In my 2011 Five Element Qi Gong retreat in Crete, I discussed ways to restore balance in and revitalise the body. One method for fretting out imbalances and getting real about your practice is training with a partner, which accomplishes three important goals:
- Focuses the Mind’s Intent
- Provides Invaluable Feedback
- Eradicts Distortions in Your Body
Focusing the Mind’s Intent: The Observer Effect
The observer effect dictates that the sheer act of observation will influence the phenomenon being observed (Wikipedia). This is true for science and the nei gong system. Having a partner watch your movements engages the part of your mind that wants to achieve. So you try your best, and in that moment, possibly paradoxically so, more easily expose your weaknesses.
Now this process might give your ego a knock, but that’s not really the purpose. The point is to get real about your practice, repeatedly refining, deconstructing, and reconstructing the component pieces in endless weaves and patterns to better your skill and literally embody nei gong.
Feedback Fixes Physical Faults
The fact of the matter is, unless you are a genius in mind-body-qi, you will not achieve a deep and integrated internal practice without feedback. Finding an experienced instructor who is willing to mentor you–one with at least 10 years of energy arts training under their belt–is one thing, but training partners and peers also play a critical role.
In the beginning, many corrections are based on postural alignments–either while in static postures or moving. Since these are relatively gross adjustments, they are easy to see even without a trained eye. For example, if you are holding up one shoulder in the air, it is easily recognisable if only someone looks. A training partner can give you invaluable feedback and use methods, such as tapping an area of your body without feeling to wake up your feeling awareness, as well as many, many other methods.
If you have imbalances, and let’s face it everyone does in one place or another to varying degrees, then proper alignments will actually feel uncomfortable at first. Many students can’t believe how awkward a balanced standing posture can feel like, for example, because we are great at subconsciously playing to our strengths and avoiding discomfort.
Eradicates Distortions In Your Body
It’s not that people are unintelligent or cannot see what is obvious, it’s that their proprioception is off-kilter. The distortions in your body-mind-qi have come about for very specific reasons. You may favour one side or another or hold tension in a particular place of your body more so than others.
Partners might identify areas where you subconsciously hold tension and help you link with these places. In time and with practice, you can train your awareness and eventually eradicate your weaknesses. At the end of the day, this is one of the primary directives of internal energy arts training: dealing with and tonifying imbalances before they devolve into illnesses or injuries that compromise your health and well-being.
Partner exercises are a great method for staying grounded and focused on the specific areas of practice you need most.
Train with a Variety of Partners
One benefit of attending live courses is that it gives you an opportunity to work with many different partners. If you only work with the same person, you can synchronise with your partner, entering into some sort of unwritten agreement that “if you don’t mention this, I won’ t mention that”.
Remember the purpose of internal energy arts practices is to fret out weaknesses and grow from the experience. Training is about opening the body from the inside out, always seeking that middle ground between the ideal and what is possible in that moment–without depleting your reserves. This allows you to train another day and sustain any level of success you achieve in all aspects of your life.