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What is push hands? There are a few different answers depending on who you ask.

Push hands can be:

  • A two man exercise in Tai Chi
  • Movement patterns/drills
  • Either drills or free play
  • Static or moving exercises
  • A way to prepare the practitioner for free fighting
  • A way to prepare the practitioner for self defense practice
  • Competition

Push hands is the exercise where two person stands in front of each other. One person pushes or apply pressure on the other person’s arm or body. The receiver must evade and neutralize the movement from the “attacker” completely relaxed without tensing up, at the exact same speed as the partner and without using force or going against the other’s strength.

The name “push hands” in Chinese is “Tuishou”. An earlier name was “Dashou” or “striking hands”, which implies that once there was more than just pushing. But Push hands is an exercise for interpretation. In higher stages of free play, the boundaries between the exercise and free fighting becomes blurred.

Personally, I enjoy free push hands play at a level of cooperation or collaboration where you help each other solve the different problems that can arise and together discuss or suggest solutions for those tricky situations that may rise. This way, both learn and become better together as the partners play and practice. The fine thing about push hands is that you can take away aggression and competitiveness out of the plan and focus on building a solid foundation based on the qualities of things like stance, balance and timing, while keeping away other things from interfering. The real benefit from a self defense perspective is that you will teach your bosy that it becomes faster and more responsive to action if you are calm in mind and have a balanced body. “Getting into balance” when encountering a fight or threatening situation might very well become the natural response of your own body, instead of the common way that people tense up, lose their control and even panic. From push hands you will truly learn things about yourself, as well as teach yourself, that more common or ordinary martial arts practice can not teach.

Suggested reading on free push hands: https://taichithoughts.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/how-to-master-tai-chi-free-push-hands-five-important-points-on-strategy/