Excerpt from "Uncovering the Treasure" by Stephen C.P. Hwa, Ph.D. Amazon.com
Excerpt from Classical Wu Tai Chi Youtube video "Pulling the body forward or backward vs. Pushing by the leg"
"Uncovering the Treasure", Pg. 47:
"Normally during walking, one uses the back foot to push when walking forward and the front foot to push when walking backward. The pushing motion by the leg muscle is entirely external and it also engages both feet stuck to the ground until the body completes its move. In other words it is a double weighted move. In the case of pulling forward instead of pushing forward, the back foot has no responsibility for pushing. It is free to be lifted and moved thereby improving the mobility of the person. The same is true for the backward walk. This is one of the advantages from a martial arts application viewpoint. Certainly during applications, there are situations favoring "push" or situations favoring "pull".
"For example, when an opponent is coming at you, you want to adhere to him and sit back to neutralize the incoming force. you certainly do not want to add to his incoming force by pushing your body back with the front foot. Instead, you want to use the back foot and core to control the pull back and at the same time plant the front foot's heel on the ground to absorb some of the incoming force by pulling on the body. "Push" is a natural move and it is further developed in the Large Frame Form. On the other hand, "pull" with the core is a learned technique for almost everyone I know and is only developed in the Compact Frame Form."
"Pulling vs. Pushing" Youtube February 21, 2013:
Master Stephen Hwa, "If I am "carrying the tiger" , I don't want this. You see that is a huge amount of energy to lift him, right? Turn him, then lift. So, with alot of these movements if you are with an opponent, you do not want to give him a signal. He may not even know you are going forward or going backward. This is because you are very quiet, there is no obvious signal. That's a part of the reason, no extraneous movement, that is a part of the reason.
Student, "I recall you either saying or writing something. The strongest direction is upward when talking about sprinters? Master Hwa, "Right". Student, "Anyway, it seems that tucking in the rear end, keeps the body down". Master Hwa, "Right, and also the timing of your knee bends (pointing to a student) that is something you mentioned".
Student, "Well also this change of weight from one leg to the other is sort of smooth. I mean this leg does not move until this other leg brings me forward and its just the shifting of weight. Student, " I have the same experience, it becomes less a matter of feeling any strain, and more a matter of a very relaxed feeling, no extraneous tension".
Master Hwa, "Yes, other people told me that too. In other styles of Tai Chi they keep pushing and that leg gets very tired" Students, "Not with this style"
Master Hwa, "Again, there's lots of subtle reasons". "When I'm going forward like this, I'm pulling with the front foot and pulling with the core." "Before you get to the end point, my other leg is really free". "If you are pushing, your leg still has some responsibility". "Now if you come to pushhands, the concept of movement, if somebody pulls you, that leg with no responsibility allows me to very quickly move". The faster you can take that step, the counterattack is much more effective. Now if you are pushing, I cannot move quickly, I am still pushing with the leg. You are one fraction of a second late. Once you step forward, he will be in trouble. We are finding a fraction of a second faster with these movements and you only need that fraction faster. So release this leg from the responsibility of pushing, to move quickly.
Student, "I always used to wonder when doing freestyle push hands, when I was trying to retreat and someone was following me, they just lightly touch my front foot and I fell on the ground. I found after comparing this and that, I was pushing backward. They did not have to do much.
Master Hwa, "You had that momentum going backward from pushing"