Your Opponent is Never Wrong

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Have you ever had the experience of pushing hands with someone who has never participated in pushing hands before? And can you recall if you actually find it difficult to anticipate, at that time, what your opponent’s next move was?

Recently I started helping my teacher with his classes, and one of the areas is to be the training partner for the new joiners during the push hands lessons. Perhaps it is due to inexperience, and maybe it is due to complacency. The truth is that sometimes I get “surprise attacks” from the fellow students in a manner I never thought is possible.

After giving it much thought, I chanced upon an old video clip where my grand-teacher was giving some lesson instructions on push hands techniques. As he demonstrated the technique with each of his students, he started explaining the application of the technique under different circumstances. Each student would have his preferred attacking strategies, so the grand-teacher would have to react differently when the attacks come from different angles.

At the end of the lesson, the grand-teacher gave us a very valuable lesson. He said that the opponent is never wrong. We cannot demand the opponent to push hands in a manner that we want so that we can apply certain counter actions. The opponent can use brute force, and he can also push hands with finesse. We simply cannot control how the opponent wants to attack us. What we can control is our counter strategies and actions.

Many times we simply assume the opponent will behave in a certain way, thus we go into a push hands practice with a pre-conceived mind. When we get pushed out by the opponent with an “unorthodox” move, our ego will cry foul and we think the opponent used brute strength rather than using Taiji techniques. The cold hard fact that we often fail to acknowledge is that we were pushed off-balance by our opponent. Period. Any post match analysis should be on our strategies and actions, and not on our opponent. Only after we have identified and acknowledged our shortcomings and weaknesses, can we start to improve.

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