Push Hands Challenge in Taiwan

Sifu Alan Hubbard
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In December 1987, Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong took for the first time, a team to Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China for the International Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands Championship. After the opening ceremony, his team members where warming up for the competition. Grandmaster was wearing the US team jacket and walking around the competition arena. One local tournament judge approached him and introduced himself. He told Grandmaster that push hands in tai chi is very important. He continued and said, if you practice tai chi and can not do push hands well, then you don’t know tai chi. He bragged about how well his push hands skill was and boasted that he had many of his students entered in the competition. He didn’t quite understand that Grandmaster was the US team coach, so he tried to recruit him to be his student to represent him in the US. He was also teaching the Yang style of tai chi; his teacher was the student of the late Professor Cheng Man-Ching.

Grandmaster just let him do all of the talking and he didn’t say anything about his own background. Finally, Grandmaster’s student Jane Hallander, came over and respectfully bowed to Grandmaster and asked him a technical question about the rules. The local judge (not nice to mention his name here) who had been bragging to Grandmaster, understood English. He interrupted and did all of the answering for Grandmaster which made it seem like Grandmaster didn’t know the rules of the competition well. In his mind he thought, “how good could their push hands be, if they don’t even understand the rules“?

The judge asked Grandmaster to do push hands with him and tried to show that he was more superior than him. Grandmaster had no choice; the judge had joined his hands to Grandmaster’s hands already. Jane Hallander was observing the whole event by standing next to them. The push hands judge did a different push hands pattern than Grandmaster; therefore Grandmaster couldn’t work out the basic pattern with him. At this point, he really thought that Grandmaster didn’t know anything about push hands. Now, he really tried to push Grandmaster over. However, every time when he tried to push, Grandmaster neutralized all of his pushes. He tried to push him over for several minutes and attacked with over 30 pushes. He still could not push Grandmaster over. He finally stopped and asked Grandmaster to push him instead. In the beginning, Grandmaster just wanted to feel his jing by moving softly and slowly. Grandmaster hadn’t really tried to push him yet before he shouted at him and said, “Push me harder, push me harder, quit fooling around and wasting time“.

All of this had not gone unnoticed, a large crowd of people at the side of the gym had gathered together to watch. Knowing this guy had no idea with whom he was pushing or what he had just asked for; Grandmaster did exactly what he was asked to do. Grandmaster found his stiff points and pressed his arms slightly downward and then lifted upward to push both of his arms straight out forward. His entire body flew up and out and as he hit the floor he slid several meters like a ball. He got up and told the spectators that the floor was slippery. He wanted to continue push hands with Grandmaster. This time the judge focused on his rooting. His body was leaning forward. Grandmaster tried to push him a couple of times and felt that his energy was learning forward, so Grandmaster knew exactly what to do. Grandmaster pretended to push him forward and felt his jing was force against force; so instead he pulled him to his right side immediately, the judge flew forward to Grandmaster’s lower right side and fell behind him. He got up with an embarrassed expression.

The tournament judge knew his mouth had done the talking while Grandmaster had let his skill do the talking. Grandmaster spoke to him and said, “Perhaps, the floor is too slippery, maybe we can practice again later on a better floor“. Of course, the spectators knew what was going on. Grandmaster just said that to allow the guy to save face. The tournament judge got up and said, “Ok, practice with you later“ and quickly walked away.

In the end, Grandmaster’s team won second place in the international competition with competitors coming from 17 countries. Taiwan’s team received the first place. They were also the first American tai chi push hands team to ever win with the highest scores in the history of Taiwan.


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