I attended my first pushing hands event recently. Coming from a 29-year history in Korean styles, this past year I have delved into Chinese martial arts to enhance my practice, and also because I have had a lifelong interest in Tai Chi. The retreat was offered through the Tampa Bay Martial Arts Group in Florida and was held at a retreat center in Plant City, Florida.
No one was an instructor. It was not a seminar, evaluation, or competition. like-minded people gathered to practice “whatever two people agreed upon” although mostly it was pushing hands. There was no ego, a lot of camaraderie and friendship, and even someone new to pushing hands, like me, was welcomed and engaged.
I learned a few very valuable lessons just through “playing” push hands yesterday at the retreat. One is that pushing hands is not about winning or pushing someone off balance as much as it is about a communication, relationship, and a language between two people. There is technique and there is energy, both of which I experienced and enjoyed.
Of course, communication, relationship, and language can happen in all martial arts to varying degrees, depending on your perception. Is not the relationship of instructor to student vitally important and expressive? Is not the communication and bonding between peers incredibly strong and encouraging? Every martial art is built upon the sharing of knowledge and the relationship of people.
Do I learn my Korean style martial art to fight? No. It helps me if I must fight, but I practice it to learn more about myself. Who am I? Where can I improve? How can I benefit from someone else’s experiences, wisdom, and knowledge? Stretching my body allows me to stretch my mind.
If we believe in this martial art communication and we share it, it can extend far beyond Tai Chi, pushing hands, or a retreat in the park. We can share experiences, encourage success, and believe in each other as we go through our daily lives.
Why be jealous? There is enough success to go around. We each have a different purpose and place in the world and it is not meant to be a competition. When is the last time you were happy about someone else’s success, without feeling jealous or that the success should have been yours? Let it go. You will have your opportunity.
Many say martial arts are not spiritual, and I am okay with that. That is not my truth, but it is truth for others. Some have unfriended me because I use that connection in my life. I may be unique in the fact that martial arts extend beyond a class for me. They are my language no matter where I go.
My personal experience is that pushing hands is about learning about each other. If you want to test your knowledge about each other, or see where you need to strengthen yourself, then play and try to knock each other off balance. The other option of simply moving together and finding where you need to relax or have better structure, or learning more about your own energy, balance, and perception of others, is just as valuable.
If we all learned more about each other, enough to communicate, share, and be open, the world would be a much different place. Martial arts cannot solve world issues, but they can solve some of the difficult issues that we harbor on the inside. When we release the inner turmoil (easier said than done!), and when we respect and communicate with each other, we create the necessary change within, as well in the world around us.
Some say that there is absolutely nothing that any of us can do about world issues today, or to make the world a better place. I say there is something that we can do. The change begins within.
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