Wu style

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.

Push hands

Push hands 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 strong.

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 blows.

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.