Another important aspect of Tai Chi training is Sensitivity Training. One of the things about the Tai Chi player is their ability to sense the intention of their opponent. How can they do this? They do this through the sense of touch. This is why as Tai Chi players we are told to stick to our opponent. We stick to our opponent with the lightest touch, so that we can sense the slightest change in movement, so we can sense the slightest change in direction, so we can sense the opponent’s intention.
The most important drill for sensitivity training is the two-person partner drill of Push Hands. The first stage of push hands practice is stationary and involves the use of only one arm by each partner. This then progress to using two arms, but still stationary. The step after this is to incorporate the movement of the legs and feet. And then we move on to a slow free play which increases in speed with practice and increased skill.
Solo Sensitivity Drills
There are solo drills for increasing sensitivity that come from other arts, in this case from Ki Chuan Do. This drill involves pretending that one of your fingers or one of your hands is toxic/radioactive or would harm you in some fashion (Midas touch?). You would attempt to poke yourself or touch yourself with this poisonous hand/ finger and attempt to keep the rest of your body away from it. Essentially, as soon as you feel the slightest pressure from the designated coodie finger/hand on any part of the rest of your body, you would immediately retreat that body part from the coodie finger/hand. It sounds easier than it actually is. There is a two-person drill from the art of Cheng Hsin that is similar. This two-person drill is called “touch-no touch’.
The importance of Sensitivity skills in Tai Chi Chuan (and other martial arts) cannot be underestimated.