Softness in Two Person
Last month, we discussed the importance of softness in your Taichi practice in general terms. This month we will explore how this concept relates to your Two Person Practice. As with Single Form Practice, this is an often misunderstood aspect of really good, effective Two Person Practice. This then results in practice that usually never gets past the physical level.
When you start, make sure that you have done some practice to get yourself relaxed, as well as getting your energy flowing. If you do not do this, it will be very difficult to connect properly with your practice partner. When you are ready, make sure that you have connected properly with your practice partner, (see the previous article, Connect, Attach, Follow, for more details), before stepping forward to attach and begin your practice.
When you begin your Two Person flow, the softness becomes key. Start by doing Hands Attaching practice, and see how soft you can be. Imagine a tiny soap bubble between the two attached hands as you shift forward and backward. Hands Attaching is a good place to start, because there is no motion of the hands or arm, which allows you to concentrate solely on the softness of your contact. No matter how light you think you are, strive to be lighter. You do not want to pop that soap bubble. The better you get at this, the more your motion will be due to true energy flow. Do not move until you feel your partner’s flow move you. If you feel a physical push, let your partner know.
After some practice like this, then try Single Hand Push, keeping the same softness in mind. Focus on your Dan Tian, not your arm as you make your circles. Now it is much more difficult, because you have the complication of the circular motion in this form. Let the Dan Tian guide the motion, not the arm. Try and feel as if there is a sphere, as large as you can imagine around both of you, and that this sphere is what is moving you. To truly feel the energy, you must be soft. This will open you up, and allow the energy to flow.
The next step is to practice Vertical Rolls, in preparation for Roll Hands. Now you are tipping your circle on it’s side and flowing on a vertical plane. Here your ability to remain soft is challenged in a different way. Do you feel as if your partner’s hand is too heavy going up, and lose contact on the way down? You must let each other know if this is the case. Be soft, feeling as if a Taichi Ball in your palm lifts up your arm. Then, follow the ball as it sinks. By being soft, you can learn to let the ball move you, rather than the other way around.
From here you can move on into Roll Hands practice, which is even more difficult, as now your motion can be in any direction. You need to spend a lot of time on the previous three practices before moving on to this stage. If you do not, you will end up being far too stiff and hard. Do not underestimate the value of the simpler Two Person forms. Now, even more, you want to flow with your partner, until the energy outside moves both of you. The softer you are, the more your energies will join each other, but more importantly, join the energy outside, allowing that to move you both. Harmony is the key to softness in all of these Two Person practices, and Roll Hands will really show you where you are in that regard.
As we said last month, this seemingly simple concept will take years of sincere dedicated practice to achieve. Your Two Person Practice must become Two Person Meditation, and this can only be achieved through softness in your practice. What we are talking about here is progressing beyond Martial Arts, to true meditative Two Person practice. Only through true softness can this be achieved.