From a physical perspective, in taiji (tai chi) we are fundamentally training balance, flexibility, coordination, power, efficiency of force exertion, sensitivity/reaction, agility, and confidence. This is the gong of gongfu—without which technique is empty. All of these are, of course, foundational to any martial skill.

Of course one can list differences between internal and external arts, and these differences are especially evident in the practices taught to beginners. Beginners in external arts often start with linear movement—kick hard, punch hard. Beginners in internal styles start with training the mind and efficiency of movement. Eventually, though, these paths cross—internal art practitioners develop explosive speed and power, and at higher levels external practitioners incorporate softness, relaxedness and fluidity in their movement.

Application of yin and yang theory is everywhere in the martial arts and combat sports. Wrestling, judo—grappling of any kind—all strive to use the opponent’s force against them—to be yin where they are yang, and vice versa. And nearly every martial art holds, as a basic strategy, that when attacking high the lower body is vulnerable, and that when attacking low (or with the legs), the upper body is vulnerable. Rootedness and balance is learned in all combat sports and martial arts. Once this baseline skill is learned, the game between two players is to learn to unbalance an unwilling opponent to create an opportunity, through either grappling or footwork, to make a successful attack.

Which brings us to push-hands.

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