Cheng Man Ching Push Hands – Notes on Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System VI
The vast majority of people I have seen doing ‘push hands’ are trying to push and not be pushed. They are trying to win, to prevail, to beat the other person – and by doing this, they lose a great opportunity.
About struggling to win
To vie and struggle in order to win is not doing Cheng Man Ch’ing Tai Chi. His push hands classes were structured as follows:
- One line (A) stood with their backs to the wall, another line (B) formed facing them.
- Only the ‘Bs’ could push, the ‘As’ could only defend.
This arrangement prevented the Tai Chi sin of struggling to win. (Many found ways to do it regardless!)
The Tai Chi form began as a repository of fighting techniques. Push Hands was devised as an interim physical dialogue, to test the student’s abilities to relax, align, center, balance, root and energize (reduce Chi blocks), and to acquaint and refine the players abilities to handle close quarters fighting techniques. The only reason to push our partners is for them to learn how to NOT get pushed.
Modern Push Hands: Contacting ourselves and Others
Tai Chi is an evolving art. Now, in the 21st century, we no longer need a martial art to protect our lives with, particularly when the art offers us a way improve our vitality, health and our ability to relate to others. This can be done by exchanging energies and body intelligence in direct physical contact.
As we play back and forth with a partner, in constant physical contact, we become more familiar with their bodies and our own. First, we acquire the ability to feel the other’s energy. We will feel their anger, fear etc. From there, we will begin to feel the more subtle energies of mood or conditions, physical, psychological or spiritual.
This process can fine tune our relations with others, while touching, while in physical contact, which is usually only achieved in dancing, or having sex. I know of no other system that offers this dynamic.
Video “Cheng Man Ching Push Hands”
- Tai Chi’s general attitude (fight or flight),
- the serious effort to make Chinese visual language practically meaningful (swimming in the air),
- the interpretation of relaxation as something requiring hard work (On (mis)alignment),
- the intense study of single postures (Roll back),
- the need to practically reconnect one’s own form to the original meaning of Taiji (The Cheng Man Ching 37 Form),
- the ultimate art in life (Tai Chi’s Role),
- the relation to the Other (Push Hands),
- the principle of going with the flow (Ride the horse),
- and – ultimately – the artful combination of energy and direction (momentum).