Don’t push me!
One of the things that get belittled about Tai Chi Chuan so much is the amount of pushing that goes on. From the point of view of other martial arts it’s impossible to look at people struggling for years to effectively push somebody away in the most relaxed way possible and not wonder if they’ve missed the point of martial arts entirely.
Of course, the standard answers to this type of criticism are that “if you can push, you can hit!”, “it’s just a training tool”, “it’s so nobody gets hurt”. This may all be true, but there never seems to be any hitting going on, long after the ability to push has been acquired.
Perhaps another way to look at it is that pushing, far from being an ineffectual tool in the fighters arsenal, is actually a very valuable skill to acquire. Read this article about the famous kick-boxer, Giorgio Petrosyan. The summary is, he uses the push technique effectively to counter pretty much all offense that’s thrown his way.
Perhaps Tai Chi needs to reclaim its “push” as just what it says on the tin – a push – and stop trying to pretend it’s for something else. Because, frankly, it’s pretty damn useful.
It’s interesting that a lot of Tai Chi people have Push “An” as a downward push – almost like a takedown done from a push, but without the leg trip. I’m dubious about this – I don’t think it works well beyond the Master’s doe-eyed students. Looking at the motion of any Tai Chi form, you can see that the motion of An is up, up, up and away. I’d suggest that’s how it’s meant to be used. I think some of the ‘push down’ is to crowbar Tai Chi into a philosophy.