By Martin Boedicker
Kao is a technique in which the body is used to strike against the opponent. The Tai Chi-Classic the Song of the Eight Methods (Bafa miyue) explains:
"How to explain kao?
The method uses the shoulder and the back.
The movement Diagonal Flying (xiefeishi) uses the shoulder.
But between the shoulders is also the back.
When gaining the opportunity and the strategic advantage,
it then crashes like pounding with a pestle.
Be careful to keep your centre.
If you lose it, all effort was in vain."
Ma Yueliang comments:
"Kao is an obvious strength. It is the use of the shoulder or the back to strike against the empty (xu) points of the opponent. It is to borrow force and to use force. It is an often used technique, when you can not neutralize the attack of the other in time with the hands. Kao is like the expansion of gas - suddenly it breaks out. The other can be greatly shaken."
(Ma, Xu, S. 11)
Kao is therefore a very explosive technique. However, Ma Yueliang emphasizes that kao is only effective when it is used in the right situation. This situation is known in Chinese as jishi (the opportunity and strategic advantage). In the Tai Chi Chuan Treatise (Taijiquan lun) it is stated:
"In advancing forward and retreating backward, one can gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage. If you do not gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage, your body will be disorganized and confused."
So if one evaluates the situation incorrectly, the use of kao is very risky. The opponent could get the opportunity to neutralize the incoming force and may even borrow it. So one will certainly lose ones centre. In the worst case, the attack will not only fail, but you can also be defeated yourself. So you should always be careful and attack only the empty points of the opponent.
If kao is done optimally in pushhands, you should follow the advice of Ma Jiangbao to use kao quite gently, in order not to hurt the partner. Otherwise, it may lead to the situation that is described in the Song of the 13 Basic Movements (Shisanshi gejue) of Li Yiyu :
"When I want to use kao, I am looking first for the first triangle.
I place myself in front of his abdomen - looking down sideways.
Waist and body rotate together and so I send the opponent to the king of hell."
Ma Yueliang, Xu Wen, Wushi Taijiquan Tuishou, Xianggang Shanghai Shuju Chuban, Hongkong 1986