For quite sometime since coming here to Japan, I have been looking for a Practitioner or a Sinsei, that I could learn either Chinese Medicine, Kampo, or Tai Ji from. Going through the usual routes on line, doing web searches for the area, lead nowhere really. Majority of the percentage of what I found on line, were Practitioners in Osaka, which being an hour and a half away did make it a bit difficult to travel. Even more so when the cost of transportation here is about seven times that of the states. I thought I could come across something if maybe I did a post on a Meet-up in the vicinity. I got no replys from it after a month so, I barely ever checked back on it. I happened to just get carried away with settling down, and getting to know Arida, Wakayama better. It wasn’t until 3 months of the post that finally, I got into contact with someone from the Shingu area. He mentioned that there was a group of people that do push hands in Kyoto every third sunday of the month. This was very exciting, since I finally got a response. However, Kyoto is even further from Osaka, an additional hour and a half. After so much time of just practicing Tai Ji by myself. I knew that there was only so much that I could do by myself. This month, it was a firm decision to make the trek, and get some insight into the practice of Tai Ji that I could not get on my own. I set out to Kyoto on Sunday morning, yesterday. I email Tom, the man who informed me of the group, how to get more specific directions. He mentioned that the group practices rain or shine, and are from all over the Kansai area. Shingu, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, and Nara. This gave me a little more motivation to make to journey and to see where I am really at in my practice. After the three hour journey, I finally got there, a little scattered, but still consolidating my qi. I pressed on and walked to the Kamon Gawa, the river that cuts through east central Kyoto. The group meets up near the banks of the river in the park right by Marutamachi Station on the Keihan line, and sure enough upon coming up to the bridge and looking over, I saw a group of pairs interlocked at the arms. This was it, and I quickly made my way to my first opponent. A middle aged Japanese man slightly balding and with long shoulder length hair. He spoke little English, and we just let the hands do the talking. I told him, I wasn’t very experience in push hands, since the majority of my practice has been form. (I have always wanted to practice, but for some reason was held back, and ended up learning weapons. I still wonder about that Dr. Wu!) He was not at all light on me. Quickly with moderate force he pushed me to the side. This was not at all an introductory match. I gathered up my Zhi and decide roll with hard ball. Bursting my conceptions of harmony and balance, I just went with force, and succeeded. Sometimes, Its just about carrying weight. On to the next! A jolly french-man from Hyogo, with a playful attitude, got my spirit up as he told me that free form is the way to go. However, getting caught in the playfulness, just distracted me and throw me off my feet. His spirit was so contagious that no matter how much force, no matter how much humor, no matter how much stuborness I used, he would keep me playfully going at it just to tossed to the side…… You win some, you lose some…..
I also sparred with another American. His name was Gabriel and he was from Amherst, Mass. We had a brief bonding and then right to it. His hand were stickier than my slipperiness. I could feel the heaviness of his hand clamp against my arms. I tried to to be light, but whenever I did, he would be lighter. He was also a good towering height, that made him a bit intimidating. However, after a while I was able to read him and follow him through. I could catch some nuances and changes about him, and it was until this match, that I could actually pay attention to listening! Listening to the opponent and anticipating him. We were neck and neck sometimes. I had to admit I did some pot shots just to get a couple cents in. But winning isn’t everything.
After a couple of more spars, and observing the older practitioners, I got some tips and was able to see what is lacking in my practice. I noticed changes in my stance and in my foot. I was ready to take this home. A group of Wing Chung students then joined the group, and I parted company.
No doubt about it, it was well worth the journey, and I look forward to next month.
There is an article on this group in the Kansai Scene Magazine.