Anyone following us closely knows that we prefer to play Clear’s Internal Push Hands for a bunch of very good reasons. This game has grown in popularity, especially among our students, but the “tournament style” push hands games are still the most common varieties seen in the broader Tai Chi world. These games have some drawbacks for building real internal skill because the major players have developed ways to use external movement to cheat the system. Still, if you know what the problems are it is quite easy to overcome them.
Tonight Sigung Richard Clear walked us through the most common trick that people use in tournament style push hands. More importantly, he taught us how to overcome it.
The most common problem is a simple matter of distance. Players take long stances and start the game far enough away from each other to make it almost impossible to push them. People who play this way are counting on you to do two things: play along with them, and get frustrated.
If you play this game at that distance, it is easy for someone with minimal skill to “run” from a push by shifting back and forth. It is only a matter of time before the less experienced player gets frustrated and over-commits, at which point the other player can capitalize. This is exactly what they are looking for, and it is why they play it this way.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple solutions to this problem. The first one is: don’t play that way! Before the match begins, step in closer so that nobody can use this tactic. If the other player backs out, step in again and continue to do this until contact is made. If a small step isn’t enough, get in really close and crowd them out. This nullifies the strategy, as shown in the video above.
Once you’ve nullified this strategy, or even if you’ve just decided to play Clear’s Internal Push Hands instead, there are some basic tactics that will help you play the game. Sigung Clear spent some time tonight talking about turning, shifting, and rocking as strategies. These should be practiced individually, but ideally they would all be happening as needed the whole time. This makes the play more three dimensional, and while it begins as external motions they can be refined and minimized over time to become internal skills. The same cannot be said of the long-stanced “running” games.
While Clear’s Internal Push Hands is the superior method for developing internal power, it is still possible to use internal skill in tournament style push hands. You just have to know the tricks of the trade (and be ready for them).
For more advanced concepts of Tai Chi, push hands techniques, and other ways to build and use internal power, join us on Clear’s Tai Chi Online. You can try it for just $5. Go to: …
And for anyone who wants to build functional internal power and skill by playing push hands, you should get Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor Package. This course will take you through all the fundamentals of the game and get you good enough to teach it. While you are learning and playing, you will also be building deeper root, sensing tensions in your opponent, and developing a host of other internal skills. Take a look here: