (passive stepping)

Rule 10 – Always move “just enough” (passive stepping)

The question behind our final video of the series is: How far should I go when evading? How do I step under attack?

In the video, we first see three pushes to the shoulder – with increased intensity, and then three pushes to the hip – also with increased intensity.

One can see that the placement / positioning of the feet depends – wholly and solely (!) – on the attack, i.e. the action of your partner. – You always move “just enough”! – The more intense the attack, the more movement is necessary to evade without running away. This way of passive stepping, in which your own steps are dependent on your partners action, is typical for Tai Chi. The principle behind it is called “neutralising” or “yielding“.

Passive stepping – why?

Passive stepping at first seems contraintuitive: Why should I give up any idea of a direction of stepping – and therefore any own purpose of action – in the face of such an imminent attack?

The two last pushes to shoulder and hip give a hint. – You give up your own impulse, because neutralising all the way means that your partner (or opponent) will not find any resistance to build upon. Passive stepping – neutralising all the way – leads the Other into emptiness. What does that mean? Your opponent will push all the way, sometimes longer than first intended, always sure to be able to “get something in the end”. S/he will thereby exhaust his/her whole range of motion and probably also loose the correct body structure in the end. At this point, it becomes easy to push / pull / move your opponent into another direction (you are “starting second and arriving first”.)

What is NOT passive (empty) stepping?

Passive stepping is NOT going a bit into the direction of your partner just IN ORDER TO start something different. Your partner will smell the rat and abort the attack too early – even in a fixed exercise like this one. – To lure your partner all the way, the thought of “now I step away AND THEN” has to be abandoned (moving without intention / yi).

Video passive stepping

👍🏼 Tip: Getting used to being pushed around is key for this skill!

This is not easy to practice, as our natural fear and caution, and sometimes our egos (who likes to be pushed around again and again?) tend to get in the way of our progress.

👉🏼 Always practice in a safe way! Communicate with your partner about the intensity you are comfortable with and take it from there. – Remember: We are training this to widen our comfort zone. Therefore any increase in intensity has to be gradual and agreed upon.

👀 Without this crucial communication, the exercise will end up in showing off how far we can go. The only thing that can be achieved by this way of practising is to train your partner how to be a good victim to your aggression – and the other way round. To learn to abandon one’s own independent line of action – being passive in a strict sense – while some other persons hand touches your body, first of all requires trust in your partner. Without it, the exercise will be nothing but a long – and fruitless – struggle.

Have fun adapting your Tai Chi stepping!

Author: Gabi Kannenberg
Images: Nils Klug and Taiji Forum
German version of this series

Push Hands Autumn 2023

Beside the Push Hands workshop in Crete Nils Klug will be offering seminars in Italy, south of Germany and in his school in Hannover.