Partner Work

#MartialMonday 1 - free pushing hands

Tai Chi- and other CIA- Partner Work


Whilst the main work of Chinese Internal Arts stems from hours of solitary practice of a range of exercises, forms, weapon training and meditation ultimately it is through our contact and relationship with others that we can really be informed on how we are. There are a number of ways in which we can engage with a partner to further our development in these arts.

Sensing Exercises

sticking hand

For many practitioners ‘sensing’ exercises are the starting point to our tactile work with others. From making light contact through the hands to our partner, keeping our eyes closed we try to maintain contact as we slowly and gradually move around a room. We may begin by being static, merely feeling the quality of touch and then gradually we begin to move around the room. Immediately we can discern our level of comfort or otherwise and where we are able to move confidently. As we increase our practice we become more connected to the ground and to our partner.

Sticking Hands

Sticking Hands is similar to the sensing exercises above and, as we become more familiar and used to the touch we are able to sense the direction our partner is going as we increase our ability to move in a smooth, coordinated manner wherever we may be led.

Pushing Hands


Pushing hands is probably one of the most controversial aspects of tai chi. There are many different notions and ideas as to how this practice should be done or even why. For some it is an exercise to sense and discover where the body is blocked and where we need to open, It can be practised to help increase our sense of rooting or connection to the ground. It increases our ability to sense attacks and take the necessary steps to nutralising them.

Competition Push Hands

In Competition push hands the aims are simple, push your partner off his feet and gain points. There are of course many ways in which one can achieve this goal and visit any push hands competition and you’ll see the determination and intent but how many of the arts basic principles are applied is always an area of great debate.

Many people and organisations are working to encourage players to develop their tai chi skills and some are even awarding points for the quality of push. As we see more and more competitions in Europe and beyond there are obviously more opportunities to evaluate how they’re conducted and how best to maximise the basic principles being incorporated in competitor’s skill factor.


Weapon Training

There are a number of weapons in Chinese Internal Arts and, again the main training is done solo but working with a partner is essential to really know if your skills are practical and effective. Weapon sparring helps to train sensitivity, spontaneity, speed, focus and awareness.


China is a Chinese grappling systems which works by putting locks on the joints to control the partner’s ability to move.


Tuina is a Chinese massage system which works with the meridians and acupoints to stimulate or tonify the energy system.


Yes, talking is a partner exercise and informal chats are very frutiful!



Push Hands Tapes – A series of interviews on push hands with various masters and students.

Author: Ronnie Robinson

Images: Ronnie Robinson