Fighting the Urge to Fight

by Franklin Chuah on 2024/01/06

It’s been seven years since I started the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method in 2016, but it was only over the past two years of practice that I’ve really gained better understanding and appreciation of the system. Part of the reason why I was so interested in Practical Method is its practical aspects aka push hands, which seemed very unconventional compared to other martial arts.

My first push hands experience was in Dec 2017, when I participated in Singapore’s K Shanmugam Cup Push Hands Competition. I was able to clenched 3rd place for my weight category, but I knew what I did was not Taiji. Back then, I was still active in the military and was at the peak of my physical fitness. I was able to power my way through using brute force and stamina, beating opponents who were lighter and weaker than me. However, this was not what I was looking for, otherwise I wouldn’t have picked up Practical Method.

Observing the way shifu Chen Zhonghua and Chen Xu pushed with others as well as experiencing it myself, I knew I was still lacking in many ways. If I have to use a word to describe their moves, it was “precise”. A precision that could only be acquired through countless hours of practicing and honing their skills. They are able to end the fight the moment you touch hands, instead of the typical drawn out struggle we usually see between two competitors.

In the past two years, I’ve attended the weekly push hands zoom classes of both shifu and Chen Xu to continue working on my fundamentals and identify my weaker areas. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of its effectiveness at first since the lessons were conducted online through zoom, but it turned out to be the best decision I made. From the lessons, I’ve practiced many useful and interesting exercises which I would have never known. Through observing all the zoom participants including myself perform the moves and listening to the feedback from shifu and Chen Xu, I’m better able to recognize whether a move is done correctly according to our principles.

In end Nov 2023, I went to Bogor, Indonesia and took part in the South East Asia Elimination DaQingShan Push Hand Competition. It’s been a long time since I last participated in a push hands competition, and I was pretty nervous and excited about it knowing that Indonesia is much more competitive in push hands as compared to Singapore. Most importantly, I wanted to know what my current Taiji ability is. In summary, I was delightfully surprised at the results. It was not about getting 2nd place, but rather the changes I felt compared to before. These past few years of consistent practice have finally sprouted a Taiji seedling in my body that changed the way my body moves!

You are Your Biggest Enemy
As cliché as it may sound, I have always been my biggest obstacle. Whenever I come into contact with an opponent, my first instinct is always to fight back. The bigger the opponent, the harder I push. Otherwise, I’ll definitely lose if I can’t resist him, right? That was my mentality when I was younger. Of course, the result is I ended up exhausted and was still unable to do anything against my opponent. During the Bogor competition, the biggest change I felt this time was a shift in my mindset: I’m not going to resist and simply accept whatever the opponent is going to do to me, what matters is whether I can get in close to him and execute my move. What a world of difference it made!

Trust in the Process

Strangely, everything changed once I stopped resisting. The opponent who was aggressively attacking suddenly started to back away from me. And in turn, that made me feel more confident to get close. I could feel the moves the opponent made were not as effective and he was getting more and more tired as the match continues. And finally I was able to take advantage of a moment when he was trying to execute a move to execute mine and scored a point. Shifu has demonstrated this many times, that he is able to get in close to his opponent effortlessly. He has always reminded not to power up, but somehow it has always felt very counterintuitive for me before. I had tried not to power up but there was always some hesitation within me in the past. It is at this stage of training where I fully trust in the system that I appreciate his words. What appeared to look weak turned out to be really strong!

Just Keep Practicing

I realized the only way to truly trust in the process and remove all doubt and hesitation is through consistent practice. Even if you do not feel it now, all the practice will slowly accumulate over time and bear fruit eventually. In the past, I was not able to feel the effectiveness of the system and thus was not confident enough to rely on it, so I always end up falling back to my physical strength. But through all the practice, I began to become more aware of the various connections within my body and am now able to execute moves that my body was not capable of in the past. This year, I’m finally able to feel my lower body’s connection to the ground, which in turn strengthen my mindset that no matter how hard the opponent pushes, I’m confident that I will not fall so easily. So at the end of the day, it was the practice that brought about the change in mindset. So practice, practice, practice!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jojo Juarsa January 8, 2024 at 6:27 am

Dear Franklin, your early Taiji journey days back in 2016 and your 1st Push Hands Tournament is exactly a mirror of my early days (back in 2017) and also a resemblance of my first Taiji Open Push Hands Tournament (back in 2018 at Jakarta).

Yes indeed we relied heavily on brute strength and physical external forces to eliminate our opponents with much struggle and exhaustion. Yes and its true after our “obedience” of strictly following Shifu Chen ZhongHua constant advise that finally we began to see a breakthrough.

Nevertheless let’s motivate each other and also to give motivation to others in following the right path to a greater learning curve.

Our journey is still long ahead. You’re still young and has proven to be a worthy Fighter. Keep Fighting on and do not stop…take care my shixiong.


Franklin Chuah January 10, 2024 at 12:56 am

Thanks for your kind words Jojo. Definitely will continue practicing and work on my skills!


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