Most tai-chi practitioners have heard about Peng Jing (棚勁). There are eight tai-chi methods of exercising power, and Peng being the most important one, and is said to form part of the other seven methods too. It is unfortunate that many practitioners have a mystified understanding towards this concept. And in demonstrations that one can see in Youtube, it is just like pushing your opponent away with a big force. There are practitioners who thus form an imaginary attitude towards the martial power of the demonstrators, which unfortunately one is often told that it would take decades to learn, and sometimes one may wonder who needs this kind of power except Sumo wrestlers! So what exactly is Peng?
Some people translate Peng as Ward-off, and some translate it as Float. Both are correct. As one of the eight methods, Peng means throwing a punch or executing a push. Nothing more, nothing less. Every form of martial art contribute something towards a better punch or better push. The question is "How does the Great Master of Tai-chi contribute to this area of martial art?" The Answer is the concept of Float. It is not like Floating your opponent out (like the Peng demonstrator did), but letting (all of) one's joints Float during an execution, and the most important joint to float is one's shoulder joints. I shall explain "floating" one's shoulders in executing a punch below.
There are many areas that one needs to perfect in throwing a strong and fast punch. One important area, as explained by the concept of Peng, is that one must loosen or float one's shoulder joints. When our hands are up in combat stance, our shoulders' ball-and-socket joints will, under gravity, touching the bottom (of the socket) more than the top. In executive a punch, for more explosive power (again in addition to other things), the ball should be like "floating" in the socket.
How does it feel? Answer: Like throwing out an object as far as possible. You got it: when we try to throw an object out, our shoulder joints will be loosened or "float". And, with some practice, you get similar "feel" when you try to push a heavy object. And with even more practice, you can have the feel in executing a punch.
In summary, the practice of the correct push in tai-chi can be translated to doing the correct punch. It is unfortunate that some tai-chi practitioners view "punch" as more or less equivalent to using "brute force" (in contrast to Jing), without realizing that their practice is called TaijiChuen (tai-chi punch) instead of Taijitui (tai-chi push)!
There is still one final question: why is Peng being called a Jing that needs to be included in the other seven methods? A subject I shall discuss in a future post, stay tuned.