Pushing Hands –Dissolving

Link back to articles page

The Song of the Strike-hands (Tuishou)

Warding, diverting, pressing and pushing, are always done with seriousness and caution. With all parts of the body co-ordinated, that protects you from invasion by an opponent.

Let one strike with all his might, only four ounce may be used to deflect one thousand pounds. Divert the incoming force into emptiness, and attack when the forces join. Sticking, connecting, adhering and following, do no lose contact and do not resist.

It is also stated: “If he doesn’t move, neither do I, if he starts to move, I move before hand. The strength appears loose but it is not so, It is ready for exertion but does not appear so. Even if the strength appears broken, the sense of continuity remains.”

Following and Joining

In pushing hands practice we need to understand and develop the skill of dissolving, dissolving follows closely after the skill of absorbing which was discussed in an earlier article Pushing Hands - Absorbing . Dissolving needs to be performed in two stages, “let the force in, and then turn”. This means “joining” with the force before turning, we need to do it this way if we are to avoid using yang force to turn the incoming attack. When” joining” with the other persons force we use the technique of “following”, when we go along with or “follow” the incoming force we can become that force. When we “follow” the incoming force skilfully we no longer feel separate from the other person but become them. In joining with or becoming them the incoming force no longer exists, it appears as void and within this void we are then able to dissolve it by redirection.

If we do not “join” with or use “following” then yang force will arise, we then will be forced to use a certain amount of strength to turn the attack, the force that manifests then leaves us exposed to an attack from the opponent who can, if they sense it, reuse that force against us. We also run into the issue of strength, if we try to turn the opponents force just by turning, if the opponent is stronger then us, we will not be able to move them. In using “following and joining with” we don’t manifest yang force that can be used against us and we “become” the other person’s force therefore the opponent’s strength is not of consequence.

This classic relates strongly to the skill of dissolving, when the skill of dissolving is used properly you get the feeling of effortlessness, in this feeling you can come to understand the meaning of “Let one strike with all his might, only four ounce may be used to deflect one thousand pounds.” This is something that we all need to study so that our pushing hands can develop, we need to always ask ourselves “What is the most efficient way I can use my body to achieve my goal whilst exerting the least amount of strength or effort?”

“Divert the incoming force into emptiness, and attack when the forces join. Sticking, connecting, adhering and following, do no lose contact and do not resist.” In learning to follow, join with the force and dissolve it we can come to understand this part of the classic. There is so much packed into this sentence, it provides the purpose means and result. See if you can find these qualities in your practice.

“If he doesn’t move, neither do I, if he starts to move, I move before hand.” This can seem like a contradiction but when you learn to join and follow your opponent’s force this will start to make sense. Your opponent moves before you, you then react, once you have contacted you then “follow” their force, in following their force you are actually in front of their force, in being in front of their force you can actually lead it. This is hard to explain through typing but can be observed in your actual practice, watch closely and you will come to understand what is meant by this.


Once we have joined with the force we are then able to turn it and circle it into void. The way to practice this in pushing hands is to make contact with the opponents force and to immediately follow it in the direction it is travelling, as soon as you sense to two forces have joined, that is when your forces no longer feel separate, then dissolve it by rolling your wrist and turning your waist. This can also be done with any contact point of your body, but the contact point of the wrist is the easiest way to start training this.

In the early stages these movements will appear quite big but as your pushing hands practice develops your circular movements and the time it takes you to follow, join and dissolve will become smaller. At the very height of development only a trained eye will notice that you have even moved.

The first four exercises of single handed pushing hands are particularly good for dissolving training, the movements are designed to highlight following, joining and dissolving so as to imprint them on the practitioners mind. To study this I suggest studying the first single pushing hands method, if you do not have access to a teacher I will describe the method here.

First Single Hand Method.

Pressing Method

Start by facing each other, step one foot forward either left or right, it doesn’t matter as long as both people place the same foot forward. Your feet form a square so that your body is balanced forward to back, side to side. Weight at this point is evenly balanced, chin tucked under, chest slightly depressed, tail bone and pelvic floor muscles turned under and forward. Both players touch the back of their hands lightly in the centre, elbows are lower then the wrists.

Yang Person

The player that initiates this method is yang and turns over their hand and using their palm presses the back of other players hand to the shoulder opposite to the arm they are using. In this case if both players are using their right hand you press towards their left shoulder whilst shifting your weight forward onto your front leg. The back leg then becomes yin and is straight.

Yin Person

The player in the yin position must not resist but follow the yang person’s press whilst sinking into their back leg, their back leg then becoming yang and their front leg yin and empty. Once they have joined with the incoming force the yin person then starts to circle their hand so that their palm ends up facing the other person whilst at the same time turning their waist.

In this case because their right hand is being pressed to their left shoulder by the other players right hand they then circle their hand and waist to the right side of their own body until their hand is inline with their own right shoulder. The yang person then circles their hand so that the back of it is facing the other player.

Yang Person Changes

The yin person is now in the yang position and initiates the press towards the other players left shoulder. In this way both players take turns of being in the yin and yang position and the practice can cycle. This method is practiced by swapping both hands and both legs in combination thus creating four different gates in which to practice. If you are in Sydney Australia I can offer instruction in these methods, if you cannot come in contact with a teacher and need clarification all questions are welcome on the Tai Chi Health for life Facebook Page or at the bottom of this article

Once you have learnt the basic movement then you will have a platform from which you can study the classics so you can change them from words that can be thought about into knowledge that is known in your own heart.

shadow divider

© Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved

This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you

shadow divider