What we play with in push hands is at the core of many of our relationship problems. During push hands class the following conversation is common:
First Student: "You're too hard, you're pushing on me like a freight train!"
Second Student: "Well, you're not soft, you're not yielding at all; you're like a brick wall!"
All push hands players have experienced this conflict. Its lesson is that if in pushing I find my partner straining in resistance, the fault also lies with my use of strength - if I were not being so insistent he could not resist me. Conversely, if I feel my partner's hard force building up on my body, it is because of my resistance - if there were no resistance he would have nothing to push against. "It takes two to tango"; in push hands, a fight or life, conflict is based on an agreement between the two parties.
Professor Cheng addresses this problem in his Thirteen Treatises: "When two people work a saw, their strength must be even so that there is no resistance in the forward and backward movement. If one side changes the balanced strength just a little, the teeth of the saw may get stuck. If the opponent lets the saw get stuck, I cannot keep going backward and release it by any amount of effort. I must first send it forward in order to resume the former motion.
"Give up oneself in order to follow others. When one can be in accord with the force, one can attain the wonder of neutralization.
"If the opponent moves only slightly, I shall have preceded the move. In other words, if the opponent uses force to press forward, I have already pulled back. If he has used force to pull back, I have preceded him sending my energy forward."
The hardness, egotism and willfulness underlying conflict also has health implications. In his commentary on Lao Tzu Professor said, "If one's will is too strong, it will not only harm one's primal energy, but will also harm the very root and trunk of one's life span."