flowing with opponent

Flowing with an opponent


Would it be beneficial for a Southern Shaolin Kungfu exponent to practice Pushing Hands if he doesn't have the opportunity to learn Asking Bridges yet or practice it with a partner often?

In comparing Chi Sao, Kneading Hands, Pushing Hands and Asking Bridges, which did you find give you the most benefits for combat efficiency? Does the answer differ much if the exponent practices either Southern Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan?



The Asking Bridge course at Frankfurt is a golden opportunity. Not many people, including masters, have a chance to learn the material and the philosophy taught in this course. And, like in other courses in our school, what is learnt can be beneficially transferred to our daily life.

But if a Shaolin Wahnam instructor or student is unable to attend the Asking Bridge course for any reason, he will of course benefit much from practicing Pushing Hands, irrespective of the kungfu style he generally practices.

If he practices or learn Pushing Hands or any other of the arts of Connecting Bridge with someone in our school, or even learn from me personally, his benefits will understandably be less than what he will get by attending the Frankfurt course. As some students may not understand the reasons, it would be worthwhile to briefly explain them.

The main difference is that Pushing Hands, Sticking Hands, Kneading Hands and Asking Bridge are systematically taught in the course, but when an instructor or a student leans from me incidentally, what is taught is to meet expedient needs of the moment. There is a very big difference between the two, and the difference is not just in the time involved. When I teach someone incidentally, I also teach the best, but the needs of the students, the conditions, aspirations and methodology of the teaching are different.

However, for non-Shaolin Wahnam exponents of Southern Shaolin Kungfu, depending on various factors it may be beneficial or detrimental to practice Pushing Hands. If they are versatile and the teaching is competent, the Southern Shaolin exponents will benefit. If they are rigid, and the Pushing Hands is taught as a routine of techniques, which is often the case, it will be detrimental to these Southern Shaolin exponents.

Here we presume that these exponents practice Southern Shaolin as a martial art, even at a low level. Pushing Hands is detrimental to their kungfu performance because the philosophy and methodology of Taijiquan where Pushing Hands is practiced, are different from the philosophy and methodology of Southern Shaolin Kungfu. A rigid exponent and an incompetent teacher would be unable to enable a transfer of skills between Taijiquan and Southern Shaolin Kungfu. But if the exponent is versatile and the teacher competent, a transfer of skills is possible.

Other martial artists may be unhappy to hear this fact, but in Shaolin Wahnam we have well-informed students and very competent teachers. The transfer of skills, enhanced by a philosophical understanding of what is happening, increases manifold, greatly improving not only the kungfu performance of our Southern Shaolin exponents but also their daily life.

Personally, amongst Wing Choon Chi Sao, Wuzuquan Kneading Hands, Taijiquan Pushing Hands and Hoong Ka Asking Bridges, I find Pushing Hands give me the most benefits for combat efficiency as well as other aspects of kungfu training. The improvement was actually remarkable.

There are many benefits, but off-hand I can list the follow four for easier study:

  1. Use of waist rotation
  2. Excellent footwork and body-movement
  3. Flowing with an opponent
  4. Turning every practice of Southern Shaolin into a training of energy and of mind

If you observe my Southern Shaolin Kungfu at my early periods, you will notice that I was mechanical and my force came from my shoulders. Practicing Taijiquan Pushing Hands changed these and more. I became flowing, and my force came from my dan tian.

These developments came later. My first realization of the benefit as a result of waist rotation from Pushing Hands was that I needed less force to deflect an opponent’s attack, and I could generate more force when striking him.

In my early practice of Pushing Hands, my waist rotation was big and exaggerated. Gradually I learned to minimize the movement that uninitiated persons may not recognize it. This also increases the speed of my performance.

Pushing Hands greatly improved my footwork and body-movement. Initially my Southern Shaolin movements were generally linear, like moving forward to attack, and moving backward to defend. Pushing Hands enabled me to move to the sides of an opponent, and sometimes to his back.

My body-movement in Southern Shaolin Kungfu also improved tremendously after practicing Pushing Hands. Incidentally, many people do not really know what body-movement is, though they may talk about it. The meaning will soon become clear when I give some examples.

Initially I used footwork instead of body-movement in my Southern Shaolin Kungfu. When an opponent attacked me with a Black Tiger, for example, I moved my front leg back into a False-Leg Stance to ward off his attack with Single Tiger, then moved forward with the same leg to a Bow-Arrow Stance and strike his face with the same Tiger-Claw in the pattern, Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain.

Or I might use one pattern instead of two, but still in two movements. As an opponent attacked, I move my front leg back into a False-Leg Stance and brushed off his attack with one Tiger-Claw, then moved forward with the same leg into a Bow-Arrow Stance and attack him with the other Tiger-Claw in the pattern, Hungry Tiger Catches Goat.

asking bridge

Footwork and body-movement

Pushing Hands practice improved my body-movement. I can now use Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain or Hungry Tiger Catches Goat in just one movement, not two. As an opponent attacks with a Black Tiger, I sink back my Bow-Arrow Stance without moving my feet to avoid the full force of his attack, and immediately shift my body forward to attack his face with Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain, my forward movement simultaneously brushing off his attack.

Or I may sink back my body at Bow-Arrow Stance without moving my feet to brush off his attack with one Tiger-Claw, then immediately shift forward to attack him using Hungry Tiger Catches Goat. The opponent is struck at a time his initial attack is just spent. Often he does not even realize where my counter-attack came from.

Before this, I was puzzled when I read in Taijiquan classics of the five basic movements of Taijiquan, i.e. moving forward, moving backward, moving to the right, moving to the left, and remaining at the centre. The first four basic movements were obvious, but what did the fifth movement, remaining at the centre, actually meant. How would a Taijiquan practitioner, well known for using minimum force against maximum strength, respond to an opponent’s powerful attack by remaining at the centre? Suddenly the meaning became clear. It was body-movement. Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain and Hungry Tiger Catches Goat are two examples.

Some of you who sparred with me might be impressed with how I could overwhelm opponents irrespective of their movements, or counter-attack them even without their awareness. These abilities are possible when I flow with opponents, and the skill was learnt during Pushing Hands practice.

I learned about the principle of overwhelming an opponent long ago, i.e. a master was so good that no matter how an opponent moved or responded, the master had the opponent in complete control. But I did not have the necessary skill to implement this principle.

When I practiced Taijiquan Pushing Hands, I realized I could develop the skill of flowing with an opponent to control him, often without him knowing. With the opponent under control, no matter how the opponent moved, I could overwhelm him. In other words, before I could overwhelm an opponent, I had to control him. Before I could control him, I had to flow with him. And before I could flow with him, I had to maintain arm contact with him.

For example, when an opponent attacks me, I ward of his attack, then I break contact. Or when I attack him, he wards of my attack, and I break contact. In this way I do not flow with the opponent, and therefore cannot subsequently overwhelm him.

To flow with him, I have to maintain contact after defending against his attack, or after attacking him, or just reach out my arm to connect bridge with him.

For example, an opponent may attack my throat with Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom. I ward off his attack with Golden Dragon Plays with Water, and immediately maintain arm contact. If he tries to withdraw his hand, I follow his arm instantaneously, keeping the two arms in contact. I could strike him as he withdraws, but because I want to develop my skill of flowing with an opponent, I don't counter-attack, I just follow him.

He may “leak” his initial attack beneath my defending hand, and attack my dan tian with a low punch. I sink down my defending hand and maintain contact. Again I may brush off his second attack with one tiger-claw and counter-attack with another tiger-claw using Hungry Tiger Catches Goat. I may succeed in striking him, but I would have missed the chance of developing my skill of following with an opponent.

If he attempts to move in any direction, I would follow his movement, keeping the arms in contact. If he does not move his arm, I may move it. I may take the lead in the movement, or initiate the lead then follow him.

When I can flow with an opponent skillfully, I can maneuver him into an unfavorable position. I may, for example, maneuver his arms upwards, then float this arms with one hand and strike him below with my other hand. Or I may maneuver his arms close to his body, then glide in to strike his solar plexus with a phoenix-eye fist. Or I may maneuver him to be off-balanced, then sink my stance and fell him onto the ground, finishing him with a coup de grace.

Or I may just overwhelm him without attacking him. No matter how he moves or attempts any attacks, including kicks, felling techniques and chin-na, he finds himself under my full control.

When I am good at the skills of flowing with an opponent and controlling him, I may attack him without him knowing where the attacks come from. For example, when an opponent attacks me with Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom, I may deflect his attack with Golden Dragon Plays with Water, lead him to lean forward, then tap his face with my same hand. Or to make it even more interesting, as he glides forward in his initial attack deflected by my Golden Dragon, I raise a knee at his groin. He may not realize it until he looks down.

When an opponent executes a right low punch at me using Precious Duck Swims through Lotus, I lead his attack arm forward towards me to my right side with my right hand, and simultaneously place my left index finger at a vital point at his right ribs. He may not even notice the dim mark attack. If he notices it and sinks down his right elbow to deflect my attack, I shoot my right finger thrust at his throat following the momentum of his withdrawing right hand. Or I may shiftly move forward and fell him using Uprooting Tree.

Now in our school, every practice is a training of energy and mind. This enables our kungfu students to learn chi kung and Zen on the very first day. In the past, only selected students who had been training with a master for at least 10 years would have a chance to learn chi kung, more popularly called nei kung then, and at least another 5 years before they had a chance to learn Zen or mind training.

This development in our school came about as a result of my Pushing Hands practice. Because of my understanding of Taijiquan philosophy, right at the start of teaching Pushing Hands, I impressed upon students that the primary aim of the training was not to learn techniques but to develop skills. That was why we purposely reduced the techniques to the most minimum, i.e. just one technique each for the whole training, namely Open Windows to Look at Moon for the initiator, and Immortal Waves Sleeves for the responder.

Two of the most fundamental skills developed in Pushing Hands were to let chi flow and to enhance sensitivity. These two skills involved a training of energy and mind. Soon our students discovered from direct experience that they had more internal force and better mental clarity as a result of Pushing Hands practice.

More internal force and better mental clarity certainly improve combat efficiency. More importantly, like other benefits from Pushing Hands, they enrich our daily life.

Yes, there is much difference in the benefits from Pushing Hands for an exponent between practicing Shaolin Kungfu and practicing Taijiquan. He will get more benefits if he practices Shaolin Kungfu.

The main reason is that the benefits from Pushing Hands are extra if the exponent practices Shaolin Kungfu, but are part of his training if he practices Taijiquan. In other words, if his regular art is Shaolin Kungfu, if he does not practice Pushing Hands as an extra, he will only have the benefits provided by Shaolin Kungfu. If he practices Pushing Hands as an extra, he will also have the benefits provided by Pushing Hands, like waist rotation and flowing with an opponent. On the other hand, if his regular art is Taijiquan, he will have the benefits of Taijiquan, including the benefits of Pushing Hands. There are no extra benefits because Pushing Hands is part of Taijqiaun.

Here, of course, we presume that the art he practices is genuine, he is a good student, and his teacher is competent.

One may rightly say that what is taught in Taijiquan, including Pushing Hands, is also found in Shaolin Kungfu. While this is true, much of Taijiquan is found only at the advanced level of Shaolin Kungfu. Not many Shaolin practitioners have an opportunity to progress to an advanced level, and learn skills similar to Pushing Hands. But in Taijiquan, Pushing Hands is taught at the beginning level.

Even if a Shaolin practitioner progresses to an advanced level, and learns skills and techniques similar to those found in Pushing Hands, the nature and focus of the training are different. In my case, for example, even when I had the opportunity to progress to an advanced level in Shaolin Kungfu, and also learned similar skills and techniques in Wing Choon Sticking Hands, Wuzuquan Kneading Hands, and Hoong Ka Asking Bridge, it was when I started to practice and teach Taijiquan Pushing Hands that the extra benefits materialized.

The question, however, may be answered from another perspective. Yes, the benefits from Pushing Hands for an exponent between practicing Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are different. If he practices Taijiquan, he will get more benefits than if he practices Shaolin Kungfu.

This is because the skills for practicing Pushing Hands are conducive to Taijiquan but not to Shaolin Kungfu. In other words, because he is trained in Taijiquan it is easier for him to practice and progress in Pushing Hands than if he is trained in Shaolin Kungfu.

This situation if particularly relevant today because the arts being practiced are often debased, and teachers are often not competent. Indeed, if an exponent is trained in Shaolin Kungfu, and he practices Pushing Hands as an extra, it may be detrimental to both his Shaolin and Pushing Hands performance.

Shaolin Wahnam students are different. Shaolin exponents practicing Pushing Hands will not only get extra benefits, their Pushing Hands benefits will even be more than those of Taijiquan exponents. The reverse is also true. If Taijiquan exponents practice Shaolin techniques and skills, like Golden Bridge and Iron Wire, not only they have extra benefits, their benefits will also be enhanced. Why is this so? Yes, you have guessed correctly. It is because of the advantage of breadth and depth.

asking bridge

Training of energy and mind


Four Sequences of Asking Bridge
Glimpse of Asking Bridge, Saariselka 2011
Treasure House of Kungfu Sets
Treasure House of Combat Application

Those who wish to attend the 18-Lohan Fist course in Frankfurt, Germany on 26th, 29th, 30th September and 1st October 2014, please contact Secretary, Wahnam Germany or phone (069) 904-31954.

The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread 10 Questions on Asking Bridge in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.