Imagine you are in a mobile unit of pikemen. You’re on the front line with your 16 foot spear. Someone orders your unit to march forward and engage the other advancing unit of pikes so you do. It’s hot out, and you have a lot of ground to cover, so you aren’t running, just marching to maintain unit cohesion. Who wants to run ahead of everyone anyway? Maybe the battle will be over if you go a little slower, or someone else will get there first.
At any rate, you finally get close, like 30-40 feet away close. You know that if you stand still and let them attack you you will be able to position your jabs effectively while they will not. So you try to stand your ground and taunt them, you’re screaming everything horrible you know about their mother but they aren’t buying it. C’mon! And they’re doing the same thing at you. The guys at the back can’t see what is going on, and they know there isn’t fighting yet, so they’re pushing the guys in front of them. You see those sharp pikes in front of you and push back a little, why do you have to be the first to die? Slowly, the unit’s move.
Eventually you get close enough your pikes are hitting the enemies. You push aside their pikes, but they do the same. Nobody is able to do much damage and it’s like the world’s biggest fencing match. You are still slowly being pushed into each other, and that guy in charge is still yelling at you to get in there and kill, but all the pikes are being driven up. Before you know it, you are only 5-10 feet from the enemy. Nobody dares drop their pike. It’s kind of awkward, and occasionally a pike from the back gets a lucky hit and a guy goes down. Maybe someone runs in with a sword or hammer and kills a guy or two before he’s killed as well.
This goes on for a while. You’re getting hot, it’s stressful, and what was the point of this again? Bob dies next to you, and you say screw the king and turn to run. You push aside some people, and run through the ranks. A guy at the back sees you run, and has no idea that you’re just scared, so he runs as well to be sure in case your unit is routing. Why take the chance? Before you know it the whole formation is breaking and running.
That’s when the dying happens. The enemies pikes are free to come down, and they stab people in their unarmored backs as soon as they turn. More dying as more pikes get free. The brave ones who stood and fought are easy pickings now out numbered 2 or 3 to 1. Hundreds of people die, your pikes are on the ground, and the unit is effectively destroyed.
That is the Push of Pike.
Redditor nilhaus explains what it is like to be an armys’ front pikeman in ancient times.