Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 24 2007


I think my new approach to Tuishou may be backfiring. After I started being as soft as possible and not responding to force with more force, preferring instead to let myself be pushed if I couldn’t stop it with real technique instead of wrestling, it seems that hardly anyone wants to push with me. As a result, I tend to spend more time just sitting around watching other people push. When they do push with me these days, they always say, “Oh, Ah-ming is very soft now” in an approving manner, but the sessions never last long. That said, my opponents are always tired afterwards, whereas I feel fine.

Teacher Xu suggested that I at least present the appearance of resistance, to make them feel like they are overcoming my force, but with “fake force” calculated to mislead rather than just the absence of any force. I will have to give this a try. It’s a bit complicated, because, as Teacher Xu said, the ideal goal of Tuishou is give and take. When your opponent lays on the power, you knock it down, and vice-versa. This is more subtle, but I’ll see if I can pull it off.

Teacher Xu also said that in exploring your opponent’s energy and finding an opportunity, you should engage like putting a car into gear and moving forward. All the separate parts between you and the wheels, which weren’t connected before, move into alignment and push as one fluid force. He also said you can use the ground. I hadn’t realized this before, but it seems obvious when I think about it. The one thing your opponent can’t change is the position of the ground and his gravitational attraction to it. You can use this to your advantage, pressing down or lifting up to create imbalance, “folding” them, as it were. The ground is like another hand you can use.

“You need to find the strings on your opponent, so you can pull them,” Teacher Xu continued. “You can’t use force to do this. Imagine pushing with a puppet; pushing harder won’t let you find or pull the strings, which in your opponent are the lines of his energy.”

posted by Poagao at 3:28 am  


  1. Great post, very interesting indeed. Let me mention that I am one of those questionable people who has been trying to learn martial arts (in this case, Chen style taiji) by myself at home, without a teacher. Don’t know how long this will continue, but have been doing it for 6 years now.

    Funny (ironic)that by following recomended advice (“let yourself be pushed over, do not fight force with force”) that partners are now deserting you somewhat. But good for you, trying to really be yielding and invest in loss.

    Your teacher said try giving the appearance of force to keep the match going. Tricky to fool others, no? But how about this: use your own force not against theirs, but towards a completely different angle/area/direction where they may be weak; or even chosen at random if necessary. In other words, keep offering Yin to their Yang, but at the same time give some Yang to where their Yin might be. Perhaps this what your teacher means by looking for the “strings”?

    Great point about using the ground, and gravity. The ground is your ally, gravity is your friend. Use them more skillfully than your opponent does, be more clever in shifting, use everything that you’re touching (like the ground) and that is affecting you (like gravity). Don’t try to win, don’t want anything at all, simply adjust each and every second, always moving however slightly. That’s tai chi. In theory at least! 🙂

    Comment by Anonymous — March 25, 2007 @ 1:43 am

  2. Tricky? Maybe, but he also advises “setting traps” for your opponent as well. I don’t think he means ill by this, just as pushing strategy.

    In reality all of the words I use are of limited use anyway, just approximations trying to describe what is actually going on, 道可道非常道 and all that. Sometimes I find it difficult to describe, but we’ll see how things go.

    Comment by TC — March 25, 2007 @ 1:48 am

  3. Setting traps, that’s pure taiji strategy as far as I know. Advanced… I wouldn’t know where to begin, myself! But taiji is the sneaky martial art, that’s one reason I love it. Why be brutal when you can be tricky instead? Leave force to the violent, deliver it back to them… by the side door or back door that they left open in their rush to “win”.

    I can’t read the Chinese characters, is there a translation? Anyway you use words very well. Your blog is pretty unique, very worthwhile. By the way, I didn’t mean to be “anonymous”, I’m Chenquestion. Thanks for writing more of your experiences.

    Comment by Chenquestion — March 25, 2007 @ 3:00 am

  4. The Chinese is “Dao Ke Dao, Fei Chang Dao”, i.e. the first sentence of the Dao De Jing that states the Dao that can be described is not the true Dao.

    Being a Monkey, I love the “tricky” aspect of Taijiquan as well, though by the same token I’m often too lazy to penetrate that many of its secrets.

    Comment by TC — March 25, 2007 @ 3:04 am

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