Applying Random Circles in Push hands or Fighting

     The following is an example of how to apply the random circle principle in push hands or in fighting:

     Your opponent uses his left hand to push your right arm and you put your right forearm underneath his left
forearm (Fig. 7). In this case, you should not struggle with his pushing but use your right forearm to make a vertical
circle, keep to touch his left forearm, and rotate your arm inward slightly (Fig. 8). If your contact and movements are
done well, you can make your opponent’s heels up slightly and easily sense his reaction force.
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Fig. 7                                                                                               Fig. 8
     1. If you feel his forward movement slowing and withdrawing slightly, you can lower your right hand to make a
curve and move forward in a horizontal circle – at the same time maintaining contact and rolling your right arm inward
underneath his arm. When executing this idea, think of using your right index finger to lead your mingmen point in
order to draw a counterclockwise circle to cause your body turn to the left. It will make your opponent lose his balance
to his right (Fig. 9). At this time, if you keep using your right index finger to lead these circles, you can easily throw out
your opponent (Fig, 10).
Fig. 9                                                                                               Fig. 10
     2. Should you feel his forward movement slowing or stopping and his root unstable, you can keep your right arm
moving in the vertical circle, but make the circle smaller (Fig. 11). At the same time, think of using your right middle
finger to lead your mingmen point to draw a vertical circle causing your body to drop down slightly (Fig. 12), followed
by using your right index finger to lead the circle forward continually. This will make your opponent lose his balance to
the front (Fig. 13). On the top half of the circle, you should make your body comfortable and store force; in the
bottom half, release your force to push forward toward the opponent (Fig. 14). The entire circle should be smooth,
without any break points.
Fig. 11                                                                                             Fig. 12
Fig. 13                                                                                            Fig. 14
      3. Should you feel his forward movement continuing and growing stronger, you should keep moving the vertical
circle with your right arm (Fig. 15), and gradually raise your right hand so that your right arm is rolling around his arm
to the inside. Roll your arm continuously in a fluid motion around his arm until it is on the top of his arm, and rotate
your arm outward at the same time (Fig. 16a, b). Think of using your right index finger to lead your mingmen point in
order to draw a clockwise circle causing your body to turn to the right. This will make your opponent lose his balance
to his left and you can follow this to throw out him (Fig. 17a, b).    
Fig. 15
Fig. 17b
Fig. 17a
Fig. 16b
Fig. 16a
Notes on the Practice

     Random circles are one of the most important practices in Taijiquan. Care must be taken to understand that for
various reasons in history, different groups practice these circles in different ways. In today’s Chen style, for
example, people do a lot of silk reeling in the form, making the circular movements very explicit externally. In contrast,
Yang and Wu styles do not show these circles in any obvious way. One must understand that just because they are
not shown externally, this does not mean they are absent. The circles may be small or even internal. As a general
principle in martial arts training, making movements (such as circles) larger is a good way for beginners to emphasize
and grasp an underlying concept.  During advanced levels of training, such exaggeration is not only unnecessary,
but may impede progress.  As Master Chen Xin famously said in his Chen Style Taijiquan classic, “smaller and
smaller the circles become, until there is no circle (not externally visible), only then can one can begin understanding
real Taijiquan skill.”

     When you practice Taijiquan, regardless of whether you practice Chen, Yang, Wu, or other styles, you should
perform circle practice correctly.  Do not let the physical differences in different styles confuse you. The basic
principle is to practice circles correctly on the gross physical level and then to use the progress gained from the
physical circles to develop the mind or internal circles. In the beginning it is difficult to make good mind circles. The
beginner should therefore make physical circles that are big and obvious. This way it is easy to experience the
correct feelings. Gradually your internal circles become larger and clearer, while the external physical circles become
smaller and more hidden. For the mind circles, the bigger the better; for the physical circle, the smaller the better. If
you always practice using large physical circles, not realizing that you should try to make them smaller, this may
cause your movements to become too big and tight. On the other hand, if you overlook circle practice, you can never
understand true Taijiquan skills.