Philosophy of PushHands

Push Hands is often known as Joining Hands, or Sticking Hands, or ‘Tui Shou’ in Chinese martial arts literature. It is regarded as a key exercise to advance the practice of Tai Chi. Yet the notion of Push Hands can be traced back to the ancient philosophy of Tao. This is where the Push Hands# team discovered its origins. 


In Tai Chi, the practice of Push Hands allows the practitioner to develop a mechanism to gain better sensitivity to internal and external states, and maintain posture during movements. By developing this mechanism, the practitioner should be better able to handle external stimuli, for example neutralising an attack or better positioning for defence.


In a typical practice session, Push Hands is a routine exercise between two people. One acts as the opponent of the other. Instead of fighting each other, the interaction between the two exists as arms stirring within a set of patterns. The rule is to keep both hands matching the movements of one’s opponent. As the exercise develops, the practitioner should achieve a better sense of handling internal and external forces, as well as rotations of body and energy. 


In the ancient philosophy of Tao, the concept of Push Hands is closely associated with the idea of complementary (Yin Yang) and neutral forces. In the case of complementary forces, Taoism believes one way to understand everything is by comparing a subject with its opposite. When a move is formed, it is only recognisable by comparing it to the inactivity of its surroundings. This concept be used to describe the opposites of day and night, cold and heat, and soft and hard. Taoism sees the complementary as being in a constant state of flux: Day flows gradually into night and back again.


In the practice of Push Hands, because the rule demands matching one’s hands to those of one’s opponent, any hand movement has to be compensated for by an opposite hand movement. In other words, a single push is to be ‘neutralised’ by the opposite hand drawing back. The constant state of flux is the motion between the two sides of the hands’ movements.


In speaking of neutrality, Taoism seems to embrace the concepts of inaction and chance. For example, a seed falls onto the soil. If the soil is fertile, and if the seed receives warmth, light, and water, it may emerge as a seedling. In other instances, the seed would just remain as it were. No action is taken. This mentality is often criticised as being passive – to sit and wait for the things to happen like a seed waiting for its sunshine and water.


Yet Taoism has actually suggested that inaction can be seen as calmness in the face of adversity. To overcome difficulties in life, it is always better not to panic and not make reckless decisions; it is better to stay calm and carry on what has been started. The storm will eventually pass and the sun smile again. A similar message was given by the British government during the Second World War to raise the morale of the British public – which is “Keep Calm And Carry On”. In the exercise of Push Hands, the same mentality - staying calm and following the motion has to be applied in responding to an opposite force or attempting to push back.


These two key elements - balance and neutrality - have formed the basis for the creation of the Push Hands# team. We believe we should aim to try and promote these values.  


  • We believe the fortunate should think and care about the unfortunate as we would want to experience similar generosity should we become the unfortunate.

  • We believe remaining calm and confident is the right way to overcome hardship.

  • We believe the magnitude of the adversity in the present is matched by a similar level of joy in waiting. It is a matter of time before things change. In some cases, one has to decide whether the glass is half empty or half full.

  • We believe by that by ‘pushing’ good work and events for people in need, we will push ourselves at the same time. We should learn from others, and thereby learn more about ourselves and in the process become better human beings.   

""Every push and every hand counts""

© 2019 by Push Hands Team

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