While push hands is a physical activity, trying to push your partner off balance, it encompasses all of the principles of Taoist philosophy.
For example, when we think of pushing our partner, we resort to all our old habits related to force, competition, tension and resistance. Our partner can easily use these habits to knock us over. So we are put into a situation in which all of our old habits interfere with the goal. The more effort we expend to reinforce the habits, the more quickly we get pushed over.
As the student learns push hands, he has to see, examine and let go of those habits. The difficulty is that he feels that he is those very habits. His identity is tied up in his habits. So to give up his habits, he has to give up himself.
That habit self is not his true, creative self. It is composed of the programming that has been jammed into him since birth. Many habits are simply reactions to fear. The habits are his ties to his culture. To let them go, even if just for push hands practice, means that he has to connect with a different self – a more biological self.
And so push hands becomes a game of remembering your original self. The principle here is that you can’t really go around trying to find yourself. But you can let go of all that is not yourself and whatever is left, is you.
You find out that there is a lot higher percentage of programming than there is your real self. In many ways, we have forgotten who we are, that we are part of the world around us, and only know how to react against external circumstances.
Push hands teaches us to stop battling our way through life, to be more creative and therefore, more powerful.