China 2019 – Day 6, Tuesday, 23rd July
So today as well as training and learning Mandarin, I have had my first cupping treatment on this China trip.
I first had cupping in 2007, the first time I came to China and visited Beijing. I could only describe it as a feeling of my entire back being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner – and then it felt amazingly relaxing.
My cupping therapist this time has really gone to town but I feel incredibly relaxed and hopefully it has been a very detoxifying experience – despite looking like I have got about 30 slices of salami plastered all over my back and backside!
It’s become a tradition every time I come here – I have to get some cupping done.
Training, particularly in the morning today, has been very focused on pushing hands – the two person exercise where you gently connect one or both forearms and move around in a pre-set direction, or let the movement flow more naturally and freely, as it would in an actual fight.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, pushing hands brings the key principles of tai chi to life – correct weight distribution, no excessive movement, shifting and yielding, staying relaxed, not using force against force…. and one of the key ones: listening.
You should be able to reach a level with enough practice where your body can ‘listen’ and sense the movement of your opponent, and then you instinctively move accordingly, keeping your own balance, whilst gently unbalancing your opponent.
My students and close family and friends, as well as my partner, may disagree to an extent but I’m not too much of a talkative person most of the time. Particularly if in a group I let the conversation flow and try to only interject when I have got something valid to say.
One of my favourite verses of the Tao Te Ching (and I could Google it to find out which verse and how it’s exactly how it appears but I can’t be bothered, so I’ll paraphrase…)
‘Those who talk don’t know,
Those who know, don’t talk’.
Now you could ponder the deep esoteric lesson from these words, or take this literally and assume that it’s quite nonsensical but on a practical, everyday level I have always tended to interpret this as a metaphor for trying not to be the type of person who wants to talk too much to show off what I know – or think I know (I’m sure we all know people like that!). It’s a call for humility.
(Today one of our teachers was literally talking about ‘false masters’ who like to talk to much – and how it’s better to say less and let students figure things out for themselves).
So it occurred to me today whilst training and using my body to try to ‘listen’ to my opponents movement and intention, that if I’m the type of person who talks too much verbally without pausing to listen with my ears – it’s going to be a damn sight more difficult to be a martial artist who can ‘listen’ and read the patterns of an opponent using only the deeper intuition of the body.
We want to take principles learnt from tai chi and apply them to our everyday lives, to learn lessons from them to improve us as people – try not to be rigid (in body or beliefs), yield and deflect (don’t get caught up in unnecessary arguments), stay relaxed, breathe deeply, remain balanced in everything you do…. and importantly, listen… you will perhaps learn a lot more!