Push Hands: A Means For Increasing Your Gong
by Yang Yang, Ph.D
Push-hands is a measure of a person’s gong. In the meantime, push-hands can also be a safe and efficient means to enhance the gong. Below are a few suggestions to reach this goal.
- Clarify the role of giver and receiver of energy. For the giver, think about applying your whole body’s energy rather than a single source (like your arm) to your partner. For the receiver, use your whole body to neutralize the incoming energy from your partner.
- Stay engaged throughout the circle–both partners. Consistent engagement provides functional strength training needed to execute and neutralize a partner’s push throughout the circle. It is easy to engage when your arms are close to the center of your body. It is not easy when your arms are away from your body. Challenge yourself by working through a wide range of motion. (See #5.) You need to learn to stay engaged at any distance.
- Engage and disappear. After a significant amount of engaged push-hands practice to improve gong, you can try alternating between engaging and disappearing: an excellent example of the interplay of yin and yang practice. One partner may extend force while the other practices disappearing. Or each partner can experiment with alternating between engaging and disappearing. Bring your partner close to your body. The closer you bring your partner in, the more challenge you generate for yourself, and the more you can improve your core strength, relaxed energy and central equilibrium. I often see people keep too far away from each other. Although this might serve to improve agility, it might delay the development of real gong. Of course, you need to do this training with a trusted partner to avoid awkward, chaotic or overly aggressive pushing from an unfamiliar partner.
- Cultivate mental alertness and relaxation simultaneously. Stay focused listening to your partner’s energy. In the meantime, relax your mind. Mental and physical relaxation and tension are correlated. If you are relaxed mentally, it will lead to your physical relaxation. Similarly mental tension fosters physical tension.
- Start with a big range of motion. Avoid physical discomfort, pain, and bad structures while the range of motion is as big as possible. We do not use most of our range of motion in our daily activities. If we don’t use it, we will lose it. Push-hands gives us a chance to maintain range of motion or even restore range of motion lost in the past.
- Exert less than 80% of your maximum force production during your push-hands training. If you go over this intensity, you are more likely to tense up your body and lose agility.
- Learn to control your force production. Most of the time, there is a disparity of strength between partners. The stronger one should learn to gauge and adjust his energy level. The ability to control the intensity of force production is an important skill, too.