In the mind and the little details

Yesterday’s yiquan rocked; lots of good things happened.

During the standing practice, I was working on my right ankle. In recent classes, I’ve noticed that if I make a slight adjustment to the angle between the foot and the ankle, a muscle (or something) that runs down the left-hand side of arch starts taking weight; it get sore quickly, indicating that it’s not accustomed to taking weight. The right foot is the one that always twists outwards when I’m training, both in yiquan and bagua – in fact, Kong Cheng commented on that a few times during our lessons. If I focus on the ankle, making sure that this muscle carries the weight it’s supposed to, then the foot stays straight. It’s amazing that I’d never noticed this before; on the other hand, I suppose it demonstrates that one of the benefits of training in an internal martial art is that it does develop this kind of sensitivity to little sensations in the body. In addition, it may be a coincidence, but I became aware of this after I started wearing my Vibram Five Finger shoes in class (to Master Yao’s great amusement!). I bought a second pair while I was in Singapore, and wore them during the retreat and in Bangkok (they got a lot of attention on Khao San Road, as did my Obamao t-shirts, hehehe).

Speaking of Kong Cheng, I contacted him after I got back from Thailand in order to start my bagua classes again, but the next day he was flying off to Europe again to teach there; he’ll be back in June.

The other thing that happened yesterday was the tui shou, where I got my groove back. I’d been mulling over why things went so badly last week. I recalled that I’d been doing alright for a while, and then everything fell apart, but why? I didn’t suddenly lose my strength or skill, so why the sudden collapse? It must have been a mental thing, a change in the mind. So, yesterday, I trained with two different partners. One of them, I’d partnered last week. I managed to hold my own this time, but realised that my arms and shoulders were hurting a lot. I focused on the arch of my back, trying to keep my tailbone tucked in and the connection strong between back and legs. Then I had an insight: my mind was in my arms; I was directing it towards the points of contact with my partner’s arms. That meant that I was primarily using the strength of arms and shoulders. I switched my attention to the line between legs and back, down into the soles of my feet; my arms became mere appendages to this, simply conveying and extending the movement there. In other words, I suppose, I really did visualise myself as a tree, swaying from the root with the branches moving in turn… Anyway, boom; I was in control. For a while, I carried on the tui shou with my eyes closed; I could feel exactly where my partner’s strength was and neutralise it, and suddenly it was much easier to spin or uproot him.

Next, Master Yao partnered me with a relatively new student, a short, barrel-shaped guy who was physically very strong. Here, I practised my footwork a little more, sliding away from his power at a slight angle, and retreating just in front of it. I worked on using ‘bouncing’ power here to uproot him. this worked, and I managed to get him ‘jumping’ with both knees up high. If I can work out exactly how I did this, and then do it consistently, I’ll feel like I’m making some progress!

Master Yao pointed out that I tend to keep my hands balled in fists during tui shou when I should have them as open palms; he demonstrated how the spread fingers help uproot your partner. My first partner also pointed out that I’ve got a habit of gripping his wrist to control him, which is bad practice.

Sorry, this isn’t going to be too interesting to anyone but me, but I feel like I learned a few things yesterday and I want to note them down!

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