Tai Chi is mostly considered a solely defensive art based on response. A common question from tai chi practitioners, especially from beginners is: Can you attack with Tai chi? Sadly there’s a common misconception about attacking or doing things without the attacker first initializing an attack. Even quite well known teachers say things like that you must wait for an attack and if that your opponent doesn’t do anything you can only wait. But attacking actually does not go against Tai chi principles.
Yes, you must know what to follow. But there is not only arms and legs to worry about. Even if he is not lunging out attacks, there’s is still a body to follow and adjust to. Controlling distance and angle to the opponent is what you always need to do. Always try to be in a superior position. Somewhere in a space relationship to you where he does not want to be.
And even more important, there’s is the opponent’s Yi (intent) to worry about. If you let him focus his Yi steadily on you is like letting him aim at you with a target. Keep off his favorite distance, try adjust the angles. Try to confuse him, shift distances or use any way to detach his line of intent.
Where his mind is empty or at that spot he pays no attention to, there is yin. You can fill up this spot with yang, i.e. attack. There is nothing wrong with this.
Then, if you attack him, he must move or be moved. When moves, if he defend or counter, what ever he does, now there’s physical movement to follow. He has moved and given you something you can attach your hands and tingjin (following skill) to.
The classics says: “If my opponent moves slightly, I move first.” As soon as he does anything, move in and be there first. Follow his reactions and let his movements defeat himself.
Or just go in and attack. A straight lead will do fine. As long as you keep relaxed and firmly rooted, fist supported from the dantian, then there will be only tai chi. That is – if you have practiced your art’s foundation well.