We went to Dallas (Plano) Texas last weekend for the annual Chin Woo Association's Tai Chi Legacy Tournament. It's a big one, maybe the second-biggest in the country.
A lot of stuff happened. We did workshops. We did forms. We did push-hands. We ate a lot of good food. Strangely, I haven't felt like reporting any of it. The competitions were not bad, but not very good, either. Both of us have improved since last year, but neither of us had trained for this tournament. I did all right in my first ever push-hands competition, I got bronze, and I think I could've gotten silver if they'd had everybody do two fights instead of using the "bye" system. The chick I fought was kind of wild. She kept breaking contact, which is a no-no and she was warned about it. She was real steady in her low stance but her upper body was easy to move. I was starting to get her figured out but I ran out of time. Final score was 10-5, but I learned a lot and kept my cool. The woman who got silver was actually knocked down twice, and I never lost my footing, hence my thinking that I could've beaten her.
At any rate I don't think the judges were very strict in that ring. Even before I went up, I noticed a lot of grabbing that wasn't being called. But it doesn't matter. I was in a good frame of mind for the fight, empty and ready to learn. I know a couple of things to work on for the upcoming year. The SP and I both received compliments on our form; we were both trying really hard to do "correct" push-hands (I was really trying hard to stick to the rules, especially) but we got beat by people doing rather rough and tumble push-hands. Obviously we will have to help each other practice by doing rough-and-tumble attacks, so we can practice deflecting them softly.
Other things happened, all the little petty scandals and dramas inherent in a gathering of special-interest parties. Remember the Wookie, the sometime-attendee of my Wednesday night class? He met us at the tournament, attended no workshops, did no forms, just sat around for three days waiting for push-hands. In the meantime, somehow he met up with a snake of a master who decided to sic him on another visiting master. So the Wookie approaches this 70-year-old Chinese guy who probably weighs what I do, who came out of retirement to teach workshops at this tournament. The old master is a nice guy, so he invites the Wookie to touch hands with him, and the Wookie lays him out on the pavement. The old master is mortified, of course, and asks who is the Wookie's teacher, and guess what he says?
Sit gave him what-for, in his own quiet way. "I didn't teach you push-hands," he said last night in class, "so don't tell people I'm your teacher. Especially after you push someone down."
The Wookie is either mortified or sulking, I can't tell which. He's not the most expressive human being I've ever seen. I've never seen Sit actually kick anyone out of class, but I've never seen anybody as clueless as this big lump, either. He's wasting the time of the rest of us. The SP refuses to talk to him or even look at him, in part because he had met the old master and liked the guy. I can't quite find it in my heart to be cruel to a big dumb animal, but I may say something to him if the chance presents itself.
If that weren't enough, the Wookie invited along a friend to the tournament, another big lump I'll call Charlie because of his resemblance to Manson. Disheveled, dirty, holey clothes, wild hair, wild look in the eye. This guy claimed to have 30 years experience in Akido ("Maybe he do Akido thirty years ago," Sit snorted.). He, too, came just for the fighting, and he spent the three days before going around the tournament picking fights with guys smaller than him. I saw him wrestle a skinny 17-year-old to the ground and put an elbow on his throat before the kid's teacher intervened. Eventually Charlie picked on the wrong guy, a Chinese named Huong, I think. Huong evidently wanted to start a school in China and came to the U.S. tournament to win himself a grand championship--which he did, very handily. He entered 19 forms divisions, and won most of them. That would've been impressive enough, but he also fought in the light contact sparring and won that. At some point early in the weekend Charlie ran into this guy and started some shit, and got a nosebleed for his trouble. After that Charlie went to the registration board and asked to drop his enrollment in the sparring competition.
Ironically, I never met the guy during the weekend but we all knew who he was, thanks to his tenuous connection to our group. I hope I never do meet him.
Oh, and he lost at push-hands, too. The Wookie won in his division, which prompted Sit, on Wednesday, to suggest he start his own style. "Then you can teach people like you. Hard-style push-hands. Nobody else do that. That's a good idea, actually. You should go do that."
It was very hard not to laugh aloud at that. But Sit was careful to say to the SP and me, privately, "Don't think he's not good. He's very good at what he does. That's why he wins. That's why the old master make a mistake, he think he's not good, because he's a white guy and he talk slow, so the master is not prepared. You can never underestimate somebody. Especially if you going to let them touch you."
At any rate, we are back, and life marches on. The SP bought me a decent metal sword from one of the vendors, and Sit told us we'd resume sword form on Saturday. I'm glad. I like the sword form and I'd like to compete in it next year. Despite my lackluster performance over the weekend I can tell I'm still learning and growing. Sit's been overall quite positive about my application work. I can't do everything just right all the time, but the successes are coming with more ease and more frequency.
In other worlds, I have a wedding dress to wrap up and a bit of writing to do. Miss Fairweather is quietly furious that I have neglected her for so long, and she is demanding an outlet. Stay tuned for details.