Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 13 2007

6/13 Tuishou practice

Due to rain and other obligations, I missed last week’s class. The weather cleared this week, though. As I arrived at the park, Mr. You and another student, the guy I keep thinking is from China but who is not (notice a pattern here?) were practicing sword forms together. I went over and did my forms a little self consciously, as Mr. You was apparently teaching the other students, and I didn’t want to hear “You see TC over there? That. Don’t do that.”

Many other students arrived, pairing up as they went. Everywhere I could hear them trying to instruct each other. It was like a room full of actors, all convinced that they were Obi-wan Kenobi and the other guy was poor, deluded Darth Vader.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Anyway, first up was Mr. You, who was more aggressive this time. I’m beginning to be able to deal better with overt aggression without responding in kind, though I still have a long way to go in that respect. I tried to focus on moving by relaxing certain muscles rather than by constricting others. Mixed results. I was also very tired, as I’d stayed up until 6:30am that morning and only gotten a few hours’ sleep.

Next up was the little new guy, though he’s not so new any more. Like everyone else, he was full of ideas about why I suck at Tuishou. Fair enough. He tired himself out very quickly, as he is still in the “shove as hard as you can” category of pushing. I wondered aloud if maybe he should put the energy before push instead of afterwards, but I was really only talking to myself. It does seem to work better that way, I find.

He told me not to grab his arms. “That’s the most dangerous thing you can do,” he said. I bit my tongue and agreed, yes, it could be very dangerous. Sort of like flailing around in an epileptic frenzy trying to overwhelm your opponent with pure fury, I thought, for that was what he was doing. “If I go fast, you’re easier to push!” he said, not realizing that I was stepping back on purpose for fear of someone getting hurt. Afterwards he told me that he actually worked for a living, unlike the rest of the students, of whom quite a few are apparently nuclear physicists.

I pushed with another student before being passed off to a guy who previously seemed unwilling to practice with me, an interior decorator from Taichung. He started out smoothly but got more and more frustrated as he tried to push me over. In the end he was yanking me back and forth as hard as he could. I laughed, saying “You call this Tuishou?” in my best (Chinese version of) Dr. Henry Jones, Sr’s voice.

“If your opponent is flexible, press them over,” said Teacher Xu later. “If they’re not, just lower your stance and change position, as well as theirs, from your feet up.” He demonstrated several times. As he spoke of focus and intent controlling our energy, I was again reminded of Star Wars (it was that kind of evening, I guess) when they talk about The Force, do or do not, there is no try, etc. Ironically, force is exactly what you’re not supposed to use in Tai-chi.

“Your energy is focused in different ways for weapons,” Teacher Xu went on. “For empty hand form, your focus is just outside your fingertips.” He pushed a student over easily to demonstrate. “For, say, sword, your energy is focused and projected further away.” He then made a similar movement, but this time the student went flying back a good 15 feet. “It all depends on what you mean to do.”

I’m translating focus/intent (yi4nian4/意念) rather loosely here, of course. I understand that there’s a bit of debate on this, but although Teacher Xu does a pretty good job of explaining it in Chinese, I do a poorer job of explaining it in in English. In any case, it seems that with such focus or intent (or moxie!), you have access to a greater power than you normally would have. It’s part psychological, part physical, and possibly part something else. But I don’t want to get into any kind of metaphysical discussion here. If it works, it works. All I can hope to do is understand it slightly better than I do now.

posted by Poagao at 1:18 pm  


  1. I’m just curious: are you really the worst in the class?

    These guys sound like they push you around a bit. Have you been taught any qinna to deal with aggressive people? It can make all the difference in push hands.

    Comment by Formosa Neijia — June 18, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  2. I don’t know if I’m the worst, actually. Different people have different aspects to their technique. There have been attempts to teach me qin na, but I’m a slow learner and haven’t managed it very well.

    Comment by Poagao — June 20, 2007 @ 11:55 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment