Interactive work in taijiquan is typically referred to as “Push Hands”. There is a school of thought that would like this phrase to change to “Sensing Hands” to better reflect the less aggressive side of taiji interactive work. This is because many people attempt to train by touching hands, waiting to ‘sense’ what your partner is doing, and responding accordingly instead of being that attacker. What actually happens (lots of pushing instead of sensing) is another matter entirely :-). But allowing the emphasis to be on yielding and reading an opponent, rather than pushing can help a player focus on the relaxing and yielding energies taijiquan uses.
A recent, ongoing discussion on Facebook reminded us of the difference in schools of thought around this subject. On the Taijiquan “One Family” mission page, Daniel Pfister started the conversation with this post below. The ensuing conversation is interesting for all players.
We’re posting some screen shots of the discussion that has arisen around this post. It’s worth taking some time to read through them. What do you agree with or not agree with? For those with little push hands experience, what is your understanding of taiji principles and the practice that you do. Are you able to think about interactions within your current practice?
Putting the "Push" Back in Push Hands
At one point push hands was known as striking hands. Some call it "sensing hands" so as to get away from the idea of a forceful push. Currently, I think the pushing, rather than yielding, needs to be our default mode in pushing hands. Thus it should remain true to its name.
Pushing against your opponent will most quickly cause them to react in some way, then you can practice taking advantage of their reaction. Not pushing and/or constantly disengaging with the opponent provides less opportunity to learn how to move with them. Yielding is a basic technique to use when someone resists your push in an excessive way which unbalances them. But when that resistance isn't there, its a good idea to return to pushing into them in a deliberate way.
The more skill you build, the less force you should need to use in your push to elicit a response that you can turn into an advantage. But being too light in the beginning just for the sake of being soft or "letting go" might slow down your progress.
Whole conversation can be found here.