Taiji Partner Drills

Do we ever get sick of each other? Yes! We live and train together all the time and it’s expected that we sometimes prefer to be alone or in the company of others off the mountain. However, our core group is tighter than ever and we’ve been challenging and supporting each other to meet our goals.

Using the YMAA curriculum as a base, we’ve been testing through the system while also breaking down some drills and adding others. We’ve increased the passing grade from a 7.0 (YMAA international standard) to an 8.0. There is always the constant struggle to balance quantity and quality. With one year remaining, time is short.

Our training duration is over 8 hours per day and we now spend 4 or 6 hours with partners, depending on the day. The intensity is different from solo training. Partner training can be more tiring in some ways because we’re constantly exchanging energy and analyzing our faults. The discussions at the end of each topic have been monumental in our progress.

We’ve been diving into the Taiji drills like nobody’s business and broke them down into progressions. Some of them are broken down even further.

  • Centering: pre-centering drills, stationary, stepping (linear), on bricks
  • Push Hands: Yang side stationary, Yang side stepping (linear), Yin side stationary, Yin side stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stationary, Yang-Yin sides stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stepping (angling) + application set ups
  • Taiji (Yin Yang) Symbol: Yang side stationary, Yang side stepping (linear), Yin side stationary, Yin side stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stationary, Yang-Yin sides stepping (linear), Yang side Bagua stepping, Yin side Bagua stepping, Yang-Yin side Bagua stepping
  • Peng Lu Ji An (Ward Off, Rollback, Squeeze/Press, Press/Push): stationary, stationary cross body (mostly focusing on Lu), stepping (angling), switch sides stepping (angling)
  • Lu (Rollback): Da Lu (Large Rollback) neutralization (stationary), Da Lu neutralization + Peng (stationary), Da Lu stepping, Da Lu + Ji, Xiao Lu (Small Rollback) + Ji, Xiao Lu + Da Lu + Ji
  • Other: coiling, plucking, intercepting, sticking (adhering), bumping

We often go back several steps to refine individual components. There IS improvement, but the deeper we go, the slower the progress feels.

We recently finished learning one side of the Taiji Fighting Set. Next semester, we’ll learn the other side, Cai Lie Zhou Kao (Pluck, Split, Elbow, Bump), add Borrowing Jing, and more.

All of these drills will eventually lead to free Taiji sparring. To get a taste, sometimes we’ll mix everything and see what happens. It’s not pretty, but at least some reactions and reflexes are beginning to manifest.

To improve, we’ve had to both slow down to refine and speed up and give each other more trouble. Sometimes while going slow, I start to feel like I’m getting it. Then I remind myself that it looks like “Taiji Dancing.” With more speed and less mercy, we see if we really do have it. The eventual goal is to apply everything with “no mercy.”

We alternate between Shaolin and Taiji training days. The Taiji days used to be the “easy” / active resting days. Ha!

Peng Lu Ji An

Stationary: Step 1 is slow as we develop the feeling. We gradually give each other more trouble, particularly on Lu (Rollback).
Stepping: This looks a lot more cooperative than it feels. Challenges include: applying the techniques at the optimal angles, maintaining proper distance to neutralize, and coordinating the upper and lower body. Quality improves with Listening Jing and overall sensitivity, which come with experience.


“If you can’t recognize your faults…

…you’ll never improve.”

This past week, we did a demonstration for Mei-Ling and her family members who were visiting the Center. I chose Taijiquan because I really enjoy training it and performing it in front of an audience makes me uncomfortable.

If there is something that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll usually do it as long as it’s relatively safe and builds a skill I want to have.

This is especially important for Taijiquan because I should be as soft and relaxed as possible and performing can bring me to the opposite state. I have to be physically soft and mentally centered not just for performances, but also if I’m ever in a situation where I have to use it.

I performed Shuang Jian (Double Short Rods) first and after 2 sequences, I was up again. (I planned the order so I’m not complaining. I guess I wanted it to be more challenging.) My body had to go from a very Yang state to a calm Yin state, which didn’t really happen. That’s okay, I would’ve been nervous and tense no matter what. At least my hands weren’t shaking as badly as during previous tests.

Self Corrections:

  • Too tense/stiff
  • Not enough Fa Jing (發勁) – strikes don’t extend or pull back enough or in a straight line (thus reducing whatever little soft and soft-hard power I could have generated)
  • Not enough Hua Jing ()
  • Not enough Yi (意)
  • Not enough root
  • Alignment is off
  • Not enough power generation using the entire body (ground to feet, legs, waist turn, spine and chest bows, arms, hands)
  • Need to have postures checked for accuracy

It was my first demo with Fa Jing and at a slightly-faster-than-slow speed. It was pretty much a blur and there are many other corrections if I want to think about them.

Dr. Yang later said I “improved by not a small amount.” I hope he never says, “It’s good.” From a story he told us, if a teacher says that to you, it means don’t intend to teach you. From my experience as a Chinese-American, the best compliment you can hope for is, “It’s improved” or “Not bad.” The phrasing is very specific and reflects the sometimes humble culture. If I hear anything more positive than that, I usually innately shut it out.

Dr. Yang’s correction (which he’s said before and will continue to say forever):

  • My Fa Jing isn’t crisp. I need to pull back more to get that soft penetrating power.

He could have mentioned all the other corrections, but I’ll take that as the most important one to work on for now.

I thanked him and acknowledged that I have ways to go. That’s when he smiled and said, “Good. If you can’t recognize your faults, you’ll never improve.”

White Crane Taijiquan

I am aware that our style of Taijiquan is mixed with our White Crane training and looks different from other practitioners’ forms. Why?

“Once in motion, every part of the body is light and agile and must be threaded together.” – Taijiquan Classic by Zhang, San-Feng (張三丰)

Dr. Yang’s interpretation: “The body should be a coherent whole, with all of its parts connected and unified by the energy (Qi) moving within them, like ancient Chinese coins connected by a string.”

In other words, use the spine wave. Without it, it’s very difficult to fully manifest Jing.

That’s his interpretation. He’s my teacher. This is my explanation and it doesn’t mean our training is the only “correct” way. I’m not here to start any arguments.

This is a snapshot of my training for all to see. Onward we go. Thanks for reading.