When Tai Chi Chuan players see tournament push hands competition for the first time, they often make a face and refer to it as sumo wrestling.
Sometimes it looks pretty ugly. People who have trained to develop “Tai Chi” skills often find themselves trying to do whatever works in the heat of competition.
Rather than condemn the competition, we should appreciate how much the competitors are learning.
People often learn in a much more intense and dramatic way compared with sparring with friends and classmates, where they are familiar with just what their partners will to do.
While taking photos of the matches, I have stood a few feet from the competitors and it was possible for me to see just how much will, courage, and good spirit is involved.
Also, a lot of what some people think Tai Chi should be in a competitive or combat situation is idealized and not really realistic.
Good Tai Chi skills are developing from the tournaments but the people who set up the rules and judge the matches will have to take steps to supervise the push hands more closely.
The rules have been improving but establishing the rules is primarily an intellectual exercise.
First, organizers have to clearly establish and emphasize what kind of push hands skills they are trying to develop. The rules and officiating should support those skills.
Then it is important to help the competitors really understand the skills and how to use them.
I’ll try to make some suggestions in future columns. If you have suggestions, send them in so that they can be shared.