Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tricks To Be Aware Of In Push Hands Challenges

An article by Dr. Stephen Yan

From my numerous experiences in Push Hands Challenges, I have distilled the following tricks to be aware of;

1) “saying use little force by mouth, but use big force by hands”,
2) “let opponent stand by wall with leg very close to a couch, or a bed, or a chair etc, so the opponent worry about his back and can’t concentrate his front.
3) Rugby tackle charge to object behind (often used in conjunction with number 2)

The following article is the first part describing my experiences with PH and these particular tricks.

As a means of my background, ever since Grand Master Ma Yue Ling and his wife Wu Ying Hua left NZ (after staying with me and my now ex-wife Shi Mei Lin for over 6 months in 1990), I have met different people from different Tai Chi styles and other martial arts like Akido, Judo, Chinese ShuaJiao (wrestling), Wing Chun, Da Chen Quan etc, for push-hands challenges.

Among those people, there were Xiao Qing Lin肖庆林 (陈发科Chen Fa Kou’s disciple), Chen Xiao Wang陈小旺 (Chen Fa Kon’s grandson, Chen style), Ma Hong (Chen style), Liu Jun Long (who has won 3rd place in China national Chen style competition), Fu Sheng Yuan付声远 (Yang style), Xue Na Yin薛乃印 (Wu-Hao style), He Shao Ping (Zhao Bao He style), Wang Guen Nian (Zhao Bao Zheng style), Hou Jian Guo (a successor of Hu Lei忽雷 style founder Li Jing Yan late age creation of “Wu Hu Yun Qi Chui”五虎运气捶), Yek Sing ong of Zheng Man Qing郑曼青 style, and his martial art brother Patrick Kelly and Mr. Wei; Dan Docherty of Wu Dan Tai-chi, a branch of Wu style Tai Chi, Master Li from xin ji county (BeiJing Wu style master Wang pei sheng’s王培生 disciple), Yu Zhi Jun于志钧 (Wu Tu Nan’s吴图南 disciple), Mr. Liu (forgot his name, only after P.H, someone told me Liu was Shanghai PH champion, and also a master of Chinese wresting), David from Auckland(a boxer and a body builder, also practices Yang style).

Apart from above well-known Tai Chi practioners, there were numerous un-known Tai Chi teachers, masters.

The following video capture picture is of an Akido expert who challenged me during a public demonstration I was performing with Gerard:

I also had a kind of P.H. with Da Cheng Quan大成拳, Dai shi Xin Yi戴氏心意拳, and Wing Chun Quan masters or instructors (which put hands together first or body in contact first, then both sides were allowed to use their own technique to push, throw or strike), I also let one Muay Tai champion (Dan Brook) do a Muay Tai neck clinch and kneeling application and I used my Tai-Chi technique to throw him on the floor.

I also let one Akido instructor in Wellington try his akido on me, and an Judo instructor from Wanganui use Judo on me and as a result they both became my students for several years.

The most recent PH challenge was in early this year in Xi An China, while I was staying with my XYLH master Bai Wen Yi (Master Bai is the top student of the great master Yang Xiang Lin杨祥麟 of Mai Zhuang Tu买壮图 XYLHQ). Master Bai introduced his neighbours friend Master Sang桑 (whom retired from ShanXi陕西 wrestling team, and had won the light weight China national championship)to me, we had a go with he used his wrestling techniques, and I used my Tai Chi.

While I was staying in Xi An, I also asked master Yang Bao Shen of Xi An Wu Shu committee to pass my invitation to master Li Sui Cheng李随成 of Zhao Bao Tai chi to have a PH, but had no reply.

Among my above all those experience, I met several practitioners who used what I would now term ‘dirty tricks’, so I am writing down these experiences so other Tai chi practioners can be aware:

Case one:Master Yek Sing Ong, also called professor Yek Sing Ong.

1)“saying use little force by mouth, but use big force by hands”,

2)“let opponent stand by wall with leg very close to a couch, or a bed, or a chair etc, so the opponent worry about his back and can’t concentrate his front.

As early as in 1990, master Ma Yue Liang马岳梁, master Wu Yin Hua吴英华, My ex-wife Shi Mei Lin and myself, put a demonstration in Patrick Kelly’s Tai-chi school in Auckland (Patrick calls his Tai-chi as “fighting Tai-chi”), I had a P.H. with Patrick, and we became friends at that time, he also had a PH with master Ma.

Five years later in late 1995, Patrick contacted me to express his wish to try again on master Ma, as he still couldn’t figure out how he was thrown around without seeing master Ma use any effort. He thought at that time, he might not have tried his best, as he worried about Master Ma’s age (in 1990, Master Ma was 89 years old). So he wanted to have a good try. Patrick also said that he had PH with Chen Xiao Wang in Sydney and other masters in Europe, and that no one could beat him.

I told Patrick that Master Ma was already nearly 95 years old, so I had to ask him about the challenge. When I told Master Ma that Patrick wanted to come “to try again”, Master Ma said: “since Patrick wants to fly all the way from Paris to Shanghai, it indicates his sincerity of wanting to know the art, you tell him that he is welcome ”. So Patrick came, I picked him up from the airport, and next day I took him to Master Ma’s house. Of course, Patrick had no chance.

In his hotel Patrick and me had another PH (one of my Tai-chi students Edward Ware was visiting me from NZ, he was also present).

Later on I met Patrick and his Tai-chi brother “Wei” in Wellington, I had PH with both of them. By 1996, I went to Auckland to participate in the “Siu Lam Gar Kong-fu 1996 International Martial Arts Competition”, I won black belt weapons first place. While I was staying in Auckland, I had another PH with “Wei”.

From both Patrick and Wei, they talked about their senior Tai-chi brother Master Yek Sing Ong 葉神恩,whom was the number one student of their master Huang Xing Xian黄性贤, and had won PH champions in East Asia. So I had a desire to have a PH with master Yek Sing Ong to see the difference between our PH, but Wei told me that his senior brother master Yek Sing Ong was very busy in giving workshops around world, and often not available in NZ. But he would let me know when Yek Sing Ong was available.

The Push Hands

One day in early 1998, I received a phone call from Wei, saying Yek was in Auckland and would like to meet me in the weekend. I took two of my indoor students Gerard and Tony, and my Dai Shi Xin Yi Quan master Yang Long Chang with me, and drove all the way from Wellington to Auckland. Then Wei took us to Yek’s place. I felt like in the movies when I walked towards Master Yek, as from Yek’s front gate to where he sat he has a long walking path and on both sides of the path stood lots of his top students in their uniforms, while master Yek was sitting in a chair by a round garden table and drinking tea at the end of the path.

Once we sat down and introduced each other, Master Yek started to say some nice words about Master Ma Yue Liang. I guess he was told by Patrick about Patrick’s two PH experiences with Master Ma.

I said to Yek that my purpose of the trip was not to challenge him, I just wanted to see the differences in PH. Yek agreed and asked his assistant instructor to have PH with me first (this is very normal in these situations – gives the person an opportunity to assess the skills of the opponent etc). As I kept my word about not challenging him but instead wanting to see the skill differences, I just gently threw the student around. After a while, Yek’s assistant instructor put an open hands posture to Yek, indicating that he couldn’t do anything to stop being thrown around.

Then Yek stood up, asked me to move to a wall, and stood me in front of a couch which was attached to the wall, there were some soft pads above the couch on the wall. I asked “why don’t we PH in the open place (where I did with the student)?”, Yek said he just wanted to do PH without us using any force, and therefore the place is big enough and safe just in case with soft pads on the wall.

I didn’t realise that it was his dirty trick to ask me to stand with my legs right against the couch, and saying “do PH without force”. Soon our hands in touch, I could sense Yek was starting to using big force to push forward, I intercepted his force and he was bouncing backwards, then perhaps he felt that he lost face, so straight away he rushed towards me. I tried to neutralise his force and retreat my font leg, but I was tripped by the couch which meant that I ended up sitting on the couch. Even though my leg was tripped, I had managed to turn my upper body, so Yek’s force was mostly neutralised, and so he fell onto the couch too, with one hand on the couch. Just as I was about to stand up, he pushed me on the couch again with his other hand.

By then, I realised that it was a trick putting me in front of the couch (which I had not expected). So I walked to the open area and decided to give him a good lesson. I said to him: “Master Yek, lets come over here”. After Yek being repeatedly thrown out by me, he tried a big move to gain his face back, but unfortunately, I neutralised his force and led him fly out, his body and hands landed on the ground with face downwards. I let him got up properly (I wouldn’t like trying to push him before he stood up) and kept on pushing him back wards, once I saw the couch was about a metre away from his back, I threw him hard. Master Yek was falling backwards and sat on his own tricky couch. At that point he didn’t want to carry on PH with me,

My indoor student Gerard requested a PH with master Yek as well, and Yek couldn’t push Gerard out. My Dai Shi Xin Yi master Yan Long Chang saw me throwing master Yek on the ground and on the couch, so he decided to try delivering his power to master Yek, (as putting hands together first, and then trying to throw each other is also the way they practise Dai Shi Xin Yi in master Yan’s home town.)

When their hands came together, master Yan Long Chang couldn’t deliver his power, and master Yek delivered a palm strike, master Yan Long Chang lost balance and nearly fell over, showing Master Yek’s good skills.

By then all the PH activities finished, and Master Yek asked his students to serve us with some nice Chinese tea, and he didn’t say any other words. After the tea, we left. On the way back to Wellington, I received a call from Wei, saying: “his senior Tai-chi brother Master YeK was blaming him for taking me to see him, and Wei wanted us to destroy the video that Tony took”. I said: “we won’t destroy the video, but we wouldn’t put it in public unless Master Yek wanted me to do it” (of note the photo at the end of this section is a capture from this video, clearly showing the couch in the background and Master Yek with hands on the floor as verification of the event).

As matter of fact, one of Yek’s own students also took video of the event, so if he wanted to put the video on, he could do that. After almost 9 years, one of master Yek’s top students came to my clinic and said to me: “Master Yan, you are very good, is there any chance to get a copy of the video?” I said: “did Master Yek send you here to ask for a copy?”. That man said: “no, it is my own trip, wanting it for my own references”. As I promised to Wei not give to the public, I refused that students request.

In summary with this first example, the ‘dirty tricks’ are;
1) “saying use little force by mouth, but use big force by hands”, and
2) “let opponent stand by wall with leg very close to a couch, or a bed, or a chair etc, so the opponent worry about his back and can’t concentrate on his front. Not only this, as soon as he retreats, he will trip himself over”.

In year 2000 in Henan China, I had a PH with famous master Ma Hong of Chen style, he used the same trick, when he asked me to stand in front of his hotel bed. With the experience with Yek, I already knew this trick, so when Ma Hong suddenly attack me, he himself ended up on his bed (I knew not to retreat and to expected that type of attack), and when he got up, he put his thumb up, saying: “young man, you are very good”.

One of the reasons I love Tai Chi is I have felt that my PH has continued to improve ever since the 1980’s, and especially in the last couple of years. This to me shows how deep the art can be, that you can improve your skill endlessly throughout your life.