Saturday, August 8, 2009

Martial Arts in Taiwan

Hey Qi Buddies,
I'm in Kaohsiung, teaching English at a cram school, tutoring, and studying Chinese culture. I'm also playing music when I can, and hopefully once I get my work permit sorted out (soon!), I'll be able to get some paying gigs.
As for martial arts... I'm primarily learning from two people right now, two different styles, although it took me a while to figure that out, as they train together, neither of them speak much English, and my Chinese is limited at this point. One of them does Tai Chi Chuan. (Since the original writing, she's introduced me to her teacher, and I've been to one class with him already. Then the typhoon came, and Friday night class was unattainable.) She's been studying with Teacher Su for six years.
She trains for 3-4 hours most days in the park, has been doing it for 6 years. She is smaller than me, but can move me around very easily. She is in her early fifties. I'll call her Teacher Huang. Although she says that she is not qualified to teach, she has taught me a lot, and has been endlessly persistent, kind and generous in correcting my stance, showing me her Tai Chi form, and various applications.
Central Park in Kaohsiung hosts a loose knit circle of various styles from 10 am until lunch every day. The elder fellow in the park (Teacher Yang?, in his mid sixties, told me that what he does is Ha Chi Do (aikido in Japanese). His energy is like a very big tree, and he can move me around very easily. He laughs at me a lot, and says: "no power, no power". I've gathered that he is telling me "don't try to use force", just use the force... (or is trying to tell me that my hara/dantien is so disconnected from the ground that I have none... :) It is partly an admonition not to use upper body strength. They both tell me that I am getting better. Among other things, he has been showing me wrist locks and throws. They both guide my Qi Gong a lot.
A few interesting experiences: there is a small man who looks like a monkey to me... he is friendly, as they all are, although some welcome foreigners more easily than others. He shows me his kung fu form, very monkey like, does push hands with me for a while, then invites me to punch him. I hit him fairly hard in the solar plexus. (If someone hit me like that, I would double over.) My punch bounces off of him, like I just punched a thick rubber wall.
Another time, Teacher Yang and one of his senior students, a man, invite me to drive my knee into the back of their knees (sequentially). Again, if this was me, I would at least be feeling it. With a one inch movement of hip and knee (from each of them), again, i am moving back... I love this stuff.
Another time, a more elderly woman, whom Teacher Yang informs me also teaches martial arts, throws punches my way. I find I am spontaneously meeting her punches with my blocks. I never would have been able to do this without my Ving Tsun training of the last few years. :)
Today, Teacher Su was explaining that the Qi movement must expand in 360 degrees, not just in the direction where I am wanting to move. He also directs me to relax my pectoral muscles downwards, making the front of my body like a bowl, or a ball of Qi. This fits in with the wheel of five elements idea that the Lung Qi grounds into the Kidney Qi. This is very strengthening for me, and has an immediate relaxing effect. My stance is deeper and more grounded.
This fits in with Teacher Yang's statement that first there are two people, than, when the technique is being applied, the two merge, and there is only one person, or one energy. Teacher Huang stress connection with Yong Quan, Bubbling Springs, or Kidney 1 on the soles of the feet. Breathe from there into Dantien. Fill like a bowl... Relax, relax, relax. Fengsong, fengsong, fensong. :)
I've also got to try push hands and other drills with various men and women.
I continue to train Ving Tsun on my own. It is the most centering thing before and after teaching rowdy, beautiful Taiwanese kids.
There is more...