From a historical and functional perspective, Taiji Quan belongs to the ancient Chinese tradition of strategy and the art of fighting. It is interesting to note that even in the Tao Te Ching (Daode jing), a number of passages deal with strategy.
However, one must not forget that the concept of fighting in Chinese tradition cannot be reduced to the idea of a punch-up with a real opponent. Fighting also means struggling with all the difficulties that we encounter in our daily life, fighting our inner demons, etc. It is often said that we are our own greatest enemy, and somehow I think in many ways we would do well to keep this thought in mind whenever we reflect on the purpose of push hands (tui shou).
Practising the Taiji Quan “set” (8, 28, 85, etc) can be seen as a way to gradually build up inner strength, which can then be further developed during partner work. Besides, partner work enables us to become more sensitive, more perceptive; we discover ourselves and our partner and how we are when we interact with others.
The point is not to be stronger than our partner, but rather to form a whole together, to be in harmony. We and our partner complement one another and want to preserve that harmony. So our hands need to become more and more sensitive, so that even if only our hands and forearms are in contact, we can perceive the slightest change or movement in our partner’s body. Eventually, this enables us to guess our partner’s intention before the actual body movement takes place.
I am currently reading Taiji Quan – art martial, technique de longue vie by Catherine Despeux (Guy Trédaniel 1981), and the thoughts above have been inspired by that book.
If you would like to prepare for Nils Klug’s seminar in September, I highly recommend that you visit
I could not have written such a beautiful introduction to the art of tui shou myself.