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  • Writer's pictureDavid Phillips

Push or pull? Both? Neither?


I came across an intriguing Wing Chun (a martial art) video on Facebook—Dance : Dancing Around the Load.

The practitioner wields a long pole held at one end. They explain:

I am strong for my size, but only just enough to lift the long pole. There is no way I could manipulate it with brute force without injuring my wrist.

However, by dancing around the load, I can manipulate the pole with ease and with speed. If you look at the motion of the pole, it is mostly floating and rotating around its centre. Even with the initial lift, I was making it float up in a couple of steps.

So what's the point? When it becomes a habit, you will float the opponent by moving him around his load like the pole, or you may move around him casually and in total balance as if you are dancing.

There are no techniques.

Martial arts shares many principles with dance, including confronting our partner, timing, geometry, and lines of force. We like to speak of a "quietly compelling" Lead matched with a "yielding resistance" Follow.

Quietly = comfortable

Compelling = clear

Yielding = willing

Resistance = active presence

A question periodically arises among dancers, "Which is better, using a push or a pull in leading?" Or is it neither? Or both?

When we use both the hand and the arm side of the embrace in a pivoting movement, one side "pushes" while the other "pulls". We can manage with a single-side connection, "pulling" for forward motion and "pushing" for backward. But that requires both Lead and Follow to have an especially well-structured body and connection. It would be like manipulating a long pole while holding only one end.

I put the words "push" and "pull" in quotes because they suggest handling an object (or partner) with arms and hands. Instead, we want our partner to respond to what they feel from a well-structured, coherently present partner moving themselves. The Follow interprets and responds to what they feel in the body of the Lead.

Our free Game of Argentine Tango lesson Explore connection visits the topic of how we create and keep a clear, comfortable lead and follow.

Until next time, Abrazos!

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