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Apart from pushing hands there are dozens of other partnered exercises. They vary considerably in purpose and difficulty. Many of the exercises are concerned with yielding, alignment, footwork and sensitivity.
Looks aren't everything
A taijiquan student may perform aesthetically pleasing solo movements yet be massively tense. Their muscles may never soften.
Movements that should be powerful and connected are in fact flimsy and weak.
How can we determine substance? By feedback. By touching. By physically feeling what is taking place. Partner work is vital in taijiquan. It offers you proof.
A lot of folks say they are
relaxed... that they are Christian or Buddhist or Muslim
or something that says you know I'm concerned
for my fellow man. But when somebody puts their hands on these people you'll see
that that priest or that monk or that rabbi becomes just as rigid and as violent
as anybody else who would never ever describe themselves as being God fearing.
Why? Cos they're not used to the pressure.
You would like to believe you're relaxed and when someone puts their hands on you and pushes all of a sudden you realise just how indignant you are about that whole thing happening.
Some people are very stretched and they have a full split or they are very balanced on their hands and they can do a handstand but when you put your hands on them all that ability goes out the window and they resort to Cro-Magnon behaviour.
There is a modern phobia of physical contact. People quite often do not like to be touched. Yet, touch is one of our senses and if we ignore it, our world becomes far lonelier.
In taijiquan we consider touch to be very important. By working with somebody else we can help them to feel how their own body operates and help ourselves as well.
We encourage people to become accustomed to physical proximity from the start of their training, to relax, soften and be receptive to other people.
4 ounces of pressure
If you cannot gauge how much force to use then you have no real skill. Imagine picking up a glass...
If you cannot determine the necessary degree of pressure to apply, you will either drop the glass or crush it in your hand. Neither outcome is acceptable.
Taijiquan teaches you how to use the least amount of force at all times. This saves energy and is more efficient. Training your nervous system is vital.
'Listen' to what is happening, be aware of the sensations and interpret the feedback accurately.
Clumsiness is an indication of low skill. As you progress through the syllabus you must demonstrate a growing capacity to use the taijiquan properly. Ineptitude speaks for itself.
One common taijiquan partner work method is called 'pushing hands'. There are many different forms of pushing hands; each teaching its own unique range if skills.
It is very important to be considerate of your partner and keep their wellbeing in mind at all times.
Partner work is a forum through which you can explore the syllabus, so each person needs to work with the other person rather than against them. If your partner is struggling, assist them by going easy.
If they are finding it too easy, try to gently challenge them.
Attitude & etiquette
Right conduct is an important part of taijiquan training; your attitude says what sort of person you are. We have a 'code of conduct' that all students must follow during the class.
Some people get too vigorous during partner work... Again, consideration is the key. Temper your actions by restraint at all times.
If your partner is in pain or discomfort, be considerate and ease off. They are either doing something incorrectly or you are being too rough relative to their ability level.
not tutor other students during partner
Leave the teaching to the
instructor or a
If you do not know how to do something, please ask.
You are quite welcome to give the following advice to your practice partner:
You are tense
You are using force against me
You are banging against me
You are just using your arms
You are being clumsy/rough
You are being awkward
You have lost your composure
You are leaning
You are off-balance
You are spacing-out
You are doing the wrong exercise
are easily observable faults and you do not need to be an instructor to see
Please perform the exercise you have been shown. Changing the drill, altering the material or improvising is not appropriate for a student.
You have insufficient knowledge, experience and understanding to start developing your own taijiquan. Just do the required exercise.
It is quite OK to speak with your partner during an exercise providing you are doing the work. The danger with talking is that people tend to use talk as an excuse not to train.
This is a sign of laziness.
Touch is a form of communication. When a person is afraid or ill, physical contact can help to reassure them. If you are emotionally calm and open to other people, this will be transmitted through touch.
We can share our compassion without the need of words.
Some people smile and speak nicely but when you partner with them they are not friendly at all. Their bodies are tense and they are brittle.
Instead or working with you, they compete. The truth of their nature is revealed.
Partner work is not combat. In fact, it is the opposite of combat. It is a means of safely practicing fundamental skills in a safe, predictable, controlled manner.
Before trying to manipulate
the situation into something else,
one must always experience it exactly as it is.
As the situation changes one must be with, and open to, what is now.
Skill does not come from any effort to do the right thing at the right time,
but rather from surrendering to the demands and allowing them to determine your actions.
One must always include their partner in their experience.
There is an integrity to this art that transcends personality or conscious self-experience.
There is no room for thoughts; no gaps in time or awareness.
There is no relationship, no you and no them.
18 March 1997
Last updated 09 June 2019