I see this little mistake in push hands players all the time. Even experienced ones.
It’s easy to fix. It help you win and much more importantly it will speed up your internal development.
The simple mistake I notice the most during push hands, is that usually one (or both) players don’t start playing until contact is made.
When I am practicing/playing push hands, I don’t wait until I meet the other player to start playing.
1) Sensitivity: Learn to feel your opponent from a distance.
As I come up to the other player I am feeling for his center, where his structural breaks are and where he is holding tension. Find his root before you make contact. Build your sensitivity until you can know your opponent before they have the opportunity to know you.
At the same time, I am “feeling” inside myself to see what I may need to do. I may need to dissolve my center, but if I can’t feel it then I have an issue that the other player may be able to use to his advantage.
2) Maintain structure at all times.
I don’t just strive to maintain structure as I push, I try to make sure my structure is maintained even as I approach the other player. Often time, I see players walk up to their opponent then get set and try to get their structure, connections, etc. A skilled player is going to be able to keep you from establishing structure, if you wait to long to try and get it.
I want my structure already present before I even begin to approach the other player.
3) Root First
I want my root already down as deep as I can get it, before I get to my opponent. A skilled player will be able to keep you from establishing root if you let them get the drop on you.
Too often, I have encountered players who will come up to me, and then proceed to drop root. When this happens, you would not believe the information this gives a sensitive player.
Some push hands players will tag you as soon as you touch hands with them. If your root is already present, and your structure is maintained, then it will be less likely that an opponent will get the jump on you.
Yi (intellectual mind intent) is something else that I try to work on as I approach my opponent. The best and easiest example I can give is the following.
As I approach the other player, I am feeling for what my opponent is doing. If I feel him dropping root, then I would use Yi to effect it. This could include blocking the root drop completely to altering it’s course among other things.
Tension is something that I constantly run into. Walking up to your opponent with any tension is like have big fat bulls-eyes plastered all over your body. Look for these targets as your opponent approaches and make sure you have already found sung.
Many other players I see are relaxed initially, but as soon as you start to push with them Sung disappears or becomes severely compromised.
Ideally, I want to be relaxed on my way to the other player as well as throughout the entire practice. Be relaxed before you decide to push. Don’t get to your opponent and then try to enter Sung.
Always begin your play before you begin to play.
Learning to feel your opponent and use these skills before contact is made requires a lot of hard work.
Use Clear’s Internal Push Hands method. Once you start to get the hang of feeling inside your opponent begin paying attention to what you can feel before contact is made. You’ll find this will rapidly build your awareness and sensitivity as you become faster at finding and taking advantage of your opponents other mistakes.