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Push Hands
Tui Shou ©Art by Neil Bradley

"Soft controls hard."

This is a training exercise

The basic idea of Push Hands is sticking, adhering, connecting, following with no resisting or separating from the partner (initially with a series of set exercises).

It makes no difference how strong you are because in general you are deflecting another persons strength away from you, but height can make things tricky. We practise to try to gain a deeper understanding by comparing the ideas in Push Hands to the ideas in the form. Both compliment each other. You can practise both without the other.


In general; it is more sensible to have a reasonable sense of pressure or contact with a partner so you can tell if they are moving and in what direction. Only very lightly touching tends to lead to guessing. Too hard leads your upper body to be too heavy

If your opponent doesn't move, you don't move.

(Partner would be a more apt description than Opponent,

but they are reffered to as Opponents in instruction.)

When your opponent begins to move, then you move 'late' and aim to arrive/control first. It's done reasonably slowly otherwise you won't be able to do any sticking, adhering, connecting or following. You'll just be waving your arms about or hanging on.

No going first.

That works by mutually starting together in an agreed direction. You push, I deflect and turn back into a push which you deflect.

You learn from losing more than from winning.

This isn't intended as deep theory. If you've ever played a sport, while it's more fun to win, the people who had more skill than you probably taught you more, raised your game. Having less skill leads you to try out what they are doing.

Of course we all know, or are guilty of throwing our rattle out the pram when we feel we are losing face. But the only thing winning is good for in Push Hands is the ego. The person who's struggled has taken something from you to work with.

Yang Family demonstrate two forms of Push Hands - Fixed step and Moving step. In Yang Style it includes 5 different types - single arm fixed step, double arm fixed step, moving step - straight footwork, moving step - cross footwork and big rollback.

Single arm fixed step / Horizontal Circles is fairly quick to grasp bits of and is similar to Cloud Hands with a partner for those who know the Form. As Partner A Pushes in , Partner B guards against the incoming elbow. You Push to the centre line, you Ward Off allowing the waist to drive the movement. Turn the palm out as it approaches the shoulder line.

Many Yang Tai Chi practionaires do not do Push Hands because they find the competitive element makes them tense and don't enjoy it. You cannot easily learn it on your own and it's difficult to find partners. So it's difficult to gain experience.


Fixed Step / Double Arm Verticle Circles / Four Square Energy    

(Ward Off / Roll Back / Press / Push)

'A' goes Counter-Clockwise 'B' goes Clockwise

Start from Prepare Movement

Your palm is towards your partners elbow

Your wrists are connected back to back.

In Ward Off your palm is towards your partners elbow

and your free arm disconnects around low chest height to go to Press.

In Roll Back your forearm is towards your partners' elbow.

One arm lifts up the Push while the other arm takes a downwards circle

to connect with the forearm to show the Roll Back.

For easier practice be sure to keep your palms and fingers

extended on your Push. If you wrap your fingers around

your partners arm when they are doing Ward Off the move

will stall and vice versa.

Be clear which arm you place your own palm on doing

the Press. If you change, this will produce a Switch (of

direction) which will again confuse the learning process.

'A' First goes slightly right then to the left. First part done as Ward Off, next Press sitting forward. (Different from hand form, hand closer to elbow and nearer the top).

'B' First goes slightly left then to the right. First part done as Ward Off, then Roll Back (not shown overtly) then Push sitting backwards.

Next 'A' indicates Roll Back (not shown overtly) use forearm to touch opponents elbow after Roll Back and goes to Push (again not shown as a push forward overtly).

When your arm passes your centre line

palm towards your body

When your arm at the side of your body

palm towards partner

Sit back on Push

Ward Off starts movement forward

Sit forward on Press

Roll Back starts movement backwards

Push goes toPress

vice versa

Start to practice first switch of direction

at the top in the middle with

palms facing towards your own bodies

Clockwise switches to anti-clockwise

and vice versa.


If you go into Push you sit back and your

partner goes forward into Press

If you go into Press you go forward and your

partner sits back into Push,


Double Arm Horizontal Circles (4 Energies)

There are two basic methods of switching

'A' moving counter clockwise goes from Press to Horizontal Circle

(Similar to single arm Horizontal Circles) from right to left still counter-clockwise

Guide your opponent out using pull to the with the right hand. Your left

hand guides your opponents elbow.

'A' moving counter-clockwise from Ward Off to Horizontal Circle

from right to left still counter-clockwise. Guide your opponent out

using left arm going down circle to guide your opponents elbow.

Shift weight back With the right hand pulling.

When opponent is moving away from you let go with the left

as 'B' withdraws, then re-connect as he closes.

From Push you are switching while moving forwards.

From Ward Off you are switching while sitting backwards.

  Double Arm Vertical & Horizontal Circles

(With Transitions)

First Switch: When 'B' does Press follow their circle motion (you are going anti-clockwise as above) but go down. Your right hand touches the wrist, your left controls their elbow and guide your opponent out to your right and back towards your opponent using Sticking and circular motion (try not to grab). As your opponents withdraws release your left arm as with Single Horizontal Circles and then re-connect both arms as they come to you.

Second Switch: To switch back to Vertical Circles when your opponent does Push, Ward Off Up,then you come back to Vertical Four Energy Circles as above.

Double Arm Open Circles Inward

Start from vertical circles. 'A' going anti-clockwise leads. Following circle motion going down, instead of going into Press. Use left wrist to open 'B' right arm, siittting back open downwards rotating into Push (slightly downwards). 'B' does double Ward Off, withdrawing (slightly downwards). 'A' does Push going forwards. 'B' changes to double Ward Offwithdrawing. Then vice versa. Keep your wrists on the outside of the circle when changing from Push to Ward Off. Both Push and Ward Off open to the sides, then to the front. To switch back to Four Square 'A' changes double Ward Off sitting back useing right arm to lift up going into Roll Back Four Square or forwards into Press to match previous exercises. (You can go forward to switch then Pull back but this doesn't match previous exercises as you are going briefly forwards on Push in Four Square.)


From double Ward Off you can change the direction of the circles from going In to going Out. Now going from down to up on the Push. Still go forwards on Push and back on Ward Off. Rotate palm towards up as Push rises. Switch back to Four Square as before.

Figure 8 Double Arm Small Circles

Start from Four Square circles. 'B' going anti-clockwise leads. Following circle motion going down, go into diagonal Push from right to left and diagonal Roll Back from left to right. Both partners stay connected with elbows and wrists. Turn in the protecting wrist against the Push to redirect the circles (Parry, Block and Punch).

Cloud Hands Circles

Roll Back Circles

The Tai Chi Club practices Push Hands following the published Traditional Yang Family demonstrations.