Traditional tai chi players study the
concept of softness as taught by Daoist philosophy. Then they practice
their tai chi form in a slow relaxed manner. However, many players
who continue their studies and learn concepts called "pushing hands"
seem to forget softness and become hard. Pushing hands becomes quite
competitive and can evolve into a fairly aggressive sport.
Master Wang became a pushing hands champion in Taiwan
while still in his twenties. He was disappointed with his achievement
as he realized it depended on strength and technique and not on
relaxation and softness. He wondered what happened to the concept
of four ounces moving a thousand pounds.
After he met Grandmaster Huang of Malaysia, he realized
that here was finally someone who possessed soft martial skills.
He studied as much as possible with Huang when he visited Taiwan.
Later Master Wang was able to discover the secrets of softness and
called his new art search center in order to emphasize
softness rather than pushing.
Wang uses internal chi energy rather than external muscular force
to move his partner. He must first be sensitive and feel his partner's
center and then absorb any force directed towards him before emitting
chi outwards. Hands are primarily antennae to sense another person's
energy, not an instrument to push. The energy comes from the ground
through Master Wang's center and trunk.
The person whose center is contacted does not feel
any pushing or pain upon contact. It feels more like being moved
by a wave of wind or water. Also the person's center moves first,
not the point of contact.
Search center is a way of developing tai chi skills
without fear of being injured. Search center is totally integrated
into Master Wang's seven principles of
tai chi and therefore search center will improve one's tai chi form
and vice versa. Unlike most pushing hands, search center and tai
chi form are closely related and dependent on each other to form
a complete system of tai chi incorporating softness and internal
Unfortunately search center skills require years of
practice with a qualified teacher to learn and appreciate. It is
difficult to remain soft especially when one is practicing with
players who are hard. But the rewards are worth the effort and sustained
practice. Master Wang eventually hopes that pushing hands will be
replaced by search center tournaments which will reward players
who are able to be soft and yielding and avoid pushing with force.