Push Hands Concepts and Fundamentals

Push Hand Fundamentals

Engage and follow

This means don't lose contact with your partner. Develop “ting jing” or listening energy to sense what the opponent is doing. Touching too lightly is called thinness and will not allow you to truly sense.

Don't use force against force
Do not use resistance-with this principal understood, we can evade and re-direct to achieve the advantageous advantage. You must not fight against the oncoming force- go with the force-go where it wants to go.

Push hands techniques need to be practiced assiduously in order to realize steady improvement. These and all of the future techniques you’ll learn, will empower your tai chi and martial arts skills.
— Laoshi Otto Altobelli

Push Hands Concepts

Arms alone
Have a solid base without shifting in the legs, while the arms by themselves deflect incoming attacks. *(attacker uses his their palms on rivals back hand and elbow to practice this. Only push forward. Yield to left, right, upwards and downwards.)


Shifting from one leg to the other leg. Shifting is an important concept because it gives you time to sense the intensity of the incoming force, and then, when the opponents overextended and in a weaker position, to neutralize that force. Shifting , boiled down to its essential, is shifting weight without waist turning. It means to move away or yield. Backwards shifting simply moves you away from the incoming energy-it's a defensive maneuver.
Forward shifting, which generally is an offensive tactic to implement the arms and upper body. Forward energy brings energy up from the ground to the upper body. Forward shifting, combined with backwards shifting increases the arsenal of techniques we have in push hands. In forward pushing, never shift more than 80% of your weight so not to overextend.
Another important aspect of shifting is to use the qua or hip joint. This means you fold the hip into the leg- where the leg meets the stomach is the qua. Among other things, this action spring loads the rear leg fully with good power. Folding into the qua allows you to store energy for attack. Folding into the front qua, allows you to store energy into that leg for further attack, or brings both arms to bear by allowing the torso to turn to the front.

Waist Turning

This involves the turning of the upper body (the torso) and the shoulders. You can see the turn in the shoulders. Waist turning can be used both offensively and defensively. Waist turning on defense will turn over the front leg. Waist turning usually squeezes the waist, so, the waist must be conditioned and strong as well as flexible. When the waist turn changes to offense, the waist turns back into the opponent to bring the power to bear.