When I first heard Master Chen said “not-on not-off” in push hand a few years ago, I thought it was impossible. We either push (on), or not push (off). Through years of training, I slowly come to understand that “not-on not-off” is the result of “peng”, or .
A few days ago, after I wrote about stepping training by hugging a tree, I dreamed about a new exercise to help students experiencing “not-on not-off” by pushing a tree.
Since I only shared this with only two of my students, we haven’t trained for long enough to test its effectiveness, I hope other people who are interested in and give it a try and let us know if it help you or not.
Stand in front of a tree, one foot front and the other back, and push the trunk with hands, take a moment to establish the connection between your hands and your rear foot. Only your rear foot is really pushing. It doesn’t matter how much pressure are applied to the tree trunk by your hands. But you can feel the pressure from your palms. (Photo 1)
Without changing the pressure applied on the tree trunk by your hands, try to step the front foot further. You bend your elbow; you move your body closer to the tree. While you are doing all these, your push on the tree, the amount of pressure on the tree never changed. Not less, not more. (Photo 2)
Alternatively, try to move the rear foot forward without changing the amount of pressure you pushed on the tree. (Photo 3, 4)
We need to establish a point of “not moving” in every form we do and in push hand. “Not moving” applies to not only physically/spatially, but also “internally”. In the above exercise, if the pushing pressure is decreased, even though your hands might be still on the tree trunk, internally you moved back. If the pressure is increased, you are moving forward. “Not-on not-off” is the middle way.