Pushing hands and Virtue

Most people believe that martial arts are violent ego driven systems with intention to injure or kill. Several times in my previous posts I have described that this is not so. Today I will discuss two training concepts used in Tai Chi and Wing Chun. They complement each other and again show the other side of the coin of martial arts.

pushing handsIn Tai Chi it is said that you can’t learn pushing hands (‘tui shou‘) by winning but only by losing. To the beginner it may sound very contradictory, but it is so true.

To learn (empirically) so-called internal martial arts aspects pushing hands are practiced. It is a comparable method of training to Wing Chun sticking hands (‘chi shou’), a method that is used for development of automatic reflexes to hit upon contact while all the time sticking to the opponent. Therefore, the sticking hands are more combat oriented, and the pushing hands are less aggressive and more based on using opponent energy. In both one should be perceptive to a partner, as only then ‘listening power’ develops. It is a special feeling of where rival is preparing – not yet in full – to push, pull or hit. And yes, in both martial arts we use the same methods also for legs or combination of all extremities, head and … the whole body.

sticking hands

During this practice the mind should be opened but focused on breathing and on performing slow cyclical movements. It should be wiped out of all other assumptions or expectations. When push, pull, hit or just normal cyclical movement comes, your body knows what and how to react and so it takes control and reacts spontaneously. Therefore, it is important to be very relaxed and in the proper stance that allows to move back and front, left and right and at the same time preserve full stability. Having a strong ego in this practice just does not help because if it intervenes you stop “sensing” what the opponent is coming with.

Awkward to learn all of this is that you first have to learn how to lose and what that means. It is the only way to get rid of all accumulated knowledge of reactions you have gained in your past. It is almost impossible to feel a small detailed pressure or a pull when you are dense or when you try to expect it. On top of all with your stiffness you have already lost all advantage. To react properly, if stiff and hard, you have to get soft first and only then are you able to start a correct movement. And there is just not enough time for this, you’re too late. During your phase of relaxation the opponent has already accomplished what he intended. And then you lose the second time when you start to perform your aim as opponent is already prepared, relaxed and able to execute whenever his will. In this a strong ego is nothing else but a burden that blocks all sensors and destroys vision of the true reality going on under the slow cyclical movements. Yes, sometimes you can win if you are a stronger challenger. But there is always someone stronger then you – and what then?


Our reaction is based on wired reflexes. They fire subconsciously and the average reaction time for humans is 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus, 0.17 to the audio stimulus, and 0.15 seconds to the touch stimulus. By training pushing hands and sticking hands you practice how  ‘to control’ those stimuli that could get you in trouble if the opponent uses them as a deceit. And again, brute force and a strong ego here just cannot cope with the speed and “listening” to the present reality in the short moments of the whole dynamic process of training. No force, no hardness, just absorb and divert energy – this is the right solution. The same is true as in the nature where the animals fight or play. Have you ever challenged your dog, cat or …? They are always soft and in control!

How this is different in leadership? The leader who is sensible “to listen” and perceive the energy flow that runs in and outside of a company and then properly steers it – this defines the quality of “a style” of a leader!


2 thoughts on “Pushing hands and Virtue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s