Why is yin useful?

Postby Kalamondin » Sat Apr 30, 2005 9:29 pm

Hi Jeff,

That's a very interesting technique. I explored it for a little while--riling people up and then using their reactions to unbalance them, but discovered I'm not skilled enough yet to maintain my calm, so I went back to pushing more slowly so I could work on calmness. I found I was often fast enough to respond well, but lost the ability to sink my chi. Once I riled people up enough to want to win, I got forced into not wanting to lose--so as soon as I was emotionally invested in not-losing/winning several key tai chi principles went out the window. It sounds like she may have been able to use this dynamic to good effect by maintaining her calm and center. It's good to have the affirmation though that someone who is small but skilled can do well. I just have to work on the skill now!

I was confused enough that I went so far as to consult my teacher, "You know, sometimes when I'm pushing hands I see opportunities to push that I don't take." He asked why not. I said, "Because they often get upset and then it feels like fighting. Then it's more difficult for both of us to stay calm. I don't know if it's because I'm a woman and they feel ashamed to be "beaten by a girl" so they fight harder, or if it's just that they are frustrated about losing."

He said, "It's not about being a man or a woman, young or old, large or small. It's about skill and experience. So someone who is less experienced will naturally feel upset at first. You can still take the opportunity, but you can make it more like a conversation: when you do this, I feel like I can push you here."

I thought it was excellent advice, so I thought I'd share it with the board. It's true too--the men who are skilled that I push with generally have no interest in beating me (this means "winning" here, not "hitting"). It's about developing skill, so even if I'm being tossed about, or knocked down, I don't feel like I'm being "pushed around." And if I make a successful attempt, the response is, "Good one!" and not an escalated attack.

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Postby Kalamondin » Thu May 05, 2005 6:39 pm

Hi Bob,

I’m glad to know that it’s not unheard of for women to be good at push hands. It’s not something I really see in tai chi literature, magazines, etc. Does anyone know of any books or essays that talk about women doing push hands? Maybe the women who do practice don’t talk about it much, or don’t write about it publicly. I really don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Han a few times, but haven’t had the chance to push with her. There was one other Chinese woman who visited one of Yang Jun’s seminars whom he introduced as a push hands champion, but sadly, I don’t remember her name.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
I approach pushing hands with women much more gingerly than I do with men. NO, not because I think they're frail little things I have to go easy on, but because women, in my experience, are much, much better at following, sticking, adhering... </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The funny thing is, I do occasionally think of myself as a “frail little thing.” I don’t have the muscle, or the reach, etc. that the guys have and I do seem to get hurt more than most. That’s just something I have to deal with while working towards improving what I can. Yang Jun said once, “I’m not very strong. But I am strong enough,” so that’s what I’m trying to emulate. But I do still have this expectation of, I don’t know, chivalry? Kindness? from my practice partners. I expect them to push me just a little harder than I am capable of so I can reach and learn, but to still be mindful of my physical limits. I guess this is the common courtesy we extend to each other as tai chi players no matter if we are men or women. Our common ideal is that we push each other to grow and develop martially, without trying to injure each other or beat each other into the ground.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> All those things that men have to work on for ages, the women I've met seem to pick up a lot faster. I don't know why, and it's not all of them, but the majority of women I've had the pleasure of training with seem to get to the principles of push hands faster. My only conjecture as to why is that most women aren't taught to fight as men are in the U.S.A., at least. I was taught to "box" by my father, to jab, to weave and dodge, to be "aggressive" when I fight. That kind of thing takes a long time to un-learn. Most women don't seem to have to lose that conditioning before they can start to do push hands well. </font>

I think that’s part of it. I never learned to box or wrestle, so I was always really surprised by the contact in the early days of push hands and often tensed up or resisted. But it may also be that some women (not all) just get more early training in how to listen, follow, and yield. This is less true in the US than it used to be, but my mom’s not from the US. It feels like I’ve been doing this stuff from a very early age—part of the standard training where my mother is from (and I’m not sure if it’s just for girls or for everybody) is to know how everyone in a room is feeling: who is uncomfortable because they wore a heavy sweater and needs the window opened, who needs a glass of water, who is hungry but refusing to impose on your hospitality purely for form’s sake. Moreover, there’s a stronger tradition there of unspoken body language than in the US, so I may have had a head-start in that arena, but there are plenty of other areas where I’m playing catch-up.

Every culture has body language cues and things they know even though a person is saying one thing but means something else. These things often get mistranslated across cultures, and someone from a more direct culture may have a hard time with less direct cultures because to them it seems like no one is saying what they really mean, when the person from another culture might have communicated extremely clearly within the parameters of their cultural context, the one listening may not have even heard what was said.

The neat thing about training listening energy is that one gets more experience listening for the small “gaps” between what people say and do, what they’re comfortable with and what they’re unwilling or unready to do. Most people are honest, but all of us have blind spots where we aren’t always aware of what we’re doing. Yang lao shu is so good at this that even when he was just learning English, he was able to bridge a lot of the language barrier.

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