Tai Chi Y3D158: Box Ears with Fists

Again, a complicated morning. Started with tai chi, and 20 push-ups — grouped in sets of three and four.  Not ideal. Definitely my arms were not up to the challenge today.  Both qi gong forms worked fine — it was the push-ups that drove me crazy.

Today’s movement is Box Ears with Fists. The movement begins with the ending of yesterday’s movement, Bounce the Baby, and continues into tomorrow’s movement (well, ‘tomorrow’ is the first day of school, so my schedule is not entirely my own… I hope tomorrow, but it might be Friday or Thursday or Wednesday before I get to this), which is called Roll Back, the third such movement in this series.

The movement begins with the right foot and knee in the air, and the hands ‘clenching’ the empty space directly above the knee, pushing that space (or that held head, if it were a foe), down onto the knee.  The right foot is planted on the ground, the weight shifts from left foot to right foot, the body rebalances to a forward position, and the hands form three simultaneous arcing movements — first sliding from a thumbs-down position to a thumbs-up position, and second from a bent-elbow position to an extended-elbow position, and third from a relatively low position, to a relatively high one.

So, that’s a brief explanation of this movement, called Box Ears with Fists:

From bouncing baby, put down down the right toes,
and then the whole foot from the toe to heel.
Plant your foot softly, for everyone knows
not all ground is smooth; and you had best feel
whatever’s underfoot ere you commit.
Turn the thumbs over, and extend the arms,
And shift weight forward as muscles permit;
Fists rise to head-height; their pressure disarms
the haphazard foe. Balance sits enthroned
in the high-curving chambers of the ears;
and few can stand when both ears are so crowned
with such buffetings. Wooziness and tears
are common. Take care not to break the head—
rare is the foe we truly wish were dead.

Back when I was a baby martial artist, this is about 1999 or 2000, I happened to visit the wrestling room at the school where I worked during season, and a young man there knew that I was practicing tai chi. I had never really had a chance to practice any of these moves on someone, and this young man (foolishly, as it turned out for both of us), suggested that we try his wrestling skills out against my martial arts.  I agreed, after some persuasion from the coach, who thought it would be all right with him there.

We did a couple of sparring bits, but of course, we were after different things. HIS goal was actually to grapple me, since it’s hard to wrestle an opponent that you don’t have in a hold.  And MY goal was to stay out of a grapple, since I knew that it was relatively easy for him to screw me up seriously if he got me.   So we were at an impasse.

And then, after he went for me, I realized, wow, his head is at exactly the right height for a “box ears movement”.  This turned out to be a very bad thought.  I thought I had held back; he thought he wasn’t really in reach of me at all.  I shifted weight, shifted my arms, and BOOM.  Two fists, connecting on either side of his head.

Oh, my god.  He just dropped like a bag of potatoes — a sack with all sorts of things rumpling and tumbling around inside of it. Down onto the mat he went.  He tried getting up — the coach and I helped him to his feet — and then we helped him sit down again. Get some water, help him up again.

Eventually he was all right — probably not a concussion, just a rapid transformation of the state of the liquid in his ears from level to … ahem… bouncy… but it was a scary moment for his coach, and for me, and of course for the kid.

No, not scary.

A horrifying moment for me, and one of the impetuses for me to cease formal training for a while.  It is a useful reminder that this is a martial art, and it is possible to do great and lasting damage to someone if we’re not careful in our approach to this work.

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