Tai Chi Chuan may be translated as 'supreme ultimate fist'. The 'Chi'
in 'Tai Chi' is often wrongly assumed to mean 'energy' (see qi). This is
probably because 'Tai Chi Chuan' is a Wade-Giles rominization (chi
pronounced as 'Ji'). Tai Chi is said to have originated when a monk,
Chang San Feng observed a snake and a crane fighting.
Wu-style Tai Chi is a 'smaller' form than Yang-style and is often practiced
specifically for health and energy benefits. However it remains rooted
in martial practice and most teachers emphasize that focusing on an
the practical aspect of an 'opponent'. One of the more experienced
instructors awhile back jokingly said "if the energy is something you need
to be sensitive to feel, there's probably not very much involved".
As with other meditation practices / martial arts, Tai Chi practice includes
substantial work on breath and learning to breath from the center.
is the martial practice of Tai Chi. The objective of push hands
is to deflect an incoming attack
while expending minimal energy. How is this
accomplished? - The defensive and offensive applicatons use straight spine
and opening of the joints
. People who have practiced Tai Chi for decades
move energy directly from their core to the striking parts, and their
shoulder, knee, hip and other joints become both flexible (soft) yet very
The slow, deep movement of Tai Chi builds quite amazing strength and balance.
One is almost always standing balanced on one leg/foot or the other and
as you advance your practice, you learn to do this lower (which is not
possible until the body becomes accustomed to it).
There are several ways to think about the nuances of tai chi push hands.
A key objective is to push (attack) the opponent/partner's center (spine)
and to attain the openness (flexibility) and skill to simply turn away
an attack on one's own center. Done 'right' this requires remarkably
little 'strength' or expenditure of energy.
The 'form' practiced correctly will re-shape the body so that the shoulder,
arm, elbow and hand become direct extensions of the spine.
In push hands practice the student learns early to cover / control the
opponent/partner's elbow. This is because it's closer to the center than
the hands and therefore more powerful (dangerous). That logic extends
further in to the shoulder, which can deliver tremendously powerful
At advanced levels the 'free' foot / leg becomes another striking
tool; at all levels however, the unweighted leg, in contact with the
floor is often being used to deliver and direct energy.
Progression to 'advanced' levels of practice involves changing from
needing to use strength and tension to deflect an attack to being able
to fully relax and to use 'internal' energy.