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Tai Chi Tournaments

30 Jul 2007
They have Tai Chi tournaments? I always hear this when I first tell students about an upcoming tournament where I am judging. A Houston-area tournament is coming up this weekend, so the subject has been raised again.

Ponder this: the best way to win at a Tai Chi tournament is to not try to win. Somehow you must contend by not contending. This is the Taoist way, and Tai Chi is replete with Taoist underpinnings.

There are many good reasons to "compete" in a tournament, or at least watch one. You compete to learn: to perform outside the insulated circle of your Tai Chi class, teacher, and style. To be judged by someone other than your teacher, who constantly criticizes you in class but like any parent, wants the child to do well in public.

There are two types of Tai Chi competition, with very different rules, goals, and lessons. There is "forms" competition, where you demonstrate a section of a form you have learned. Categories are divided by level of experience, so beginnners only compete with other beginners.

The other kind is so-called pushing hands (tuishou), which is not fighting but is physical competition with another person. It may not be fighting, but injuries can and occasionally do occur. It is in tuishou where competitors typically try too hard to win, and in the process comport themselves poorly.

But whether a beginner or advanced practitioner, there is much you can win by watching forms competition. You will be exposed to forms and styles you have never seen or heard of before. Of all the rules I have taught about correct form and structure, you will see many of them broken. Some are broken because of poor practice, while others are broken because there are many levels to the "rules", and I have not shown you all the levels. Indeed, the levels are virtually infinite, so it is never possible to learn all the levels. Sometimes you only learn a lesson by what you see unexpectedly.

That's why I judge: to learn from what I see unexpectedly. As a student, you too can benefit in like manner. You learn to open your mind to the possibilities, but are challenged to not blindly accept just anything.

This weekend the opportunity presents itself at the U.S. National Martial Arts Tournament in Stafford, a far southwest corner of the Houston area near Sugarland. I highly recommend you attend either, or both of two events: the Master's Demonstrations, and the forms competition. To be honest, the demonstrations will not always be high-level masters, but some will be, and the event is always entertaining as well as enlightening.

Saturday the Master's Demo is at 10 am, and the forms competitions begin at Noon. Click here for a link to the schedule and location information.

As a judge, I will not necessarily be available to chat during the competitions, but I will make time where possible. Drop by and I will be happy to point out some of the high points and low points to you. There is a small price of admission, but the price is as well spent as any class. Look for me. Hope to see you there! And no class Saturday.


You may also like this related article: Are you Continuous? (93)
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