Add as bookmark

Tai-Chi Push Hands

by Peter Chin Kean Choy(more info)

listed in chi energy martial arts, originally published in issue 55 - August 2000

Traditionally, Tai-Chi Push Hands has been in the domain of Martial Artists. After practising and teaching Tai-Chi for more than 30 years, I have discovered a positive and deeper way to benefit from Tai-Chi Push Hands. Most Tai-Chi Schools only focus on the external Tai-Chi Push Hands technique. In this Internal Tai-Chi Push Hands method, the emphasis is on teaching the practitioner how to learn to do it not only with another person, but also to practise it with his own Inner Selves! The objective of Tai-Chi Push Hands is to learn how to harmonize the Yin/receptive and Yang/assertive principles, so that better health, communication and vitality can be achieved. This positive exercise system helps the practitioner to find more balance and self-confidence in his daily life.

Learning to be Receptive (Yin) and Assertive (Yang) in Tai-Chi Push hands at Asitsa, Greece in Taoist workshop with author.

Learning to be Receptive (Yin) and Assertive (Yang) in Tai-Chi Push hands at Asitsa, Greece in Taoist workshop with author.

Mark, one of my students, shared the following about his experience

I have just started working with the principles of push hands exercise and learned how these principles relate to the internal dynamic process of self-development and self-knowledge. I have had some previous experience with push hands theory and practice. I started practising Tai Chi at a Tai-Chi School in London about 10 years ago. The major emphasis of the push hands exercises was to develop martial arts attack and defence capabilities. We would literally spend hours and hours pushing hands with other members of the class. We were striving to yield and soften ourselves to our opponents, but there was no study or discussion about how the push hands principles could relate to the dynamic relationship between different parts of ourselves. We were taught to listen for our opponent's attack, yield to our opponent's push, then neutralize his force, and return his energy back to him.

What really excites me about Choy's Tai-Chi Push Hands system is considering the question – how can the principles of push hands be applied internally? Firstly to really listen to a part of ourselves that is really wanting to communicate with us. To do this we must open our heart centre to be receptive to this aspect of our self.

Next we need to learn how to yield by creating a loving space inside ourselves, then neutralize by allowing the heart to open further, with Yang effortlessly flowing into Yin, by returning with the Yin energy and keeping contact through the loving awareness of the heart. With each minute movement in the push hands circle, we can share the journey of discovery and healing with all those inner aspects of ourselves.

In order to understand how this Internal Push Hands actually works, I would like to share the intimate writings from the diary of some of my Tai-Chi students. Each person's Internal Tai-Chi Push Hands experience is unique and the positive results are unpredictably wonderful! By learning to Ward off or Neutralize any negative energy (Yin Principle) and learning to Roll or Flow with each self in an accepting way, we discover what each self needs. The next natural step is to Press or Affirm the kind of positive energy (Yang Principle) the self needs and to help him/her discover that it already is there behind that negative force. The next step is to Effortlessly Push or Encourage the self to grow, to be more balanced, confident and relaxed. These inner experiences of gentleness, oneness and peace energizes and helps the person to feel more integrated and whole. There is an ancient wise Martial Arts saying "You are your own worst enemy. When you win over 'you', no one can defeat you." Tai-Chi Wisdom brings this proverb one step further "Make friends with your inner enemies and they are your friends for life. They will help you achieve your goals in your outer life." What is important is the application in the daily life, as the following people share their inner Tai-Chi journeys.

Tai-Chi Push Hands with an Abrasive Self by Thomas

I'm sitting in the airport. Fifth flight this week. I feel tired. Checking in, I am sensitive and abrasive. One passenger walks across my path and I nearly trip, another takes ages to find her passport holding up the queue; passport control has one man on duty with at least 80 people waiting to go through. As I sit down finally at the pre-departure gate I stick with this Thomas, let the Push Hands begin. He feels fed up and my chest is tight. "Why are we here? When is this going to end? This is a waste of time! I am tired, you are off to Paris to secure a contract, why? You leave in 3 weeks." I sigh and stay with him. The longer I move with this Thomas the more I sense a loneliness behind his aggression. As always the more this loneliness becomes stronger the stronger it manifests itself as a physical experience. My chest feels heavy but not tight, my shoulders heavy. It feels like a vacant heavy hole in my chest. It has an emotion. I home in on this loneliness, this hole. Inner tears well up. My inner self calms but he is very sad and lonely.

I stay with this feeling. I feel the movement in my chest continuing. It feels as if I am able to take in more air. My breathing slows. Involuntary deeper breaths happen naturally. The sadness continues to decrease. This inner self appreciates the space he is given. A space just to be and to be acknowledged. The more I relax the more sensitive I become to the ripples of Yin/Yang; tension and release all in my chest. They start very faintly but increase in intensity. More deep breaths, more ripples… Ripples of joy. My inner self is now relaxed. My chest feels spacious, full of radiant yellow light radiating from my heart. I feel contented.

Tai-Chi Push Hands with a Restless Self by John

I am at the computer. Loads of work to do. I start. After a few minutes a restless self appears. Wants to distract, jump onto other things. I sit back and allow him to come forward. He becomes lethargic. He wants attention. I see a face looking up to me, almost begging like a young dog except that this is a face of a boy. Heaviness in chest. I stay with him. He is very elusive. Restless, wanting to do anything to keep active, then the complete opposite. Diving into lethargy. The intensity increases, then sadness. . . . A deep, deep sadness. I see the boy. He is sitting on the floor his knees around his chin. His arms hugging his knees. "It's all right" I comfort him. I place my arms around his shoulders but say nothing. I felt a warmth in my chest. Calmness engulfs the scene. The restlessness is gone. Everything is peaceful. I feel tingling up my arms. The boy is sitting back. Less tense but I know that he has been with me a long time and his need for love is great.

Tai-Chi Push Hands with a Rushing Self by Sandra

It is 6:15 in the morning. I am in my car driving to the airport. I am late. The anxious self is in full flow. Thoughts being fired onto the screen one after the other at manic speed. Planning ahead, seeing the future scenes. Not present I follow her, give her space. Skin sticking. My head aches slightly and there is a tightness in my chest. She is worrying about everything. More thoughts bubbling up. I give her more space. She feels exposed, doesn't want the attention, the limelight. I see a figure rushing around, always busy. She is totally obsessed with activity. Thought must follow through; no choice. She wants to please. Wants to make sure there are no surprises. Control the future. She is now in full flow. An energy rises from my belly and tightens my chest. A physical movement.

The more I observe Sandra the more love I feel for her. I comfort her, acknowledge that she has worked so hard. Done her best. I tell her that she can let go a little. I am with her. She finds this very hard. It is not her nature to let go. What if something goes wrong? Some unplanned event happens? Something is not covered? She would have done wrong and not pleased me. I just repeat that she can let go a little. It's okay we are together and I love her. I physically start to relax and I start to feel a sense of detachment. It's as if this Sandra is starting to detach herself from her anxiety. I see her clearly. An unconscious deep breath fills my lungs and the tightness vanishes.

Tai-Chi Push Hands with a Hostile Self by Ruth

I am just sitting down to my breakfast when there is a knock on the door. I open the door to a stranger. The caller has come to see Pam, not me. I feel slightly hostile and when I notice this I also feel ashamed of it. I am not being as welcoming and friendly as I would like to be perceived as. Behind this self I find suspicion, fear of attack or being invaded, fear of my boundaries being violated. I project my fear onto the strangers and this puts limits on them and prevents me seeing them as they really are. Giving this Hostile Self space I am able to tap into her Yang, outgoing openness within me and I discover that one of the strangers and I have knowledge to share and information to exchange. A meeting of two people; Yin and Yang interchange, giving and receiving, talking and listening. The Tao is the wholeness as the two people come together in a harmonious way.

So, what is the ultimate purpose of the Tai-Chi Push Hands Exercise? The Tai-Chi Push Hands Exercises can help modern man unite his Yin and Yang energies. Many ancient Chinese Wise Principles of Immortality are unveiled in the study of Tai-Chi Push Hands. For example, Wenshi, adept of the Chinese Classics on Immortality said, "When the Light of Consciousness is turned around, the energies of heaven and earth, yin and yang all fuse into pure energy.'"

In Internal Tai-Chi Push Hands, we can see the relevance of this ancient Chinese Turning the Light of Consciousness Around principle. In Tai-Chi Push Hands, we deal with the four basic principles – Receive the Push with the Ward-off Neutralizing Principle; Rolling back and Transforming a Yang assertive force into Yin energy Principle; The Listening hands that stick and keep the tension and pressure; The Push Principle which gives you a choice as to what kind of energy you want to share with the partner or aspect of your self.

The Light of Consciousness becomes clearer when you are consciously aware of an aggressive self, which is usually a reaction to someone out there who is threatening you. This could be a verbal exchange. It is the moment of conscious awareness before any physical expression of violent reactions begin. In an outer daily life situation, you see a pair of angry and glaring eyes staring at you. The Light from that glare gives you a clear and unmistakable feeling in your guts and heart. It is like when you are driving your car on a dark night on the motorway, and a passing car in front of you flashes his light in front of you. And you seem to have a hunch and you understand what he is saying to you. It could be, "Watch out, there is an accident in front of you! Or be careful, police check."

So, back to the Light of Glaring Eyes, you have the choice at this point to turn this Light around into you, and see which aspect of you is reflected in the way this person is feeling. You could choose to believe that the problem is out there, and you put your own Light of Eyes to glare back at that person or to Kowtow to that person. In both instances whether you glare back or Kowtow, the Light of Consciousness has not turned around. To Turn the Light of Consciousness around, initially, you may have to walk away (excuse yourself and say that you have to go to the toilet or to go and get a drink). When you have a few minutes to yourself, you close your eyes and see this part of yourself who is like him. You see in fact, your own reflection too (not just the reflection of that angry person outside you).

Some people see a self that looks like a monstrous part of themselves, with gnashing teeth or whatever. It varies. At this point you visualize a Light inside this aggressive part of you. And you practise Tai-Chi Push Hands with him and feel the Light turning around and round until both of you fuse into one Light.

Now, let us slow the process down further, so that we can examine the principles more closely.

Ward-off Principle

When working with the yang/ aggressive self who comes before the conscious student, he yields to the aggressive self and gives infinite space for the self to assert its force. It is as if that aggressive self is pushing hands with the whole universe. The Tai-Chi Classics say, "… When the opponent push you, he feels immense distance and space in you…" Then you have neutralized his aggressive force. The inner aggressive self usually feels weakened at this stage.

Roll Back

Next step is that you roll back. You absorb his aggressive force and transform it into a Yin type of energy. The weak energy in that aggressive self is transformed into a vulnerable and softer energy. The aggressive self is learning to yield.


In this part of the movement, the initially Yang aggressive energy that is transformed into Yin yielding energy will reach maturation at this stage. And this is when the Light of Consciousness is turned around. Why? Because like the anode (+) and cathode (-)/ Yang and Yin of a battery, you connect the polarities and you get this flow of electricity going around the car.

Push Principle

Where do you want to direct this energy? To the Centre of the other self? What kind of energy do you intend to send to him? From the fused state of oneness of the Press Stage, you now have a rainbow choices of qualitative energy – forgiving, unifying, peaceful, harmonious, patient, happy or loving qualities.

Tai-Chi Push Hands Methods can be learned by modern man for dealing with the increasing stresses around. As Jiddu Krishnamurti, a modern day philosopher said, "When you change, the world changes." The first step is to change your relationship with the world of selves awaiting you inside. There are selves within who are hurtful, violent, victimized, hungry, angry, starving and screaming out to be healed in their relationship with you.


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Peter Chin Kean Choy

Master Choy (full name Peter Chin Kean Choy) has been practising these ancient arts for more than 40 years and has taught more than 20,000 students. His books have reached more than 200,000 readers and practitioners. He studied Tai-Chi Chi Kung with Grandmaster Huang Sheng Shyang of Malaysia and Grandmaster Chen of China (who gave him the title of Master Choy). Master Choy also learned the application of Tai-Chi Chi Kung with his father, Chin Ket Leong, who was a Chinese Herbal Doctor and Martial Arts Master. He combined his Tai-Chi with other Taoist Exercises into the Rainbow Tai-Chi Chi Kung Practice and Philosophy. He is also indebted to his contemporaries: Jiddu Krishnarmurti, U.G Krishnarmurti, Eileen and Peter Caddy of Findhorn Foundation, Barry and Samahria Lyte Kaufman of The Option Institute (U.S.A),  Mantak Chia (Thailand). He studied Chi Healing and Swimming Dragon Chi Kung  at  The Chi Healing Arts Centre (U.S.A) directed by Dr. T K Shih and  Zhineng Chi Kung at the Zhineng Chi Kung Centre in China by Dr Pang Li. He is also a qualified instructor of Aichi. He is the  Founder/Director of The Rainbow Tai Chi Chi Healing Centre/School and is founder of the Thanking Healing Process, The Trilogue Therapy and Tao of Colour Science. He is  also a qualified Raw and Living Food Chef, Consultant and Instructor. Peter Chin Kean Choy may be contacted via

top of the page