Sunday, October 07, 2012

Too Much Symbolism

During LD weekend, I participated in a TJ workshop.  It was a stretch for me and I told the teacher I wasn't sure I could do all three half-day sessions.  He had asked me to go to an extra class for free right before the first session so I had to explain that I actually have a pretty bad case of chronic fatigue syndrome and couldn't do that.  I had gotten through the classes so far without needing to mention it.

The previous weekend, a girl, Tiger, showed up at our Saturday class.  I recognized her because I had found her Facebook page while searching about TJ and saw that she had been a graduate student at the University.  She is a long time student of the TJ teacher and had just moved back to the area.  The teacher asked her to lead the form and I was a bit entranced because it was the first time I had seen a female teacher do the Chen style form.  She is not as feminine and graceful as my other Yang style TJ teacher G but it was still distinctly different from the male teachers I have seen doing the form.

During part of class, the teacher calls individual students to the front, has him or her do a short section of the form, and corrects him or her.  The teacher tends to call the same few students who seem to be the better students.  When it was my turn, he told me to do a longer section, and said that they need to push me because I had learned the form a long time ago.  I had learned it six years ago with another teacher, L, his student, before I got sick and then relearned it from L right before switching to his class.  I got the sense that he saw a mismatch between my ability and my memory of the form which is not so good.  While I was leading that section, he went over to talk to Tiger and I overheard something in Mandarin about... he or she's very smart, graduated from the University....  I turned my head around and looked quizzically at him, are you talking about me?

Later when we did PH, he assigned me to do PH with Tiger.  I think it's because I'm pretty good even though I'm a new student and just started PH.  We started doing single hand PH which I had never done before.  Right off the bat, she told me, "don't be afraid."  Yes, I'm a bit cautious and tentative.  I thought it was interesting how she immediately picked up on it and called it out, similar to Teacher who is extremely attuned to people's inner states, hidden intentions, and motivations even unrelated to TJ and has no qualms about calling them out, either directly or sometimes subtly or indirectly.

I had been getting the sense that my teacher likes me in some way and I get extra attention in class.  Next, we switched PH partners and he said he would do it with me, and Tiger with M next to us.  We started doing double hand PH which I had only done about twice before.  I just follow like in social dance.  I know I'm a good follow in social dance and for the same reason, I'm also pretty good at PH.  But I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing so I asked, "which way do I push?"  The teacher was unusually quiet for a moment, had a little smile on his face, a soft sparkle in his eyes, and didn't answer my question.  I think I was doing it right.  I don't know if I was "affecting his center" like Tiger told me later during the workshop that I was supposed to try to do during PH.  But I think "capturing the center" of gravity of one's partner is something that has to be done constantly while social dancing.  Anyway, then the teacher awoke from silence and asked me if I had seen Tiger while at the University.  Well, no, she was there much later than I was, although we may have overlapped one quarter during graduate school.  I said no but that I had seen her Web page.  She sort of laughed.  But already, I was picking up the teensiest of a vibe, not hostile, just that there's a new girl and she's getting a lot of attention.

Then it was time to learn the sword form.  Tiger chatted with me for a few minutes, asking about attending the University, so I ran over to the group late.  The teacher asked if we remembered how to hold our swords in the ready position.  I put the sword in my left hand with the tip pointed up to my ear.  The teacher looked over at me and said, "perfect."  I felt like I was getting a little extra attention.

The next weekend was the workshop.  A few days before, the teacher sent out a revised schedule.  I looked at it and thought it worked out better for me with my chronic fatigue syndrome.  I couldn't help but think that maybe he had changed the schedule with me in mind after I had told him about it.  So I ended up feeling able to go for part of the class before the workshop that I had said I wouldn't be able to handle.  I went late and when I arrived, the teacher said the group would do fifteen minutes of the form that was to be taught in the workshop to prepare the new students like me.

Then he came over to me and asked if I wanted to do the sword form with the MV group and asked if I had brought my sword.  He said he had forgotten to tell me to bring my sword.

"Where's your sword?  At home?"
"Oh... uh... it's in my car." (far away)
With a slightly boyish mischievous smile, "I have one.  You can use this."
A previous sword lending incident came to mind.  Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, "Oh, it's probably too big for me."
"No... I don't think it's too big for you..."
A male student C? who had been standing several feet away went to get something and called out, "Hey Teacher, do you want a shorter sword for her?"
T seemed interrupted by the appropriate gesture and went over to get the sword.
"Do you want to use this one... or this one," holding C's sword away.
I kind of looked at both swords, looked at C's sword, and started extending my hand.
Pulling C's sword even further away, "That one's nicer.  This one... got all these.. sharp corners," with a somewhat boyishly mischievous voice and expression.

The sword did look nicer but I'm not sure about the sharp corners.  So he wanted me to use his sword.  I kept my innocent face.

Then as I joined the group in the middle, he said, "M, stand over here," in the front to his right.  That's actually my preferred position since you can see the teacher do most of the form from that position and the MV group was ahead of the SM group so it was better for me, but I was getting some extra attention.

The sword incident before this was when the SM group had just started learning the sword form before our new swords had arrived.  The teacher had brought some extra weapons for the students to use, mostly dao to substitute for jian for the time being.  He passed them out to everyone else first, then asked me if I had a sword.  No....  He looked like he was thinking for a moment, felt the sheath of his sword, took his sword out and handed me the sheath to use as a sword substitute.  Now the sheath really had some sharp metal decorative edges so I had to inspect it to find a decent handhold which was not too easy.  Halfway into the instruction, he came over, handed me his sword, and said, "why don't you try this," and took the sheath to instruct with.  I didn't really think anything of it at first, then started wondering about the symbolism, and thought maybe I just have a dirty mind.

Back to the workshop... I was invited along for lunch with the teacher's closer students.  At one point, Tiger pulled out a plastic container filled with cut strawberries and blueberries.  She scooped some for herself and then handed it to Teacher, "Have some of this."  He looked at her, gently but without a smile, "You want me to eat this?"  "You need to eat better."  After a moment, still without a smile, "Ok."  I saw the strawberries and thought Tess of the D'Urbervilles and the strawberry scene.  She offered me some berries and I said, no thank you.  "Are you sure?"  "Yeah, I'm okay."  I was staying out of this fruit scene!  Raspberries were in season and I had brought some, after getting the idea from P at the DL hangout a few weeks earlier.  I decided not to pull them out at that point, hah.  I was thinking about whether a very masculine fifty-something year old man would want to be mothered by someone nearly half his age while not even in a relationship.  If a grown-up wants to eat some fruit, he'll eat some fruit.