Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan

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Grab the Balls

So like many of your reading this, you probably associate Tai Chi with old people in parks and new age hippies, and to some extent you’re right. However, I now have a new found respect for it. I think we’re particularly lucky to have an awesome shīfu (teacher) who inspires me to get good.

Although the first few weeks was spent with lots of stretching and slow-moving, we are advancing through the 84 or so steps that we hope to one day master. Even the most harmless looking movement often has damaging implementation, and he now demonstrates each move in a fighting context which makes myself and Laurence very happy. He often picks on this one small guy who then gets the next 5 minutes being beaten up, showing us how to break his arms and snap his knees.

There are two other guys there who are also very good. One we call militant tai chi guy because he’s all about the fighting, and insists of every hand movement being directed towards the balls. He also makes each move impossibly hard by bending down lots lower than normal. The other guy, (we call him Mick) is equally good, but is much more peaceful and has a unique free-flowing style that is quite different from everyone else’s. Last week toward the end of class, militant tai chi guy took over for a bit, teaching the students how to grab balls effectively, and I could see that shīfu was looking at them trying to decide what to do next, and wondering how to get the classes attention. He decided to stand at the front of the courtyard and start practicing by himself. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and slowly the entire class were watching him demonstrate moves we had never seen before. He seemed to incorporate snake and crane styles into it, with lots of spin kicks and weird body popping moves (imagine the scene in kungfu panda 2), and by the end everyone was clapping.

Considering most famous martial artists like Jet Li, Donnie Yen and others trained in tai chi first, it’s clearly not just for old people, and if you don’t believe me, you can watch this nutter repeatedly beat up his friend (3:10 onwards). What’s best is that he sounds like a ghetto Theo Paphitis.