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Sparring against another discipline...

PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 8:44 pm
by global village idiot
I’ve been away for a while. I was on my Reserve Unit’s “Annual Training” which is usually 2 weeks but for us it was three. I won’t go into detail but it was the worst A.T. any of us in positions of leadership can remember, and the Company’s leadership has perhaps 160 years of experience all added up between us. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was a 3-week beatdown, complete with no showers for three weeks and helicopters trying to land on top of me. I don't want to talk about it anymore.

I tried to practice the forms as much as I could – for mental and emotional health as well as to keep the skills fresh. When you’re 47 and in my kind of shape, trying to do the forms while wearing about 45 pounds of field gear (which you’ve worn all day, every day for 2-1/2 weeks) takes more motivation than you're usually able to muster.

You do what you can.

About 2/3 through the ordeal, one of our young Lieutenants brought up my practice of tai chi. Specifically, he said I was doing it wrong.

A bit of background on this young man is in order. Like most Lieutenants, he is young, annoyingly earnest, and has the combination of self-assurance and cluelessness which is the distinguishing characteristic of the Lieutenant from time immemorial. In the real world he works as a police officer on an Air Force base.

I should also point out at this time that he is Filipino and accordingly his martial art of choice is escrima.

Knowing this, I asked him what he thought I was doing wrong. “You’re not evenly balanced on both feet,” he said. “You’re perched on one foot. You aren’t stable – I could knock you down like nothing.”

Before I left for this 3-week trip, I read the thread on “hollow/solid,” and while there, I read Mr. Brennan’s translation of Mr. Kiang’s treatise which I'd downloaded and saved, so I knew that my young Lieutenant was speaking from his own experience in his martial art and not ours. I also knew from my own experience a bit of what being “rooted” felt like and some basic understanding of why we tend to “perch on one foot.”

Having just that day read what Mr. Kiang had to say about “friendly sparring” with people from other arts, I responded to the Lieutenant, “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting – let’s see.”

Nothing in the world will excite a soldier’s enthusiasm more than the prospect of watching his leaders duke it out on each other. This is true of all ranks, from the slick-sleeve Private to the Company Commander. The fact that it was a hot-shot Lieutenant against an older Sergeant only adds to the drama. In other words, we had a crowd.

I won’t go into the details because frankly I can’t remember them. It was basically, "he rushes in/I move somehow/he goes bounding away." I distinctly remember not doing any particular form; but rather simply moving in the way I’ve been trained. He was lightning fast and I noticed his moves all had a distinctive sort of "pop" of force at the end of them. I'd seen this "pop" before, in the Korean army's version of bayonet fencing. I remembered also the line from the classics (paraphrasing), “If he doesn’t move, I don’t move; if he moves, I’m already there.” I also remembered about never “retreating” and “empty/full” and not having any preconceived notions about how the sparring match was going to go, but just to let events happen as they did.

Beyond that, I was just moving without thinking.

After the Lieutenant went bounding away from me for the fifth time we called it a match. Though I did cause him to move away from me (often quite dramatically), I purposely tried no purely offensive moves for two reasons:
1) I’m not confident in them; therefore,
2) I was afraid I’d injure him.
He threw no punches or kicks either, and I think they feature very prominently in escrima.

He basically got flopped around until he was sweaty and panting while I was standing there trying my d@mnedest not to giggle like a window-licking moron. This was kind of hard, since it was the first time I’d ever really used tai chi or tried it with someone “for reals,” as the kids say. Seeing it work the way it's supposed to - and seeing that I could make it work the way it's supposed to - was immediately gratifying, and it was hard to keep my composure at the realization.

What shocked me about this is he’s really good at what he does, whereas I know I’m very much in the “not at all good at what I do” category. And yet, here I was evading and dodging and putting a VERY fit, wiry and well-trained fighter off-balance time after time.

It was quite a motivator – the stuff works just like it says on the label!


Re: Sparring against another discipline...

PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:53 am
by taojoannes
In my experience Taijiquan is extremely effective against other arts when used as you describe. No preconceptions. No initiative. Get out of the way and let it to what it's designed to do. Intention is all.