My tai chi teacher Yang Jun said last night that you should ‘join with your opponent’ to respond to a punch. He showed how hard it is to meet a punch head-on; your timing has to be very good, and you have to yield in just the right way to absorb the force and turn it away without hurting yourself. (He could do it easily, of course.) It’s better to swing your arm down across the direction of the strike, like a propeller in front of your body. Once you make contact, your arm naturally spirals around your opponent’s forearm, swinging it out of the way.
Master Yang explained that the philosophy of ‘joining with your opponent’ before attacking was part of Chinese culture. It’s the yin/yang philosophy: if you want to push, start by pulling; if you want to go horizontally, start in the vertical. This attitude is deeply ingrained in tai chi, which is a ‘soft’ martial art; one of its guiding images is that the energy of a master is like ‘steel wrapped in cotton’.
These ideas seemed applicable to the long-term geopolitical contest between the