Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 06 2007

8/1-8/4 Tuishou

I pushed with a new student, an older guy, on Wednesday. He’s very polite and full of compliments. I’m wondering which direction he’ll slip into, the hard style or the soft. It seems most students go with the hard push style, the tree-root style. It’s possible that the soft style seems too counter-intuitive to most people. Maybe that’s why I like it. Yang Qing-feng is the best student at this, and seemingly one of the only students who truly studies that style. I heard that once he and the Tree Root Master once got into an altercation because the latter thought that Yang was out of bounds by pulling as well as pushing. I find that fascinating, though hard to believe.

I then pushed with a more senior student for a while, mostly successfully (I don’t count just being able to push someone over as success, but rather whether I find myself not succumbing to the temptation to push forcefully or not as a successful session). Many of the students say I’ve improved, even the ones who haven’t been studying that long. This confirms my long-held suspicion that most often, such compliments aren’t really worth getting excited about. It’s when the compliments stop that you know that either 1) you’re making real progress or 2) you’ve pissed everyone off completely or 3) both.

Last up was the interior designer, who started out well but soon resorted to the all-out-shove technique, over and over again. Lesson for the night: Your opponent’s energy like water; you can’t stem the flow, but you can manage it, make yourself more hydrodynamic and use it to your advantage.

Only Teacher Xu was at CKS Hall when I got there at 9am, but other students arrived shortly afterwards. I pushed with the Guy Not From China for a while, and then worked on the form. The construction hasn’t completely taken over our area yet, but it probably will soon. On the roof tiny workmen were chiseling away swathes of orange tile, which crashed periodically to the ground. The enormously fat man who cleans the area wandered through, bearing quite a resemblance, movement-wise, to Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri on the Sopranos. “Shouldn’t you be able to lose weight with all the exercise you get cleaning?” Teacher Xu asked him. Baccala just shrugged.

“When you turn or change position with force,” Teacher Xu told us later, “every part of your body is rigidly connected, making you easily pushed. If you adjust your position by relaxing, nothing is connected into a straight, easily pushable line.”

He also advised me to push the skin of my opponent, rather than trying to push their muscles and bones. “Muscles and bones move away from you, but you can stay with the skin,” he said. He also demonstrated the negative effect caused by concentrating on one’s own stance while pushing.

The other group, the group we’re officially a renegade splittist offshoot of, was practicing on the opposite balcony on the other side of the hall. I borrowed a video camera and went over to take a look. It was a large group, much larger than our little band, all attired in white uniforms with “Chinese Tai-chi Association” or something similarly official-sounding written across the front. The group included many foreigners, men as well as women. I stayed and watched a while, observing the different pairs busy pushing. Most of it seemed faster and more forceful than our style, though a couple of pairs were going more slowly. Occasionally those who lost a bout ended up being shoved rather roughly out of the vicinity. I could see a lot of similarity to our style, despite the differences.

At one point the teacher called the group together, and they went through the first part of the basic form together, the teacher counting out the moves one by one. My old teacher used to do this as well. Learning the form is quicker this way, as you can just look at the people around you and copy them if you forget. They then went back to pushhands practice. I wasn’t the only one filming; several of the group walked around with cameras filming themselves and others. Nobody paid any attention to me or told me to get lost, presumably because I wasn’t wearing our uniform at the time. Maybe they thought I was a tourist.

My curiosity satiated, I walked around the other side of the hall, pausing to talk to some Falungong members who had decided, en masse it seems, to form an orchestra and were practicing in the wooded section just west of the hall.

Back at our area, Mr. Qin had arrived and was busy poking a coke bottle set about a yard in front of him with a white stick he had apparently brought for just that purpose. I tried pushing with one of the other students, but he seemed more eager to teach me the basics than actually push, so I stood there letting him push me for a while before the idea of a nice lunch at Sababa became too powerful to resist.

posted by Poagao at 11:30 pm  

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment