Why are they wrestling?
A look at Taiji Push-hands in the competitions
By David Chen, May 2003.
Proofread by Lon Holand.

Taijiquan Push-hand competition has been a popular and controversial topic within our Taiji community--both in the East and the West. Almost all the criticisms and discussions were focused on how to modify the rules and train the judges in order to stop players from wrestling, and how to build the Taiji Classics/principles into the competition.

Through my (limited) experience and observation in the past, Iíve learned to understand the nature of the competition and keep my principles to non-competition. Since there are no rules and results can be satisfied by everyone, may be itíll help us to understand better of Taiji competition if we are willing to look at it from a different perspective. Here are my findings:

** Most of us expecting the Push-hands competition to be the same performance as our classroom drills, or the masterís demonstration in the videos; when we see something that is not matching what we believed to be the "correct" way of Pushing-hands, we give our subjective opinions.

** The reason that two players were wrestling each other is because both were at the similar level of skills (It takes two to wrestle). If oneís skill was clearly higher than the other, there would be no need for excessive force on both sides.

** Junior practitioners need to be inspired by the competent masters who could compete in the ring for setting a good example of what "real" Taiji push-hands should be. However, every now and then I did see a handful of high-level players with excellent Taiji principles who have overcame their rough opponents. I think we should be inspired by the few of good, instead of to criticize the majority of bad.

** All players competing around the rules, and those rules are subjective to judgesí interpretation, not to mention the difficulty of judging oneís "internal quality" while two forces were crashing each other. On the other hand, a high-level player would not need tactics of grabbing, throwing, or tripping; they could adapt their skills to any rules.

** If we change our viewpoint and look at push-hand competition as a typical sport event, then all the aggressive actions would make sense---the nature of sport games is result oriented. On a broader spectrum, Tajiquan offers various levels and layers of interpretation; a sport version is only a small part of it. So letís lay back and enjoy the match.

** The focus of push-hands should not be on how brute the opponentís forces were, but how I could apply my Taiji principles to the situations. I have learnt not to put blames on bad rules, inexperienced judges, or rough opponents; instead, Iíd take these factors as mirrors to evaluate my ego to the result, my awareness to the play, my relaxation level under the tension, and my attitude towards the unexpected situations.

** It is our mind that competes. If our mind is neutral, then everything we see in the competition ring is only a condensed version of the world weíre living. Lao-tzu had said 2,500 years ago: "If you donít compete, no one can compete with you". (Note: "Donít compete" is different from "Canít compete") It is my opinion that thereís nothing more naked about our inner truth than to be inside the ring.

David Chen
"Push-hand is a game of insight, a game of discovering our true self beneath the mask of Taiji."


For related articles by a push-hand grand champion Michael Pekor of New York: