Years ago when I studied T’ai chi, I learned a training routine called tuei shou, or Pushing Hands. These routines are done with a partner, and they are designed to retrain our natural instinct to push back. Force against force disrupts flow, and leaves both parties out of balance, whereas if you simply yield to a force in a careful, studied way, you can redirect it and avoid harm.
There are three basic parts involved in the practice, and they are always done in order: Grounding, Yielding, and Releasing.
- Grounding, also called rooting, is exactly what it sounds like – planting your feet and maintaining a strong, stable posture.
- Yielding is a harder skill to learn, as it involves remaining completely grounded while simultaneously flowing with the force of your opposer. Standing firm while turning your upper body to avoid an oncoming punch, for example.
- Releasing is the only use of force in this practice. Using the previous example, a punch has been thrown at me; I have remained grounded and yielded my body to avoid it. Releasing force is achieved by “going with the flow”, and following the opposing force. When I have dodged a punch and the punch crosses in front of my body, I release the force by pulling. In other words, they’re pushing a punch toward me, so I move out of the way and pull their arm in the direction they’re already pushing.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about those old lessons, and how they are just as useful in situations where the opposing forces are words. When the people around you feel like they’re attacking you, remember that your reaction is the only thing in your control.
Ground. Yield. Release. Grounding comes first because when you are grounded, you are firm in your foundation and they can’t move you.
Stay grounded. Never forget that I love you, and that excludes no one.