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About Pushing Hands—Part 1

by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, March 23, 2015

Practicing Methods of the Four Directions and Four Corners - Sì Fāng Sì Yú Liàn Fǎ 四方四隅練法 (Eight Doors, Eight Trigrams) 【Bā Mén, Bā Guà 八門 ` 八卦】

What are the four directions and four corners? They are the eight doors. It is also the theory of Eight Trigrams in Tàijíquán 太極拳. What are the four directions? They are Péng 掤 (i.e., Wardoff), (i.e., Rollback), 擠 (i.e., Squeeze or Press), and Àn 按 (i.e., Push or Press Down). What are the four corners? They are Cǎi 採 (i.e., Pluck), Liè (i.e., Split), Zhǒu 肘 (i.e., Elbow), and Kào 靠 (i.e., Bump). The four directions are the four main supporting posts (in a building), the major generals (in a battle), and are the major Jìng 勁 patterns of Tàijíquán. The four corners are the four assistant posts and are the four assistant Jìng patterns in Tàijíquán and are the deputy generals.

Tàijíquán is also called "Thirteen Postures" or "Thirteen Patterns" (Shí Sān Shì, 十三勢), which includes "Eight Jìng Patterns," commonly called "Eight Doors" (Bā Mén, 八門) and "Five Strategic Steppings" (Wǔ Bù, 五步). According to the Tàijíquán Classic, the actions of the eight Jìng patterns correspond to the eight trigrams (Bāguà, 八卦) while the five steppings correspond to the "Five Elements" (Wǔ Xíng, 五行). The eight trigrams are: Qián 乾 (Heaven), Kūn 坤 (Earth), Kǎn 坎 (Water), 離 (Fire), which correspond to the four main sides, and Xùn 巽 (Wind), Zhèn 震 (Thunder), Duì 兌 (Lake), and Gěn 艮 (Mountain), which correspond to the four diagonal corners. The five elements are: metal (Jīn, 金), wood (, 木), water (Shuǐ, 水), fire (Huǒ, 火), and earth (, 土).

Péng , Lǚ, Jǐ, and Àn are the four major Jìng patterns that have become the four major crucial foundations of the Tàijíquán art. Cǎi, Liè, Zhǒu, and Kào are the four assistant Jìng patterns that make the art more complete. With the five strategic steppings, the art of Tàijíquán becomes a complete fighting art.
Péng is constructed from the two arms shaped as two crescent moons and is called "drawing in the chest and arcing the back" which can be used as yielding to neutralize incoming Jìng. Arcing stores the Jìng in the body's two bows. These two bows are the chest bow and the spine bow. These two places are the most important places to store Jìng in the body. If you know Péng, then you will better know how to store Jìng. If you know how to store, then you will know how to emit. Péng Jìng exists everywhere in Tàijíquán. Not only Lǚ, Jǐ, and Àn have Péng included within them, but it is also included in Cǎi, Liè, Zhǒu, and Kào.

The word Péng was created in Tàijíquán society and does not exist in regular dictionaries. This word is constructed from three characters, which signify a hand and two moons. The moon is single and therefore implies loneliness in Chinese culture. When two moons are put together, it means “friend” in the Chinese language. Since the two moons are friends, they mutually support, help, and harmonize with each other. With regards to Pushing Hands, Péng implies arcing both arms like two crescent moons and coordinating them with each other. In Tàijíquán, in order to make the arcing harmonious, the chest is drawn in while the back is rounded backward. This is an important oral secret for storing Jìng and is called "Hán Xiōng Bá Bèi 含胸拔背" which means, "draw in the chest and arc the back." When this happens, the body can be used to yield and neutralize any incoming force, and can simultaneously be used to store Jìng in the body's two bows for emitting later on.

The body includes six bows. The two arms and two legs are four bows that allow you to store Jìng in the posture and then release it. The torso has two bows—the chest bow (Xiōng Gōng, 胸弓) and the spine bow (Jǐ Gōng, 脊弓). The force-exerting point for the chest bow is the lower part of the sternum (Jiūwěi, 鳩尾) (Co-15) while the exerting point for the spine is Mìngmén 命門 (Gv-4). From these two points the body can be shaped as a bow and Jìng can be stored for emitting.

Péng Jìng is the Essence of Tàijíquán

Péng Jìng is the first and the most important Jìng pattern in Tàijíquán. In fact, it can be said that unless you know the essence of Péng Jìng, you really don't know Tàijíquán. In order to make the storage of all other Jìngs effective, Péng Jìng can be found in almost every Tàijíquán posture.

To train Péng Jìng, you allow your training partner to control your elbows and use any possible technique to push you. His intention is to destroy your central equilibrium. You use Péng Jìng, which is initiated from your legs and controlled by your waist. Then you draw in the chest and arc your back to manifest it in your arms. Turn your waist to neutralize, to arc outward, and to yield. Repeat the practice until the action has become natural. After you have practiced for a long time, you will be able to use Péng Jìng everywhere.

There are many ways of training Péng Jìng in all Tàijíquán styles. However, one of the most effective ways for a beginner to build up a firm foundation and sound habits is through elbow controlling practice. In this practice, allow your opponent to use both of his hands to control (i.e. Ná Jìng, 拿勁) your elbows. Since the elbow is very close to the center of your body, it is easy for your opponent to find your center and push you off balance. In order to neutralize, you must turn and also draw in your chest, and round your back with the two arms arced outward. When this is done, your opponent will have a harder time to locate your center. Naturally, it is not easy at the beginning. However, after practicing for a long time, it will become easier and more natural. You also will have familiarized yourself with the body's structure, rooting, and waist control. This will allow you to be softer and softer in your actions and finally you can reach the target of using "four ounces to repel one thousand pounds" (Sì Liǎng Pò Qiān Jīn, 四啢破千斤).

Lǚ involves using the hands to rollback and neutralize (the coming force). That means using Péng Jìng as the major Jìng to yield, lead, and neutralize the coming force to the left or to the right. Lǚ Jìng can be classified as Small Rollback (Xiǎo Lǚ, 小) and Large Rollback (Dà Lǚ, 大). In small rollback, the circle of coiling and neutralizing Jìng is smaller. In large rollback, the action is larger, the stepping is bigger, and the circle of coiling and neutralizing is also on a larger scale. When practicing, Lǚ Jìng is used together with Jǐ Jìng (i.e., Press or Squeeze Jìng) and Kào Jìng (i.e., Bump Jìng). After Lǚ, immediately follow with Jǐ or Kào. After Jǐ or Kào, immediately Lǚ. Repeat as such.

Lǚ Jìng includes Yielding Jìng (Ràng Jìng, 讓勁), Leading Jìng (Yǐn Jìng, 引勁), and Neutralizing Jìng (Huà Jìng, 化勁). For effective execution, these three Jìngs all include Wardoff Jìng (Péng Jìng). The ancient oral key implies Lǚ is "leading the Jìng into emptiness" (Yǐn Jìng Luò Kōng, 引勁落空). In order to do this, you must lead the Jìng to your side, so you can neutralize it by leading the incoming force into emptiness.

In practice, there are two skills of Rollback; they can be classified as "Small Rollback" (Xiǎo Lǚ) and "Large Rollback" (Dà Lǚ). In the execution of Small Rollback, the action of coiling, leading, and neutralizing is smaller and the techniques are different from those of Large Rollback. Theoretically and practically speaking, to be effective in action, Rollback is always used together either with Press Jìng (Jǐ Jìng) or Bump Jìng (Kào Jìng).

Jǐ (Press) is used for small range offense and defense. It can be done by overlapping both hands and then pressing forward. It can be done by using one hand to press the other hand's wrist and then press forward. It can also be done by using one hand to press the other forearm and then press forward. All the above Jǐs are used for offense and are used to press the opponent's upper body to destroy his central equilibrium. In addition, Jǐ can also be done by squeezing two hands or two arms toward each other. This kind of Jǐ is mostly used to squeeze the opponent's elbows to close off and hinder his Jǐ Jìng (Press Jìng), Àn Jìng (Push Jìng), or to seal off his arms' function. Squeezing can also be used to press the opponent's chest (i.e. solar plexus) to make the opponent's Qì float.

Jǐ is a Jìng pattern that is designed to be used in short range fighting. Jǐ can be done in different ways, such as with both hands overlapping each other and then pressing forward, one hand pressing the other wrist and then pressing forward or one hand pressing the other forearm and then pressing forward. When the Jǐ Jìng is applied as such, usually it is used for offense and aims to destroy the opponent's central equilibrium. This kind of Jǐ can also be used to press-strike the solar plexus to inflict pain or injury on the opponent's stomach and make his Qì float.
Jǐ can also be done by squeezing both hands or arms toward each other. This Jǐ can effectively be used for defense and against an opponent's Jǐ or Àn. The hands are used to squeeze the opponent's elbows to hinder his intention. Occasionally, this kind of Jǐ can be used to upset the solar plexus area as well.

The above excerpt is from Taijiquan Theory of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming—The Root of Taijiquan.

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, is a renowned author and teacher of Chinese martial arts and Qigong. Born in Taiwan, he has trained and taught Taijiquan, Qigong and Chinese martial arts for over forty-five years. He is the author of over thirty books, and was elected by Inside Kung Fu magazine as one of the 10 people who has "made the greatest impact on martial arts in the past 100 years." Dr. Yang lives in Northern California.


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