These five points on how to master tai chi free push hands is nothing I have seen written down in any book or any article. The real Masters should know them very well, but sometimes it’s not something they will describe or teach. Often, you need to discover the tactics and strategy by yourself, by understanding what you teacher does when he practice with you. Some people will get it, some people won’t. But if you really understand these five points, you will have a great advantage against any opponent, not only in push hands. Here are also valuable things to learn for sparring and combat.
But first, remember the basics and fundament in any tai chi, what always should be remembered at all the time: Be relaxed and relax more. Never tense your breath and focus all your strength and movements from the dantian. Rely on tingjin, let your touch decide what to do. Always keep the integrity of your tai chi shenfa: i.e. never at any costs compromise your balance and structure. All of these points, here and the five important points below, are meant to be turned into practice. Thinking will be of no use. You need to practically do it.
1. Always do two things at the same time.
Whenever you do something in free push hands, whatever it might be, don’t think one dimensional, or that two comes after one. Blend your movements together, always do two or three things at the same time. When you defence, attack at the same time. If one part of your opponent’s body moves forward, another part will go backwards. This means that at the same time you defence, as evading from an incoming push, you follow and fill in the gaps. When you fill in the gaps, never let your opponent escape. Keep on following and fill in. In stationary push hands, if he continue to move, he will fall by himself. In moving push hands, you can make something third by slipping your foot behind his, or trap his body to fall.
2. Connect your center with his.
Always adjust your center to every slightly movement he does. You can work from the middle line, the dantian/stomach or hips. This means controlling distance and angle. If you find a good distance, never leave it, never let him get a chance to slip away. Continue to follow. You can take charge and change the angle and distance, or move in. But then after a change, you lock the distance and follow his every movement.
3. Follow the vertical movements of his body.
When you lock in your target, or radar, and follow every slightly move, be sure to follow him in every direction. Have mobility in every direction. People tend to forget to follow the opponent’s vertical movements. If he moves downward, you follow and go low as well. When he moves downward, go slightly lower than him so he can not take advantage of your balance and center.
4. Keep below his center all of the time.
Being lower than his center all of the time doesn’t mean that your head need to be lower than his. Neither does your own center. This is hard to describe, but it’s more of a feeling, a feeling that you can always topple his balance, uproot him whenever you want. Use your tingjing to feel the balance of his feet in your hands. Never lose this feeling. Few practitioners are good in this, so if you can keep your awareness to always be ready to catch his root and unbalance him, you will have a great advantage.
5. Dominate his space.
At every opportunity, get closer to your opponent and never go back. Even in free push hands, people tend to rock back and forth, back and forth, just like it was a drill. What happens if one person don’t go back, but only go forward? The person backing will have no space left to move. So move in your body and turn and twist to evade. Never go back or widthdraw if you have another choice. If you need to widthdraw, follow his forward movement and don’t create more space. If you need to create space, don’t give him a chance to follow and fill in. Instead, try to move only your body and stay still with your arms or mask your movement in other ways so he doesn’t follow you.