Push Hands

Push Hands

Student: Where does push hands fit within Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: Push hands is a game, a game-like practice we use to appreciate our ability to use Hunyuan strength. At a basic level it is completely cooperative where one player presents a frame for the other to test his strength on. Over time it can become somewhat competitive with players attempting to both use strength on each other. Push hands helps you to take the Hunyuan strength you developed with Jam Jong and sensing strength and figure our how to apply it to self-defense. Again, no fixed form, no fixed rules.

Student: Why do we place so much emphasis on bouncing people away instead of hitting them?
Master Fung: Actually we are training to hit, you simply misunderstand the purpose of bouncing. In Yi Chuan bouncing people away is a training tool to help fine tune the use of Hunyuan strength, not necessarily a technique to be used for attack. In other words you would never just bounce an attacker away in a real fight.

Student: Then why are we always bouncing each other away?
Master Fung: A good bounce simply means Hunyuan strength was properly applied. In our method of push hands both players are always practicing. It is never the case that one player is simply acting as a throwing dummy for the other player. The player using strength is practicing finding his opponent's center and applying Hunyuan strength at the most advantageous angle. The player receiving strength is practicing protecting his center and absorbing or redirecting the Hunyuan strength being applied on him. A bounce occurs when the receiving players frame is overwhelmed and about to collapse and in response the receiver allows the strength to throw him out.

Master Cheuk Fung Teaches a Class

Student: What is the purpose of stomping the feet?
Master Fung: Recovery. You don't want the fact your frame was overwhelmed to completely destroy your balance. So, by bouncing away as a single unit you are keeping your frame and balance intact. You don't want to stumble backward when touching the ground because that would give your opponent a huge advantage. Rather, we train to stick the landing and be capable of exploding back into the opponent with an instant counter attack.

Student: That sounds like the same logic we used when training how to fall when I studied Aiki Jutsu. When being thrown by an opponent we would actually throw ourselves at the very last moment to keep the opponent from having the advantage of control over how we fell. This way we could counter with our own throw or achieve a more advantageous position on the ground. Yi Chuan seems to take this idea to the next level by giving us the ability to handle overwhelming force without loosing our frame. Does that sound right?
Master Fung: I don't know anything about Aiki Jutsu but the principal seems to be the same. If you get thrown down you do your best to get back up and keep going. In our style of push hands, we will use the force of the opponent to push us away rather then be overwhelmed (thrown) or collapse. This way we avoid being tangled up or taken down. Therefore the bouncee in push hands training is working on his skill just as much as the bouncer is.

Student: What about the bouncer? How does bouncing the opponent away translate into self defense ability for the bouncer?
Master Fung: Bouncing let's you practice using force at various angles safely. Assuming your partner knows how to properly receive the force you can use a lot of strength in the technique without worrying too much about hurting him. More importantly there is feedback. When Hunyuan strength is used with the proper distance, leverage and timing the opponent flies away. If done well it actually looks fake. So in push hands we are constantly refining and training the Hunyuan strength, challenging ourselves and getting used to working physically with our partners. We start by testing the various basic postures with various angles and timing. We then work on gaining success while moving and begin to practice with stepping. Eventually, we practice spontaneously and even competitively to continue to build our skill.

Master Cheuk Fung Teaches a Class

Student: I still don't understand how bouncing helps me learn how to actually hurt someone like I would need to in a self-defense situation. In other words, how do I go from bounce to hit or throw?
Master Fung: Now I see the question you're asking. There is another saying...a throw is an extension of a hit and a hit is a condensation of a throw. Now, a bounce is really just a type of throw where the defender lands on his feet. Change the angle a little or add a twist and it becomes a throw that forces them off their feet, preferably in a way that hurts when they hit the ground. A hit is a condensation of a bounce meaning the entire orbit that it took to execute the throw is concentrated into a small space to become a hit, therefore the hit is backed up by the whole body just as the throw is. Eventually you blur the lines all together and throw with a hit and hit with a throw.

Student: So bouncing and push hands are helping us learn to hit and throw at the same time?
Master Fung: Yes, but not just hit or throw. Parry, dodge, block, break or whatever....all just expressions of the frame and orbit, expression of the Hunyuan strength. Like they say in that spaghetti sauce commercial....'It's all in there'. On the outside it looks like I'm just standing there waving my arms around. But inside I'm dodging and blocking, striking and weaving...changing spontaneously to the situation as it unfolds. In Yi Chuan we try an go beyond technique, beyond the concept and understand at the experiential level. Tai Chi Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu said "Practice the rule that you learned, absorb the rule, and separate from the rule, but the rule is already within."

Bouncing people away is a training tool

Student: Why do we bounce using parts of your body that would normally not be contact points in a fight? Also, what is the purpose of bouncing more than one person at a time?
Master Fung: To test and appreciate Hunyuan strength. Bouncing someone from your back or leg, bouncing two or more people simultaneously simply demonstrates the roundness of Hunyuan strength. Its not that you are necessarily going to hit people with those parts of your body. The point is to see if you are using the required type of strength, namely Hunyuan strength. The old saying is your hands are not your hands and your whole body is your hands. This means with Hunyuan strength any point on the body should be able to absorb and discharge strength. To test whether or not Hunyuan strength is being properly used we use progressively more difficult angles and even multiple opponents. By constantly challenging ourselves in this manner we improve our precision, timing and distance in using Hunyuan strength.

Student: Does using Hunyuan strength guarantee victory in a fight?
Master Fung: Of course not. A fight is a fight....hopefully your training pays off and you will be able to use Hunyuan strength to your defense but there is no guarantee. Have you trained to the point where Hunyuan strength is your natural reaction? Are you able to use it with the distance and timing needed for self defense? With Hunyuan strength just a little gesture here or there and its the end, you know what I mean? So, while Hunyuan strength is no guarantee it certainly is an advantage.

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