‘Pushing hands’ or ‘tui shou’ is a two-person training routines in T'ai Chi Ch'uan, one of Chinese martial arts (described in: Tai chi in the leadership world -1. It is a routine where both partners improve sensitivity, psychical and physical abilities.
The exercise comprises of “cooperative” moves of two practitioners, their arms, waist and legs combined are in a circular pattern. During movements each player attempts to be in light contact with the other practitioner’s arms while at the same time remaining in perfect balance. Practitioners are permitted to use their hands to attempt to unbalance the opponent. A practitioner who is pushed or pulled off balance will usually stumbles out of stable position and has “to reset” the stance to resume the practice. If a balance is lost and the stability could not be immediately regained, a practitioner may be pushed, pulled, thrown or even hit.
In most cases this kind of practice is only a gentle way to ‘compete’ with one another without risk of injury. This “combat” is typically used by beginners who normally exhibit strong egos which should be curbed. The advanced practitioners know when they’ve lost and what may occur – they have already pasted the threshold of egoism - so they just keep continuing the circular movements even after recognizing ‘the gain’. Pushing hands practice improves relaxation, flexibility, timing, balance, self-control and numerous other qualities. Although there is also a sportier, a more competitive version with much more force used, but we’ll leave it for another story.
In the meantime we’ll have a detour and explain how we learn. In TED Talk Dr. Joe Dispenza explains that we have three brains that allow us to go from thinking to doing to being. Each brain is its own individual bio computer with its own anatomy its own circuitry and its own physiology in chemistry. In a learning process the neocortex gathers information and makes a new synapse - the connection - in your thinking brain. All our reflexes, intuition, memories and more are stored in those three brains. So, everything you do, see, hear changes your internal chemical state.
The process of changing based on what we have already learned starts with ‘visualizing’ a new and repeating it. This way the practice is changing us physically and mentally and even genetically since the best solutions for survival get coded in our gens.
With pushing hands we learn through repetition of slow circular movements. In doing so, a change is induced. To learn from the practice you have to feel. Feel your opponent and yourself. And if you want to feel, you should ‘listen’. If you want to ‘listen’ your mind should be opened. If you want to ‘open your mind’ you need to get rid of force and ego, because those two are preventing your sensitivity.
It is a long process very difficult to be learned instantly. It starts by “investing” in loosing which gives you the opening to understanding what is wrong and what is correct. When you understand these basics, you advance to higher levels of practicing pushing hands.
And to conclude with leadership, let me ask you if stability, relaxation, flexibility, timing, balance, sensing, listening, understanding are not some of characteristics that a great leader should possess?
Accordingly, principles of pushing hands practicing can be easily transferred or used in leadership or business.