Friday, March 7, 2008

When Does Push Hands Become San Shou?

More thoughts and information continue to roll in about the previous post "Mixing Hard With The Soft", about incorporating joint locking and hitting into the presumably softer push hands training.
In the current issue of "Tai Chi" magazine, Alex Yeo interviews Chan See Meng on "Martial arts training methods". In this excellent and revealing interview (which is part two), Chan again compares his Tai Chi Chuan training under Dong Yingjie (a famous master in a version of the the Yang style) with his training in both White Crane style as well as Japanese sword and Aikido. To sum up, here's a quote from the article:
Alex Yeo: You are also a master in White Crane, has training in another art helped improve your Tai Chi? In fact, does cross-training in another martial art help in mastering Tai Chi skills?
Chan See Meng: Let me put it this way. There is not any one good Tai Chi master in history who has learned only one martial art. Mr. Yang Luchan practiced many other martial arts before he learned Tai Chi. Even Dong Huling himself learned Shaolin martial arts, too. When you learn other arts you will gain more exposure and this enhances your knowledge of what you have already learned in a faster rate".
(D.R.)-- I obviously think this works both ways, and Tai Chi Chuan has made my Karate and joint-locking better. I also see the similarities in Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua and Aikido.
But what happens when we try to blend these arts together?
Before I wrote the original post on this topic, I contacted Dave over at Formosa Neijia, a Taiwan-based martial artist. Dave has very solid grounding in Internal arts but has also trained in hard styles. Here is his analysis, and it rings true:
(Dave): Formosa Neijia said...
There’s no problem with mixing the hard with the soft to some extent. I’m fairly open to eventually mixing in strikes, kicks, and throws into two person practices but then this evolves into sanshou, not tuishou.
Sanshou is obviously a valid practice.
The main problem that I see (even in myself) is that trying to incorporate harder elements into the practice is often a way to cover up our lack of understanding the softer more internal aspects of the arts.
When I want to play rougher, it’s almost always out of frustration that I can’t make something more internal work. But rather than surrender my desire to win in order to gain an understanding of a softer way, I try to “ramp it up” a bit. Or I want to use more martial techniques because that’s my background and I feel more comfortable using those techniques.
In the past, I scoffed at people that didn’t include obvious martial arts techniques in their push hands. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t really understand taiji and the practice of push hands. Using to much of the hard can eradicate the acquisition of soft power.
So long as incorporating harder elements isn’t a mask for lack of softer abilities, I think it’s a good thing.
(D.R.) -- Dave's right. When things escalate, we tend to go hard and fast. But perhaps that is how a confrontation actually occurs. Chan See Meng comments in the article described above about challenge matches between striking arts masters and grapplers that he has witnessed. The grapplers willingly take a punch coming in, and dump the master on the ground. After having the wind knocked out of him two or three times, the master can't continue.
Chan goes on to say: "If I put a guy there, train him in street fighting for three months, six months, you can train Tai Chi for 100 years and you'll still loose to this fighter because you have never encountered a fight, you've never been hit, you've never suffered a blow"
--To be continued...
--The website and order information for "Tai Chi" magazine can be found HERE.
*** Also check out the comments section on Dave's response "A More Martial Push Hands" at Formosa Neijia (link above).


Martial Development said...

The way I see it, doing push hands and sanshou is like walking and chewing gum. We aren't talking about two points on a spectrum here, these activities have different goals.

Sa Bum Nim Pieschala said...

Speaking of san sou .. Who is that Chang Le guy? He's good! He's going to fight get this "Ken Shamrock". I hate the cage matches.

But I can't wait to see Ken Shamrock get KO'd. And the myth of "all fights end on the ground" be proven wrong yet again.

Dojo Rat said...

Could you mean Cung Lee (I think that's how it's spelled)
Great fighter according to his reviews and articles. I Don't follow UFC much though.

[Mat] said...

Great post.

I have known up to here, two people training in various styles going out in bars looking for fights. Heck, one even stopped in front of cyclist to start a fight...

One in ... what was it... Some style of karate that do the inverse zenkutsu-dachi stance. Shorin-ryu? Not sure. He'd pick on big guys to get challenged and often won.

The other was aikido. Same thing. He'd often win. He was a bouncer, in fact and the various grabs helped him a lot.

I talk about this to point out the efficiency thing. No matter what art people train in, efficiency is always an issue, it seems. While I certainly don't advocate going out for fights, it's certainly a way to "try" your art.