Saturday, 29 October 2011

Double Push Hands

Students were usually introduced to fixed step double push hands once they started learning the long form. As if one hand pushing wasn't complicated enough, we now had another hand added into the equation.

The type of double push hands we learned is the same as in the Ch'eng Man Ch'ing style. The style is not really important;what is are the principles being explored. Typically these are the four sides, ward off, rollback, push and press. The four corners are  pull ,split, elbow and shoulder. Together with the four sides these make up the eight energies along with central equilibrium ,gaze left and right, step forward and back. In total these are the 13 postures or strategies of Tai Chi Ch'uan.

These 13 postures / strategies are in pushing hands and the forms. The practise is about understanding these.  The understanding gained from pushing hands feeds back into the form, from where further insight feeds back into pushing hands.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Laying Alongside

As part of his teaching of pushing hands, John  Kells introduced the concept of laying your energy alongside that of the other.

This means not to be in opposition to the other person and to yield in such a way that you have entered forwards and are alongside them. So instead of presenting a ward off posture which effectively is in opposition, your hand and forearm are alongside the incoming push as part of the yield.

To be honest, although I understood it in a conceptual, intellectual kind of way, I could never do. It wasn't until about 12 years ago when working with John on his developing Heartwork that I began to get a glimpse.

The key moment came when he berated me for not being able to do anything. Actually he used slightly different words.It was a crisis moment for me where I had to give up / let go of my assumptions and just go for it. And it happened. It was a key insight for me in my own development. Beyond Time. Beautiful!

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Hole Thing

One of the key concepts John Kells taught was to make a hole to draw in the energy of the other person.

It happens immediately upon sensing the intention of the other, before the physical action. Sink, relax, turn the mind so you can enter forwards.

The corresponding return of the energy appears out of time.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Other

Always put the other person first.

Without this, you will always be using force to impose and one day this will not work.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Beginning and the End

We were gathered in the basement mirror room at the Tai Chi centre in Upper Wimpole Street ( sadly long gone )

John Kells explained carefully about two important aspects of single push hands.

Pay attention to the end of your push. Don't just abruptly turn your arm into ward off. Instead, it is as if your arm is being pulled slightly so you enter into the other person to meet their push before it has got going and ward off to catch it.

Pay attention to the end of your Yielding. Don't just abruptly turn your hand over in your eagerness to push. Instead keep the yielding going as if you were going to pull the incoming hand. In this way you are sucking them in to push them.

Suddenly the boundaries become blurred.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fixed Step Pushing Hands

Fixed step pushing hands means you don't take steps. You have to learn to yield on the spot.

I've come across a lot of people who gloss over single push hands in their hurry to do double push hands and push hands with steps.

They all have their place and value. Single push hands explores quite clearly the energies of ward off, roll back, push and press ( or squeeze). This needs to be practised with lots of different partners to get a feel for how different people are in terms of energy and physicality.

If you don't investigate and understand the energies of single push hands, what chance do you stand in the rush to do double push hands etc.

Whilst single push hands looks simple, it is actually very advanced.

Play with that!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Pearls on a String

The Tai Chi classic writings mention that the joints of the body should be joined as if they were pearls on a string.

Each joint should be able to rotate naturally. For example, if your arm is pushed upwards towards you, it should be able to rotate naturally at the shoulder and redirect the force back towards the attacker.

Each " Pearl " is capable of independent rotation or they can be linked in sections or as a whole.

Discharging Energy

To discharge your energy requires total relaxation.

If you are not totally relaxed, you will trap some of that energy inside you and it will eventually harm you.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Matters of the Foot

The foot makes contact with the Ground.

How do we approach that contact?

There are different approaches which can also depend upon the Tai Chi style you practise.

Here is one to try. Be aware of the sole of the foot contacting the ground and soften it. There is no seperation of foot and ground. Notice how you walk. Is your foot hammering into the ground?

Soften. Relax. Be kind to yourself and the ground.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


The whole point of uprooting the other person is to get them up off the ground, out of their own control, so you can hit them on the way down.


Sticking begins long before the touch.

Monday, 10 October 2011

On the Rise

As we sink and relax, we root our energy.

As this happens, pay attention to the energy rising.

Otherwise you are collapsing.

On Teaching

After I had been assisting in classes for a while, John Kells asked me to be the assistant instructor for a new class. Teaching people was not something I had ever considered or sought.

Actually I was perfectly happy just assisting in classes during the week and helping others during the Sunday catch up sessions.

It is nerve wracking to stand in front of a bunch of strangers who are scrutinising your every word and move. The format was that John would teach the class the new material and I would then go through it with the class. There were other students there to assist me.

But teaching allowed me to develop myself and confirm my understanding ( or lack of it). It was a great opportunity to listen to John and watch him carefully. I learned so much from this process. Much of this learning had nothing whatsoever to with the postures of Tai Chi. It was more about the transmission of energy. More on this important aspect in a future post.

What stood me in good stead was the fact that I attended classes every day and did lots of practise (Good and bad).

And this is perhaps one of the most important aspects of teaching people. You need to have gone through a form of "apprenticeship" with a teacher. Just because someone can parrot a form does not make them a teacher. Neither does reading a few books on something and then gushing forth with well prepared material. This is just superficial, egotistic garbage, however well intentioned. A real "appprenticeship" is frightening, exposing you to your core. It is bloody uncomfortable and disconcerting, to say the least.

Teaching Tai Chi or any spiritual discipline goes deeper. What we have learned , what we are and communicate comes from our heart and the energy we are part of. I don't actually do any teaching at all.

Of course, opinions will vary in the pick n mix spiritual marketplace so prevalent today. Tough!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Ward Off

As part of Ward Off the chest must be softened where the front deltoid meets the pectorals.

This is an integral component of hollow chest, rounded shoulders.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

On Stilts

We do not want to be on top of our legs.

As we sink and relax, we should be in our legs.

Let go in the hips especially. Allow the legs to support the body.

Do not walk on stilts.

Monday, 3 October 2011

On Normality

Normality is a social construct.

On Normality

Normality is a social construct.

Travelling Root

Sometimes it can be helpful to look at rootedness from a different perspective.

The Earth is travelling through Space and Time. You are travelling with it, held by Gravity.

Picture yourself as stuck to this spinning, travelling Globe. You are small, almost insignificant, a part of this greater whole.

When someone pushes you, they are trying to push this greater whole which is reflected through you.

We are not seperate from the Earth.