Gin Soon Chu’s Dynamic Push Hands

An Interview with Grandmaster Gin Soon Chu
by Tai Chi & Alternative Health Magazine*

TCAH: Master Chu, when did you first begin to study Tai Chi Chuan?

GSC: I began to practice Yang style under Master Lai Hok Soon in 1956 with a very close friend, Mr. Chan Ping Tim. Before this time I had learned the Wu style. I knew Mr. Wu Tai Ki, the 4th generation head of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan. He referred me to his father’s disciple (I don’t remember his name now). I spent many months with this disciple learning Wu style. One day Mr Chan practiced push hands with the teacher–the teacher could not push Mr. Chan & actually fell down! So we realized the teacher was maybe not that good and left.

TCAH: Why did you choose Tai Chi Chuan as opposed to other styles?

GSC: My health was very poor & everyone I knew at the time told me that Tai Chi Chuan is a very good exercise to improve one’s health–as I wrote in Yang Sau Chung’s book “Practical Use of Tai Chi Chuan”.

TCAH: You mentioned studying under Master Lai Hok Soon–who did he study Tai Chi Chuan with?

GSC: Master Lai was working in the local Canton government at the time when Yang Cheng Fu came to Canton. At the time Master Lai was studying Pa Kua Chang under the famous Fu Gin Sung. With Yang Cheng Fu’s arrival, Master Lai began studying Tai Chi Chuan with Master Yang Sau Chung–Yang Cheng Fu was not actually teaching any more at that time, he would sit & instruct his son what to teach. Master Fu Gin Sung knew that Master Lai studied Tai Chi Chuan and would often come to the training hall to observe his practice.

TCAH: After Master Lai’s death you went on to study under Master Yang Sau Chung. How did you first meet him?

GSC: Master Lai and Master Yang often communicated between each other. When Master Yang first taught in Hong Kong, at a sports club called Kung Ming in Kowloon, Master Lai was his only assistant instructor. Later, when Master Lai was very sick in hospital, Master Yang came and visited him. That was the first time I met Master Yang. After Master Lai’s death, around 15 of us went to learn from Master Yang. Within one year I was the only member of the group left! Training from Master Yang was very hard–he demanded a very high standard from his students. He often said “This is how my father taught me, that is why I teach you this way”.

TCAH: What memories do you have of training under Master Yang?

GSC: There are a lot of memories I have of this time–there is not enough room here to recount them all! The main one is of his standard of teaching. He maintained the same quality for all students, nothing was adapted as is often the case today. He would say “If you can do this, then I will teach you. If you cannot do it, best find someone else”. The other thing that comes to mind is the relationship between us. When he knew I was coming for a lesson that day, he would always sit and wait for me. He would cancel any appointments, even cancel going out with his wife somewhere.

TCAH: Are there any stories you can relate to us of this time?

GSC: Okay, my very first lesson with Master Yang, I showed him what I had learned from Master Lai. A woman student standing next to Master Yang commented that I was sinking much lower into my postures than my friend Chan Ping Tim. Master Yang nodded, which made me very pleased. I was then asked to show Master Yang my pushing hands exercises: ward off, roll back, press, push (as a senior student with Master Lai I used to practice push hands with him a lot). Master Yang again nodded, so I thought I had done a very nice job. However, Master Yang then said I lacked the most important ingredient, ward-off power (peng jing). I then pushed hands with him, and he showed me how this worked–when he applied this power I was shocked and unable to move my arms! Then I knew how much more I had to learn! Since that day I have spent a lot of time developing Peng jing through dynamic pushing hands. I emphasize this a lot in my teaching–it is the essence in all aspects of Tai Chi Chuan.

TCAH: Did Master Lai and Master Yang’s teaching methods differ?

GSC: They had very different styles of teaching. Master Lai taught in the parks. He had many teaching locations. Often he could not cover them all, so I would teach at some of them. Classes were always conducted as a group in early morning, then after classes everyone would go to work. Master Yang taught individually in his own home. Generally, he divided his time to allow each student a lesson at different times throughout the day. No two students had the lesson at the same time. All lessons were taught privately–Master Yang was adamant that his students should not practice in public. He wished many aspects of the art to remain known only to a few. In this way he could be sure of maintaining high standards.

TCAH: How did you feel upon being accepted as Second Disciple of Master Yang?

GSC: Becoming a “closed-door” or “inner circle” disciple carries a lot of responsibility. It is only at this stage that the higher levels of the art are taught. One can be sure that one is receiving the true transmission. It also becomes a responsibility to ensure the continuance of this transmission, maintain the high standards set by my master and to continue the propagation of classical Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. Only in this way can the true art continue to flourish and grow.

TCAH: How have you gone about carrying such a task?

GSC: In the past 25 years, Tai Chi Chuan has come a long way in the United States. I formed the Gin Soon Tai Chi Club in Boston in 1969–not many people knew what Tai Chi Chuan was! Since then I have done a lot of educational work. Now, when you mention the name Tai Chi Chuan, people know what you are talking about. The next step is to improve the quality of Tai Chi Chuan. Although I keep my school small and private, many practitioners seek me out and invite me to conduct seminars at their schools. In this way I can continue to improve the standard of Yang style, both in this country and abroad.

TCAH: Talking of seminars, on your recent course in London, you often stressed the need to sink the chi to the Dan Tien. How is this achieved?

GSC: Many people think that as long as you keep relaxed and think about it, it will happen. This is not so. You have to make it happen physically as well as mentally, over a long period of time. There is no such thing as overnight success. This is why a beginner must seek out a knowledgeable teacher, not simply a famous teacher. When you can sink the chi, the legs become stronger, the body is stronger–you become stronger as a person.

TCAH: Many people are confused by the term chi, or internal energy. What is its meaning for you?

GSC: Chi to me is something inside our body that keeps us alive. It is the energy originating from the blood. In Tai Chi Chuan, the power is often called chi, but more properly it is jing. This is the combination of power from the tendons and ligaments with chi. This power can only be gained through persistent practice. My classmate, Master Ip Tai Tak always says: “Power training is very boring. It is like saving a penny every day”. We do not look for the immediate result, we are looking long term.

TCAH: As a leading authority on Yang style Tai Chi Chuan what advice would you give to practitioners at different levels?

GSC: For beginners–be patient. Learn a few movements at a time, do not try to take in too much information at once, it just becomes confusing. Spend time practicing what you have learned already. To build a tall building begins with a strong foundation. What you have already have learned is the most important thing. At an intermediate stage–do not hurry, spend time doing it right. It is very important at this stage to have correct posture. This will lead to correct energy circulation and set the way for future growth. For advanced practitioner–people are into number games these days. They think, the more Tai Chi routines they know, the better it is. A practitioner should fully understand the how and why for each posture. One should spend more time to understand Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Points.

TCAH: Often there are people who practice Tai Chi Chuan for 10, 15 years and achieve no power. What advice would you give to these people?

GSC: Obviously this individual did not have a good teacher. Stop and find someone else. As I said before. you should find a knowledgeable teacher, not just a famous one. Generally a knowledgeable teacher will be someone whom very few people know of and is difficult to find.

TCAH: There are many interpretations of how Yang style should be practiced. How important is it to practice the right way? Does it matter as long as the principles are applied?

GSC: It is very important to practice Tai Chi Chuan the right way–otherwise one is wasting time and money. If you practice according to the principles, you are practicing correctly. However, there are many ways to interpret the principles. Yang style interprets them in one specific way and one way only; so if you do not follow that interpretation, you cannot truly be said to be practicing Yang style.

Reference:
An Interview with Grandmaster Gin Soon Chu gstaichi.org

13 Replies to “Gin Soon Chu’s Dynamic Push Hands”

  1. I´d like to share with you the links to push hands video of master Chu Gin Soon, one of three disciples of Yang Sau Chung. The firts lin is an interview vith him,http://gstaichi.org/english/ginSoonInterview.php, the othe one, name, and link to his Youtube video Gin Soon Chu, Dynamic Push Hand http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKtK-ifyasc. I think, that master chu is one of the greatest living TJQ practitioners, and I´m missing him on your page. Have a nice summer. Pavel

  2. This video is the biggest con I have ever seen. Very funny however if you can’t see through this kind of con artist I really feel for you. unfortunately he probably thinks he can actually do it. The only thing that is evident here is pushing and play acting.

  3. I fully understand your comment and I acknowledge your skepticism. To me it look very suspicious too and it looks like playacting from the student. But the older student in the above movie could be overly sensitive and rigid beyond belief. To my humble experience you never know before you have felt in it on your own body. Gin Soon Chu is apparently a student of Fang Ning, who looks like the real stuff to me ( Fang Ning on youtube.com )

  4. Only a small correction, Gin Soon Chu is one of three students of Yang Sau Chung, son of the Yang Cheng Fu. To me it seems like even a better lineage than Fan Ning has. Or better said, he has a more complete training.

  5. GM Gin Soon Chu is the real thing. I have studied for three years plus with one of his students. I have seen the GM do these things and I have seen his son Vincent and other instructors Kim Sifu in new York city do the same. I know it looks incredible and I thought the same. But this man and his instructions are real. If you don’t believe me please check them out for yourself before you slander them. Kind regards,
    Jessica Sommar
    Hangzhou, China

  6. The point is he can/will only do this with his own students. It is a compliant activity, which they have been trained to respond to in this way; it has very little relevance to Taiji Quan as a martial art.

  7. Fang Ning is a student and disciple of Tsao Li Shu, an early disciple of Yang Cheng Fu and large frame form which was taught to scholars, academics, doctors and poets. But do not underestimate the technical skill and detail required within the large frame form.

    Tsao Li Shu has an interesting history. There may be an alternative spelling so you may have to double check. You may want to contact Yang Zhen Dou’s organization about the history of TLS. YZD is one of three brothers from YCF’s second marriage.

    Gin Soon Chu is the second disciple of Yang Sau Chung, the only son from Yang Cheng Fu’s first marriage. Yang Sau Chung taught the medium frame form. The medium frame form develops devastating power. It is astonishing to experience.

    There is no purer transmission of the Yang family style of Tai Chi Chuan than the Yang Sau Chung lineage, including the students of Ip Tai Tak, YSC’s 1st disciple, Mary Yang, one of three daughters of YSC. I think one must also include the Tung Ying Chieh family lineage as TYC a disciple of Yang Cheng Fu’s is very respected lineage within the Yang style.

    People can say whatever they want. They can hold any opinion they’re attached to.

    Have fun, Enjoy, practice

  8. Lineage means nothing, i have seen many of Cheng fu’s students who are rubbish. Cheng fu only taught what he wanted to teach which was far from all of what he new. Think on the old saying “It’s hard to find a good teacher, but it’s even harder to find a good student. ” As for Fang Ning check out his push hands, you can see his student compress his legs before he suddenly shoots backwards. I challenge anyone to do that to me or anyone else who is not compliant.

    regards to all

  9. I agree that lineage does not mean anything, but discipleship and indoor students do. There is a distinct variation in level of achievement, information and skill separating student, indoor student and disciple within the traditional Chinese martial arts such as Wing Chun, Choy Li fut, Hung Gar, White Crane, etc.

    Though I am curious to know which of YCF’s students you would consider rubbish? How many of them are out there? Really, Cheng Man Ching, Tung Ying Chieh, Fu Zhong Wen? and how you can tell their level of achievement by what you ‘think’ you have seen and what the practitioners are actually showing you because it is known that some of the great masters would hide the true technique when in public. Especially Yang Sau Chung as he certainly did. He was known to not allow his students to view him from the rear. We will never know as Yang Sau Chung only taught in private. There were no public/open classes. Although all of his students are documented with in the family register.

    The Yang family was persecuted by the Communists Chinese government when Mao took over. Only students of history are familiar with the millions upon millions of death Chairman was responsible for, including martial artists, qigong practitioners, classical musicians, academics, traditional acupuncturists were all butchered by the Red Army. Getting off point a little.

    Challenges do not happen over the internet. If you know where the schools are located as they are listed on all of the websites, go crosshands. You cannot test the skill of a martial artist without touching hands. That is why I love BJJ. “Be nice, show respect, leave your attitude at the door.” (sign above my friends dojo, Fight Academy, Pasadena, CA). If you are looking for a fight, audition for the Ultimate Fighter. Test your skill out there.

  10. I think many miss the point of the demo. It is not about push hands, this is simply a power training exercise. i’ve pushed in this way with a number of Gin Soon’s students. Even other more free form push hands is not a fight. Too often people with leap to conclusions based upon a limited viewing. If you think Gin Soon is rubbish, then I suggest rather than invite him to push you, go find him and as to push with him. While he is not my teacher, I do know that he is authentic by the skill and power of some of his students in this pushing hands game as well as others I have played with them.

  11. I would like to add that Yeung Sau Chung disciples I have heard received many challenges or ‘exchange of knowledge’ from the myriad of styles in Hong Kong and there have been been disaapointed with their art to say the least. In fact a significant number of the masters of the other styles or martial arts learn TRai Chi after these exchanges.
    As for the so called ‘play acting’ during push hand demonstrations by Sifu Chu Gin Soon commented by some ignoramus – I would like to advise these people tp ‘try and see.

  12. Push hands is a form of training not a competition. Saying Gin Soon Chu or Yang Sau Chung do not know what they are doing is a bit like saying the Dalai Lama doesn’t know much about Tibetan Buddhism. Being a disciple means one embodies the art fully to the satisfaction of one’s teacher, it is not taking lightly in Asia at all. I think it is right to question what is happening in this video, but to say it is not genuine Tai chi based on one’s understanding is ridiculous. It simple means you you have not been exposed. I would have questioned this video if I did not know first hand Gin Soon’s ability. But notice, Gin Soon is not telling you what he is doing in this video, so understand that experience is everthing.

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