“Pushing Hands” is a tai chi movement designed to balance the body when facing assault. “Pushing Hands” depicts the lives of Mr. chu and his only son who resides in the United States.
Mr. Chu is a retired tai chi coach in mainland China. His wife was killed during the Cultural Revolution, leaving him to raise their only son, Alex. Alex grew up and received college education in the United States where the sought a better living for himself and his father as well.
Alex has a son by his marriage with an American, Martha. Upon retirement, Mr. Chu travels to the U.S. to live with Alex’s family.
However, Martha, who works at home as a writer, regards Mr. Chu as an “intruder.” Partly because of their language barrier, the two are unable to get along well with each other. As time progresses, their tense relationship deteriorates. Martha can hardly write with a peaceful mind at home. Her relations with Alex are strained because of her Chinese in-law. The family verges on breakup.
One day Mr. Chu meets a widow who teaches cooking at the same Chinese language school where he taught tai chi to kill time. Mr. Chu seems to be very fond of Mrs. Chen, the widow.
Alex takes the opportunity to try, and tye the matrimonial knot between his father and Mrs. Chen. A second marriage, Alex thinks, will help improve his father’s relations with Martha.But Mr. Chu is angered by Alex’s idea. Mr. Chu leaves home and earns a meager living by washing dishes at a nearby Chinese restaurant.
Time and again, the restauranteur criticizes Mr. Chu for working too slowly. Mr. Chu finally loses his temper and stands up to his boss, who consequently fires him. In the ensuing melee, Mr. Chu knocks his boss to the kitchen floor and beats up five gangsters who had run to the aid of their boss.
Over a dozen New York cops are called in to apprehend Mr. Chu and put him in jail. Alex bursts into tears upon seeing his father in jail. Despite his efforts to help his father escape his bitter life in mainland China, Alex realizes that they can no longer live together.
On another front, the media coverage of the fighting at the Chinatown restaurant makes Mr. Chu into a well-known Kung Fu fighter. He now coaches packed classes at the Center for the Elderly in Chinatown to earn his own living, and he still enjoys dating with Mrs. Chen.