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Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture
Do you practice push hands or sticky hands?

Curious how many Karateka here do this. I first learned Kakie in Goju Ryu, the way we did it orginally made it seem useless to me, and I spent years thinking i'd just purge it from my own syllabus. The version I originaly learned was rote, immobile, disconnected from application, and mainly just tired out your shoulder. Frankly, this is the version I most often see.

Eventually I did a seminar with an Okinawan Kempo practiioner who also was trained in some some "old style" Karate by his father. He put  alot of emphasis on push hands drill. It was like the kakie I learned superficially but very functional, and he was able to relate it directly to applications we practiced alongside in a way that made the drill hugely useful, vital even. It very close to what I've seen in Taiji, minus some small mechanical differences. Definitely different from what I've usually seen presented as kakie, more fluid, less prescribed, and directly addresses centerline movement. Since this time I include it in my syallbus, and I notice it gets definite results with students in terms of movement ability, use of tactile sense, posture and centerline awareness. A specialized dril for sure, but useful and open-ended.

Do you do this kind of drill? If so how is it useful to you? Do you have any particular methods you favor?

Josh Pittman
Josh Pittman's picture

I'm not sure of the version you're describing, but I have tried to learn chi sao (sometimes translated "sticky hands") on my own. I've found it useful for learning how to use grappling open up striking options, how to control center line, and how to grapple at large. Plus, it's really fun. If what you're describing is something like chi sao, you might like the thread on Wing Chun cross training from a few weeks ago.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Chis Sau is much more open-ended typically than what I'm talking about.

 

This is fairly typical Goju Ryu kakie, basically the way I originally learned it. Meaning no offense to sensei Hiagonna, I don't think much of the way it's normally taught. In this video it's basically just a technique exchange attached to a (usually pretty static) arm movement. The version I learned that I now employ is the same basic movement but involves stepping and readjusting your footing while you redirect your opponents force in a kind of ellipse. The physics and sensitiivty are a bigger deal than exchanging techniques etc., though certainly you do that. You eventually add in the secondary hand (which is dormant in this video). You can turn the motion from pushing to punching fairly easily as well.

 

If you go to around the five minute mark in this video, there is alot more unbalancing/feeling practice at play, and Hiagonna seems to be using the tactile response for his techniques. This second video is much closer to what I aim for, which is realistic intent and movement within the confines of the simple drill.

Mark Powell
Mark Powell's picture

I have been involved with the internal Chinese martial arts for many years and have learned a large variety of pushing hands, sticking hands whirling arms etc methods  some of which are useful in developing practical martial arts skills and others that while they are great fun to practice are pretty much useless. I consider the best of these methods very important in my own karate.

At the range that Non-Consensual Violence takes place you can feel far faster than you can see and as you can see from many of Iain's application drills the ability to manipulate limbs is key. I find good sensitivity drills develop the ability to sense where every part of an opponents body is and what an opponent is doing just from contact with an arm. They also develop the ability to manipulate arms without using excessive force.

Iain's exercise of "playing for grips" is very similar to some methods of rou shao (soft hands) practiced in baguazhang.

So in answer to your questions: yes I use these types of drill and find them extremely useful. The method I favour most are the exercises I learned from Erle and later Eli Montague. Some years ago I shared  a video of Eli demonstrating these methods on this forum and you can see it HERE

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Yes! The structure he is using in that video is exactly what I aim to get out of the drill, i.e. the transition from yielding into more explosive forward movement. Great video, thanks for pointing that out.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

The typical kakie practice that is most often shown is really (in my opinion) just an introduction to tactile sensitivity--you have a prescribed structure, a prescribed point of contact, a prescribed direction of movement, and generally a prescribed response. From there, you can branch off and start playing with things. Personally, I do a lot of different tactile sensitivity drills, primarily to build up to kakedameshi, as it is a free-form tactile sensitivity drill that can be ramped up into a form of sparring, which I find very valuable for working on close range skills, specifically. My usual approach is this:

  1. Teach a standard kakie/kakidi drill, in isolation
  2. Add techniques that work when the opponent's arm is pushing
  3. Add techniques that work when the opponent's arm is folding
  4. Add techniques for switching to the other side of the opponent (which feeds into the next step)
  5. Add footwork
  6. Add sweeps and takedowns that fit the footwork
  7. Change the movement patterns of the arms

 

I do this for standard, cross-body kakie, as well as same-side kakie, and then have them blend between the two, freely. Of course, I have some drills that aren't strictly kakie, as well, which I include as I ramp people up to kakedameshi. Things like a "rolling hands" exercise, similar to the bong-sau/lop-sau drill popular in Wing Chun (but different), three levels of pummeling drills, a figure-8 deflection drill, and hubud-style drills.

Mark Powell
Mark Powell's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:
Great video, thanks for pointing that out

You're welcome! Not so much two hippies swaying back and fore more two hippies smacking s**t out of each other (sorry Eli) :-)

One of the important points Eli makes in the video is you should not practice pushing hands to become good at pushing hands rather the drills exist to develop useful skills.

Flowing is fun, flowing is seductive but we must remember that flow is the managment of failure; the objective is to strike the opponent if the strike fails for whatever reason then we must flow into something else. We only flow because we have failed.

I used to spar with a very competant Wing Chun stylist who just didn't understand this. He had years of practicing chi sau but never realised the prime objective is to strke the opponent and if his strike encountered a guard then his chi sau would give him the ability to "swim" through the guard and land his strikes anyway. Without arm to arm contact he had no idea how to fight. For several weeks I sparred with him with my arms held very low and he never caught on to the fact all he had to do was punch me in the face. :-)

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Mark Powell wrote:
I used to spar with a very competant Wing Chun stylist who just didn't understand this. He had years of practicing chi sau but never realised the prime objective is to strke the opponent and if his strike encountered a guard then his chi sau would give him the ability to "swim" through the guard and land his strikes anyway. Without arm to arm contact he had no idea how to fight. For several weeks I sparred with him with my arms held very low and he never caught on to the fact all he had to do was punch me in the face. :-)

That's a great story, ha!

Yeah, I've run into this attitude with chi sau before, kind of inflating "sensitivity" to a place that just doesn't apply outside of the drill, and a serious overconfidence in one's ability to "flow" or detect an opponents movements. It would be absolutely insane from a self-defense standpoint to say "I'll feel what the opponent is doing then react", but I've seen it become the default belief...definitely worth avoiding!

It's also worth mentioning that such an approach will -really- be bad if you play around with a Judoka, Jujutsu practitioner etc., I found that doing this really helped contextualize the place of tactile sensitivity in Karate for me, because it meant that If I tried relying on my ability to "sense" I'd get thrown, whereas apply a more aggressive Karate strategy could be more effective against them. This is of course just in freeplay type scenarios.

colby
colby's picture

It's just a balance thing , man. It's not always going to a single way of doing something. An agressive karatesay may be the the answer but it might not be an answer. The same with a less aggressive defensive way. Ideally you should be able to do both, hit hard and fast but also be able to take what your given.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

colby wrote:
It's just a balance thing , man. It's not always going to a single way of doing something. An agressive karatesay may be the the answer but it might not be an answer. The same with a less aggressive defensive way. Ideally you should be able to do both, hit hard and fast but also be able to take what your given.

Again to go back to the Martial Map thing, agressiveness may not be requirements of fighting or martial arts, people can win in those environments with more defensive skillsets.  In self-defense however, failure to be agressive often leads to failure of self defense itself, so I don't think that it is some sort of  neutral choice, it's the primary one for self defense. If one is training for self defense, then one has to keep in mind the chaotic, fast and unpredictable nature of violence, if we remove it in favor of a "wait and see" approach, we are confusing categories where such an approach might meet success with those where it is very unlikely to.

As Mark put it "flow is the management of failure", we train that way to manage failure, and id' say arguably to develop "Martial Arts" specific skills; not as a primary self defense skillset. A better way of putting might also be that "defensive" skills should be integrated in into a fully agressive approach, not seen as mutually exclusive.

colby
colby's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:
Again to go back to the Martial Map thing, agressiveness may not be requirements of fighting or martial arts, people can win in those environments with more defensive skillsets... [SNIP].

I dont disagree with you, especially about overly inflating sensitivity but sensitivity does matter and it's a valuable tool when someone is trying to grapple with you, it's the same thing as grabbing the back of someone's head while they are punching them. But I understand what your talking about we should be agressive should never give the opponent breathing room but I dont think our game plan should always be focused on the absorption of force or the stopping of force, theres nothing wrong with redirecting someones force too if the opportunity presents itself or feeling how they are shifting or moving their body and adjusting accordingly like what you might see in things like bagua.

But like all things it depends I'm a smaller guy so I dont ever want to meet force on force, ot why I dont like kata that do a lot of that either. I like angling out or circling around peoples power, it's easier to potentially run away if I can or take the head. Of course as I say these things nothing is certain, especially in violent conflict and I'm only talking about theories or plans of attack and as the great 20th century philosopher Mike Tyson said "everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth"

But I really appreciate push hand drills especially when dealing with drunk people stumbling around trying to grab you.

But speaking of push hands, here are a couple videos of some taichi push hands that might be a little different from what people normally see but maybe it might interesting for the topic at large.

https://youtu.be/24C9LtNMWbw

https://youtu.be/4HZMc77Dxek

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

Zach Zinn wrote:
Yeah, I've run into this attitude with chi sau before, kind of inflating "sensitivity" to a place that just doesn't apply outside of the drill, and a serious overconfidence in one's ability to "flow" or detect an opponents movements. It would be absolutely insane from a self-defense standpoint to say "I'll feel what the opponent is doing then react", but I've seen it become the default belief...definitely worth avoiding!

I totally agree. This happens quite a lot in the martial arts world: a drill designed to develop one specific attribute OUT OF CONTEXT and IN ISOLATION is then mistaken to be a real-world representation of violence.  

When practitioners of a drill make this mistake, they are training ineffectively, dangerously and in a way that is removed from reality. Conversely, when observers of the drill make the mistake, they will often reject it, or mock it, because they are failing to understand the true purpose of the drill and how it should fit withing the wider training matrix. The situation is made all the more complex when practitioners of the drills, who fail to understand it, are pointed to those who reject / mock as reasons why they do so.

Zach Zinn wrote:
It's also worth mentioning that such an approach will -really- be bad if you play around with a Judoka, Jujutsu practitioner etc., I found that doing this really helped contextualize the place of tactile sensitivity in Karate for me …

This is the all-important contextualisation. Drills such as “push hands” or “sticky hands” can help develop combatively useful attributes, but ONLY if we also take those skills into application drills.

I think we can point to two broad categories of drills:

Attribute Development Drills: Drills constructed to develop specific technical and physical attributes in isolation.

Application Drills: Drills constructed to reflect actual application in real world scenarios.

We need both. Its when one get’s mistaken for the other that we have problems.

colby wrote:
I dont disagree with you, especially about overly inflating sensitivity but sensitivity does matter and it's a valuable tool when someone is trying to grapple with you …

… but I dont think our game plan should always be focused on the absorption of force or the stopping of force, theres nothing wrong with redirecting someones force too if the opportunity presents itself …

I think you may be misunderstanding what Zach is saying? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding what you are saying? I read Zach’s posts as putting such training in its correct context; both within training and in application.

I don’t read anything he’s said as rejecting the idea of have a range of force options. I also don’t see anything that would infer sensitivity training is unimportant. Tactical positioning and not directly resisting force are also fundamental karate concepts.

colby wrote:
But I really appreciate push hand drills especially when dealing with drunk people stumbling around trying to grab you.

“Push hands” is an Attribute Development Drill. It can’t be applied “as is” because the enemy will not be playing push hands. If we wish to be able to apply the attributes developed in such training, then we also need to apply it in Application Drills too.

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I do think there is a very important distinction here. No one uses “push hand drills” is combat … because they are two-person attribute development drills and the criminal will not be doing the drills with you. Attribute development drills “sharpen the sword”. Application drills teach us to “use the sword”. We don’t become good swordsmen simply by owing a sharp sword.

The push hands shown in the clip you linked to is also an Attribute Development Drill. It does not reflect real world violence (no gripping, no striking, no throwing, no escaping, etc, etc). It’s isolating a specific attribute; which is totally fine providing those skills are also employed in Application Drills.

All the best,

Iain

colby
colby's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I think you may be misunderstanding what Zach is saying? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding what you are saying? I read Zach’s posts as putting such training in its correct context; both within training and in application.

I don’t read anything he’s said as rejecting the idea of have a range of force options. I also don’t see anything that would infer sensitivity training is unimportant. Tactical positioning and not directly resisting force are also fundamental karate concepts.

I think your probably right Iain, I read it as a rejection of different force options, not that your training with self-defense in mind. Or to use Chinese terminology I read it thinking he was you should always be yang, never yin but I misunderstood.

And for sure I understand it's a drill, I just appreciate the skills you can get from those drills for when you apply them in application and life sparring and the like. Which is why I posted some of that's guy's stuff because that some impressive push hands which I thought would add some more fuel to the thread by showcasing it. His student uses a lot of it in his muay tai bouts too. It's not necessarily combat related but it's funny to watch

https://youtu.be/OvK_CXCEowY

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Not rejecting different levels of force at all, that's an important conversation/subject for training, but I think I agree with Iain that it is not quite the same subject matter as attribute development - which is primarily what push hands is for.

That said, I am rejecting the idea that agressive approaches are optional in self defense. The grounds I'm addressing that on are #1 having been involved in enough violence personally to know the importance of agression, and #2 having done enough drilling of these things to see it's importance over time, and to see the failure of "I'll take what the opponent gives me" in such scenarios.

For sure the attributes developed in these drills are important, but they are not simply "defensive" attributes. One thing that is interesting here, I mentioned that I learned a version of Kakie I really liked from an Okinawan Kempo teacher, a unique thing about his approach is that he first taught it as primarily a structural drill - can you pivot your centerline and redirect the opponents force, and conversely do you have good enough structure to prevent someone else from doing so? Following the establishment of this, sensitivity can become a larger focus.

It is (I think) the opposite approach from what I've seen in Tai Chi, but either approach shows that the attributes developed are not really part of particularly "defensive" strategy.

The idea that this drill favors a defensive strategy is a result of people doing what Iain is talking about - mistaking an attribute drill for combative strategy.

It's a common thing, I've had students do it with different aspects of Sanchin testing - push on a partners sternum to test their footing and spinal alignment for example - and a student says "well if someone was pushing me I would do x"..misunderstanding the function of what we are doing, and that this is not a combative drill. It drives home the importance of always explaining the rationale behind drills when I teach.

Speaking of which, thanks to everyone for this disucssion thus far, It's been valuable for me in clarifying somet things.

GPNorwich
GPNorwich's picture

Hi all, yes we use sticky hands a lot. I use it as a random practice method. For example to learn our Bunkai (combative principles) we use this sticky hands as well as clinch. We do very little static or block practice Bunkai. I have found in block practice or static the skill is learnt. But the transfer to live play/practice is not as good. I have just finished a video with this very example. I’ll share it on the forum later today. 

GPNorwich
GPNorwich's picture

This is my recent coaching video which shows examples of how I use sticky hands. I’ve also posted it on the forum as a new topic. Any feedback will be appreciated. Cheers GP

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/sharing-coaching-ideas-pexa-learning-through-play