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2-Person Exercises in Taiji – Maintaining Your Integrity (5)

Continuing … the next point from Blog 1

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Units of the body When working in contact with somebody, for example in Push Hands, you begin in a neutral position with wrists connected (i.e facing each other, the back of your right wrist on the back of their right wrist, and both with right feet forwards in a Bow stance). If you begin to push towards them (with your right wrist), they might then turn to their right and deflect you sideways with their right wrist. However, as your right forearm and elbow are following your wrist, these can then be used against their body.

If they then turns even more to their right, or use their left hand to neutralise those ‘units’, you can then bring your shoulder against her/him (your chest would be facing to your left by this time).

In solo taiji, you can observe this taking place, but for obvious reasons it’s harder to feel – although not impossible because this is where the element of ‘shadow boxing’ comes in; at the very least, you can imagine what is taking place.

The flow & Intention These two points are interconnected. ‘Going with the flow’ requires a flow from a different source so that you can ‘go with it’, and it is your partner’s intention that drives that flow. Circles: In order to defeat that intention, but not fight against the flow (Yang against Yang), you need to use circles, arcs, or curves.

For example, if you are trying to divert/channel a stream, it’s advisable to avoid placing the barrier at 90 degrees to the force of the water (Yang against Yang); you need the minimum force to be applied to the barrier so that it can do its job efficiently without damage. This is the same with Push Hands.  As your partner pushes towards you, you gently divert them, whilst all the time listening to their intention which might change to a different unit of the body. However, unlike the stream, a point will come where the energy of his/her push either lessens or runs out.  This is the moment when it requires no effort on your part to create a small circle, arc, or curve, and push back towards her/him.  You have used minimal effort, and yet achieved what you want to achieve.

It is impossible to actually experience this in solo tai chi, and yet solo tai chi embodies this concept.

  1. Do you have to do 2-person exercises if you want to learn tai chi? No, you definitely do not, but it undoubtedly helps you to understand your body, feel grounded, find your core and learn to move from it.

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