Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 26 2008


There was a new student at the park last Wednesday, who turned out to be an old student of Teacher X’s from like ten years ago. He’s opened up a couple of dentist offices over the years, Teacher X told me. We practiced a bit, and he wore himself out trying to push me, and I wore myself out not being pushed. Not a great learning experience. A couple of weeks ago I finally managed to successfully turn aside one of Teacher X’s attacks, which made me pretty happy. Of course, all he had to do was push me in the other direction, and I went down. Oh well. Still: progress!

I went to practice on Saturday morning at CKS Hall because I needed the boost and to work out some kinks after a largely sleepless night. Due to endless construction on the concert hall, our group has moved to the opera hall across the square. I was surprised to see only one dancing student group. As I warmed up and went through form work, a group of young art students showed up with wooden boards and paper.

No-lose Guy and Mr. V were going at each other in freestyle tuishou, shoving each other around the veranda, as I talked with Teacher X about his latest interest in Gothic calligraphy. He told me that a drunken mainlander has been bothering the group at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall site where they practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Apparently he and Teacher X got into it a bit last week. “Little Mountain Pig had a talk with him,” Teacher X said.

A small group of people walked up the stairs about then. One of the group, a middle-aged Caucasian fellow, did some martial arts poses for the rest of the group, who were apparently Taiwanese. They took pictures, applauded and praised his prowess in English.

Little Mountain Pig showed up a bit later, and, surprisingly, gave me a rather in-depth lesson in the basics. The basic part isn’t a surprise, as he usually does that, but I wasn’t expecting him to get to into it. “You should be like a spring toy from the waist up,” he said, telling me not to rotate my body from the waist down so much (this is what the UPS Guy does too). “When you’re bent over in any direction,” -he bent backwards, forwards and to each side without really moving his legs- “Someone should be able to lay a table flat on top of you.” We practiced for a bit, and he provided an answer to the question of why Weeble was experimenting with not shoving people over as forcefully as he could last week. “Once you feel your opponent has nowhere to go, you can pull him back; you’ve both learned all you’re going to learn at that point,” he said. “If you’re really serious, though, you should be able to make your opponent jump back twice. This gives you an advantage in a fight, as he’s out and away from you, and you can plan your next move. One jump isn’t enough.” He also said it was more natural to keep your palms down when pushing. “The instinct is to turn your palms up, as you feel more in control, but as Master Zheng said, you should have hands everywhere, not just at the end of your arms.”

Pig has a similar yet different attitude about how one should view oneself in relation to other students. “You should see yourself as an expert,” he told me. “That way you’ll dare do things you wouldn’t otherwise try.” I told him about my view that I was the worst student in the class, so that I could be free to do anything without repercussions on any kind of reputation. “That works, too,” he said. “It basically means the same thing.”

After practice, when everyone else had left, we got to talking. He told me that the reason Little Qin hasn’t come to practice lately was because he was pissed off at L.M. Pig for teaching students who were outside our group. Apparently Little Qin takes the whole keeping-the-tradition-inside-the-family thing, and thought Pig was betraying Master Yang’s hard work in collecting such knowledge. So he told Pig they could talk about anything as long as it wasn’t about Tai-chi. “But everything is about Tai-chi, when you come down to it!” Pig told me. I get the feeling he regrets the rift between him and Little Qin.

When I pointed out that Little Qin himself has a blog on the subject, one that anyone can read, he said “That doesn’t matter; you can’t learn the essence of our style by reading about it. You have to be taught in person.”

“Someone once asked Master Yu if he was afraid that foreigners would steal all of his techniques,” Pig related. “Master Yu just laughed and said that would be very difficult, as so much of it needs to be seen through the context of Chinese culture and thought.” I couldn’t tell if this was what Pig himself believes. “You’ve got it, though, as you’re not really a foreigner,” he told me.

posted by Poagao at 4:17 am  

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