Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Like a new and mysterious toy

What's great about learning a martial art without an instructor is guessing what each move might be used for, what the original intent of the creator was, and what the subtle mechanics are that will make what on the surface looks like an insane or impractical move work like magic.

Take boxing for example. In boxing there's a move called a slip. When your opponent throws a punch at your face, don't block or back away, but duck into it. Crazy, right? Why would you like to move your perfectly serviceable face at something very clearly intended to dent it? The magic is, if you are fast enough, astute enough, and gutsy enough, you can use a slip to dodge while closing distance. Their attack slips harmlessly past your ear and before they know it you're denting them. I did it to this big bruiser friend of mine who laughs to this day about the fight where he repeatedly rammed his face onto the front of my punch.

With Tai Chi sword, we're still very far from finding that magic, but as we were going through the form on Sunday, we couldn't help but stop here and there to appreciate some of the possibilities of what we were trying to understand. Take John doing "Little Dipper" here. What might at first pass seem like a showoff pose appears to burst with possibilities after you've done it a few times. Is it a a parry? Is it a cut upwards? Is it a bind? What can you do with your hand there? Maybe you can clear the opponent's sword and give them a good poke in the eye, or maybe you can use that other hand to control the opponent's sword if you've got on a glove or are still holding your scabbard. Delicious, isn't it?

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