Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 26 2008

4/26 Tai-chi

The weather was perfect for practice this morning at CKS Hall. Teacher Xu and several regulars were there already when I arrived, plus the usual groups of dancing teenagers. I practiced the empty-handed form and got some good reminders from Teacher Xu. There’s so much to learn about every move, especially the slower you go, it seems like looking closer at a high-resolution picture and seeing more and more detail the closer you get. It just never ends. When I told Teacher Xu this, he said, “But you also have to remember to step back to see it as a whole, or you forget just what it is you’re looking at.”

I was going to do more formwork, but Teacher Xu said Mr. V and I should practice tuishou, so we did. I found him fairly easy to practice with today. I was concentrating mostly on staying flexible and soft, and keeping track of his spine. Both help a lot, I find. Usually when I am pushed into what seems like a hopeless position, relaxing and loosening up gives me a way out, and I’m slowly learning to do that sooner into the game instead of only realizing it when it’s too late. Hopefully with time it will become more of an instinct, rather than the default tenseness we are all born with in such situations. Often when I’m wondering which way I should apply a direction, visualizing my opponent’s spine reveals a direction that wouldn’t have occurred to me if I were just looking at him as a whole, so that helps as well, at least with some people. Pushing everyone is different. Last Wednesday Weeble kept trying to ask me who I though was the best student, and I couldn’t answer, and not just because it’s a meaningless question. Even if A is “better” than B, and B is “better” than C, half the time C is “better” than A. It’s just not that simple. But Weeble’s still at the stage, I guess.

After Mr. V, the little guy with whom I had a lot of trouble the first time I met him at Sun Yat-sen Hall so long ago wanted to practice with me. He’s a lot smaller than Mr. V, who is about my size and shape, and at first it felt like practicing with a large, inordinately powerful doll. I have to wonder if there’s a bit of Napoleonic Complex in there, but even though this time went a lot more smoothly than last time, he still cannot face “losing” a bout. Even after I’ve caused him to step back, he’ll keep on grappling and pulling instead of stopping like most students do. This, I thought to myself, is one of the consequences of acquiring a reputation. Tuishou and Taiji are, the more you get into them, more about the person you are than the techniques you study. At least it’s seeming more like that to me. You can memorize forms out the kazoo until you’re 90 years old, and still not understand Taiji. Not that I do, either, but I’m trying to approach it in what I hope is the right way.

Teacher Xu left, and an outsider joined us, an older man who grappled furiously with the No-lose guy while I tried to practice sword. We were being pushed, ironically in a most tui-shou manner, into a corner by the dancing students, who slowly moved into our area. One of them even came over and asked us how much longer we were going to be there. The person they assumed was in charge, however, was the older outside guy, who of course had no idea. Little Qin is the closest thing we have to a second-in-command, I guess, but he wasn’t there either, so Little Mountain Pig dealt with them the best he could. Soon, however, it became clear that if I kept practicing, sooner or later I was going to stab someone, probably by accident, so gave up. The old outsider guy said he liked the practice sword I was using, admiring the heft that makes it better than most practice swords. Little Mountain Pig chimed in as well. He always practices barefoot, for some reason. I should ask him why that is. I’d rather practice in shoes, as I’m usually wearing shoes in my daily life. I should wear more flexible pants to practice, however.

All in all, despite the annoying students and the lack of sword practice, it was a good session. Later, in the evening, I watched a group of people do some jogo de capoeira at Da-an Park, which was interesting. I’ve only seen videos of it, so this was the first time I’d seen it in real life. Lots of feet and leg movement, spinning and dancing, always hopping around to music surrounded by people, like a dance party, but the movements reminded me a bit of the monkey style.

posted by Poagao at 11:51 am  

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