Discussion on da shou 打手 in Taijiquan combat skills training



“Wardoff, Rollback, Press, and Push must be known
Upper and lower follow one another; the other has difficulty advancing
Let him come and hit with great strength
Draw-in and touch, 4 ounces deflects 1,000 pounds
Attract into emptiness, join and discharge
Adhere, connect, stick, follow, no resistance nor letting go”

-Wang Zongyue

A No-Nonsene striking system
Before there was Tui Shou in the park, there was Da Shou inside the school with the close disciples.-Matt

Recent discussion on Taijiquan combat skills for fighting.

From Louis Swaim: The term for striking hands would be da shou 打手, which is in fact the older term for two-person drills. The term push hands, tui shou 推手, is relatively modern. The short taiji classic commonly known as the Song of Pushing Hands is in fact titled Da Shou Ge 打手歌, “The Song of Striking Hands.” The word dǎ is actually a very multi-purpose verb, and can mean fighting, playing, doing, making a phone call, etc. Most of the older taiji texts refer to dǎshǒu 打手, or to dāshǒu 搭手, which means something like “joining hands.”

D_Glenn comments on Da shou, he says: “In 打手 Dǎshou – meaning thug, the shou is a neutral tone. Where in this 打手 Dǎshǒu the tone is pronounced.

打拳 Dǎquán – is ‘Practice Fighting’ (shadowboxing) but in martial arts there are hand/ arm attacks, grappling, kicking, and weapons so in training you practice stuff against an imaginary opponent at full speed and power but then only practice certain things with a training partner. The only reasonable thing to practice safely with another person is the hand techniques because using hands plus leg attacks is too easy to damage and really hurt the opponent because it’s hard to pull back or stop a kick to your partner’s knee if he doesn’t see it. Plus it’s all about practicing to learn better ways of fighting which is for both people to learn and gain from, so 打手 Dǎshǒu is just using arm techniques and stepping.

Some of the paired structured drills as flow drills to create a reflex habit:

If you know and have practiced alongside the other person/ training partner for some time and you both know your strengths and have good control of speed and power then it can be done as 散手 Sǎnshǒu (free hands) meaning anything goes instead of prearranged attacks or one person attacks, the other defends, which falls under another category called ‘Contract Hands’ where the rules of what techniques are agreed upon and accepted by both parties before starting.

‘Tuishou’ (fixed-step, moving-step, one arm, two arms) is a type of contract hands where the rule is only ‘pushing’ techniques will be used, and it became the standard form of ‘Dashou’ and the easiest way to go about testing skills but now it’s been taken to a ridiculous extreme and the original intention of it has kind of been lost.

Doing ‘Dashou’ with a stranger can quickly turn into just a fight (打架 Dajia) when one person takes a cheap shot and the other retaliates.

‘Pushing’ is just one of many different attacking methods, so to really practice and become comfortable in the other striking methods there needs to be more variety of techniques. The most prevalent strike in Chinese martial arts is using the bones of forearms to attack and defend because they can cover such a large area from the below the wrist down to the tip of your elbow. But the ability to use them requires Standing (zhan zhuang) practice in order to condition them (just like how the fists first need conditioning that comes from holding a tight fist), and your training partners need to have done an equal amount of Standing Strengthening in so that you’re both at roughly the same level and won’t cringe with every arm on arm contact.

The saying ‘The opponent attacks but I arrive first’ means that the opponent launches an attack at your head but you can get your forearm up to strike his arm before it lands. With practice and trained power this can cause 打斷 Daduan (a break) or at least cause enough pain to disrupt his plan and you then have the initiative.

‘Inside the school’, with training partners that you know, you can do 打手 Dǎshǒu at a fast speed and only slightly pull the power on forearm contact and fully pull the strike when it’s going to land on their head or other vital area. You don’t want to cause an accidental 打斷 Daduan on your training partner but if you’re both at a relatively equal level it’s not really an issue. And even though it’s an ideal occurrence in actual combat you would still be continuing to attack in order to get to the opponent’s head or other ‘finishing’ technique. So the practice fighting (Dashou) is also looking to achieve these other goals to finish the fight because really 打斷 Daduan is not considered a ‘finishing’ move, even though technically it probably would be. So this method of practicing fighting makes for the closest approximation for fighting with the arms and working on stepping and mobility. Finding ways to safely train leg attacks is a whole other issue.

Really though all these ways of training and practicing are kind of just ‘playing at fighting’ because in a real fight anything could happen but even though it’s a type of playing around (玩 Wán), in actual fighting you are 玩儿命 Wánrmìng (playing with your life). So every practice/ exercise / training should be taken and done very seriously.”

“搭手 Dāshǒu (I think was translated as Bridging Hands) is the older term for practice/ training to fight and kind of falling under that and including it is: 揉手 Róushǒu (Rubbing Hands); 打手 Dǎshǒu (Hitting/ Striking Hands); 盤手 Pánshǒu (Coiling Hands); 磨手 Moshǒu (Grinding Hands); and 揭手 Jiēshǒu (Lifting(?) Hands). In the mid-late 1800s they needed to find something that was in-between all the different methods so Tuishou (Pushing Hands) became the standard amongst different styles to compare skills without getting into a brawl yet still be something that’s equally developed amongst the different styles.

There’s a lot of Bridging training skills in older martial arts but it’d be hard to compare to what was incorporated into Xingyi and Bagua because the names may be the same but not necessarily the practice. 打手 Dǎshǒu is just a catch-all term for practicing striking in the different styles and they’re kind of style specific and dependent upon having actual development before they’re started. 磨手 Moshǒu (Grinding Hands) I’m fairly certain is more Baguazhang’s thing and the exercises are brutally difficult because they require a genuine whole-body strength and you also need to work with someone who’s at or near your same level of development. ”

搭 手 Dāshǒu goes back to the 1200s but the other terms are hard to date. There is mention that Roushou is originally a ‘Feeding Crane Boxing practice’ which was popular in Beijing; Panshou is a xingyi practice because it develops drilling, twisting, wringing etc. ; Moshou is a Bagua practice because it develops tui, tou, dai, ling, ban, kou, pi, and Jin. And Tuishou develops zhan, nian, lian, and sui, which is in all 3 styles so that’s why it was chosen as the standard. Da(the Ji (skill) of Ji (Hitting))shou is just striking and Sanshou is more free fighting so neither of those would have been a good choice for a standard and safe way to test the skills between different schools. Dong Haichuan, Yang Luchan, Guo Yunshen all came up with this during meetings in Beijing.

from our Baguazhang: Moshou is actually ‘Grinding the strength out’ and it is a very quick way to judge skills because the lesser skilled person wouldn’t be able to move the better guys arm at all and would likely hurt himself in the process. It’s a lesser known partner drill/exercise because it takes two friends who are equal to drill it and develop together. If done as an exercise with 2 people who have vastly different skills the better guy would have to let the other person move his arm and then not try too hard when the movement switches and the other guy is trying to prevent him from moving his arm. So it doesn’t really benefit either person.

there’s also that article from a year or so ago where a Chen Taiji guy writes about need to do more Dashou (striking hands) because they’ve become too focused and Na Fa (Grasping methods) and the Tuishou isn’t developing combat abilities the way it should be. It’s also a long article and not really evidence that it existed in Chen village before the 1900s as it’s written with the flavor of ‘We need to catch up Chen Style with what the rest of the world is doing!’

About Administrator

Coach Matt Stampe is a Database Administrator and I.T. professional. In the world of Bodywork, he has been a Certified Massage Therapist (CNT) licensed with the Virginia Board of Nursing, and has a “Master of Science in Acupuncture” (MSA) at Virginia University of Integrative Medicine (VUIM.edu). He is a candidate with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). He has taught hundreds of people Authentic Yang Tai Chi Kung Fu for over 25 years. He was President of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Martial arts club, Secretary and Treasurer of USA chapter of Yongnian Association under Sifu He Weiqi. Experience includes: Kung fu schools: Omei Shaolin (Sifu Lu Xiaoling) 3rd degree Black Sash, Chinese Martial Arts Institute (Sifu Clarence Burris), United States Wushu Academy (Coach Christopher Pei), and Qi Elements (Sifu Nancy Bloomfield), Former Head Coach: Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation centers(Adults Tai Chi), Hope Chinese school (kids classes), NOVA MMA gym in Arlington (kids classes), and VUOM Martial Arts Tai Chi club (Fairfax). He has positively impacted peoples lives whether for health, sport, strength, combat, and spirit. As a true combat athlete, he teaches methods so people can be confident to defend themselves.
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