Taoist combat?

Once upon a time, there was a king in China who wished his two pet chickens to become the best fighting cocks in the land. Upon hearing of the martial prowess of a legendary Taoist master, our king beseeched this master of the Way thus:

“Oh great One, your liege desires that these two worthless feathered scratchers shall triumph in the upcoming melee of fighting cocks. Make them invincible.”

And so our budding avian titans were brought under the wing of said ineffable master.

But come the grand contest, our king was sore concerned at the progress of his beloved chickens. Or apparent lack thereof. Whereas all the other champions from far and wide were in earnest combat with wing, beak, and claw, his own champions stood placidly aloof. They took no part in the unfolding spectacle of squawks and flying feathers!
Whenever they were set upon by the other cockerels, they merely retreated, turned, stepped away or otherwise deflected the mighty blows rained upon them, without fail. And remained unruffled.

And so it came to pass that all the mighty combatants in this unsurpassable contest clawed, pecked and kicked each other out of contention. Even the mightiest of them slumped in defeat, if only through exhaustion.

Save for our two idle protagonists. And so our mighty monarch witnessed his twin champions declared unbowed and triumphant.

Overjoyed though our king was to have his heart’s desire fulfilled, yet was he still sore baffled as to how his chickens had won!

“Oh most illustrious of gurus, how did you conjure victory out of seeming certain defeat?”

Whereupon our reticent sage revealed his great secret:

“I merely trained them to Do NOT!”

{ adapted from address on 26th Feb. 1995 at Castle Mt. by H.H. SHRI MATAJI NIRMALA DEVI }
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  1. Subject: Push hands – report from 27 June 2018
    Sifu commented that my hands were light at the beginning of the Push-Hands cycle.
    I explained that this stage of the journey had started with the discussion after a different dance which had occurred several weeks ago, and the comment that to be considered “combat ready” one needed to be able to do the 108 in 8 minutes.
    That had made me realise that, to be able to perform this, would require you to be insubstantial, so that you did not get in the way of the substantial, being the Chi.
    A couple of days ago, I had mentally done Section 3 as fast as I could and discovered that (1) it made my head spin, and (2) I was glossing over the moves, and that I would need to practice.
    And practice is no guarantee that I will achieve it, but it has certainly started to help me better understand and do Push Hands.

  2. “yin, yang, zhong”

    Zhong is the centre; before you begin and after you end: that is the neutral, detached starting/”ready” position:

    The attitude of the starting position (arms bent at shoulder level) is soft, the fingers are just touching the other half’s arm (elbow, wrist):

    – light as a feather, like Shri Lakshmi standing upon a lotus flower

  3. Subject: 1st Report – 13 May 2015
    { 1st time at Push Hands } …

    ..a seemingly simple movement to learn with another person
    what unveiled was an insight into my own state and the personality of the other

    when both parties began to surrender then there seemed to be no distinction between my arm/hand and theirs
    both equal and entwined and there to assist one another
    then the circular motion became fluid and beautiful

    this was a fleeting experience but a promise of what it can actually feel like and experience

    Thank you

  4. Tuesday, 27 September 2011 Push Hands

    “inertia vs force” Funny stuff – part of story.. you do nothing. “If I am not myself, who/what is the other?”…then “ what does the Divine leave UnDone?”

    ..I held back and allowed Danya to slip and won? 2 times consecutively > Sifu said Danya had right attitude – implied I broke rules to win. Difference ? Force vs the Way.

    ..(I always give and don’t receive, my default position, saves me from catching negativity from others in my line of work.)

    Next time asked to try Inertia not resistance and felt very grounded like connected to the Earth; Sifu’s release only returned me to neutral.

    Later Sifu stood in middle and asked 3 of us to stand around him and to “neither resist nor assist” . I found I succeeded in loosing balance several times; Master Ric said “very good”.

    Generally as per Sifu’s remarks felt my perception of push hands etc. at a new level. I am yet to fully recognise when I am applying force, ie my default position remains, but starting to be aware of it.
    Parallel to meditation, is not realising when one is thinking, i.e. the Ego gets sneakier the deeper one goes.

    Walking with Danya we were discussing in Push Hands apparent winning / avoiding being pushed over is not necessarily the goal, but the learning comes more when one is pushed over / apparent defeat.

  5. Subject: Re: Push Hands?
    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2015 19:39:22 +1000
    Match Report, Push hands 22/04/2015
    Did Push hands first then second exercise with Gregor. Was reminded of importance of midline to midline in the second exercise. Also hands only vs. hands and body. Apparently not a relevant question. Initially there was only hands, but the increase in push – the larger “nice Circle” would eventually be absorbed by the body. For me this was going more into sitback, but with minimal actual turning. Gregor on the other hand (pun?) was turning a lot more.
    When partnering Sifu I became aware that Sifu was simply following, though physically appeared to be drawing or guiding the other down.
    In my case, movement direction, and intent seemed to come from mental projection of what I thought was the right direction to allow movement, what I thought Sifu was intending .. I tried to neither assist nor resist, but was perhaps fearful of certain directions.
    On discussion of this and others’ experience, I remembered a story which someone described as her first lesson in learning to ride a bicycle.
    She described being in a large almost empty paddock with a bit of a slope. Her father sat her on the bike at the top of a quite wide hill where somewhere below was only one tree.
    She described rolling down the hill screaming all the way as the bike rolled steadily directly at the tree the whole way, and eventually ran into it.
    Regards, Andrew.

  6. My match report:
    – Sifu clarified the difference between Push Hands exercises 1 and 2 (centre line). Exercise 2 was a lot more physical than I had previously done it.
    – the “hook wrists” exercise was only introduced to help speed our progress in maintaining contact@the wrist. It’s not part of normal push hands.
    The “double handshake” exercise brought some enlightening experiences and discussions:
    – There is a difference between describing observation and attributing causation or explaining what is observed.
    – Based on my previous experience in Gladesville (which was “where my attention went, that’s where I ended up”) I found myself focusing on not focusing on any outcome. This made the experience quite slow. There were a couple of spots where we got stuck, but the impulse came to move.
    – I was attributing cause in my mind (Sifu’s impulse started the movement), even when experiencing it. On reflection, this might just be the mentally more comfortable way of explaining the movement. A paradigm shift would be: “we were both participants in a spontaneous dance, triggered and guided by the Chi”
    Thank you.

  7. Not too much to mention, except that today I received the first real inkling how easily Ric could destroy me if ever he felt the need!
    A quick “shoulder lean” towards my sternum had my heart miss a beat, leaving me breathless and a little befuddled.
    This was with my arms crossed over my chest{to prevent direct contact}, and little real momentum and no “internal” energy added on top of the blow.
    I am beginning to appreciate what Ric means when he says that the people who came up with these gently lethal movements must have been scary scary people.

  8. Approximately three months ago, I was in front of a shop with a group of friends when my friend’s neighbour was walking her dog (an Alaskan Malamute “full-grown”). The dog seemed so friendly when it came to me, so I sat down and stroked it a few times when to my surprise, without warning the dog lunged at me. All I heard next was a vicious growl from the dog, loud screams from my friends and all I could see was the dog’s mouth wide open, teeth and two protruding fangs inches from my face. I was trapped in a sitting position with a friend crouched beside me and a glass sliding door behind me. At that moment I instinctively protected my face by palming the dog’s neck with my left hand, but it jerked back sharply and bit into the index and middle fingers of my left hand. At this instance time had almost stood still as I felt the crushing jaw and the sensation of teeth sinking into my fingers; what followed next felt like I was practising very slow Tai Chi with options and plenty of time to handle this situation. I formed a fist to grip it’s fang with my injured left hand to prevent the dog’s teeth from further penetration of my fingers, pulled it’s head towards me and simultaneously circled my right hand over my left and knocked it’s head. It felt like I had only connected with the dog’s head lightly but the dog seemed to retreat rapidly. Afterwards a friend drove me to the nearby medical centre and I told her how disappointed I was that I couldn’t hit the dog hard enough as it had moved too swiftly to teach it a lesson. However, when we got back to the shop, a group of friends who saw the whole event couldn’t believe how quickly I had intercepted, tapped then bounced the dog a metre away. Funnily enough, I had experienced the effect of ‘slow motion’ in a couple of dangerous situations and while training Gung Fu intensely before; the dog attack only lasted a split second or two but definitely felt like 30 seconds of Tai Chi to me.

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