Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 28 2006


When I got to the park last night, I found that a bunch of hip-hop wannabe dancers had taken over most of our space. Mr. V was sitting on the sidewalk curb looking dejected. There was nothing for it, so I took my sword and did my form on the questionable grass where everyone takes their dog to crap, even though dogs aren’t technically allowed in the park. The usual drill for the form: once to remember is, once as slow as I can, and once slightly exaggerated for a good stretch.

Yang Qing-feng arrived, giving Mr. V someone to do push hands with after Qing-feng did his form. I practiced my weapons-free form for a bit until Teacher Xu arrived with his son. He’s been going through my site and had questions for me about various English words and slang I sometimes use.

Qing-feng got tired of grappling with Mr. V, and turned him over to me. Mr. V tends to lose balance in a spastic fashion, twisting and jumping away as if he had been held in that position by large rubber bands. He’s unlike anyone else in that respect. He pushes the same way, though he’s improved a lot since he started. Lately he’s experimenting with sudden changes of direction. Usually I can deal with them as I have a pretty solid stance, but sometimes it gets me. Sometimes it gets down to “yield or get hurt” because neither of us is flexible enough.

Teacher Xu had more water analogies for us tonight: He told us to envision our qi as a water tank inside us, to complement the whole “arms as hoses” idea of a couple of weeks ago I guess. “Just let it out. Your goal isn’t to push, but to release the water. Don’t try to aim it; it will go to the right places automatically.” More like electricity, I thought, than water, but I didn’t say anything. He demonstrated, but it was hard to grasp in practice. Teacher Xu pushes people so effortlessly and intuitively; it’s hard to get one’s own ability to even begin to match up, at least at our level. “Be like iron, wrapped in cotton,” he advised. This, I assume, was to be kept separate from the water analogies, as iron wrapped in wet cotton would feel pretty much like, well, iron.

Later I pushed hands with Qing-feng, with easily predictable lack of success. Changing direction almost never works on him; every time I manage to get through his defenses it feels like I got lucky; trying to repeat whatever I did never works. Pushing Mr. V builds up my confidence, but Qing-feng teaches me that I still have a long, long, long way to go.

Learning tuishou is extremely counter-intuitive at first, in that, if you want to learn the deep, most effective tactics, you have to put your ego totally aside and let yourself lose, because you learn more that way. If you concentrate on winning and resort to brute force every time, you’ll never learn anything, never be able to hope of pushing anyone bigger or stronger than you are, and what’s the point of that?

Yet many students, and even some schools, focus merely on that. Occasionally we get someone from one of those schools, both students and teachers, looking to prove themselves, and it seems more like straight-out wrestling than anything. In the end they either adapt to our methods or leave. It’s not a quick and easy route by any means, and sometimes I worry that I’ll never quite ‘get it’. But I can at least try. And by that, I mean try by not trying, which is comfortably ambiguous enough for me.

posted by Poagao at 12:26 am  

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