We went. We sat. We didn't embarass ourselves.
It was a very small tournament. Maybe 1/3 the size of the one in KC two years ago. We all cringed to think of the money the poor bastard was losing. Still, it was nice to go and hang with the people we know, shake the hands and make the rounds.
This tournament was small enough that they didn't separate the forms divisions by gender, so the advanced tai chi division consisted of four guys, one of which was the SP, and me.
"How's it feel to be competing against your husband?" our friend Belle asked.
It didn't feel like much. I knew he was better than me, he trains more seriously and has been doing it longer. Besides, by now I've learned not to compete for the medals, which are cheap and take up space in the drawer. You compete for the score, because it's the only time you get a hard honest grade from your sifu. Sit gave me an 8.6, on a scale of 8.0-9.0. I can live with that. The SP did somewhat better, and deserved it. My sparring partner is looking really steady and relaxed with his form these days, especially on his kicks. He got the gold, I got the bronze, and a Chen-style guy from another local school got the silver.
I did about the same on my fan form, although I was the only advanced internal weapons competitor. Sit grabbed me almost immediately afterwards, when he sent everyone on break, and said, "Is too much hip movement. Too disconnected. You adjust your feet too much." It made sense when he said it. Tournament is a great time for little private mini-lessons with Sit--he can't stop teaching, and we all get inspired by the atmosphere.
Another of our classmates took a video of my fan form which I watch and did not like what I saw. It's a very pretty form. A lot of people say I make it look very pretty. I think it looks like ballet or something, not like a martial art. You could say I'm "throwing my power away." There's too much extension, not enough movement from the body, and my feet are not rooted. That last I knew about, and I'm making plans to fix it.
Ah well. It wasn't completely embarassing. I had to cringe for my poor husband, though, who had to do push-hands competition with three guys who were six inches taller than he, the lightest of whom outweighed him by forty pounds. They just didn't have anyone else in his weight division. Still, he was game, and I feel safe in saying that he had the best "softness" and flexibility of them all. The guy who took silver was pretty good, too. The guy who won gold was the afore-mentioned Wookie who recently started coming on Wednesday nights. He's a beast--6'4" or more, 260 lbs., and in Sit's words, has "unbelievable rooting." He cannot be pushed. Occasionally he can be tipped sideways, but this makes him bellow like a bull and charge.
He was not doing good push-hands. And the other big guy kept getting more aggressive to try and match him. At one point Sit stopped them both and said, "You must be SOFTER. Use LESS force. Otherwise I disqualify you both and the SP win!"
He was joking. But we were all hoping to see the big bull put down. It's completely counter to the philosophy of martial arts to see the biggest strongest guy win with bad technique, but I guess it just gives us reason to train better.
One other thing about this tournament that was kind of weird. I haven't been out in public for a while, much less by myself, unless I was running to the grocery store or the hardware store in a pair of sloppy work pants and a nasty cap. I was looking kind of cute on Saturday, hair up, makeup on--we all dress up a bit for these competitions. Gotta represent, ya know.
But I had forgotten about the ratio of men to women at these events. And I had forgotten how appealing a female is to the males in the same interest group. I was getting a lot of attention. Outright stares, actually. Of course I was bouncing around smiling a lot, cos' gosh darn it, I'm happy these days, but since I'm happy at home and not looking for attention I kept getting startled by these strange gnomes who would wave at me, and hail me across the room, and come up to me as if they knew me. "Hi there!" (Pause to look me up and down.) "Aren't you doing anything this year?" And I'm like, "Um, yeah.... Do I know you?"
I know I'm not so shallow or airheaded to have forgotten these guys if I had actually been introduced to them. Some of the faces looked vaguely familiar, but then faces do after you've been to a few specialized gatherings like this. One tattooed, froglike dude actually followed me out of the auditorium, outside to the parking lot, and wandered over to where the SP and I were practicing push-hands, and goes, "So how's it going?"
"Good...," we said.
"Cool." Drag on cigarette. "So is that, like, push-hands?"
"You're into that, huh?"
"Pretty much," I said.
He dragged on his cigarette. Wandered away crestfallen.
"You are a freak magnet," the SP said in awe.