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In the context of tai chi push hands, what are the most commonly effective techniques? (Push hands in competition and in class both count.)

For analogy, in judo, it is well known and documented that the strongest players at the international level win most commonly with throws like osotogari, seoinage, and uchimata, whereas haraitsurikomiashi and udegatame, for instance, are seen much less often and mastered by fewer practitioners.

What are the high-percentage techniques of tai chi push hands, that nearly all players employ, or that many players employ to great effect?

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Needle at Sea Bottom is a fave for fixed feet push hands. Personally, I dont like the move but have been on the receiving end enough to know its effective in competition.

You can see it in this video at about 33 seconds in. The initial body and hand positioning is reasonably close to tournament and you can see the hip turn whilst sliding the weight backwards and controlling the opponents arm to throw them to the side. With fixed feet push hands, all you need to do is uproot and this move is often used very quickly from the start of the point.

A counter to it is to relax the arm being pulled, initially going with the movement (in the example above the hips would be rotating around to the left) but then rotate the hips to the right, slapping with the pulled hand followed up by a push with the left hand. Or just relax right out of the initial hold and help your opponent continue his movement backwards.

He also used as the first move in this demonstration at 45 seconds.

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    Awesome! Could you give some detail on how its applied? Do you have maybe an example? (An image or video would be super-swell.) – Dave Liepmann Jun 5 '12 at 2:55
  • Hi Dave - this is the best example I could find at about 33 secs in. The initial body and hand positioning is reasonably close to tournament and you can see the hip turn whilst sliding the weight backwards and controlling the opponents arm to throw them to the side. With fixed feet push hands, all you need to do is uproot and this move is often used very quickly from the start of the point. – Doug McK Jun 6 '12 at 0:36
  • A counter to it is to relax the arm being pulled, initially going with the movement (in the example above the hips would be rotating around to the left) but then rotate the hips to the right, slapping with the pulled hand followed up by a push with the left hand. Or just relax right out of the initial hold and help your opponent continue his movement backwards. – Doug McK Jun 6 '12 at 0:37
  • Heh also used as the 1st move in this demonstration at 45 seconds. – Doug McK Jun 6 '12 at 0:49
  • Good to see the extra information. Next time, consider editing your post and adding that into your answer. – Matt Chan Jun 7 '12 at 3:38
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From a translation of Li Yaxuan's 35 points of Push Hands:

The real Taijiquan skill is invisible. The application of Taijiquan is to be found in understanding of insubstantiality, formlessness, and mind alone. The taste and feel of real Taijiquan cannot be had from any application of visible technique or obvious force. That just drifts you farther and farther from the real art of Taijiquan.

Perhaps this means that Taijiquan does not attach itself to particular techniques. The most popular skill, then, would be no-mindedly leading the opponent to unbalance.

  • You should be able to push not just with the arms (hands or forearms), but the shoulder or hips, in pretty much any direction, although shoulder/hips have more limited range of movements. Leg techniques from the natural high stance are also a form of both striking to displace ("sweep"), or controlling/pushing the leg to displace ("leg separation"). – DukeZhou Dec 10 '20 at 1:14
  • In push hands, I never think about applications, just countering with the waist to gain advantage and push. (The application by which this is effected is corollary, and should arise naturally.) But, weakness in an opponent's technique, typically poor elbow sinking in fixed foot pushing, often guides the response that occurs. Thinking about a particular application to apply, in my experience, often results in being pushed, pulled or uprooted. – DukeZhou Dec 10 '20 at 1:32
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Grasp Sparrows Tail/Push Hands: "is like two man sawing", four postures going back and forth, round and round at four ounces. Push is neutralized by Rollback, Press is neutralized by Ward Off. Listening for changes to that four ounce touch in oder to appply TiFang.

Five Principles of Competition Push Hands: Not really Push Hands as it uses speed and strength.

  • Your article criticizes "Competition Push Hands", defining it as "an off-balancing game of feigned relaxation while using speed and strength to overpower your opponent." Why would anyone want to learn a tai chi that can't overcome speed and strength? Isn't that the entire point of tai chi — four ounces defeats a thousand pounds or something? – Dave Liepmann Dec 14 '20 at 19:25
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This question definitely comes mc-dojo side of taichi. Look at Yang Family description of Yang Shou Hao:

"He developed a form that was high with small movements done in a sometimes slow and sometimes sudden manner. His releasing of energy (fajin) was hard and crisp, accompanied with sudden sounds. The spirit from his eyes would shoot out in all directions, flashing like lightning. Combined with a sneer, a sinister laugh, and the sounds of "Heng!" and "Ha!", his imposing manner was quite threatening. Shao Hou taught students to strike quickly after coming into contact with the opponent, wearing expressions from the full spectrum of emotions when he taught them."

You need to ask your instructor or one you are learning from, where are these methods, and application. Why is he teaching pushing, and competition push-hands. Remember, taiji is battlefield art, but as large number of people learn it would not even hurt a fly.

Ref: http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/yang/history/#yang-shao-hou.

answer: There are no high-percentage techniques, classical push-hands are way to achieve self-defence

Suggestion: look for teacher who is not mc-dojo trained.

How to look for that, rough guide:

  1. Pad work. (Hitting and striking pads.)
  2. Load of training methods to teach about real violence.
  3. Fighting at a range of heights, from ground to standing.
  4. Defence against a variety of attacks, delivered with intent to kill on first strike.
  5. Use of weapons, best one is knives.
  6. Training in 'normal' clothing

Yes, taiji has it all.

Nasser Butt according to his research based on evidence available, that 'according to Wu T'u-nan, who in 1984 claimed to be only living disciple of Yang Shao-hou, the family also had:

"...a secret Yang Form for advanced application comprising more than two hundred movements performed in only three minutes"

Yang Shao-hou, like his brother, taught the "large" frame of the form when teaching in public, however he also taught an advanced "small" frame based upon 73 postures.

Wu T'u-nan further tells us that: "...this set was created by Yang Lu'Ch'an as a distillation of the essence of Taijiquan".

So where this forms and training methods? gone? forgotten? Nope, very much preserved outside of mc-dojos. See if you can spot advanced application of fishes in eight

The article starts from pg-29 of the following gives you total insight how taichi was defiled of its full glory

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In my experience:

  • Control the elbows

This can be done to spin an attacker around and grip them by the throat with the other hand controlling base of the spine, either gently or to crush the windpipe, but can also be used to initiate a chokehold. Many practitioners are sloppy about sinking the elbows, and thus trivially unbalanced in fixed-foot pushing.

  • Trapping the elbows

This is the setup to the main push of tai chi, and is usually done with dual, outward to downward circular counters. If you can trap the elbows, you have complete advantage for the followup push.

(Important to use rooting, where the forearms are "heavy" such that the opponent can't kick the knees in free stepping pushing.)

  • Controlling the hip or knee

Controlling hip disrupts the root, and can be used to spin the opponent (though less optimal than using the elbow b/c the hands are not as well positioned for followup.)

Controlling the knee disrupts the root, focus can be applied to bend it the wrong way (ungentle-using instep in a cross step/kick to the opposite knee), or the back of the knee can be stepped into to force it to the ground. In Grasping Bird's Tail, the knee can also be used to push the opponents knee while applying the drag.

Controlling the joints in general is the primary objective

No matter how big or strong the opponent, they can't do anything if you take away their leverage by controlling the joints, and controlling the joints doesn't require much force, b/c you're never going force-against-force in wudang, rather continually adapting to counter any force from any direction.

Finding the center and pushing into it

Every push, well executed, is done in this manner, whatever the application. This is also how one uproots, and is the reason tai chi must be practiced in a relaxed, calm manner, so the practitioner can "feel" the opponent's center.

The core techniques are using the waist, sinking the joints and emptying—everything else is corollary.

Essentially, this or that application must arise naturally, without thought, which is why so much emphasis is placed on repetition of forms and applications, even though Tai Chi is a method of movement, not a set of forms and applications.


It's ideal to make contact with middle of the forearms, as opposed to the wrist, because wrist-to-wrist opens up wristlocks. By contrast, where you stick to an opponent's arm with your forearm, your hand is free to flick (eyes), push (torso or hip) and control the elbow.

In bagua push hands, which is a form of arm coiling, striking is expected. Here, use of the forearms is equally advantageous—you're already inside your opponent's guard when you gain advantage for a strike.

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