Two Person Practice
In the last article we started a discussion about two common Taichi questions, the first being, "Why do we do Single Form Practice instead of the longer form?" This month we will deal with the second question, which is "Why do we do Two Person Practice?"
Two person practice in many ways is one of the most misunderstood areas of Taichi Practice. Generally, this is looked at as a Martial Arts type of training and done all too literally as "Push Hands Practice". The first question to ask is,"What are you pushing?", and this is the key to understanding what you are really practicing here. What you are supposed to be pushing is energy, not the other person. Your goal is to be as relaxed and soft as possible to do this, not stiff and rigid. Remember the analogy of wood; wood that is alive bends easily, wood that is dead is easily broken.
When you practice with another person, it is to benefit both of you, so a good practice partner is extremely important. You must have a partner that will point out areas where you need work, and work with you cooperatively to improve those areas. In Single Form Practice you work on your own flow, in Two Person Practice you now have a partner to double the practice benefits. If you work and flow together you generate a joint field that will benefit you both.
This type of practice is necessary in order to help you to generate a signal that goes outside of your body. When you do your Single Form Practice, you work on generating a flow and can feel very strong sensations, but that does not mean that this signal is going outside your body. You can feel your own Chi, but not this Jing signal that you are trying to generate. You need another person to help you with this, not only to let you know if they feel it, but even if they do not, you still get feedback from their response to that signal. Again, a good, honest practice partner is invaluable.
Eventually you want to get to the point that the other person is no longer a factor, your own body is not a factor, and what you are doing is pure energy flow together. At this point you will be able to do application, be it Martial Arts, healing or whatever your goal, but you want to get there through pure energy work and not physical conflict. As Master Liao once said "You are contacting the universe through the other person", so keep that in mind so that your practice remains on the right track.
Two Person Practice should account for one third of your practice. You need this to develop the level of sensitivity that the Taichi Classics talk about when it is said that "When the other person moves, you are already moving, when they stop, you are already in stillness", or when you hear the statement "I know you, but you don’t know me". That all is a result of this cooperative soft energy flow practice done with a good practice partner. Pick your partner carefully as this is the most important part of this training. Then, keeping all these things in mind as you practice, you will get all of the benefits that Two Person Practice has to offer.