Zhou Lishang continues her interview with Li Lian with the second part of her article on push hands. Li Lian discusses various theories and concepts that should be of interest to push hands players. None is more important than the universal idea of knowing oneself.
Push hands, he said is a way to corroborate one’s ability of “knowing oneself” and “knowing others” gradually.
Many cultures have recognized the value of knowing oneself. In Tai Chi it is related to Ting Jin, or listening to energy, and Dong Jin, or understanding energy.
These two abilities are cultivated through doing the forms and then further developed through doing push hands.
After practicing the forms a certain amount of time, one is able to sense the energy in one’s body and work with it.
Without an awareness of the movement of one’s own energy, one will not be able to listen to the opponent’s energy very well.
Similarly, understanding one’s energy is the key to understanding the energy of your push hands partner.
The energies of people are similar and if we can understand our own, then we have a chance to understand those of other people. Without that understanding then push hands will just be mechanical cleverness and the exercise of strength.
A second article by Zhou Lishang in this issue is an interview with Li Lian about Da Lun, which includes various circular and stepping techniques. They are intended to increase sensitivity though the partners’ contact.
These techniques are considered by many to be push hands variations and valuable methods of training.
They help develop sensitivity, adjust yin and yang and cultivate the concept of following. Many people have difficulty following, which is a discipline in itself. They may not be able to follow the pace of the leader in group form practice.
Or they cannot follow while doing exercises or cannot follow as a means to cultivate mindfulness.
Liu Xi Wen, who writes about Sung Shu Ming, was a student of Zhang Fu Chen, who studied with Yang Shao Hou, Yang Cheng Fu and Xu Yu Sheng. Liu became Zhang’s first formal student and inherited his teacher’s Yang Shao Hou Yang system.
After retiring from teaching high school in 2002, he has taught Tai Chi in Nanning City and has also written articles about Tai Chi and push hands for Chinese Tai Chi publications.
Estevam Gomes Ribeiro of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a student of Chen Xiaowang, writes about using Tai Chi and qigong to counter the effects of jet lag.
He is now a retired flight attendant and teaches Chen style in Rio de Janeiro. He gives some helpful tips for exercising while traveling on an airplane and also on slowing oneself down internally.
Alex Yeo of Singapore, a regular contributor, writes about the problems that can be encountered during practice and how to motivate oneself to maintain a regular practice discipline.
He takes a realistic approach and has suggestions to help people get past barriers. He mentions that his teacher and others have suggested doing hundreds or even thousands of repetitions.
Of course, practice and repetitions should be meaningful, if only as a way to continue paying attention to what you are doing. But more than that, any practice should have intent.
This could be to cultivate better timing, balance or coordination. Or it could be focusing on the qi flow or just being present from moment to moment. It is all part of the process of knowing oneself.
Reprinted in this issue is a vintage cover article from August 1995 about Ling Zhi-an discusses eight essential characteristics of Chen style. The characteristics are in fact important for all Tai Chi styles.
First and foremost, he said, was using the mind to guide the qi, or internal energy. “This involves becoming adept at movements and relaxing so that no rigid force shows while doing the form or self-defense applications.
The second one is the ability to extend the limbs. “Then you feel your arm is like a spring and has spring power.”
The third characteristic, he said, is chan si jin. He said it was like twisting and squeezing a towel. “It begins at the bottom of the foot and goes through the body and out the hand.”
Ling said the Chen style requires that the hip and the kua must be coordinated with the waist. “If your kua do not move and only the waist moves, then you become very rigid. You must relax the hip, but always open and close it.”
“We say you should use your energy and put your mind in every smallest piece of your movement. You should put your mind everywhere in the movement.
“For the Chen style, your whole body is full of spring energy. If the opponent touches you, then you should relax and yield and then issue energy.”