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Entering Skills of Single Hand Pushing Hands from Tai Chi and Kung Fu: Part 1 of 2

Pushing Hands is a skill development game used by Tai Chi players to develop their self-defense skills and learn many important qualities of body movement, sensitivity, and posture. Pushing Hands is a game of off balancing each other. People can play push hands with one hand or both hands. Push hands can either be stationary with fixed feet or moving with either a single step forward and back, or freely stepping.  

The most common or popular method of playing Push Hands is to use both hands without stepping. This the safest version and has a great game with both hands involved. Both hands with free stepping, or moving step, push hands is the next most popular type of push hands game. Single Step Push Hands where either player can take a single step forward and backward is the next most popular version. Free stepping or moving step push hands has the most possibility of falling. However, it is also the most realistic for self-defense training and most useful to prepare for sparring. Winning the Moving Step Push Hands Division at a Tai Chi tournament is the most prestigious event to win because it is the most martial of the Push Hands events. Just like winning full contact sparring events is more highly regarded than winning light or no contact sparring events. 

sifu jensen, henry geddes, sean lim, push hands

Perhaps the least popular of the Push Hands variations is Single Hand Pushing. At 10,000 Victories we love Single Push hands and use it to develop many important “entering skills”. In Single Hand Pushing you are usually only playing or practicing with fixed steps. However, in the process of learning Single Push Hands there are great drills involving single and double step patterns. This means instead of keeping your feet planted one partner will advance a single step while the other retreats a single step or the attacking partner advances two steps and the defending partner withdraws two steps. These drills can be done in lines walking across the floor, or you can go back forth in a small area. The multiple stepping patterns of single push hands are real gems to build skill in moving step pushing hands and for sparring and self-defense.  

The aspect I am most fond of in Single Hand Pushing Hands drills is the aspect of entering and defending against entering with sensitivity. Entering is getting past the opponent’s defenses so you can land your attack. Entering can be achieved through force. If you are stronger than the other person you can simply pull their weak arms out of the way and attack. However, having dominant strength is not something you can rely on unless you are extremely strong and massively powerful. For most of us we will not have a decisive strength advantage over our opponent. And being good people if we did have overwhelming strength we would be able to resolve any conflict with little use of force and without causing injury. Martial arts are designed to help someone defend themselves against someone who is their size or larger.  

In part 2 of 2, we’ll look at effective tactics for self-defense and how to acquire the skills of Pushing Hands!

In the mean time, enjoy this short and fun video of Pushing Hands practice (on the right). This is the first lesson for some of the students. And our beloved Fethi and Noah are just being playful by throwing kicks, not really part of the Pushing Hands routine 🙂

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