Sarah's travelling blog

Tai Chi Competition

CHINA | Thursday, 3 May 2012 | Views [157]

So, having sent an email that ended with the sentence “thankfully there hasn’t been another drinking session…” what happens?!  Unbeknown to me when I wrote that sentence, the 1st of May was the school’s birthday, and when we turned up at the kitchen for lunch, three tables had been put outside, and a crate of beer and Chinese alcohol was lined up along a wall.  The cook had been very busy in the four hours since breakfast.  There was a chicken casserole, some peanuts, green vegetables, salty fish, seaweed, pork, tofu noodles (which are not dissimilar to tagliatelli), and a plate of unidentifiable meat. 

Before we could eat anything we had to have a toast, which meant having a drink.  I’d really rather have had a beer, it was a hot day today and I didn’t want strong alcohol, but my glass was filled up before I could do anything about it and off everyone went saying ‘gambe!’ and knocking it back.  These days I’m very wary of Chinese casseroles.  There’s always a chicken foot floating in there somewhere, and often a head too, so I usually just eat the potatoes.  I don’t like fish so much, and the plate of meat looked suspicious so I avoided that (I later found out it was donkey meat!  Mmmm, yum!).  In other words, there wasn’t much there to soak up the booze.  I drank as slowly as I could, and was nearing the end of my glass and looking forwards to having a beer instead when Grandmaster Chen came along and refilled everyone’s glass for them.  To the brim.  By one o’clock everyone was completely pissed.   Sha Wei had been virtually force-feeding one student with alcohol and he was in a sorry state, head resting on the table, bright pink face and very watery eyes.  By one thirty I was in bed, and it was a very quiet afternoon!

On Sunday and Monday there was a tai chi competition in a very grubby tai chi school in Wen Xian.  Sometimes the sheer scale of filth and rubbish in China still has the capacity to surprise me.  If you had a tai chi school and were holding a competition there, wouldn’t you sweep the floor?  Maybe check under the seats to make sure there were no large piles of sunflower seed shells and fag ends?  Yes, you would, and so would I, but clearly the people who ran that school didn’t have time to worry about a trifle like that, and the place was dirty.  Some students from my school entered (not me), so I went along on Sunday to have a look, partly so I could take an afternoon off because I was feeling very tired! 

I’d never been to a tai chi competition before so I was curious to see what it was all about.  A large part of it seemed to be all about tai chi suits.  I did not know there was such a range of styles and colours!  There were black ones, blue ones, turquoise ones, pale pink ones, bright pink ones, white ones, grey ones and mustard yellow ones.  Some were shiny, some were matt or, even more exciting, a matt background with shiny dragons embossed on it.  Obviously no-one wants to look unimaginative when there is so much competition around, so there were a lot of suits embroidered with dragons, mountain scenes or flowers (very popular with the ladies), and there were others edged with silver or gold.  Two particularly eye-catching teenage boys had matching white and turquoise suits and bouffant hair styles.  Tin Tin and Ma Dong, who are best of friends and often sneak off for a fag when they’ve had enough of tai chi,  had matching blue suits trimmed with white.  Yan Fei’s was white and embroidered with flowers.  Ming had a totally plain, un-shiny black suit.  I told her I liked it.  She told me someone said it was too plain and she should have worn some flowers with it.       

Apart from admiring the fashion, you could watch people doing some tai chi, though it was hard to concentrate with all the people running about bawling into mobile phones, smoking fags, coughing, burping, videoing their kids/ husbands/ friends and generally being quite distracting.  It was also difficult to focus on one person because at any one time there were eight people doing tai chi and watching an individual was tricky because the other people kept getting in the way.  To be honest I was quite happy just sitting down having a rest while admiring the tai chi clothes.

And that’s it!  Six weeks left and I have such mixed feelings.  I swing between really wanting to see my niece and nephew (and a few other people J) and not wanting to leave at all.  Time is definitely accelerating and I know the next few weeks are going to shoot by.  I’m not sure what the plan is when it comes to training.  A new girl has come and is learning the sword form which is great as it means going through it again from the beginning and getting some more details, but it’s possible that I’ll be able to look at something else before I leave.  I’d really like to look at push-hands, but if not, there’s always next time…..  

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