A lot of moves in the taiji form, and in five golden coins, involve delivering a push or a punch against an invisible or imaginary opponent. This is fine, as far as it goes. But in truth, when I punch or push, I tend to deliver that strike with only the force of my arm.
My teacher told me that in fact I should be punching with my legs. That is, I should plant the opposite foot from the hand that is doing the punching or pushing, and transfer that groundedness up through my body to the hand.
There’s another layer to this, though. Not only should I be transferring the grounded energy of the planted foot up through my body — delivering more force that way, because it’s got all my body weight behind it — but I should also pull from the right place.
That is, my hand and my arm aren’t just dangling out there. If I’m punching from the left hand, my right foot is planted. And chances are that I’m punching with a twist at the waist too, to take advantage of that planted foot, and deliver more force. Which means that my right flank muscles should be tightening – pulling – to swing my torso into the twist that delivers the hand to target.
Archimedes thought that with a lever long enough and a place to stand, he could move the world one handed. I don’t know that I could ever get that much leverage, but I do know that when I engage the muscles in my flanks, good things happen. Tiring things, yes, but worthy of attention and practice, so they’re less tiring and more effective.