Thursday, July 14, 2011

Extreme Push Hands Looks Freaking Fun!

If you haven't figured it out yet: I'm a "martial arts nerd".

Some guys are into anime, sci-fi, or gaming. But, I'm a total "fan boy" about the martial arts.

Whether it's the external styles, the internal styles, traditional or modern styles, Japanese styles, Chinese styles, Southeast Asian styles (like Muay Thai)....I love them all. And if you're here I'm pretty sure you've got a little "martial arts nerd" in you too!

One aspect of the martial arts I really enjoy is innovation.

I love seeing unique and practical applications and I love new (or new to me) training methods. I like it when someone moves beyond the "same old, same old" stuff and actually makes it work.

This is exactly why I'm geeking-out about Extreme Push Hands.

 It's Only New to the West -

As the subtitle implies "Extreme" Push Hands isn't truly new. Rather, it is an approach to Push Hands that many in the West have either overlooked or never been exposed too.

If you aren't familiar with Push Hands, basically it's a two-man exercise found in the internal martial arts and is meant to act as a bridge between form work and free fighting. The intent of the drill is to improve sensitivity, "rooting" or stability, and being able to neutralize and issue force. Similar drills include Wing Chun's Chi Sao and  Judo's randori practice.

Now, here in the West many forget about the "issuing force" aspect of the training method and focus, almost solely, on developing "sensitivity" to the movements of their partner.

Training this way makes the practice less than effective as a tool which is supposed to help the trainee move closer towards actual free-fighting.

The thing is: in China (where Push Hands originated) they practice the drill very differently.

Sure, beginners learn Push Hands the same way we do here in the West. However, as one's skill improves the level of force/resistance utilized increases.

This makes for some very rough and tumble Push Hands:

As you can see the rules are pretty simple:

  • Square off with your opponent as you both make contact (wrists of the lead arms touching and rear hands touching touching each other's forearms)
  • Once given the signal to begin you and your opponent attempt to push, throw, take-down, sweep, and trip each other (either to the ground or out of the ring). 
  • No strikes or ground fighting allowed. 
Like I said pretty simple, but very fun and effective training.

Incorporating Extreme Style Push Hands into Your Training - 

Clearly, working with this style of Push Hands is a great way to improve your wrestling and throws in addition to improving your stability/root, and sensitivity to an opponent who is REALLY resisting.

If you don't have a wrestling/BJJ/Judo/Shui Jiao background you should start off with pure basics in the Push Hands Technique. Dr. Yang Jwing Ming has several books and videos on the subject of Push Hands and Taiji Wrestling. Definitely worth checking out.

(I want to stress that you don't have to be a Taiji practitioner or even an "internal" martial artist to see any benefit from this training.Also, even if you have a background in a grappling/wrestling based style, cross training with basic Push Hands technique can be very beneficial. It's always a good idea to look at certain concepts and tactics from different angles.)

Now, once you're comfortable with the basics you can begin to work with your partner using more force. Eventually, you want to get to the point were you are working at full speed and power.

It's at this level that the real learning begins.

Here are some ways to begin working Extreme Push Hands into your current program:

  • To Work on Your Wrestling and Take-Downs - if you don't currently train any sort of grappling Extreme style Push Hands is a great way to begin doing so. Add a couple days a week of nothing but this training. 
  • As an Alternative to Sparring - Some days you're just wore out and you don't feel like putting on the gloves, shin guards, and head gear. On these days you can opt to just throw your training buddies around instead!
  • Before Doing Pure Ground Work - Extreme Push Hands is a great way to start off any session of submission grappling.
  • To Improve Your Entire Grappling Skill Set - A lot of gyms split time between doing pure take downs and pure rolling. While this is an effective approach you could start off with Extreme Push Hands and whenever you or your opponent finishes a take-down, instead of getting back up and starting over again, simply continue grappling on the ground until (A. one of you gets a submission or (B. you've been rolling for about 30 seconds - 1 minute.

    This is a great drill in that you get to work both skill sets in a format similar to what you'd get at a Submission Grappling Tournament. You won't spend the entire time rolling (because you get no more than a minute to get your submission) so you also get a lot of take-down work. 
Conclusion - 

It seems like most martial artists are either really excited about the idea of Extreme Push Hands or they hate the idea and prefer stick to the hippy-ish "you push me, I push you" Push Hands style.

It's fine to have a preference, but I train to be a better fighter and Extreme Push Hands training is another tool in my box that will help me achieve that goal.

It's an exciting method both for training and competition. I honestly can't think of any martial artist that wouldn't benefit from adding a little Extreme Push Hands to their program.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner

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