Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 382


When I was in my first year of high school, my friend from across the street and I would walk to and from school, about two miles. Our route took us through an area we never used to go to before this. We soon discovered, on one street, lived a big kid who, for some strange reason, found fun in threatening and chasing us. It didn’t take too long to figure out a different route.

One of our friends was in the boy scouts, so we decided to join. The scouts met in a house not too far from our own, so we would walk. As we were getting settled into the scout life, this bully joined! We couldn’t believe it. He was older than us, and had been held back in school, so he was around us smaller guys. He quickly got into his old habit of threats and chasing us after our meetings. I quit soon thereafter. This guy ended up in trouble with the police and disappeared from the neighborhood, to our great relief.

Another bully appeared at a Tai Chi tournament I participated in, back in 1994. It was The Taste of China All Tai Chi Championships held in Virginia. I had never seen or been involved with push hands tournaments, and was encouraged to go by a couple of my Tai Chi instructor buddies, so I went. It changed my life.

The first day there were several workshops to work on rules, procedure, techniques, etc. This was then to be followed by the tournament. During the workshop, I was, at one point, matched up with this one guy, to work on some principle or other. While we worked on things, he started instructing me, in ways I found offensive. He even yelled at me at one point. I quickly moved away from him and avoided him during the rest of the workshop time.

The tournament was divided into male and female, and weight classes. I weighed 206 pounds at this time and that put me into the unlimited class which started at 205 pounds. I was the lightest person in this class.

I had been aware that the guy, who was an instructor from back East, had brought a few of his students to participate. I watched in disgust as the tournament progressed, because this guy would stand on the side lines of a match involving one of his students, and he would yell at them to do this or that while the match was taking place. Very unsportsmanlike to be sure. It certainly didn’t help his students, making them nervous and uptight. Nobody else in the tournament exhibited this sort of behavior. He didn’t seem to care or notice the feelings of others, as his only concern was with winning.

This fellow was quite large, and had won several tournaments in the past. He was in my weight class, and I might have to face him, if I made it that far. And I did, moving through several other matches, to end up facing him for the gold medal in our class. A couple of my instructor buddies told me to be careful, as he would do anything to win. I myself, wasn’t at all attached to winning, but I am competitive. And after our earlier encounter, I was ready.

The match was actually very close. He won some points, while I won others. Because he was quite a bit larger than I, I employed a technique of sitting back and making him come after me. He didn’t like this and wanted to tussle, because his size would over come me surely. I think we were actually tied as the clock was nearing the end of the time for the match. I got a good move in, threw him off, and was a point ahead when he, deciding I had done something he didn’t agree with, struck me in the head with his hand. This is highly illegal, as there is no touching above the shoulders or below the waist allowed. The judges caught this immediately, and disqualified him, giving me the gold. Let me tell you – he was angry and would have loved to engage me in a real fight. The vibes he put out turned all the judges off.

So how did this change my life? I had never practiced competitive push hands before. Never practiced moving push hands (one of the categories of the tournament, the other being the more common fixed step). And I ended up the Grand Champion! What it said to me is that all the skills needed for push hands are found in the form. Just practice the form, and, if you desire, you can call on whatever skill you need.

This tournament gave me the confidence to start writing, which I have been doing ever since. I went on to become a tournament judge, referee, and even organize push hands tournaments. It was a fun period of my Tai Chi development. I don’t think tournaments are as popular now as they were back in those days.

So when confronted with a bully, first try to avoid him or her. If you can’t, try to sit back, let that person make the mistake, and then take advantage of that. Try to keep a smile on your face and in your heart, and realize that even this problem will have an end.