A PATH TOWARDS SOFTNESS
TuiShou ? This name means nothing to us. What could you tell us, to start ?
TuiShou, this little known name, is a form of practice as old as the oldest oriental martial arts. This is probably the most basic form by which martial qualitites can be transmitted : a game of confrontation for two, a fight to laugh, in a way.
All chinese martial arts have such a practice of simulated unarmed combat. The one we practice and which we are going to talk about is the TaiChi TuiShou of the Wu school in Shanghai. And — to our knowledge — its particularity is unique. « Come back like a child » still say the old Chinese Masters who inspire our practice today. « Be like children » said Christ. What do these aphorisms so similar tell us about the universe ? We must know how not to get in the way, with our ego, our desire to win, our refusal to lose. Because nourishing this « wanting for oneself » that lives in us so fiercely, simply leads to stiffening a little more and takes us opposite of the goal.
Martial arts, you say, is it not intended to be able to confront and beat others ? So what is the purpose of your practice if you let go of the need to win ?
Become soft. Become flexible, light, lively, present. Become more alive. Being able to actually be there without removing anything of the situation, without adding anything either. Agree with the opponent (as in adversity), follow it as closely as possible, stick at it, even, so as to ultimately unite with it in some way. Stay calm, just pay attention to what is coming...
« The tallest mountain can collapse, I don’t move » said the master. This famous TaiChi saying simply and radically means that whatever or whoever we face, we must let go of fear. Let it go completely. Don’t worry about it anymore. Stay open to what is coming. Available. Installed in peace.
« If I push him/her, I learn. If I am pushed or fall from pushing, I am still learning ». This is what we do with our partner at each of our meetings...!
So you are looking to push and avoid being pushed ! You are not just present without doing anything !
That is true. We are serious about pushing each other. But according to a very precise method, absolutely rigorous and which pushes us to get rid of the habits of our manic ego. Following this method gradually shapes another way of being there, in the presence of our partner. It is written in the body, in the tendons, in the muscles and also in the mind, in the attention and calm that gradually take hold of us. In an increasingly fine sensitivity and self-increasing capacities.
We are at the heart of what is both our aim and our tool. We seek and practice what Taoists call WuWei, Non-Acting. It does not mean doing nothing or wanting to accomplish anything. Rather, it means finding a way of doing things without hanging onto the object of this desire to do. Without being overwhelmed by the concern for the outcome of the action. We have to be gentle enough, physically and mentally, so that we can let ourselves be configured by the martial game and the push of our partner, without hardening anything, neither mentally nor physically.
If you want, we can say that the ego is that aspect of us which is attached to what attracts it and which repels what worries or displeases it ; it is also what our master calls our subjectivity. Well, the ego and its subjectivity, therefore, must be erased. We seek to develop this capacity to be fully present at the meetings by all ourself, through our whole body, attentive to the situation and the push that is deployed, without our subjectivity going into the foreground. This is in practice the sign of our greater or lesser ability to be gentle. And it’s what determines our effectiveness in the game.
It’s very interesting, but how do you develop it ?
Several ingredients come into play. First there is the practice. It’s fundamental. Position and movement must be right, precise, light, integrated. It takes time. And we have to adjust to the movement of our partners, stay in touch with them all the time and follow without introducing a gap that they could use. So all of our attention should be put on listening. Listening internally — what’s going on inside me, am I really focused, relaxed...? — as well as external monitoring — where is this push going ? Up, down, right, left ? In the practice of TuiShou we must be like an antenna, in all parts of our being... up to the point — we learn the saying — that « a fly cannot land on me without my whole body moving to adjust to it ». In fact, practitioners often seem to be peaceful and slow, but they are very busy. You can’t be there part time...
And then there is the spirit of research and brotherhood. For this, trust between the members of the group is fundamental. A spirit of work on oneself inhabits all the participants of our workshops and our seminars and allows them, little by little, to file this pride — this shield against fear — which lives in us all and which obstructs progress on the path. Everyone finds themselves confronted with their own muscular tensions and rigidities which block their movement. Everyone, at their own pace, faces the old dross that existence has put in their body and in their soul. This makes all practitioners brothers and sisters on the way. And imperceptibly, through collective practice, fear and its corollary — the need to win or to be right — will decrease.
But, if we may ask you again, in what way would this practice of TuiShou of TaiChi of the Wu school of Shanghai be so unique ? Don’t the other schools have TuiShou ?
You are right ! All TaiChi schools, if they are still linked to their martial origin, have a TuiShou practice. But here it is the practice itself that allows us to understand the depth of the softness that is required of us. It is not a matter of words, it is a demonstration that our master brings to life for everyone when he comes to visit us. The softness and lightness with which he engages with each practitioner is truly amazing. And the efficiency is absolutely visible.
Here practicing according to the method is the real guide. In the learning system offered by the Wu school in Shanghai, TuiShou’s complementarity with the execution of the long form is not an empty word. The practice of the form nourishes the TuiShou and vice versa. Lightness, softness and precision are found at all levels and in all aspects. It is truly a coherent and complete system and it has become too rare in the martial arts and TaiChi landscape in particular for not being underlined. If you agree to register and practice enough, it effectively and logically leads to transformation.
Practitioners, teachers or students, each at their own level, all are disciples in search of a softness to be found.
And when we talk about TaiChi as an art of health, we must understand that it is it — this global softness that reigns in the flesh and in the heart — which is the true guardian.
Vincent Béja — Practice in Paris and Toulouse — www.presence-tao.fr