Schedule Change (yet again)

•November 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As it stands now, classes are everyday at 8am. Wednesday will be the sword form and we can do push hands any day enough people show up. Hopefully we won’t have to change things around for at least a little while.

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Kickboxing 2

•October 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Went again to the gym uptown. Only one person showed up (besides me). It was a girl named Amanda. She’s been training mma for a while. She was the one who got in most of the best shots last week. I’ll be honest, I did have a hard time hitting her cause she’s a girl. I’m embarassed to admit that though. If I were a girl, I’d hate it if guys ‘went easy’ on me, but she seemed to be perfectly happy to work on her combos, while I wrestled with myself. We went about 8 rounds and I stuck to my plan, which was to practice my footwork. I would pick a corner and then try and manuever her into it with my stepping. It worked pretty well until Karl, the coach, showed her how to pivot out when I pressed her. Then it was a lot more of a challenge, but the basic principles still applied. Karl showed me how to use my jab to measure range. As he was explaining it to me, it was like I could hear another tumbler click! It really opened the door as far as entering and sticking. Can’t wait for next week.

Kickboxing

•October 17, 2009 • 6 Comments

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.

The Equal Importance of the Heart and Spine

•October 16, 2009 • 5 Comments

I came across this phrase in one of ZMC’s books. He was obviously coming from the point of view of a chinese doctor, yet it struck me a totally different way. The concepts aren’t entirely foreign to western thought. Boxers especially, talk a great deal about ‘heart’ and ‘having heart’. The connotation is one of bravery and resilience. Being able to face daunting tasks and/or rebound from setbacks is an essential component of perserverance. The spine, in the west, is often called ‘back bone’ or ‘nerve’. While, also, having a connotation similar to bravery, it is generally used more in the context of ‘doing the right thing’ or ‘standing up’ or, to get biblical, ‘walking upright’. To me these represent all of these meanings and more. To maintain a proper ‘stance/posture’ while still being free to move according to the dictates of the ‘unconscious’ mind is ideal, IMHO. Note: I don’t like the term ‘unconscious mind’. What I’m talking about is most definitely ‘aware’, just can’t think of a better term.

Conversely, I’ve met several people with ‘heart’ who were passionate people, quick to anger, quick to forgive, and generally ‘flighty’. I’ve also met people with a well-defined, rigid sense of right and proper, and yet lacked the ‘will’ to act on that knowledge. Again we find a need for balance. Becoming emotionally engaged without an anchor puts us at risk of ‘losing ourselves’. Whereas, knowing what to do and not doing it seems a very serious sin indeed.

Just a reminder, but I am not well versed in TCM. I would be interested in hearing more from that point of view. I won’t be suprised to find out how badly I’ve butchered the original idea. I also wouldn’t be suprised if my understanding is merely a gross simplification. Oh well. Live and learn.

Taijijian

•October 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The sword form class will be moved to Saturday morning. Monday through Friday will now be form work and two person patterns. Saturday will be sword form and fencing. Tuishou will move to Sundays. Hopefully, this schedule will work out better for everyone.

Knife Fighting

•October 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I went uptown Tuesday night, with a friend, to visit an escrima class. The instructor, James, was a real nice guy and very good at what he did. After warm-ups, we did some basic two-person knife work with a reverse grip. I was suprised at how little I had to adjust from what I do (ZMC) to be able to do their drills. I think Jose’s comments (An Outrageous Claim?) were spot on. Yet there were some particularities with the knife that I don’t think I could have worked out ‘on the fly’. If I learned anything from the class, it was that I did not want to be on the wrong end of a knife! That said, I felt I had little trouble with the patterns and the flow of the drills. The experience also reaffirmed to me the advantages of being sunk and rooted. I also think the fencing (taijijian) made it easier for me to move quickly with precision. It was also fairly clear that the knife changed the dynamics in a way I was unfamiliar with, leading to occasional (and fatal) hesitations. Overall, I had a lot of fun and learned some interesting things.

I also met Karl, the kickboxing instructor. He seemed real nice and was very open to my coming to spar with his students. Just need to get my own mouthpeice and cup!

Investing in Loss “eating bitter” (吃苦 chīkǔ)

•September 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

I am told ‘eating bitter’ is a common chinese expression for enduring hardship, though it seems to have taken on a deeper meaning with in the context of taiji (exp ZMC’s lineage). There are no shortage of articles and explanations of this meaning. Unfortunately, most are kind of airy and vague or just out and out ridiculous. It is not, IMO, vague, nor is it ‘playing to lose’. Trying to lose isn’t any better than trying to win (way worse from a practical stand point). Both losing and winning are part of an ego trip that has no place in taiji.

In the beginning, the student is instructed to ‘relax’, or better yet, ‘not be tense’. However, one the student begins to relax, the teacher and other students immediately begin to pressure him or her. Here in lies the root to taiji’s incredible drop-out rate. When put under pressure, most people respond one of two ways. They either collapse and bow out, or they tighten up and respond with more and more energy. Both of these responses will inevitably lead to defeat at the hands of even a mediocre opponent. This constant stream of defeat can undermine the strongest of wills. Some will ‘knuckle down’ and plow on obliviously, but most will quit in fustration. If, however, the student listens to the teacher and sees each encounter as a learning opportunity (no longer caring if they win or lose) they will be sure to make progress. When faced with pressure, one should relax, consolidate their center and then move according to the situation. Unfortunately,relaxing in a bubble bath, with scented candles and soft music, is much easier than relaxing when someone is trying to pop you in the face. This however takes a great deal of practice and while not unique to taiji, the focus on this ability is (to my knowledge). This to me, is the deeper meaning of ‘eating bitter’. One must discard the conventional assessments of good/bad and accept the inevitable lumps as the price of tuition.

Ex. Everyone looks silly when they’re learning to dance, yet good dancers look really good when they move. If you want to look good, you’d best get over your fears of looking silly.