One of the BIG principles in tai chi chuan and in teaching autistics is to do routine things routinely. Once students figure out that speed comes from slowness and power comes from softness they practice differently. In fact, the real breakthrough for a student comes when, consciously or otherwise, he or she determines that every movement and every breath is important, so one has to dance as if everyone is watching.
For a martial art obsessed with circles there is remarkably little rolling either in a gymnastic sense or with weapons. Two exceptions are the tai chi ball and the tai chi bang. I would suspect some early practitioner decided to handle a large rock as some sort of weightlifting and that’s is how the tai chi ball might have started. There are two legends about the tai chi bang: (1) the great Chen Fake (陳發科; 1887–1957) noticed his wife’s rolling pin and extended her motions into exercises. (2) she taught him. I have written to Jack Yan (translator for and disciple of Chen Zhenglei), Chen Juan, and others. In the meantime here are some photos (with bang, with ruler, two views of rolling pin)
The lame verbal wit does not work if the weapons are described by their Chinese name of ‘gen‘.
Any readers and (especially) martial arts teachers out there with advice, I’d appreciate it. This is serious stuff, so serious comments only, please.
I had an incident in class Saturday. It was a supplementary class – pretty much a normal Monday-Friday class in terms of material as opposed to a one-time seminar on some interesting Hung Gar weapon. One young man had come without an aide (from the adult day care he goes to M-F), but with his mother. We have computer displays at the back where normally aides can watch the telemetry grabbed from FitBits or whatever gizmos students are wearing. We’d like to cool someone off if they show signs of overheating, try to preempt (or at least lessen) seizures and that sort of thing. At the moment, the screens are turned away from me (they would likely be a distraction, and I could not read them at that distance anyway). About 45 minutes in the young man’s mother got a phone call and walked out of the room to take it. The young man started having PAT (paroxysmal atrial tachycardia – heart rate roars to 200, temp goes up, blood pressure is elevated). Once you’ve seen it, it is not easily forgotten. So I sent one of the two aides to get the mother (not a recommended practice as it leaves the aide’s students under-supervised).
I told everyone to sit down for a break (a desperate tactic by me) while I got the young man seated. He is 6’3″ and about 270 pounds, so that took some doing. As I understand it, during PAT people cannot hear or see, and can react violently to being approached or touched. I got him started drinking cool water and got a cool wrap (special cloth that cools by evaporation) on his head. Impertinent editorial footnote: I have to say he looked like he was wearing a hijab – had things not been so serious, I might have laughed. His mother returned. I figured I was in for a yelling about how tai chi was dangerous, I couldn’t teach … Instead, she knelt down next to her son and starting crying. That got the whole class (and me) staring. Well, Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg (from Single Sword, Lao Jia 1 and Xin Jia 1, as I am sure you know) has its points as a defense, but neither it nor any other tai chi chuan posture is of even limited use against tears. I have no idea what the best (or even a reasonable) response should be, but I had the class and the young man, who seemed okay, do a few quick warm-ups and we re-started back where we were. Take #2, as they say in the movies.
I did promise the mother to make and post a video – as soon as I have some consensus on whether what I did was right. We are playing for very high stakes where one mistake is two too many.
A photo of me in the rather odd combination of tennis shorts and a tai chi top. My trusty silver shoes are off exposing well-turned ankles alluringly hidden underneath very sheer and stylish anklets. I am holding a red graphite staff which is supposed to mark the mid- point of the Kidney 1 points line and provide reference so the knees are flexed slightly forward. Elegantly scotch-taped to my leg are a string of blue LEDs. They actually follow a meridian and the lights more or less show where the various acupuncture points are. Ironically, for a martial art focused on movement = dynamic and kinetic dancing, a key practice is standing meditation where one does not move at all.
One of the technical points is you want to connect a point called Pericardium 9,
which is at the tip of the middle finger, to another point named Gall Bladder 31,
which is about midway down the lateral (outside) surface of the thigh. So if you
knew little about all this stuff,would the lights help you understand the teacher
wants energy (chi) to flow down your leg.
Working at the Contra Costa Solano Food Bank truck during a produce distribution on October 4 at Rio Vista School in Bay Point. The truck arrived later than usual (replacement driver) so I had had to set up three of the fives tables, put out the safety cones, get signed in, get gloved up and move carrots and oranges to the tables. The rest of crew took care of the apples, potatoes and broccoli on the other side. The cabbages were the problem – the truck had only 70 left. It would be reasonable to expect we’d have 90 people – maybe over 100. In the photo there are eight cabbages left and it’s 4:30 – only 30 minutes in and another 30 minutes to go. All the cabbages were unloaded by hand in pairs from the big cardboard container behind me. Nothing like a good lungful of cabbage-laden air. I am not sure if I was already getting a headcold or the KrautLuft helped. I have a cold now. The cabbages were a hassle as they were crammed against the far (most inside) wall. I am also looking tired (well, I am not just looking tired – I am tired) because I was having to climb up to haul oranges from the top bin. Like being on Stairmaster, but with no hands (carrying three bags of oranges). We ran out of both oranges and carrots before closing (the cabbages were long gone) and had no apples for the last couple stragglers. Despite our best efforts we could not give away enough broccoli – had about 6 milk crates left. Sending potatoes back is okay – they can last. Everything else has been out on the truck all day. For the curious, that is my SF Giants cap, my shades are off (temporarily, so I don’t resemble some insect), and my shirt actually has three horizontal bands of different blue colors.
It is lightly raining in parts of northern Contra Costa County.
Of course, my neighbor’s VersaTube building kit has just arrived.
I know, beats working in 100 degree heat.
Everything that was on the truck has been unloaded and neatly put away.
Unfortunately, there’s no building permit, so we have to stop there. And it seems that the roof is missing.