Thoughts on Tai Chi Push Hands


People tend to push their hands to the wrong extent. I think the combat benefits of push hands training almost completely disappear when you’re too far away.

I’ve noticed that when I train with people, they still want to back off. You need to be in a range that feels uncomfortably close until you feel comfortable.

If you look at MMA (sorry to use it as an example if it shakes you, but provides great examples and feedback dynamics of two people in a violent encounter), one of the big, high-percentage, often fight-ending techniques is against left (or right) hook; control hook. This happens after the fighter throws a stab – you move backwards (or slip) and throw the hook over the top – this is the range in which push hands work and a good practical example of what a skill can do at this distance.

When you look at this video, where Cheng Man Ching is pushing with his hands, you can see that he tries to stay close – in fact, when he releases people, he kind of “cheats” and takes half an extra step, so he’s right inside their base. , which allows him to show a little more to the distance he can push them – this is only possible because he keeps his “front door” open with a wide stance. They taught me that your toes match your opponent’s heels and are fist-width apart so you can “bite your shin.” (A lot of people make this distance right, but go shoulder-width apart – they leave the groin too open and let people in to shoot them. It’s just a bad habit to get inside).

Don’t confuse push hands with sparring

In general, I think people from Chinese martial arts spend too long in these double-arm or single-arm positions – in multiple martial arts, these moments take place in fractions of a second. People don’t stay here. If you eventually spread your arms and look for this position, you will get a fist in your nose. I think doing too much makes bad habits. You do the “safe” training to learn skills that are difficult to acquire and then used in freer environments, rather than trying to mimic a “safe” environment in freer training.

Staying constantly in this range with another person who does “soft” things, such as pressure hands, seems to lead to teachers who begin to show off and generate cult guru behavior. It’s a trap you can fall into if you’re not careful. If your students start treating you like a saint, then it’s a red flag!

I’m really not a fan of the kind that stands around some big names in Tai Chi like this guy, Adam Mizner. He plays the guru well and I’ve seen a lot of videos where his students really overreact to him in a way that I think everyone fell into a rabbit hole years ago. However, the guy clearly has good hand pushing skills, as you can see in this video. I think this video is one of least worst I saw him (in terms of the exaggerated reaction of his students) – yet they all stopped what they were doing to ‘watch the master’ and play his game of guru:


It’s always worth repeating, even if it’s so obvious – you don’t need to push your hands to fight. Without these sports, martial arts will quickly become perfect fighters.

You can practice all applications in the form of Tai Chi in push hands – it’s a step higher from implementing them as stand-alone techniques, because it requires more timing, flow and “listening”, but it’s still not “fighting”.


One of the reasons for push hands is to learn to use Jin no Li. For a short answer, what does that mean, I mean the use of the force of the earth in your movement (yin), not the local force (li). It’s easy to fool yourself into “doing” it when you practice Tai Chi, because there is no one else there. Can you “do” it when someone provides some light resistance? Or are you trying to ‘do it back’? Push hands allow you to find out. I would like people to see push hands more as a learning tool, not as a competitive sport of limited wrestling. It’s like people get a knife, but they insist on using it as a spoon.

And using Jin in directions also requires a strategy for using them, which can also be practiced in a push-up lab. Listen, hold on, back off, don’t authorize and attack.

In the push hands, you “listen” to the opponent’s push (with your body), hold on to his limbs (so you can feel and listen), then submit to his pressure, which neutralizes his attack, so you can attack yourself.

You use the same idea when sparring, but you can’t rely on being stuck to their arm. However, you have to continue the same process that you learned in push hands, only sometimes there will be no contact – you can still neutralize and succumb to subtle changes in posture and position, thanks to the use of sensitivity. . Once you take the ‘push hands’ into a more real sparring environment, I think you are in the same area where Xing Yi spends most of his time training. In Xing Yi, it’s the same idea, even if it looks different – you’re not blindly attacking an opponent – who won’t succeed against someone good, bigger or stronger. We have this phrase in Xing Yi “don’t attack when you see the hole, attack when you see the heng” – I would interpret it as attacking only after the enemy’s attack has been neutralized (heng is a point of non-authorization); Depending on your timing level, this may be before the attack begins. Good opponents leave fake “holes” for you to attack. Therefore, you do not attack on the basis of what only your eyes see – you attack on the basis of feeling for that moment of neutralization. Different training methods – same results.

David Berry

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