Master Peter Wu on Push Hands and Combat Skills
By Hean K. Low
Note: The following interview was conducted in Chinese. Therefore any misinterpretation or error is due to the inadequate English terminology in the process of translation—H. K. Low. (H.K. Low is a student of Peter Wu.) Peter Wu has been practicing Taijiquan for almost 35 years including almost 25 years of teaching experience in China. Many of his students have won gold medals in both International and national Taijiquan/push hands competitions. in 1987, Master Wu migrated to Australia.
Hean K. Low: What are Taijiquan (Tai Chi Ch’uan) push hands exercises (tuishou)?
Peter Wu: Taijiquan push hands is a two-person practice or drill (duilian) whereby the practitioners can practice the combat skills of Taijiquan. There are many types of duilian in Taijiquan, for example, push hands, free sparring (sanshou), weaponry such as sword, broadsword, spear, pole or staff, etc. However, push hands exercise is the foundation of all the duilian practices. If you possess a good foundation in push hands, then other types of duilian will not be too difficult to learn. Conversely, if you do not have a strong foundation and proceed to practice the two-person drills, then you will not attain the martial or combat characteristics and skills of Taijiquan.
In brief, tuishou consists of two persons in contact with their hands, trying to upset each other’s balance by using the spiral and round movements, typical of Taijiquan. There are many types of arm-circling in tuishou and the legs are always involved, i.e., the legs are pushing (duijiao) while the hands are pushing. (Note: The involvement of leg-pushing is one of the unique characteristic of Chen-style Taijiquan push hands).
HKL: What is the main objective of push hands? PW: Push hands exercises play a major role in Taijiquan. It provides a foundation for the martial aspect of Taijiquan. If one is not proficient enough in push hands, then in sparring, one cannot apply the characteristics and skills of Taijiquan.
There are two major characteristics in the martial aspect of Taijiquan. First is to follow and resiliently accommodate the opponent’s force. In other words, neither resisting nor yielding too much, but resiliently accommodating the opponent’s movements and changing the direction of the incoming force. This is what is termed “luring the opponent into a void, subduing theheavy with the light.”
Second is to have total control of your opponent. That is, after you have lured the opponent into a void, control the opponent through the friction at the point of contact, and put into effect the skill of “capitalizing on the opponent’s momentum to one s advantage, with a view of upsetting the opponent’s balance.” And then at the most opportune time, in terms of timing and relative position at the point of contact, you release your explosive power, thereby “subduing the light with the heavy” and “the void with the substantial.”
To gain proficiency in the martial aspect of Taijiquan requires a great deal of push hands training and proper guidance. Lastly, push hands is also a test whereby we can examine our Taijiquan form, or routine.
HKL: Why do push hands exercises require the contact of hands? PW: This is the unique characteristic of the martial aspect of Taijiquan. Only through the contact of hands can one sense the magnitude and speed of the opponent’s force, as well as the changes to the
opponent’s center of gravity. Then, one can control the opponent via the point of contact, and at the most opportune time in terms of timing and relative position, attack the opponent with a sudden burst of force (fajing), sending the opponent off.
In brief, using the Taijiquan terminology, only through the physical point of contact can one practice the intercepting (jiejing), listening (tingjing), neutralizing (huajing), stringing/joining (chuanjing), pressuring (bijing), and force-releasing (fajing) capabilities.
(Stringing up the bone joints of the opponent is like stringing the pearl.)
HKL: Then, why the circling or spiralling of the hands?
PW: Because the spiral movements make contact and do not oppose (ding) the incoming force. However, it should be emphasized that one still needs to follow and resiliently accommodate the opponent’s force and movements, changing the direction of the incoming force in such a way that it will not be directed towards one’s body, and will, at the same time, upset the opponent’s balance.
Thus, one gains the advantageous position. Then, if one counterattacks with a sudden burst of force, the spiralling movements should also be used. This should prevent the opponent from sensing out the direction and changes of the attacking force, thereby make possible the subduing of the opponent.
HKL: Can you please describe briefly the characteristics of Chen style Taijiquan push hands?
PW: From the point of the external movement, Chen style push hands has the following characteris- tics:
The stance is much lower and bigger;
The body is at an angle facing the opponent or partner;
The usage of “trap-insert” (taocha bu) stance and footwork; and
The twining and spiralling movements of the body and limbs in a distinct, coordinated manner.
The above-mentioned characteristics are based on practical training and martial applications. For example, the aim of the lower and bigger stance is to lay a strong foundation (jibengong).
But, of course, in a combat situation the stance cannot be too big or too low; as it is said in the old saying, “Train big, use small.”
The second characteristic is to reduce the opponent’s attacking area, and thereby it is much easier to lure the opponent sideways and eliminate the possibility of opposing the opponent’s incoming force. The usage of “trap-insert” footwork is to control the opponent’s leg and prevent the opponent from kicking.
This type of footwork training is very important, especially in combat situa- tions. Furthermore, it is much easier to topple the opponent using this type of footwork in push hands, and thus understand the basic skill of “deflecting a thousand pounds momentum with a force of four ounces.
The purpose of the spiralling movements, as I have mentioned previously, is to neutralize the opponent’s attack and to gain control over the opponent.
From the point of the combat skills, Chen style push hands is filled with martial art techniques. The hands and legs are used co-ordinately. Of course, there are some similarities with other major styles of Taijiquan; for example, pushing, pressuring and force releasing. However, in Chen style push hands, we employ more of the capturing and holding (qin na) skills, and throwing techniques.
HKL: Some people have said the Chen style push hands places too much emphasis on techniques, and not on energy pathways (jing-lu). Can you please elaborate on this issue?
PW: This is a total misconception. Martial skills may not be up to standard, no matter which style of Taijiquan is practiced. There are some practitioners who only know the techniques and not the energy pathways. We have heard so many stories about grandmaster Chen Fake (1887-1957, 17th generation of the Chen style) who was able to throw his opponents away. If grandmaster Chen did not control his opponents’ energy pathways, can he still send his opponents flying off?
To be truthful, good techniques help to control the opponent’s energy pathways. I came to realize this point when I studied under grandmaster Hong Junsheng (born 1906, one of the best students of Chen Fake). No matter which style of Taijiquan, if the Taijiquan master can send his opponents flying off, then his/her skills are very good.
However, it is rarely seen that the usage of the technique of roll-back and pull (lu-cai) is used to send the opponent flying off diagonally forward (i. e., sideways towards my back). I learned this technique when I studied under grandmaster Hong. Basically, the roll-back and pull technique is employed in conjunction with the capturing and holding technique, and to thus control the opponent as a whole and send the opponent flying off.
If you practice Chen style diligently and cor- rectly, then the energy pathways in your body would become like “a three dimensional spiralling shape.” This is the product of silk-reeling energy (chansijing). This type of spiralling energy, if applied on the opponent, will create the possibility for using a lot of changes.
For example, one can adjust the angle and direction, and send the opponent flying off at a different angle, direction and form. If the martial skills (gongfu) then progress to an advanced level, there will be more changes, and this can be used as a motivation to track the ultimate path of Taijiquan.
HKL: Can you describe the content or syllabus of the Chen style push hands?
PW: The content can be looked at from two viewpoints. First is the shape or form of the push hands exercises. There are many forms in Chen style push hands. Looking at the hand movements, the push hands exercises can be divided into:
single-hand (dan tuishou) exercises; and
double-hand (shuang tuishou) exercises.
The single-hand exercises can be further divided into:
with and without capturing and holding techniques (qin-na).
The double-hand exercises can be further divided into:
simple arm-circling, which employs the movements of “ward-off (peng), press (ji), and push (an).” This is classically known as the “old three-hands” (lao san shou);
the movements that employ ward-off, pull-back (lu), press and push;
the separation of hand circling exercises, whereby the right and left hands are joined with
the left and right hands of the opponent; and lastly
the free-hand pushing (santui).
Looking at the leg or step movements, we have:
1. fixed-step (dingbu) exercises; and 2. moving-step (dongdu) exercises.
These can be further divided into:
a. “harmonized-step” (hebu) i. e., each person steps up with the same foot (similar to other styles); and
b. “trap-insert step” (taocha bu) ie. your right foot is placed inside the opponent’s left knee (this is known as insert, cha) while the opponent’s left foot is on the outside of your right knee (this is known as trapping, too), thus the two knees are sticking to each other.
The moving-step exercises can be further divided into:
one-step in advance and retreat (jing yi dui yi);
similar to (a), but with much lower stance, known as the “big pullback” (ta-lu);
continuous advances and retreats (lianxu jingdui); and
free-step (luancaihua). With the combinations and permutations of the hand and leg movements,
With the combinations and permutations of the hand and leg movements, we have many types of push hands exercises.
Second is looking at the end result or effect of the skills and techniques employed during the push hands exercises. For example, control and making the opponent unchangeable, pushing off the opponent, making the opponent stumble on the ground, and making both feet of the opponent come off the ground, etc.
To have such effect on the opponent, there are lots of techniques available. Some techniques utilize the use of hands, elbow, shoulder and sometimes in con- junction with the use of legs, etc. While employing the techniques, the magnitude of the velocity and force can be slow and even so as to pressurize the opponent (bijing), or fast and forceful (fajing) to send the opponent off. It is much safer to employ the pressuring capability to upset the opponent’s balance.
When one employs fajing, one has to take into account the relative position of the opponent in order to avoid any unnecessary injuries. It should be emphasized that in push hands exercises, it is very unethical to employ uncontrolled techniques such as hitting, striking, kicking, throwing, etc., that would cause injuries to the opponent.
HKL: What is the relationship between push hands and Taijiquan form, or routine (quanjia/taolu)?
PW: Practicing the form is the most important part in Taijiquan. As we all know, when we start learning Taijiquan, we learn the movements of each posture. Then, from these postures, we get to know the martial applications. We then progress to the practice of the torso methods (shenfa) and the essential principles (yaoling) regarding the practice of Taijiquan.
This is because the requirements of the limbs and body movements in Taijiquan are different from the movements which we are used to in our daily life. Only through the practice of each of the essential principles of Taijiquan, can we eliminate the faults and habits (e. g., stiffness, body leaning to one side, etc.).
Also, we practice the elastic energy (jing), vital internal energy (qi - breath energy that flows along the channels within our body) and mind, consciousness or intention (yi) while we practicing the form. Thus, it is sometimes said in the classics, “Practicing Taijiquan is to learn the skill of knowing oneself.” After the basic foundation of the form has been acquired, then one can proceed to the push hands exercises. Through push hands exercises, we can check that our form corresponds to the essential principles regarding the practice of Taijiquan. At the same time, we learn to listen or sense the opponent’s force and movements and respond in the best possible way. Therefore, it is said,
“Practicing push hands is to learn the skill of knowing the opponent”.
Some people have said the practice of push hands exercises comes only after one has acquired a solid foundation in the form. Personally, I don’t agree with this statement, because, although the practice of the form provides you with a means of practicing the torso methods and the essential principles, these are all external movements. All the subtleties and intricacies that are involved in push hands cannot be discovered by only practicing the form. Hence, to learn the capability of “knowing the opponent,” one must integrate push hands into one’s Taijiquan practice.
Furthermore, to learn the skill of “knowing oneself’ requires push hands exercises as any faults appearing in push hands can be eliminated by returning to the practice of the form. If one relies only on push hands exercises, one will never get rid of the faults.
Also, some people believe Taijiquan is more of an art for health. Therefore, it is not necessary to practice the push hands exercises. They are certainly not wrong in this regard, for it has been amply proven that Taijiquan has certain curative effects for chronic ailments such as high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, etc.
However, if one also incorporates the push hands exercises, one’s health will benefit even more as well as maintaining interest and motivation. If one does not integrate push hands exercises, then it is like eating the egg white and throwing away the egg yolk. What a great waste!!
HKL: Then, what is the relationship between push hands and free-fighting (san-ta)?
PW: Let me tell you a story first. This incident will help us to understand the relationship between the two. My Hao-style teacher, master Liu Jixun, learned the art of boxing from a famous master during his teenage years. (Hao style is also known as Wustyle, founded by Wu Yuxiang, 1812-1880. It is not to be confused with the Wu-style founded by Wu Jianqian, 1870-1943.)
Then, through a friend, Liu came to study under grandmaster Hao Sauru (grandson of Hao Weizhen, 1849-1920). One day, after two years of leaning, he asked Hao, “Can one apply Taijiquan in fighting?” “Certainly can.” replied Hao. Liu then said, “Can I try?” “Of course!” came the reply. Liu then attacked with his fist.
Hao intercepted the attack, made a lightning movement, then flung Liu backwards into the wall. Liu still wasn’t satisfied, as he did not apply a good forceful blow in the attack because he took into con- sideration Hao ‘s elderly age. Liu then attacked with a left jab. Hao intercepted the attack, Liu quickly launched a follow-up attack using a forceful right hook into Hao’s lower ribs. Hao did not anticipate this right hook and it was too late to deflect it by hand. Suddenly, Hao made a “HENG” sound. Liu was uprooted and fell underneath the table.
After this second encounter, Liu came to realize the effectiveness and applicability of Taijiquan, and exerted more effort in learning. One may ask, what has this got to do with the relationship between push hands and fighting? There is, of course, a big relationship.
For instance, in the performance of hard internal skill, or strength (hard qigong), the performer can withstand severe blows to his body without any visible injuries while maintaining his balance. Many people will be amazed by these skills.
In a Taijiquan context, one must ask: Why must the performer withstand severe blows and not send his opponent off simultaneously? It is because he does not possess the ultimate skill of push hands. I think when grandmaster Hao intercepted master Liu’s right hook, it was not as a hard qigong master Would do it, i. e., only opposing the incoming blow.
Instead, when Hao intercepted the attack, he made use of the physical point of contact to upset Liu’s balance, and then attacked with a sudden burst of internal power. This level of skill comes entirely from the persistent practice of push hands exercises.
If you only practice fighting, you may attain a very high skill, say, for example, like Bruce Lee, but you will never acquire the fighting characteristics of Taijiquan as shown by grandmaster Hao. However, it should be noted that not all Taijiquan push hands practitioners can attain this level of skill. This capability is seen only from great Taijiquan practitioners.
Liu’s second attack is much more difficult to defend against than the first. The first attack can be easily intercepted and the opponent sent away towards his back. However, in the second attack, the right hook was not intercepted by the hand but the body, and the body is then used to upset the opponent’s balance as well as to fly him off. It is by no mean an easy task!
In summary, by only practicing fighting skills without practicing push hands, one will never acquire the combat characteristics of Taijiquan. If one has a strong foundation in push hands, then learning the combat skills of Taijiquan will not be too difficult.
HKL: Can you please describe in further details the two major combat characteristics of Taijiquan? PW: There are two major characteristics in the martial aspects of Taijiquan. The first is to neutralize and accommodate the opponent’s incoming attack. The second is to control the opponent. Now, let us discuss these two characteristics in detail.
Many people know that Taijiquan has the capability of “deflecting a thousands pounds momentum with a force of four ounces.” This is to say, when the opponent attacks, I intercept and follow the opponent’s incoming force and slightly deflect it sideways and then pull, thus, upsetting the opponent’s balance. For example, the opponent attacks with his fist, I move out of the way of the incoming fist, ward-off the attack and follow the opponent’s force.
At the same time, slightly deflecting the attack sideways, i.e., changing the direction of the incoming force, I pull the opponent forward, thus the opponent will be forced to lose control of himself and fall forward. This is known as neutralizing capability (huajing), or a type of borrowing force from the opponent’s attack. However, it should be noted that this is not the only neutralizing skill, nor is it the only unique characteristic of Taijiquan.
In fact, the neutralizing capability, as explained above, only illustrates the characteristic of “using minimum amount of force to topple the brute force.” It is not the ultimate skill of Taijiquan. Let us look into this story:
Once, my teacher grandmaster Hong Junsheng was practicing martial applications with his student in the front courtyard, which is equal to three rooms in area. Grandmaster Hong’s wife was squatting in the middle of the courtyard, doing some housework.
The student then attacked with his right fist, Hong intercepted his attack using the technique similar to the movements of the first posture of Chen style routine, Buddha Pounds the Mortar (jingang daodui). That is, he used his right hand to ward off the attack and seized the student’s wrist simultaneously, while the left hand was placed on the student’s elbow, and then pressed forward with the left arm and pushed with the right hand. Suddenly, the student was sent off, flying over grandmaster Hong’s wife, and fell at the end of the courtyard which was about ten feet away from his original position. One has to ask: how can it be like that?
In fact, this is also a kind of borrowing force from the opponent and then a counter-attack. However, this capability is much more difficult to do as it requires a higher skill than the capability I have mentioned earlier.
Firstly, that particular student was a practitioner of “form and mind boxing” (Xingyiquan), and, therefore, his attack was forceful, swift and well-coordinated, like a ball full of air that can be bounced far away. Secondly, when Hong intercepted his attack, it was not straight and opposed to the incoming force, but instead followed and diverted the force and simultaneously made a small circle whereby grandmaster Hong could control the opponent and counter with a sudden burst of force (fajing). This is the ultimate skill of borrowing and hitting. This is the skill that all Taijiquan practitioners can pursue as their goal.
Lastly, to have total control of the opponent in Taijiquan does not mean using force to seize and make the opponent unmovable. In fact, this is the crude method of controlling. Of course, in Taijiquan, we sometimes use seizing and capturing techniques (qin na) to control the pathways of the opponent’s force in order to prevent the opponent neutralizing, changing his balance or counter-attacking at will.
However, it should be noted that the controlling process is still through the friction point of contact whereby one can gain the advantageous position. This is known as ‘‘capitalizing the opponent to one’s advantage” and from there one can hit the opponent with explosive force.
HKL: In push hands, we have many names for each different type of energy (jing); for example, following energy (suijing), neutralizing energy (luajing), etc. They are very difficult to comprehend. Can you elaborate on them?
PW: These are types of energy or techniques used in push hands. They are not only difficult to understand for the beginners, they even cause “headaches” for those practitioners who have been practiced Taijiquan for a long period and have attained a certain level of skills. Firstly, we need to find out why these types of energy cause a lot of confusion.
Taijiquan is a very high-level martial art (wushu) in which the utilization of energies are boundless.
Each practitioner has his own naming convention to describe each energy. For example, the energy used is the same but with different names, or the energy used is different but with similar names. Therefore, when we hear about a certain type of energy, we could not clearly figure out what type of energy is being referred to.
Some practitioners do not know anything about the utilization of energies. They describe each of them as they like, making them very difficult to understand and as mysterious as possible. In fact, to describe each type of energy clearly is not an easy task. I think it is better to describe them in the near future. However, let us use an example and briefly describe the types of energy used:
Earlier I mentioned about an incident where grandmaster Hong flung his student several meters away. The whole scenario took about a half a second. Now let us distinguish the types of energy used. The opponent attacked with his right fist. Hong intercepted the attack with his right hand on the opponent’s wrist. This is called “intercepting energy” (jie-jing). Then he let the opponent’s torce came a little bit forward. This is called ‘‘following energy’’(sui-jing). After following, he deflected the opponent’s force towards the right in order to make the opponent’s force one-sided. This is called “neutralizing energy” (hua-jing). Then, he used “stopping energy” (jie-jing) in order to prevent the opponent’s force from coming out. After “stopping” slightly, he issued force forward and downwardly, using the “stringing energy” (chuan-jing) to make the opponent as a whole coordinated object. At the same time, he prepared to release the energy. This is called “storing energy” (xu-jing). When the opponent’s force "sprung" back towards the opponent, the issuing force (fajing) went directly forward, and sent the opponent flying off. All these happened in a small movement. From external view point, it only involved a small circular movement but there were many types of energy being used.
HKL: Within grandmaster Hong’s interception of the attack, there were many types of energy. Is it true that all those types of energy have to be present?
PW: Yes. The energies have to be there and one has to utilize them well in order to have the same kind of effect. For example, if you intercept an attack too hard, the opponent’s force can have an effect on your body and make you unsteady. If it is too soft, then you will not be able to deflect/block the attack. Instead, you will get hit. Therefore, the first interception has to be performed well in order to present the other types of energy.
After the interception is the following. By following well the opponent’s force, then you can sense the condition/magnitude of the opponent’s force This is called “listening.”
Simultaneously, you use warding off energy (peng-jing) to reduce the opponent’s force. This is the effect of the “following energy.” If the “following energy does not exist, then you cannot use the “neutralizing energy” well.
Subsequently, it is necessary to change the direction of the opponent’s force in a circular path. This is “neutralizing energy.” The objective of neutralizing is to prevent the opponent’s force from having an effect on you. If you neutralize the attack too much, then you cannot use the opponent’s force to “spring” back against the opponent. If the neutralizing is inadequate, you will oppose the opponent’s force.
In order to “spring” back the opponent’s force, you cannot completely neutralize the opponent’s attack. After the neutralization, use “stopping energy” to stop the opponent’s force from coming forward and to cause some of the opponent’s force to go backwards against the opponent. If you can not stop the opponent’s force well enough, then you will oppose it and start to struggle using brute force as most people do.
After “stopping,” use a little bit of extra force against the opponent in order to “string-up” the opponent’s bone-joints and make the opponent as a whole coordinated body. If the “stringing” is not well-performed, you cannot coordinate the opponent’s body as a complete body, and when you issue energy, the opponent as a whole body will not be flung/uprooted far away. Instead, you only cause the opponent to step backwards—running backwards.
When performing the “stringing,” let some of the opponent’s force absorb into your leg in order to prepare for issuing force. This is called “storing.” If the “storing” is not well-performed, then you cannot utilize the opponent’s force well, the magnitude of the force issued will not be big, and the opponent will not be uprooted (with both feet off the ground) and sent off "beautifully."
After “storing” is “releasing.” When releasing the force, it has to be accurate in one particular direction, and also the issuing energy must travel in a spiralling path in order to up-root the opponent with two feet off the ground and send the opponent off far away. If the issuing force travels in a straight, horizontal path, there will not be an up-rooting effect.
From the above, it is clearly indicated that all those types of energy have to be present and need to be performed well. In the above example of grandmaster Hong, after the opponent’s attack with his right fist, there weren’t any changes by the opponent. If the opponent is skilful and knows how to change, then the utilization of energy among both parties will become more complicated.
I hope my explanation will not create further confusion. In fact, each type of energy can be described in an article by itself; and each type of energy has the following content to be explained: In what circumstance can one use this type of energy?
How can one perform this type of energy well?
How can one change when the opponent is changing his force as well?
HKL: Why, in Taijiquan, does one not always initiate the attack, but instead waits for the opponent to launch the attack?
PW: This is a very good question. In most martial arts (wushu), when two persons spar with each other, if there is a gap or void in the opponent’s defence, then one has to take this opportunity quickly and launch the attack. But, in Taijiquan, this is not always the case. The reason is that you do not know if the gap is actually a loophole in defence or a purposeful feint or bait, or set-up in order to lure and deceive you.
This is so especially when you encounter an opponent who is a total stranger to you, and you do not have any idea of his martial skills (gongfu). In Taijiquan, we will not take this kind of risk. In most cases, we let the opponent initiate the attack and react against the opponent’s movements in such a way as to gain control through the physical point of contact.
Subsequently, I gain the advantageous position and thereby can subdue the opponent. For example, the opponent attacks with his fist, I ward-off the attack and divert the incoming force and pull. In this way, the opponent comes under my control and loses his balance and falls forward.
At that time, the opponent will exert some effort to maintain his balance and neglect the opportunity to attack. Although the time span whereby the opponent was in the unstable and void situation is very minute (in terms of split seconds), for the skilled Taijiquan practitioners, it is enough to subdue the opponent.
Let me tell you another story: Once, a martial artist who was very skilful in using his legs came to see grandmaster Chen Fake and asked for a contest. Chen could not refuse the offer. So, the martial artist attacked, using his leg.
Using one hand, Chen intercepted his leg while inserting the other at the opponent’s crotch, made a lightning explosive movement and flung the martial artist over the wall-fencing. This story was told to me by master Lei Muni (a student of Chen Fake). Lei was present at this confrontation, and according to him, the movements or techniques used by grandmaster Chen in this contest were very similar to “Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane” (Yema Fenzhong). The opponent was sent flying over the wall, but he wasn’t hurt or injured in any way; and he later walked in to see grandmaster Chen.
Let us take this story and think: The leg attack of the martial artist would be very swift and changeable, and yet grandmaster Chen could still make a lightning movement and fling him over the wall. I think when Chen intercepted the attack, it was not as most people would do, i.e., only blocking the attack. Instead, Chen followed and lured the attack, upsetting the opponent’s balance while maintaining his own balance and made the opponent unchangeable. This is another of the controlling skills in Taijiquan.
If your martial skills (gongfu) are good, then you don’t need to control and make the opponent unmovable. Instead, use the controlling skills and make the opponent “stunned” and then send him flying off.
Conversely, if your gongfu is not up to standard, then you have to control and make the opponent unmovable— the crude method. Thus, the controlling skills of Taijiquan should be made an objective for serious Taijiquan practitioners. However, to apply this skill in actual combat is another matter.
Furthermore, if one acquires the controlling skills of Taijiquan, then one can put into effect the capability of “subduing the fast with the slow." (Note: This is the reason why most great masters of Taijiquan can overcome many challenges despite of their age.)
Conversely, if one does not have the controlling skills, then the speed one possesses will play a major role in winning the contest.
There are many people who practice Taijiquan for many years and yet still cannot understand the following and controlling skills. In terms of their combat applications, they are no different from most martial arts. The characteristics of Taijiquan martial skills are not there to be seen—there are no fol- lowing and controlling skills, but only blocking and striking.
In summary, to be able to “subdue the heavy with the light” or “use minimum amount of force to topple the brute force” requires the neutralizing capability; and to be able to “subdue the fast with the slow” requires the controlling capability.
There is still a lot more to say if we explore these two characteristics in a more detailed manner. Maybe in the future, when I write a book, I will explain these two characteristics in finer detail.