Going through my laptop, I found an old article I wrote on the idea of "Learning" vs "Winning" in partner-work; particularly through the lens of Tui Shou. I hope it's ok to share it here Training with a partner is probably the most important part of any martial art. Practicing forms/kata, or shadow boxing, or bag/pad work is all very well, but once you get a living, breathing, moving human-being in front of you, everything changes. The are lots of different kinds of partner work, from set drills, to free drills, all the way up to free sparring. But really, at no time should you be thinking about ‘winning’, or ‘beating’ your partner. The reason we do partner work is to develop the skills we have been learning in isolation, by working them against another person. The goal is self-improvement – not domination of the partner. We find out how the things we’ve been learning can be applied in actualization. When you try to ‘beat’ your partner, or ‘win’ (win what, exactly??) you are no longer developing yourself, but attempting to dominate your partner for the sake of your ego. When you are trying to “win”, your mind is looking outwards – it is seeing your partner as an opponent, and by doing this, your mind goes into fight-mode – your training goes out of the window, as you attempt to prove that you are ‘better’, that you can ‘do this’ while they cannot . Naturally, you can’t learn anything like this, because you’re looking out, rather than in. When you are ‘learning’, you are naturally looking inside yourself, at how you do this – how can you improve? As an example: If I am practicing free-step uprooting (FSU), I am engaged in a training exercise – not a combat bout. The idea of FSU is to learn how to interact with a moving parter, how to step, how to absorb force, how to issue force, angles of approach. We learn and practice these qualities by pushing and pulling against our partner, whilst trying to use Tai Chi body principles (softness, turning the waist, relaxed power). Occasionally, we might practice FSU in a restricted area, within a ring for example. The goal here is not to try and push our partner out of the ring, but to make us think about how we are moving within the confined space. We can’t keep moving back, so we have to think about how to move to the sides. If my partner starts trying to “win”, IE; they are using hard force to try and force me out of the ring – they aren’t learning. They’re not using the tai chi principles, so how can they be learning anything about how to apply them??? But, just because he/she may not be using tai chi principles, that doesn’t mean I can’t. My partner may be trying to ‘win’ – but I don’t respond in kind. Instead, I let them use their force, and I learn from it; is my structure strong? Can I absorb and redirect their force? Can I stay soft and relaxed as they are applying force against me? Ideally, both partners should be looking at how they can learn and improve, not how they can beat each other. Because, in the end, if your mind is focused on me, and my mind is focused on me, then who is going to get the most benefit??