Thursday, November 19, 2015

Using Props When There's No One to Play With

My husband and I are big Jeopardy! fans, and we are enjoying the Tournament of Champions that is playing this week. As is customary, Alex Trebek talks to the contestants after the first break, giving the audience a peek into their lives and personality. He asked one of the contestants, the very deadpan Alex Jacob (former poker pro and now a currency trader in Chicago) about his unique way of practicing his buzzer skills. It was quite funny, creative, and apparently effective (since he won in the semi-final round): he was looking around  for a prop that had the same springiness as the Jeopardy! buzzer, and found that the perfect prop was the toilet paper holder!

(Okay, you Jeopardy! fans out there. You know you want to test this out for yourselves!)

This anecdote reminded me of our tai chi push hands, where we work with an opponent or partner. (I know, this is quite the segue, but just hear me out.) For many people, it's hard to practice push hands because there's no one to play with. Unless you have a built-in, live-in partner (and I'm lucky because my husband practices with me), you're left to practice with the air. And doing air push hands is much harder than playing air guitar, that's for sure!

So what's a tai chi enthusiast to do? There are few props that can help you to simulate working with another person. A short cylinder or tube works great, with the length being about the distance between the inside of your elbow to your wrist and the diameter a few inches wide. You can grab the length of the tube with both hands or place both palms on the ends of the tube to practice figure eight movements, etc. An empty paper towel roll (the cardboard tube) is about the right size, but will eventually lose its shape after repeated use. An empty wrapping paper roll might have a stronger, thicker cardboard tube that you can cut down to size. If you can find a really cheap foam pool noodle, those are great, too, if you don't mind cutting them down to size.

(Sorry, the toilet paper holder will be too small. However, the springiness factor would be interesting....)

Another great prop to use are balls. I currently use the balls in the Miracle Ball Method. They are soft and squishy and nice to work with, but they are a little small. When I stop procrastinating, I'm sure I can find another similar ball at the local toy store that's a little bigger.

I thought I'd check online to see what other ideas I could find for tai chi push hands props. I found this guy who thought about creating a push hands dummy.

(Steam Punk Robot. Photo from

What a great idea! I'll have to keep an eye on his blog to see if he actually makes it! From his blog, I also saw a comment that led me to a great tai chi ball video.

So what are your thoughts? Any other ideas for cool props to use for tai chi push hands?


  1. It pays to watch Jeopardy! You never know where you can find ideas related to tai chi!

  2. We too are Jeopardy fans! But never thought about pushing that buzzer! Hmmmmm we do learn new things every day don't we!