Two-person exercises cause a problem for many tai chi practitioners.
Some don’t like touching other people, some get frustrated because the other person isn’t getting it ‘right’, some don’t like the feeling of their personal space being invaded, and others find that their partner is either too stiff or too loose.
One thing is certain, 2-person exercises test one’s vulnerability, and understandably, most people don’t like to feel vulnerable.
First of all, I’m a bit of an advocate for feeling vulnerable.
A lack of vulnerability seems to imply a lack of sensitivity and awareness (“I’m invincible, nothing can harm me!”), and an absence of ‘give and take’ or communication with the world we live in. When doing Push Hands, the ‘world we live in’ relates to the relationship between you and the person with whom you are working.
What’s the point of 2-person work?
On its own, tai chi as a solo exercise is not the complete picture. Yes, you can do it without ever doing other tai chi exercises and, without any doubt, get a great deal from it, but there are certain aspects of tai chi that will be that much harder to grasp.
To mention a few of them:-
- We are taught that tai chi should be ‘comfortable’ and ‘relaxed’, but when we do tai chi alone, our preconceptions of what it feels like to be ‘comfortable’ and ‘relaxed’ are largely dependent upon habit… our preconditioning.
- Tai chi is about ‘change’ and ‘adaptability’; this is not obvious when doing solo tai chi, but when you work with a partner, you become very aware of it.
- To understand our own stability is obvious when we’re standing on one leg, it’s simply a case of ‘balance’; but it’s less easy to understand when we’re on two legs, with someone pushing us.
- Working with a partner gives you the opportunity to understand and learn how to sink your qi.
- Partner-work explains the differing uses of the torso and limbs – i.e. the ‘units’ of attack/defence: 1) the body, 2) the shoulders, 3) the elbows, and 4) the wrists/hands/fingers. The legs can be subdivided in the same way.
- It’s easier to learn how to ‘go with the flow’ when working with someone else as he/she is providing a force for you with which to work.
- Without partner-work, it is very difficult to understand the skill of feeling someone else’s intention, and then deflecting that intention to your own advantage.
What might it feel like?
2-Person taiji is an opportunity to ‘maintain your integrity’, in other words, to stay integrated and work as a whole.
Solo Taiji: You can experience this in solo taiji when, having created the intention, the movements seem to happen almost by themselves, as though with no involvement on your part. There is a sense of ease as if “all’s right with the world”, as though you are completely in tune with yourself.
2-Person Taiji: If you are able to feel this whilst doing a 2-person exercise, your partner will be able to sense that there is something different, because to him, you feel light, inaccessible, smooth in movement, soft, and invulnerable; he will feel as though he cannot get to you, and yet it will feel as though you are not holding him away.
…. continued in “2-Person Exercises in Taiji – Maintaining Your Integrity (2)”