Tai Chi is one of the most popular arts being practiced around the world today. What many people do not realize is that Tai Chi is not limited to health and fitness only. It is a style of Kung Fu. It was originally designed for effective use in self defense. Over the years Tai Chi has made a smooth and natural transition from a self defense style to a health building style primarily due to its slow, soft, and graceful movements along with its low impact on the body. As a result, the practice of Tai Chi has become very well known for promoting longevity and helping to accelerate healing. However, this is only one section of its practice. You will also develop your mind, will, calm attitude, balance and strength along with developing an understanding of self defense.
There are other training methods within Tai Chi for those who wish to take it to the next level and start training for self defense. The slow moving form is designed to give you the three main prerequisites for self defense: perfect balance, coordination, and, above all, timing. Once you have gained these prerequisites, you are able to go on to the more advanced training like push hands. Push hands is where you start to learn about the self defense aspects of Tai Chi. By joining hands with a partner, you learn to "feel" another person's movements. You learn to know about the center—where it is and how to find it. You learn to yield to an attack rather than meet it head on. This doesn't mean that you give in to the attacker, you will still use Yang energy to up-root him. Yielding doesn't mean dead. Yin energy is very powerful and still contains some Yang energy. The sort of power that is used in push hands is like the power in a metal spring, it yields to the force but as it is pushed more it builds up it's potential energy and all of a sudden it bounces back with great force.
Push hands is an accumulation of all of your Tai Chi forms training and it is where you learn to turn the Chi you gained through form practice into jin (internal strength). Many people believe that push hands is fighting but it is not, it is a training method. You must understand that forms and push hands are not meant to be taken out into a street defense environment and applied as is. Instead they are designed for specific training purposes. If you can do all those movements slowly, precisely, and well coordinated, with correct balance (including all the kicks), then the potential is there to start learning how to fight. But, as far as an effective street defense system goes, you have to take Tai Chi to the same level the old masters did and learn to use it in real time. You don’t simply rely on postures, or forms, or any set techniques. You need to learn how to hit and develop skills like striking power, counters and defenses. People get the wrong idea about Tai Chi. They think Tai Chi is a defensive style so you have to wait there, until the attacker comes in close to you, and then counter. But the reality is that Tai Chi is an offensive style and you hit the attacker as soon as he gets ready to attack. There is an old saying that states “If he attacks, you hit him first!” In order to do that it requires true development and experience in fighting for those who wish to use Tai Chi for self defense.