Bagua was invented at a time in Chinese history (late 19th century) in which your opponent, whether a soldier or a brigand, might be wearing leather or metal armour of some type. Punching or striking armour won't do as much good as using whole body skills to immobilise or throw an opponent protected in this way. Pushing with the hands becomes an essential aspect of grappling skills.
In fact, a good push can be a very useful martial tool if you do so with the whole body and not just with the arms or chest. It can be percussive and shake or jar the person being pushed in that manner, leaving them stunned and vulnerable to follow-up techniques. A good push can uproot and imbalance or topple an unstable opponent. A good push can send someone flying and twisting either upwards or downwards.
In training, pushing can be somewhat safer for the students than striking and grappling. It came about primarily to make some of the training methods a little safer for daily practice. Unfortunately, many modern teachers don't have enough of a martial base of any kind to be able to understand just how useful a push can be—and how limiting if that is all you can do.
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