“Push hands” (tui shou) practice might be better translated as “sensing hands.” In this partner exercise, we use postures and movements from the tai chi form to “listen” with our body for our partner’s balance, timing, and tension. Through push hands practice, we learn to play with another person’s energy and movements and develop relaxation and balance in our responses.
Students move through three levels of Push Hands. Push Hands 1 is an introduction to working with a partner in a non-confrontational way, focusing on stability, balance and the ability to interact in harmony with another person with one-handed contact. It is taught between the Fundamentals and Intermediate levels of form work.
Push Hands 2 introduces a two-handed sequence and the principle of yielding. The sequence is based on the section of the form sometimes called the Rollback, or Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail.
Push Hands 3 includes both form and push hands work, refining the student’s awareness of his own tension and his partner’s.
Currently, higher levels of Push Hands (PH4 through PH7) are only taught to the school’s teachers (“apprentices”).