Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 27 2007

4/25 Tuishou

For various reasons, I keep missing practice on Tuesdays at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Something keeps coming up every time. I’ll keep trying, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

I got to the park early, the first one to arrive, and could go through the sword and empty-handed forms without suffering the scrutiny of my fellow students (although I’m pretty sure the dancing ladies were watching). Gradually, the other students began to show up, forming into pairs and starting to practice while I stood by. Though they seem more willing to practice with me now that I’m pushing back (or seeming to, anyway), there’s still some avoidance going on. And that’s fine. It’s not like it’s a tournament or something.

I did tuishou with the guy who is not from Hong Kong for a while. He made the usual comments about me loosening up when my left foot is forward. He attributed it his sage advice, but I have to give some credit to the fact that my right knee is relatively uninjured, stronger, and able to bear a lower stance than my left knee. Not-from-HK guy is still very tense, and we ended up doing more wrestling than actual tuishou once again. He loosened up in the end; perhaps it’s a mutual thing. Exchange of energy and all that.

I then practiced with Mr. You, who was wearing an orange checkered shirt to ensure that he wouldn’t be hit by any cabs that night. Mr. You was surprisingly tense for some reason, but it was a good session. I’m finding more and more “moments” going by, little glimpses of vulnerability, not only in my opponent but also in myself. Sometimes the moments stretch out, and I can tell that my opponent hasn’t realized it. I open my palms wide, hovering in position to show them, pause, and then make my move. What I get the most satisfaction from is the kind of move where I don’t really do anything, just a small change of position, and my opponent falls over by himself. The more force I have to use in tuishou, the less happy I am with it.

Teacher Xu showed us some moves, telling us not to strain our muscles to move, but instead relax them to move, like removing the weight from under a rock or removing a dam from a stream of water. “Concentrate on the bottom of your opponent’s stance, and bounce them like a ball,” he said. I can see the relaxing bit, but I’m having a hard time getting my spine to relax. Maybe I should try yoga.

Afterwards, the guy who is not from Hong Kong observed that Teacher Xu had only tensed his muscles before his actual push. “You can tell from looking at his back,” he said. That makes sense, I guess: Intent and release. When I get in a really good push, I’m not expending any energy towards the end. Most of what Teacher Xu does is still a mystery, though. I can only learn little bits over time.

The way Teacher Xu described the existence and lack of structure in tuishou reminded me of a jumping rope encased in a series of plastic tubes. When you separate the tubes, it’s a rope. When the tubes are fitted into each other, it’s a solid stick. Sort of like the wet-towel trick of the bad guy in the second “Once Upon A Time in China” film. That guy must have been a terror in PE class, huh?

Everyone was preparing to leave, but Yang Qing-feng had arrived late and was eager for more practice. I didn’t have anything particular to do, so I stayed behind to practice with him. Qing-feng’s style is very different from most of the other students. He’s very good at changing the direction of his force. Nonetheless, I found that my best chance of toppling him was by beating him at his own game. That is, if I could stay untoppled myself, an effort that really kept me on my toes due to his skill. Afterwards, he claimed that I’ve improved, and I suppose thinking back to previous bouts with him that I must have, but it still doesn’t really feel like it. I still think of things in terms of good days and bad days, and have a hard time seeing the length and breadth of my progress, or lack thereof. That’s probably for the best, actually.

posted by Poagao at 10:08 am  

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