As with any martial arts, training includes both forms and sparring. Forms are for solo practice, while sparring requires contact with a partner. Push Hands is therefore the sparring component of Tai Chi. It involves 2 persons in constant contact with each other, each person moving to unbalance the other person. Strikes and joint locks are not allowed, thus making it a fairly safe training method compared to other forms of sparring.
There are 2 types of push hands: Fixed format and Free format.
- In fixed format push hands, the sequence of the movements are fixed, so both parties know what the other person will be doing and reacts accordingly. This type of practice allows one to pay close attention to our own posture, balance and movements that must follow principles learned in the forms, in the presence of external pressure.
- In free format push hands, each person can move freely with the objective of maintaining one’s balance while unbalancing your opponent. This type of push hands is typically what you will see in a competition.
Push hands training is where you understand why the principles practiced in the forms are so important. For example, when the principle of relax and sink are applied correctly, you become very stable, not easily moved by your sparring partner. You also realize the importance of intention “yi”, the direction of your intention can have a dramatic impact on how easily you can move your opponent. This is just a few examples of the benefits of push hands training. Push hands training complements your forms training, it helps to identify the areas of your training that may be lacking. So when you practice the forms, you can focus on these areas to improve.
The prerequisite is to have taken the Basics training course first. You can then start push hands concurrently with forms training.
(To learn more, read the blog – Tai Chi Push Hands.)