Kickboxing

Went last night (Friday), to the kickboxing class. They invited me to come and spar with them. I’ve written before about the dangers of practing solely with others who do the same art. FWIW, I think that obviously, doing taiji with others who do taiji (hopefully good ones) is the only way to develop high level taiji skills. But I also think that to really distinguish that ‘certain something’ that is unique to taijiquan one needs exposure to the bigger picture. One needs perspective is all I’m trying to say. For example, the instructer, Karl, is a ridiculously nice guy. He’s shorter, stouter and older, yet obviously knows his stuff. He had no trouble compensating for my reach advantage and faked me out with ease. He stayed square, sunk and balanced the whole time. He always stayed connected and never overextended. To get anything in I had to set it up ahead of time and he was quick to capitalize on any mistakes I made. I thought he was a lot of fun to play with. I would be deluding myself if I thought he didn’t have something to teach me. The question is ‘what’. As I said above, the first lesson is perspective. The experience will help me put what I think of as taijiquan in a larger context. If I’m lucky the reality will challenge my preconceptions and force me to ‘dig deeper’ as it were. Now, do I want to learn kickboxing? No. Not really. I’m 32 and smoke a pack a day. Outside of taiji, I’m not real active. Just trying to learn kickboxing would probably kill me. That said, I had no trouble staying calm, relaxed and pacing myself. I just didn’t get tired. Taiji is definitely where it’s at as far as I’m concerned. So, will I learn anything about taiji? Probably not, but I do think I will learn somethings about myself. Which is just as good if not better. My teacher characterized taiji as ‘unlearning’, I saw it more like ‘learning to learn’. As time goes by, the difference seems more semantic than anything else. I knew before going in, that I would be excited, nervous, and uncomfortable. My one goal was to relax. As time went by, I began to progressively feel more comfortable. It became easier to sink and move with my center. I had been for the most part ‘sticking’ to them all along, but it wasn’t until the end that I even trying entering. Sticking with the gloves wasn’t as hard as I thought. It was harder. =) It’s certainly possible though, I just have some adjustments to work out. I think next week, I’ll focus just on footwork. Controlling distance should make it easier to stick. All in all, I had a lot of fun. Made friends, learned stuff, took another step on the path. Not a bad day at all.

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~ by aedhcarrick on October 17, 2009.

6 Responses to “Kickboxing”

  1. Very interesting to read about this. I’ll look forward to hearing how future sessions go. I’d like to hear more about what happens when your opponent actually connects with a punch or kick – how did your training lead you to respond?

  2. Hello Emlyn,
    When ever someone connected, I tried to neutralize as best I could. As a result most shots didn’t land ‘square’. Once or twice I got caught on my heels and I consequencely took the shot. Generally, when I got it ‘right’ the force would pass clean through me and left me with options to counter. When I got it ‘wrong’ I would feel the force load into my legs, which still allowed me to turn some of it, but I wound up ‘eating’ the strike. Ideally i’d like to counter ‘with’ my neutralization, rather than ‘come back’ with a counter. Oh well. We’ll see.

  3. Sounds pretty good even as it was, though!

    Another question that occurred to me is – what did the kickboxer say? Presumably he wouldn’t have had too much experience of facing up to ‘real’ taiji. What surprised him? What was his feedback from the point of view of facing taiji’s softness? I have a (very little) experience of doing the kind of neutralization you describe, but only in very brief encounters, and that was more luck than design; it would be very interesting to hear what a “hard-style” opponent thinks was good / bad about taiji….

  4. I really didn’t try much beyond staying sunk and maintaining the ‘taiji body’. They did express disbelief when I said it was my first time boxing with gloves. The instructer reminded me, in the beginning, to keep my hands up. That was kinda embarassing. =) Otherwise, I just kinda followed their lead. They did also say that my changing stance messed them up. As the class wore on, I got more relaxed and my footwork became more bagua-esque. The looser, more circular footwork helped me dictate the pace and distance.
    When I first started pushing hands, I got in trouble every time I tried to do a technique from the form. My teacher at the time said that insisting was the easiest way to mess up a technique. So I let it go and just focused on sticking. When doing that, occasionally my partner would attack suddenly and I would just neutralize seemingly by accident. I would then recognize the result as a technique from the form. Now, there are about a dozen ‘moves’ I can do ‘at will’. By ‘at will’ I guess I mean, being comfortable enough with that particular pattern to ‘allow it to happen’. I’m hoping that I can achieve that same level of comfort in sparring. Then I’ll be able to see which moves/techniques come naturally to me, instead of trying to insist on being/moving the way I ‘think’ is ‘right’.

    • I read your posts with great interest and appreciate your willingness to share your experiences. Agree with your observation, focusing on technique is unproductive. I recently stopped obsessing about technique and “pushing” and instead focused on sensing and sticking. Surprisingly (and not so surprisingly), my taiji seems to be better.

      • Thanks for the comment. It’s crazy how after all these years, I’ll still have realizations like ‘move with the center’ or ‘oh, yeah, relax’! Each time though, it’s the same realization, yet the meaning is totally different. I’ve come to the conclusion that my teacher showed me everything I ever needed to know in the first 10 mins. Of course, being impatient, I always assumed I was missing something, that there had to be a trick or something. I’m afraid I wasted a lot of time trying to ‘figure it out’. There is nothing to figure out. There is no trick. Just relax, sink and listen. Everything else comes naturally…. with practice… lots of practice.

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