The Song of Push Hands (Da Shou Ge) is a Taiji Quan classic written in the form
of a traditional style poem.
Describing basic push hands principles and skills, it is among the earliest writings
on Taiji Quan and respected
by all practitioners.
Today there are two versions of Da Shou Ge. One version contains six sentences
and the other contains four.
The six-sentence Version A is generally credited to Wang Zong Yue, passed down
from Wu Yu Xiang to Li Yi Yu,
and then onto others. The four-sentence Version B was discovered recently in
Chen Village, passed down in
the village for many years. The basic meanings of the two songs are similar.
Some speculate that Wang Zong
Yue learned the old song from Chen Village and then added more to make it better.
Others think Chen Village
practitioners learned the song from Wang or Wang’s lineage, but lost
some of the words later. Regardless of
the historical debate, the six-sentence Version A clearly offers a more complete
view on Taiji Quan, so
historically it has been the overwhelmingly favorite version. This article
will examine both versions with an eye to
practical insights for push hands training.
1. Da Shou Ge of Wang Zong Yue (Version A)
Wang Zong Yue is widely believed to have made major and lasting contributions
to the development of Taiji
Quan principle. His Discussion of Taiji Quan Theory (Taiji Quan Lun) is generally
regarded as the foremost
classic on Taiji Quan principle. Besides that article, he is also believed
to have written “On the Various Names of
Taiji Quan (Taiji Quan Shi Ming)”, “The Song of Thirteen Postures
(Shi San Shi Ge)”, as well as “Da Shou Ge
(The Song of Push Hands).” Although today we do not know the details
of his life, he is believed to have been
an excellent Taiji Quan master.
The Manual of Taiji Quan of Wang Zong Yue was found in
Wuyang County of Henan province in 1856. Wu Chen Qing,
the county governor at the time, discovered it in Yandian, a
this copy to his younger brother Wu Yu Xiang, a student of
Yang Lu Chan and Chen Qing Ping. Wu later passed it onto
his nephew and student Li Yi Yu. Li made four hand-written
copies and distributed them to his brother and students. his
Today these copies are the only versions available. Wang’s
version of Da Shou Ge goes like this:Today these copies are
small town in that county. Subsequently Wu Chen Qing gave
version of Da Shou Ge goes like this:this copy to his younger
brother Wu Yu Xiang, a student of Yang Lu Chan and Chen
Qing Ping. Wu later passed it onto his nephew and student Li
Yi Yu. Li made four hand-written copies and distributed them
to his brother and students. Today these copies are the only
versions available. Wang’s version of Da Shou Ge goes like
Peng Lu Ji An Xu Ren Zhen Shang Xia Xiang Sui Ren Nan Jin
Peng (Ward off), lu (rollback), ji (push), and an (press) 1 should be practiced
seriously. Follow your opponent
whichever direction he is heading, making it difficult for him to find an opening
|1 Peng, lu, ji, and an are the basic push hands skills. Sometimes they
are called si shou – four hands (it is
common to call each skill a “hand”), or si zheng – four cardinal
directions (the four basic directions in Bagua,
which is part of the Taiji principle). There is a practice routine for these
four skills in every style of Taiji Quan.
People believe it to be a classical form passed down from a very early time.
From practicing this form one can
understand the essence of basic applied Taiji Quan skill. Peng, lu, ji, and an
are the most basic Taiji Quan
tactical skills, so here they stand for Taiji Quan skills in general.
2 Specifically the Chinese words used here are “follow up and down”,
some interpret that to mean “when the
movements of upper and lower body are linked together.” However, in classical
Chinese, the phrase refers to all
movements in general, regardless of direction.
Key Point Explanation:
When you practice these basic push hands skills, you should focus and pay close
attention to every detail of
your movements. Do not overlook anything, not matter how small. Try to bring
awareness to tiny details.
Following is the most important applied skill in Taiji Quan. If you can follow
your opponent no matter what he
does, you can then truly feel and know everything he wants to do, and then
you have a chance to make him
miss his target. Do not let him feel your intention or give him any opportunity
Together peng, lu, ji, and an form the basic push hands practice routine, the
most common and at the same time
the most important applied practice in Taiji Quan. Although the movements themselves
are not very complex,
correct practice of these skills brings great benefits. Usually people say
hard practice of these movements will
lead to the beginning of one’s understanding of Taiji Quan, so every
group pushes their students to practice this
routine long and hard. It is said one should do a thousand circles of peng-lu-ji-an
push hands per day for three
years before learning any other skill.
During practice, you should pay great attention to all of the details. Be
especially careful about the application
of internal components – shen, yi, qi, and jin with your movements. Usually
there are several stages to the
practice: First, you should learn to do all movements correctly, before practicing
long and hard. You should
concentrate on relaxing and making the movements smooth. Maintain constant
but light contact with your
partner, do not use brute force. Please remember this is not a real fight but
practice, where the objective is to
acquire basic skills. The emphasis is not on winning or losing, but on using
Taiji Quan principles in all your
movements. Training this way will help you develop sensitivity and the ability
to relax deeply. That in turn will
help you develop a true ability to follow. If you can really feel and follow
your opponent, he will have a difficult
time finding a chance to get you. Then you will have a greater chance to get
him. This is a very important
concept in Taiji Quan.
According to the Daoist wuxing principle, when one stands stable and centered,
one becomes like the earth.
Everything comes from the earth, so the four basic skills are generated. Traditionally,
the following attributes are
ascribed according to wuxing: peng in north, its attribute is water; lu in
south, its attribute is fire; ji in east, its
attribute is wood; and an in west, its attribute is metal. In this way the
four basic tactics correspond to the primary
Bagua, where peng is kan; lu is li; ji is zhen; and an is dui. Accordingly,
the technical attributes of the skills must
follow their corresponding principles.
Ren Ta Ju Li Lian Da Wo Qian Dong Si Liang Bo Qian Jin
Let him bring overwhelming force against me, I will lure him to make the first
move1 and then use only four
ounces force to move a thousand pounds.
1 The Chinese word here is qian dong, which means to use a small force to move
a large object under specific
circumstances. A good example for this idea is looping a ring through the nose
of a bull, then even a small boy
can control a large animal. The key is the placement of the ring, otherwise
it will be very difficult to control the
Key Point Explanation:
No matter how strong your opponent is, his powers are wasted if they do not
get applied to your body. As soon
as he moves, you will have the chance to find his weakness and exploit it.
With the right timing and direction,
you can manipulate a large weight or force using very little effort on your
part. Here four ounces and a thousand
pounds refer to the general concept of small versus large force, the exact
numbers or ratio does not really
A common mistake for a lot of people is that they focus too much on "using
four ounces to move a thousand
pounds" part. That alone is not sufficient, pay attention to the phrase "lure
him to make the first move". Only
when a large weight or force gets moving do you get a chance to find the weak
point and move it. This is what
Taiji Quan skill seeks to accomplish.
An even worse case of misunderstanding occurs when people interpret this phrase
to mean “use only four
ounces to defeat a thousand pounds.” That does not make sense and confuses
people. In reality, only when
you can apply your force at the right time in the right direction can you have
a chance to use small force to
defeat a large force.
Yin Jin Luo Kong He Ji Chu Zhan Nian Lian Sui Bu Diu Ding
Lure him in to fall into emptiness1, then integrate and release your whole-body
power (he) to throw him down.
Use zhan (sticking up), nian (adhering to), lian (linking to), and sui (following
with), and never do diu (lose
connection or no enough) or ding (resist directly against a force or too much).
1 Luo kong –falling into emptiness is a technical term in Taiji Quan.
It means to make the opponent’s force miss
its target – your body, and meet emptiness instead, like falling into
a trap, and causing him to lose his balance.
Taiji Quan at its highest level seeks to have this effect everywhere.
Key Point Explanation:
Lure your opponent into committing his forces by offering him a target, and
when you move that target and his
force misses, that will cause him to lose balance. This is called lure him
in and let his force meet emptiness. At
this moment, gather all your internal forces to defeat him. When an opponent
has already lost his balance, you
can throw him very easily. How is this accomplished? It is the result of using
the basic Taiji Quan skills. Zhan,
nian, lian, and sui are the most basic skills; diu and ding are the most common
mistakes. Here the sentence tells
us to perform Taiji Quan using zhan, nian, lian, and sui, avoiding diu and
ding. Together it means try to do all
skills correctly and avoid the mistakes (i.e., diu and ding).
Lure the opponent in to fall into emptiness” is the main idea of Taiji
Quan. In fact we can say no matter what
skills we use, this is the ultimate effect we want to achieve. In practice,
how to lure your opponent in is the key
point. To lure is not to simply move away. It is not a dodge, and it is not
running away either. You should let your
opponent feel like he can get to you, that he can use his force on you. When
his true force comes out, you
should keep him going. Little by little, you can lure him to lose his balance.
Here the common misunderstanding
is that you are physically moving your body away. True Taiji Quan skill involves
keeping in touch with the
opponent, but not allowing his force to have any real effect on your body.
So most of the time the physical
movement itself is very small and brief, so subtle it cannot be seen clearly.
The feelings involved in this process
are very nuanced. In the beginning, you try to lure his force out, when he
starts to lose his balance, the touching
point between you and him become a point he wants to use to keep his balance.
To keep his balance, he will
become more dependent on the point of contact. He will apply more force on
it, giving you more opportunity to
control him and let him lose even more balance. So it looks like in the beginning
you follow him and then he just
falls under your control and follow you.
This is one of the high level skills in Taiji Quan. Only when you can do this
well can you create the moment that
allows you to throw the opponent with the least effort on your part. When you
release your force to throw the
opponent, no matter how much you use, it should be whole-body force. Whole-body
force does not mean using
the maximum force you have in your body, it just means the force has to come
from all parts of the body. For
releasing force or jin, there are two common concepts involved –opening
(kai) and closing (he). Opening is
about xu – the storing, charging, gathering, and integration of internal
force. That means you should give the
opponent a chance to come in and try something. That will give you a chance
to control him. So “lure him in and
off-balance him” is opening. At the same time, you should store your
force and prepare to launch it. Closing is
about fa – the releasing of internal force. That means releasing your
whole-body internal force in the right
direction at the right time. It should be noted that in real application, most
of the time opening and closing cannot
be separated clearly, sometimes they occur simultaneously.
The four basic skills that characterize correct Taiji Quan push hands are zhan,
nian, lian, and sui. All techniques
of Taiji Quan are based on some combination of these attributes/skills. If
you do not use these skills, then you
are not doing Taiji Quan. Good sensitivity is the basic gongfu underlying all
of these skills, and these four skills
are foundation of all other Taiji skills.
Zhan: it is not just sticking, but a specific type of sticking, like when something
is stuck on the bottom of
something else. Guide your opponent and have him under your control, when this
is achieved, it will looks like
he is stuck to your hand. When you can do this well, your can make your opponent’s
body leave the ground
using his own power alone and bounces him off easily. Zhan is a skill for uprooting
your opponent. Although
zhan is normally sticking in an upward direction, it can be applied in any
direction. It happens whenever your
opponent is losing his balance, and in desperation is trying to use your body
to right his balance. To do zhan
well you need to have really good basic gongfu: sensitivity, coordination/integration,
understanding of Taiji
principle, etc. So zhan is a skill people always use to gauge a person’s
Taiji Quan skill.
Nian: it means to stick, adhere, or paste to. It means maintaining contact
with your opponent's body, and from
this touching give him trouble and put him in uncomfortable positions. Do this
while not letting your opponent get
away, as if you are glued to his body. Be careful though, it does not mean
you should use big power to forcibly
hold your opponent. Instead, the touch is very light. When applying this technique,
use the minimum amount of
force possible. It is said, keep making trouble a little bit at a time, do
not stop until these little bits accumulate into
big problem for the opponent.
In pushing hands, when you touch your opponent, you should give him some trouble.
Do not make it too big, just
enough to force him to respond. From his reaction you will know what to do
next. If there is no opening, keep
doing nian, that means follow him, and give him more trouble, and wait for
him to give you more reaction. The
important things here are to never let the opponent get away, and sensing the
opening for you to change and
Lian: There are two meanings here: one is to continue, meaning you maintain
constant connection to your
opponent. The other is to follow and change continually, seamlessly going from
one technique to another like
links on a chain. There are no breaks or gaps in your thoughts or movements,
never giving your opponent a
chance to change and adapt. Link all changes one by one, never stopping. The
most common change here is
the change in the direction of your force. One way to accomplish lian is to
move in arcs or circles. Lian is
different from nian. Lian by itself does not involve giving trouble to the
opponent, lian is just about maintaining
contact with the opponent and waiting for an opening.
Sui: It means following, following the opponent's physical movement and thoughts.
At all times, give him the
illusion that he can get you. Lure him to use some technique on you and get
him to commit. As long as you can
remain relaxed, you can sense and feel his intentions. To do sui you really
have to relax your body. Follow the
timing and direction of the opponent's force, whatever he does, do not let
his force affect your body. It does not
mean stopping his force directly with yours before it touches you; rather,
it means do not let him find a point on
your body to apply his force.
Be careful, both lian and sui include the meaning of following, but most of
the time lian means to follow the
opponent and never let him run away, so there is a sense of chasing involved.
Whereas in sui, following means
following the opponent and do not let him get and control you; so here following
usually refers what you do in
response to his attacks.
In actual application, these four skills are not used separately. Zhan, nian,
lian, sui are always combined and
used together. All other Taiji Quan skills will include some of these basic
attributes. In Taiji application, there are
two types of common mistakes to be avoided: diu and ding.
Diu: disconnect, lose contact, it means the opponent can get away or you cannot
find him anymore. This in turn
means you cannot feel him well. In zhan, if your hand leaves too early, the
opponent's reaction force will not be
big enough to follow your movement, and you lose the chance as a result, this
is diu. In nian, if the opponent
had time to respond appropriately to your movement, that means you have failed
to keep giving him trouble, it is
also diu. In lian, you lose the contact point and let the opponent get away,
again, this is diu. In sui, if you are
too weak, the result is diu. In all cases, if you do something and it is not
enough, whether it occurs in the mind or
in the body, it is diu. The concept of diu is also call bu ji – no enough,
falling short, less than required.
Ding: resist or pushing hard against the contact point, meaning you cannot
follow the opponent but he can feel
and get you. It means you cannot relax well, you do not have good sense of
timing and direction. In zhan, if you
do it too late, the opponent's reaction force goes into your body, this is
ding. In nian, when trying to follow the
opponent you push him too hard, giving him a chance to get you, this is also
ding. In lian, if you do too much with
your mind trying to follow the opponent, it is ding. In sui, if you cannot
relax and push your opponent away, the
opponent will get you, this is also ding. In all cases, if you do too much
of something, whether mentally or
physically, it is ding. The concept of ding is also called guo – too
much, overshooting the target, more than
Usually, when doing nian and lian, it is easy to lose the connection (diu).
When doing zhan and sui, it is easy to
apply too much force at the contact point (ding). Lian and sui are basic gongfu;
you must relax, be flexible, and
have good sensitivity. Zhan and nian are basic techniques; you must know correct
timing and direction. Only
when you can do lian and sui well, can you do zhan and nian.
Traditionally, it is recommended that: First, study how you can follow your
opponent, that means do not let him
get you, this is sui. Second, try to follow him, and never let him get away,
this is lian. Third, try to connect with
him with minimum force, this is nian. Fourth, try to control him with the least
amount of effort possible, this is
zhan. So the whole process goes from you following him to him following you,
from getting away from his control
to controlling him.
The most important key to all four of these basic skills is relaxing at the
point of contact. Being neither too light
so that you actually lose the connection, nor being too hard so that you are
using simple brute force to maintain
the connection. These are the two common problems of diu and ding. If you cannot
avoid these problems, you
can never do the four basic skills well. So in push hands practice, you should
study to do sui first, from sui you
can go on to try nian; keep try to do lian every time, and then try to find
chances to use zhan. If you can master
all four of these skills, you will be a good martial artist. To combine these
with other Taiji Quan skills, you can do
2. Da Shou Ge of Chen Village (Version B)
Although Yang Lu Chan learned Taiji Quan from Chenjiagou
Village, some people question if Taiji Quan was created
originally in Chen Village. One reason is that in the village
there is not any classic passed down besides Da Shou Ge
from early times. Chen Village’s version of Da Shou Ge goes
Peng Lu Ji An Xu Ren Zhen Yin Jin Luo Kong Ren Ren Qin
Peng (ward off), lu (rollback), ji (push), and an (press) must be practiced
To lure him in and fall onto emptiness, so no matter how he comes or what he
Key Point Explanation:
As basic push hands routine, these four skills must be practiced seriously
and carefully. The main idea of the
skill is following your opponent, never resist. From following to lure your
opponent in and let him fall onto
emptiness. Taiji Quan does not use force to against force directly no matter
how strong you are.
Zhou Shen Xiang Sui Di Nan Jin Si Liang Hua Dong Ba Qian Jin
To follow the opponent whatever part of your whole body, it becomes difficult
for the opponent to find an opening
for attack. Use four ounces force to redirect and move eight thousand pounds1.
1 Here eight thousand pounds does not really mean that much. It is written
in this way just because the rhyme of
the poem requires it. The true meaning of the sentence here just means to use
a small force to defend against a
Key Point Explanation:
Following your opponent is very important of Taiji Quan and is emphasized again
here. If you can follow well, it
will create difficulties for your opponent to find a chance to attack you.
Only when you can follow well, will you
have chance to use a small force to defeat a big force. It is true Taiji Quan
3. Comparison of Two Versions:
Forget all historical arguments about versions and authors. Here we just simply
compare the meaning of these
two versions (Version A – six sentences; Version B – four sentences):
1. The first sentence in both versions are exactly the same.
2. The second sentence of Version A and the third sentence of Version B are
3. The third and fourth sentences of Version A expresses the same meaning as
the fourth sentence of Version
B. But Version A has more clear meaning.
4. The first four words of the fifth sentence of Version A (“lure him
in to fall into emptiness”) are same as the first
four words of the second sentence of Version B. The rest of that sentence in
Version A emphasizes how to
release force when the opponent is off balance. But in Version B, the rest
of the sentence just talks about being
soft and following. In comparison, it does not connect very well with the preceding
5. The sixth sentence of Version A does not appear in Version B. This sentence
is really important because it
identifies the most important basic and typical Taiji Quan skills: zhan, nian,
lian, and sui, as well as pointing out
the most common mistakes of Taiji Quan practice: diu and ding. But these points
are totally absent in Version B.
From this comparison, we can say that although the six-sentence Version A
contains more detailed meaning
than the four-sentence Version B, there is obviously a connection between them,
and that they must share a
The Da Shou Ge is one of the most important classics from the old times. This
short poem discusses many
crucial concepts in Taiji Quan practice. It tells us that the basic techniques
of peng, lu, ji, and an were practiced
from a very early time. It documents in writing for the very first time the
practice of these specific techniques in
Taiji Quan. All of the basic skills: zhan, nian, lian, sui, as well as the
corresponding mistakes: diu and ding, are
described. So these concepts were developed a long time ago, and over time,
little by little, the different schools
used these ideas and refined them. Here they are described with perfect clarity
for the first time, and explicitly
identified as the foundation of all Taiji Quan skills. Also, some major Taiji
Quan application concepts are offered
as well, like following up and down, lure the enemy in and fall into emptiness,
use four ounce force to move a
thousand pounds. They paint a clear picture of applied Taiji Quan skill.
in Cheng Gong Fa Association