Thursday, July 28, 2011

Humble as Pie - Part II

Yang Cheng Fu, creator of Yang style tai chi

I kept a mini-journal of sorts of my training over the last few weeks. Here are some snippets...

Sat 9 July 2011
8am - I tried to get down earlier today to see what the lay of the land was like.
It was certainly cooler earlier in the morning although the humidity is still ever-present; it was also quieter in the park at that time of the morning. Mr Tang - a locquacious gentleman with silver hair said "Jintian ni lai zenme zao" - today you're here so early! A reference to previous days me coming at 8.30am or later. There were a few men practising I hadn't seen before; some younger men - well, around my age - middle-aged I guess!! Ben suk was there hovering around the guys practising and correcting form as needed. Mr Tang invited me to push hands with him using his broken English. He said to push him as hard as I liked - he evaded me simply as all the others had. Try to relax. Again the tenants were the same "Our tai chi is soft, try not to use force". He said "Ben suk taught us this - you should learn from him" and led me over to him. Uncle Ben again laughed dismissively, with a "Who me?" gesture. He asked me to assume the tai chi posture "Strum the lute" seeing if I remembered his teachings from the day before. I tried to get my root together from the ground, relax into the hips as he pressed into my forearms. He slapped my shoulders "fang song" - Relax!! And I thought I was so relaxed!! I tried to let myself go even more. He said "Look at me, i'm over 70 years old and look at you, you're so young. But still you can't push me". It's not strength - you're stronger than me - it's the qi. It's all about the circle - rounded shoulders from the dantian and hips". He corrected my pelvic tilt to slightly anteriorly tilted; like a small "shime" in Japanese Karate or a very mild hip forward thrust.

Famous Bagua master Fu Chen Sung

Tues 12 July
Today I went again to the park at around 8am. Ben suk, Mr Tang and some other regulars were practising when I arrived. Uncle Ben pointed over at a man seated in one of the chairs and said "Ahh, he is a sifu as well. He is my sifu! I'm a sifu and he is a sifu also. He can speak Mandarin - Go speak to him". I went over to the seated man and introduced myself - he said hello. Mr Tang later explained that Sifu Leung is a famous tai chi sifu in Macau and has many students. He teaches at the Xin li hua jiu dian - Sintra Hotel courtyard every morning. Uncle Ben came over and said for me to demo something for Sifu Leung. I started the Yang 85 form. Sifu Leung and Uncle Ben watched and interspersed in Canto at various things, pointing at my legs and feet. I finished the first section, not a very good demonstration I might add. Sifu Leung said "Ni da de hen bu cuo" which was very flattering - your tai chi is not too bad. He then got up and said "But your legs and feet are not very relaxed". He asked me to demonstrate the pose 'ward off' - I got into stance. He said "See - here - he applied some pressure to my forearm and pushed. I tried to root but was pushed off balance. "You see" he said "Your feet, knees and legs are not relaxed so you have no-where to go". You need to relax each of your joints - straighten the spine and extend from the top of your head. He demonstrated. I tried to push him again but he wasn't there and I pushed myself off balance.

Physical Culture Society, Taiwan circa 1957

Friday 15 July
Pushing today I was eager to show what I had learnt but this only ended up with myself thinking too much and getting too tense. Thus I was pushed around a lot more easily. One of the pointers from today I remember distictly was "Feel as though you are rooting 1-metre below the ground". This visualisation in itself I found gives you a more rooted and stable sensation. Another one was "Feel your qi coming out of your fingertips" This I found harder to visualise. "When pushing with your forward arm in peng (wardoff)use your other arm (while holding your structure) and you will push the person away". Ben suk also today taught "Yi lian - using your "intention" -use your eyes to push past or behind the person". Today they also saw my Taizu long fist form; they asked if I had been training it a long while and that I should try to use more 'soft force' when I do the form to help develop my qi. Another older man invited me to push with him. I found out he was 78-years old but didn't look a day over 60. Age didn't matter in the contest though, as he easily had the better of me over the next five minutes.

Tuesday 19 July 2011
The eureka moment I had today while pushing hands was Ben suk saying "Yong nide dantien he kua an wo, bu yong nide shou" - use your hips and centre to push me, not your hands. Using this method I managed to root slightly better. Another gem he shared was 'Use your middle leg' - less salubrius types might take this meaning somewhat jokingly but his meaning was to feel as you have an extra leg creating stability. He continued "This cannot be learnt over 2 or 3 months - it takes a long time". Probably reference to me seeming overly eager in my training. Finally one of the others came up and said "Mei you mimi" - translating to "There are no secrets". I looked around at the people training, laughing and joking and then down
at my sweaty t-shirt. Considering that only a few weeks ago I was an 'outsider' looking in, and given how open they were in accepting me to their 'group' I tend to believe him.

Fu Chen Sung with bagua broadsword


  1. i bet you're in heaven learning from these old masters - you're living out the robert smith books! - Gav

  2. Hey Bro! Yeah, I'm having a great time. I'll be able to kick your butt next time I see you ; )

  3. Awesome mate, keep it coming!!

  4. Ash! Thanks'll have to do the same in BJ. There is some serious bagua there..