Here is the handout I used today in the special Sunday class on pushing hands. We went over the five learning points in centering and pushing hands exercises. Many of the points, of course, also apply to solo form.
Sayings of the Taiji Classics in Application
Study wide and deep. Investigate, ask. Ponder carefully. Clearly discriminate. Work perseveringly. (The Five Mental Keys to Diligent Study, anonymous)
Point 1: No part should be defective . . . deficient or excessive and no part should be disconnected. . . . From the feet to the legs to the waist must be integrated and one unified Qi. (Taijiquan Treatise, Zhang, San-Feng). Qi should circulate and move through your entire body. (Three Important Theses of Taijiquan, anonymous; Taijiquan Fundamental Key Points, anonymous.) Take care that the Qi circulates through the entire body without the slightest stagnation. (Song of the Thirteen Postures, anonymous) You want the entire body’s Qi to circulate smoothly, it must be continuous and non-stop (Three Important Theses of Taijiquan, anonymous.) The entire body and all the joints should be threaded together without the slightest break (Taijiquan Treatise, Zhang, San-Feng).
Point 2: An insubstantial energy leads the head upward. Body central and upright. (Taijiquan Fundamental Key Points, anonymous.) An insubstantial energy leads the head upward . . . (Thirteen Important Keys, Gu, Liu-Xing.) Stand like a balanced scale, move lively like a cartwheel. (Taijiquan Classic, Wang, Zong-Yue.) An insubstantial energy leads the head upward . . . No tilting, no leaning (Taijiquan Classic, Wang, Zong-Yue.) How can you practice Taijiquan without paying attention to the body’s shape, the torso upright . . . the crown of the head suspended? If lacking any one of these, you do not have to put more effort into Gongfu [it will be in vain], (Forty Taijiquan Treatises, Yang, Ban Hou).
Point 3: If there is a top, there is a bottom. . . . If there is a left, there is a right. If the Yi wants to go upward, this implies considering downward. This means if you want to lift and defeat an opponent, you must first consider his root. When the opponent’s root is broken, he will inevitably be defeated quickly and certainly. (Taijiquan Treatise, Zhang, San-Feng). Suddenly disappear, suddenly appear (Old Taijiquan Classic of Qing Qian Long Dynasty, anonymous; Taijiquan Classic, Wang, Zong-Yue)
Point 4: If you fail to catch the opportunity and gain the superior position, your body will be disordered. To solve this problem, you must look to the waist and legs. (Taijiquan Treatise by Zhang, San-Feng).
Point 5: No excess, no deficiency. Following the opponent, bend, then extend (Taijiquan Classic by Wang, Zong-Yue). When the opponent is hard, I am soft. This is called yielding. When I follow the opponent, this is called adhering (Taijiquan Classic by Wang, Zong-Yue). When the opponent presses sideward or downward, then follow. When there is double heaviness (mutual resistance), then there is stagnation. Often, after several years of dedicated training one still cannot apply this neutralization and is controlled by the opponent. The reason for this is that the fault of double heaviness is not understood. To avoid this fault, you must know Yin and Yang. To adhere means to yield. To yield means to adhere. Yin not separate from Yang, Yang not separate from Yin. Yin and Yang mutually cooperate, understanding this is “understanding Jin” (Taijiquan Classic by Wang, Zong-Yue). Butting means overdone (excessive force). Deficiency means not enough. Losing means separating. Resistance means using excessive force to responding to the incoming force. . . . The reason why it is so difficult to learn the skills of attaching, adhering, connecting and following is because it is not easy to avoid the faults of butting, deficiency, losing and resistance (Forty Taijiquan Treatises, Yang, Ban Hou).
Adapted from Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters, Selected Readings with Commentary, Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming; and Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style, Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming.