(section 6 part 1)
Introducing Zhou 肘 using “Brush Knee and Push”
When I teach this movement to beginners, I often do what many teachers do, and describe it in terms of a specific martial techniques, like brushing the opponent’s knee and pushing them off balance. This is useful for learning the choreography, and the applications can be useful, perhaps, someday.
But at its core, this movement is about a mechanically efficient way of applying shear stress to the opponent without compromising the tensile centripetal geodesic that is so crucial to tai chi skills. (It’s about applying lateral pressure to the opponent without pushing yourself sideways.) It allows you to break the opponents posture without breaking your own.
Zhou translates as “elbow”, and is one of the fundamental mechanical efficiencies in the tai chi pedagogy. But it is not just about attacking or defending with the elbow. It involves torque, and causing shear strain that disrupts the opponent’s balance and power.
So, “Brush Knee Push” is not really about brushing the knee and pushing. It is, rather, an archetypal movement introducing the concept we call “elbow.”
…But elbow (zhou) is not really about the elbow. It is about torque.