The first type of Two Person Practice that a beginner learns, is Hands Attaching. Initially learned as a single form, it is then employed as an introduction to doing Two Person Practice, so that a beginner can learn the fundamentals of practicing with a partner, before getting into the more complex aspects of this type of training.
You begin by facing your partner in Preparation, making sure to follow the guidelines for connecting that were discussed in a previous article. When you have connected, you both step up into the Hands Attaching form by stepping out 45° to the right side, bringing up the right hand to rest on a Taichi Ball, dropping the left down in front of you, fingertips pointing to the earth, weight shifting to the right foot.
Then, step up with the left foot to form a Bow and Arrow stance, circling up the left arm to contacting each other lightly, making sure that you contact at the wrist, and the arms are at a 45° angle. Make sure that as you contact, you do not pull back either physically or energetically, but rather, attach to your partner in a smooth manner. Also make sure that you practice starting to the left side as well. You always want to practice everything you do to both sides, in order to keep your energy balanced.
Begin by one partner moving forward, while the other shifts back. Then reverse this process. Your goal is to maintain the same soft contact as you move forward and backward. Often, your partner will push harder as they move forward. If they do, soften even more to keep the contact the same. The example I use with my students is to imagine that you both are contacting using 100 "Taichi Units", of pressure each. Your total then is 200. If your partner pushes using 150 units of pressure, then you must drop to 50 to compensate and maintain those 200 units. The idea is that the pressure should not vary, so if it does, you must adjust. The object of course is to be using pure energy flow to do this as you get more skilled.
The second point to keep in mind, is that you do not want to break contact. In the beginning, you will find that you occasionally may feel the wrists lose, and then regain contact. You are learning to move using your true feeling, not relying on your eyesight, or physical feeling of contact to remain attached to your partner. This requires that you relax as much as possible to allow your feeling to take over, rather than using your eyes or wrist as your guide as to when you should move. You must also move very slowly at first to achieve this level of feeling.
Lastly, you want to make sure that you do not get lulled into a rhythm. Often, people get moving back and forth at a set speed, and they follow this, rather than using feeling to determine when their partner is flowing forward. A good test is, once you have practiced for a while, one or the other of you should stop at some point while shifting forward. If your partner detaches while moving backward, you will know that they are not truly following the flow, but rather have locked into the rhythm of your mutual movement. This is a common problem for most beginning students, so make sure to check regularly to make sure that this is not happening.
You need to do many hours of this practice, to prepare yourself for the more complex Two Person forms. Most students do not spend near enough time working with Hands Attaching practice to prepare for all the others that follow. Not only does this help you to develop your sensitivity and energy flow, but it gives you the opportunity to work on your stepping in a Two Person context, without the complication of having a lot to do with your hands. By spending sufficient time doing this type of practice, you will prepare yourself well for all those that follow.