I’m sitting here at Lulu’s, hopped up on Advil and coffee, trying not to move my neck. Let me tell you about my weekend, and two very different experiences with the same concept.
In Tai Chi class on Friday, we did pushing hands. This exercise is done with a partner, very slowly, and is supposed to help students develop their “listening power,” which Wikipedia describes as
the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner’s force and thereby avoid or redirect it.
For me, the first five or ten minutes of pushing hands is about listening to my own body. I need to find my balance. And I mean really find it. That involves minute changes to weight distribution, spinal alignment, body position, focus, hand and arm movement, the works. When I find it, I can feel the connection of my feet to the earth, and draw strength from it. It’s very cool.
After my balance, I focus on my partner’s. We barely touch each other as we perform the exercise; just my fingertips on his elbow, my other hand lightly touching his wrist. Only a slight connection, but enough. As we circle our hands between our bodies, we’re listening. Trying to feel each other’s power, its direction, its weaknesses, its strengths.
Eventually, I’ll be able to do both things at once. Balance should come more easily — it already does — and the more you listen, the better you are at really hearing. Pushing hands feels like a true marriage of Mind, Body, and Spirit. When you understand those aspects of yourself, you can see them — and feel them — in everyone else, too.
Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending my second Muay Thai Kickboxing workshop at my kung fu school. In addition to basics (stance, punching, kicking, footwork) and sparring, we focused on the clinch.
When you’re in this position, you don’t feel like you have a lot of time to listen to much of anything besides your own survival instinct. Still, the same principles apply. Feel your opponent’s power. Feel her balance, her timing. Understand your own. Use both to your advantage.
We must have practiced clinching techniques for a good 30-45 minutes. I was drenched, huffing and puffing, covered in scrapes and bruises, and suffering from a very battered ego before we were done.
Judging from the pain in my neck today — Those muscles got a workout! — I won’t be rushing to practice clinching again anytime soon. But boy, when I’m watching my next fight, I’m not going to underestimate the skill and finesse required to be good at this. All martial arts, even the kicking and punching ones, require listening power.
I couldn’t come up with a way in which listening power relates to the theory or craft of writing. Can you?