Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Taiji Christmas

Most years, I visit my family in Sarasota over Christmas. While visiting last year, I tried a simple 2-person exercise with a friend of mine to see if my training was paying off. The exercise was a very basic form of push-hands - we faced one another with feet shoulder width apart, hands contacting each other's shoulders with one arm on the inside and the other on the outside, making everything symmetric. The game was to simply try to off-balance each other. I wasn't sure what was going to happen but, with just a bit of energy, my friend's upper body locked up and over he went - several times.

This year, I was at my sister's on Christmas day and that same friend dropped by for a visit. After a while, I suggested that we try the same exercise again and this time, rather then locking up, he stayed completely loose, which was an improvement. Still, he was a bit too loose so I was able to take the slack out of his arms and over he went - several times.

After doing this for a while, he convinced my nephew to give it a try (since my nephew was laughing at him). While my nephew is only 15 (closing in on 16), he's taller than I am and outweighs me by a fair bit. When we commenced, he leaned on me and pushed with all his strength (did I mention that he also lifts weights). Normally, I would have just twisted a bit and let him slip by but, with all the energy he was putting into it, I knew he would go flying across the room so instead I redirected his force back into him and twisted him off his base - again, several times. I think he was impressed because he later asked about how it all worked.

Finally, after seeing me push her son around, my sister decided she wanted to give it a go as well. She's only 5' tall and 110lbs but she does triathlons and is very competitive. She wasn't satisfied with the horse-stance we were using and instead got into an archer's stance. When we commenced, she lunged at me with all her strength and I sent her flying across the room before I had the chance to think. She thought it was pretty hysterical and, once she stopped laughing, came back and started pushing with all her strength again (completely oblivious to the fixed-step nature of the exercise). I had enough time to react so I didn't send her flying across the room again - I just tried to keep relaxed and channel her energy back into her - she's impressively strong and aggressive and it took a lot of my skill to handle her.

In the end, this exercise was interesting for two reasons. First it showed that I have gained skill through my training and that skill can be applied to vastly different opponents/energies. Second, it showed that I still have a lot to learn yet. Despite their lack of training, it was much harder for me to control my friend, nephew, and sister than I expected and I expended a lot of effort to do so. This points to a number of weaknesses in my own skill that I need to think about and figure out how to improve. That way, I'll be ready for next Christmas.

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