3 rules

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Partner work

There are three rules in partner work:

  1. Stay calm

  2. Do not rush

  3. Do not use tension

If you ignore these, your tai chi simply will not work. Try as you might, nothing will be successful. Taijiquan only works if you follow these basic guidelines without deviation.

Stay calm

If you lack composure, you will not see what is right in front of you. Being calm is utterly essential. You need to remain detached, emotionally aware and at ease.

Do not rush

When you lack composure, you are easily startled. This leads to hurrying. And anxiety. Instead of patiently waiting to see what unravels, you dither, hesitate and anticipate.


Rushing indicates a lack of competence and zero control. It is obvious that the student has not put in the practice.


When you rush, you force. Forcing causes your opponent's nervous system to inadvertently tense-up in reaction to your urgency.
This alerts them to your intention and makes them harder to manipulate.

Do not use tension

As soon as you use tension, you have failed. Even if you eventually prevail, it has cost you an unnecessary amount of effort and is not tai chi.
Correct use of alignment, timing, pressure and positioning will enable you to skilfully defend yourself.


Muscles serve two main functions:

  1. They help to hold the skeleton upright

  2. They move the bones

If you encounter resistance but continue to push against growing pressure, which of these functions is being served?


Consider Newton's third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more force you apply, the more resistance you will encounter.
This is clearly counter-productive. Slow, smooth, soft movements are a sure indicator of skill.

A young boy travelled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist.
When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the sensei.

"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.

"I wish to be your student and become the finest karateka in the land," the boy replied.
"How long must I study?"

"Ten years at least," the master answered.

"Ten years is a long time," said the boy.
"What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?"

"Twenty years," replied the master.

"Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?"

"Thirty years," was the master's reply.

"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked.

"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way."

(Joe Hyams)

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 17 September 2019