Thoughts on Dynamic 'Power' Push Hand 

Lets make this perfectly clear.  Dynamic Push Hand is, in Chinese, called Push Hand, tui sau.  For those who are unfamiliar Classical Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan tui sau, there are various number of different push hands: power push hand, chi sau push hand, neutralizing push hand, striking push hand, sparring push hand, to name a few.

Some are done with a fixed stance and some are done with a lively, quick steps.  

The authentic Tai Chi Chuan is about conditioning and fine-tuning of the body, cultivating ‘Chi’ through the proper postures; enriching the internal power energy, ‘Peng Kieng’, through Dynamic "Power' Push Hand; developing ‘Neng’ by understanding the curriculum, energy, and internal power energy; and,  attaining eventually ‘Stillness’ by the realizations of the pure, sublime state of energy.

It is in the forms that we condition and fine-tune our body, by executing the mechanics of the postures, through the repetitions, thus, the variations, hence, the transformation of the body and the energy. It is through the understanding of ‘centering, alignment, balance, and relaxation’ that the muscles, the tendons, and ligaments are strengthened. The body is then prepared for dynamic 'power' push hand.

In dynamic 'power' push hand, through this specific methodology that we then understand about the internal power, a formidable natural (true) strength without enlarging and hardening of the muscles, 'core' muscles or otherwise.  Through dynamic 'push' hand, we start to realize the essence of the principle of Yin/Yang: the application of the principle of ‘borrowing energy’ within the principle of ‘Full and Empty’, which was given so much emphasis while learning Tai Chi Chuan [form].  One of the basic aspects of dynamic 'push' hand is relearning how to relax the body, while applying the principles of ‘centering, alignment, and balance’, with a teacher’s internal power energy entering the body.  In order to correctly apply the method, one has to understand how to keep the body still, by reducing the movements of the muscles.  Thus, the word ‘push’ is misleading, and more than often, incorrectly understood and applied by many.  When it is done correctly, there is actually no physical push.  The interchangeability of the internal power and Tai Chi Chuan [form] and Tai Chi Fast form makes us understand that dynamic 'power' push hand is done like the forms, and the forms like dynamic 'power' push hand.  Moreover, it is in the understanding of the emergence of dynamic 'power' push hand (the internal power) and the forms (the energy) that we understand the essence of the realm of ‘Neng’.  The ability to dictate ‘Neng’ prepares the practitioners for the realm of ‘Stillness’.

In dynamic 'power' push hand, it is critical that practitioners understand the principle of ‘borrowing energy’.  ‘Borrowing energy’ is not about deflecting, yielding, or neutralizing techniques.  In defining what the ‘borrowing energy’ is, these lesser, imitation tai chi practitioners have contributed to many seriously erroneous definitions.  The principle of ‘borrowing energy’ is one of the dynamic 'push' hand methods that enrich the ‘internal power’.

Dynamic 'Power' Push Hand is not about pushing/shoving to budge one's partner or instructor.  It is not about pushing as hard as you can, beyond complete exhaustion.  It is not about the male testosterone induced competition of pissing contest.  It is not about an outcome of an individual practitioner becoming immovable to the partner's push.  It is not about a practitioner merely attaining strength. 

In dynamic 'power' push hand, it is about applying the principles of 'centering, alignment, balance, and relaxation', 'full and empty', 'borrowing energy', 'minimizing the motion', 'elimination of muscular strength' and 'elevated Intent', that are learned from Tai Chi Chuan form, and then, realizing the next level of understanding of the energy development, where one's 'chi (hei)', internal energy, is released and enriched to become 'peng kieng' energy.    

When ‘peng kieng/internal power energy’ is understood, Tai Chi Chuan form takes on an entirely different meaning, as one begins to sense the presence of the internal power energy.  As the Intent dictates the movements of all the postures, the postures manifest solid appearances of power.  It is in the course of this development that the body begins to understand the deeper meaning of ‘borrowing energy’ through the principle of ‘centering, alignment, balance, and relaxation’, as Dynamic 'Power' Push Hand and Tai Chi Chuan form complements each other.  As ‘peng kieng’ becomes more powerful, it slowly establishes much deeper ‘connection’ of itself by the presence of ‘Nine Pearls’.  It is the presence of ‘Nine Pearls’ that maintains the physiological structure; thus further reinforcing the postures to achieve the state of powerful relaxation of the body, thus eliminating the any erroneous idea of cooked, limp noodles postures.

If any individual who cannot discourse or apply any one of the above-mentioned principles of Dynamic 'Power' Push Hand and Tai Chi Chuan form, he, then, has pretty much wasted his time.

Absence (negligence) of certain curriculum...

Yang SIGONG had three disciples; the first was accepted in 1954; the second, in 1977; and last, in 1983 or so.  To the disciples, the curriculum that were taught by Yang SIGONG was basically the same.  They were all taught the family version of Tai Chi Chuan.  Moreover, being the disciples had certain privileges to the advanced training, such as Tai Chi fast form, advanced push hand, advanced chi gong, solo drills, etc.  However, they came with certain premium prices.  Even though the disciples were considered as adopted family members of the system, you still had to pay the prices for each and advanced curriculum.  

Yang SIGONG did not give away his family Tai Chi Chuan knowledge for free.  He believed in the old school of earning the privilege and having to pay for that privilege.  First, you had to earn the privilege of becoming a disciple by certain accomplishment (gong*, in Chinese) that would place a prospect in a favorable position; then, you had to pay the monetary price of discipleship; then, you were given the access to the inner family training; then, of course, you begin the real training.  Until a person becomes a disciple, his training and the result of that training gives him a diminutive title of an average student.  

Even among the disciples, there are slight differences in the way each does the curriculum, and that usually is determined by the personality and the ability of each disciple and the way in which each trained, which might have been influenced by circumstances.  For example, some might prefer on more active sparring, on the deeper understanding of the internal principles, and on the aspects of the internal power.  Whatever case might be for the disciples and their trainings, the final objective should be the same: the internal power (of internal martial art) derived from understanding the internal principles of Classical Yang family Tai Chi Chuan curriculum that were taught directly by Yang SIGONG.  That is the ultimate goal of their training and burden of the legacy of Yang family system.        

If you couldn't pay Yang SIGONG for the asking prices of a specific curriculum, he wasn't going to teach you.  Why?  Because that's the way it was.  Teaching Tai Chi Chuan was his livelihood.  Like the forefathers before him, Yang SIGONG wasn't very different.  His father, uncle, grandfather, granduncle, and great grandfather all made people pay the prices for learning the Yang family system.  Whether one can pay for the lessons or not, it did not matter.  If one wanted badly enough of the system, one was expected to find the means.  The policy of how badly do you want it? is still live and well.  A perfect example is the Tai Chi Halberd form; the form that truly symbolizes the great Yang Lu Chan!  How many people have had an opportunity to learn the halberd form from Yang SIGONG?  Only one.  It goes same for the advanced Power Chi Gong sets.  Pay the top dollars for it, and you will value it.  Give it for free and have it always available, then it is almost guarantee that it will be less appreciated and taken for granted.  

Yang SIGONG told his second disciple to focus on the power (dynamic) push hand and understand the 'peng kieng' energy, for it is the source of the internal power of Classical Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan.  Because Yang SIGONG could not train his second disciple on a regular basis, due to them being a continent apart, the disciple was told to focus the training in power push hand and advanced power chi gong sets.  He was instructed in what to look for.  Finally, he was told that the understanding Tai Chi Chuan depends on the second disciple's dedication and his intelligence.  The curriculum (forms, push hand, chi gong, solo drills, and the principle) represents 50% of the knowledge and acquiring the remaining 50% of the knowledge depends on the efforts of the second disciple.  The honored method of 50/50... 

According to Yang SIGONG, Tai Chi Chuan form cannot be understood unless the energy is understood.  Chi is not the energy that will help to understand it.  It has to be elevated to a much higher level of energy, and that methodology to enrich and elevate chi is power (dynamic) push hand training.  To understand Tai Chi Chuan form, one needs to understand soft peng kieng energy, that results from the proper execution of power push hand .  To truly realize and become internally powerful, the union of the forms and power push hand must come to exist: do the form like the the push hand, and do the push hand like the form.  When they complement, while other curriculum assists, they ascend to the state of Neng.  The internal power then becomes beyond your imagination.   

He was told that Tai Chi Chuan form is for cultivating the energy, chi, and that continuous training of the form will condition and strengthen the tendons and ligaments.  As for the strengthening of the muscles, more specific exercises were needed.  The form will stimulate the already existing energy; even though this energy is cultivated, it will not develop the internal power, as he was advised.  Chi is not the power, but rather it is unrefined source of fuel.  He was told that he must do the form and the power push hand together.  This combination of training has to be done properly, for chi to be refined and enriched into the internal power energy, peng kieng.   

The second disciple was also cautioned about not falling into a trap of physical pushing.  Understanding this error was extremely critical because this type of pushing can develop an erroneous, hard peng kieng energy.  Pay attention to the principle of borrowing energy.  He was told that to properly develop the soft peng kieng energy, one must understand how to borrow the incoming energy.  As a tension is created in the body, one must realize and release the tension in the body.  Thus, power push hand is the next level of on how to relax the body.  As in Tai Chi Chuan form, he was told, first to minimize the physical movements of the body as he pushed; the minimizing of the body while pushing coincides with the principle of minimizing the body movement in Tai Chi Chuan form.  Therefore, it is critical that he understand the principle of minimizing the body movements while doing the form and power push hand.  This understanding will eventually make him ascend to the state of revelation of the principle of 'stillness in motion, in the body, the (super) energy, and the mind.

Power push hand is not a contest, Yang SIGONG told the second disciple.  It is not about who is stronger or the strongest.  It is not about who can withstand or resist a force and maintain in an immovable posture, or who can budge whom, or who can upset whose balance.  Yang SIGONG reminded that power push hand is a profound method of discovering the internal power energy, and the other push hand exercises were to further develop and understand the internal power energy and its practical usages.  Do not get into a shoving match, however subtle it maybe, he the internal power energy. 

Do not neglect the power training, he was told.  To attain power, you have to do the specific power push hand training of Classical Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan.  When the second disciple asked Yang SIGONG about the sparring push hand, he was told that the sparring push hand is extremely important in understanding the martial aspect of Tai Chi Chuan.  In sparring push hand, the focus is in the hand speed using the dragon claw as a primary arsenal, with quick release of the internal power (fa kieng) while applying the array of techniques.  He was told that this type of push hand is for the practical martial purpose, but before an individual can train properly in sparring push hand, one has to understand a significant level of the internal power.  Thus, he was reminded to attain the internal power first, a prerequisite to the sparring push hand.  In order for Tai Chi Chuan to be effective as a martial art, the internal power has to be present, for it is the most important aspect, then comes the speed and the techniques, he was told.  When one has the internal power, then any intentional movement becomes a martial technique because of the power within.  The sparring push hand, thus, is a training method that hones the applicable skills of this tenacious power.  Again, the second disciple was reminded, when there is power, the speed is no longer needed for its acceleration to generate the power.  Speed will assist the intent and the power in getting to a target, though an acceleration can expand the power, so that a technique can be properly executed with the intended objective.  Lastly, he was told to stay focus on the power push hand because too much emphasis on sparring push hand can cause to neglect the attainment of the internal power and to sidetrack individuals to something else.  

It is said that one has to push beyond one's physical exhaustion, so it is not uncommon to see many practitioners ludicrously, if not literally, exhausting themselves mentally and physically, during power push hand sessions.  What 'pushing beyond physical exhaustion' means is that one ought to push with the absence of physical strength, and to accomplish this state of the absence of physical strength, one endeavors to exhaust the physical strength through power pushing; so that, in an effort to push when there is no longer any physical strength, the internal power energy will emerge.  Then, the power push hand is a method that guides us to understand how to push and develop the internal power energy, without the brute, physical strength, and not literally exhausting oneself of the physical strength. Understanding power push hand is about knowing how to eliminate the physical strength, without having to physically exhausting oneself.           

Thus, the second disciple absolutely heeded to the words of Yang SIGONG.   Taking things for granted because they are always available within reach can have a devastating effect.  Same thing can happen with the power (dynamic) push hand as well.  Understanding this powerful concept of enriching, re-cultivating, and elevating Chi to Peng Kieng is extremely arduous and has to be taken very seriously if an individual wishes to seek the authentic Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan system.  The second disciple did not take his teacher's teaching for granted.  He realized that the result wasn't going to appear out of thin air, and because of his realization, he put forth every ounce of his effort to his training.  For those who have taken Tai Chi Chuan curriculum for granted, and neglected of the importance of the power push hand, the results are quite obvious.