I visited Sifu Bill Phillips of Patience Tai Chi today. Sifu Bill was one of Professor Cheng Man Ching’s students and an instructor at the New York Shr Jung school. When we shook hands I nearly fell over because I couldn’t add any pressure in order to shake. He stuck to my hand with just surface contact and let me move his hand all over. No matter which way I went with the handshake I couldn’t add any pressure (and I mean not one ounce). It was like shaking hands with a cloud. Strange experience. I think my push hands has improved a great deal since my last visit with Sifu Bill but that didn’t make much difference to the outcome, still no luck. But as with last visit, I learned a great deal.
Amazing experience with Maggie Newman, Professor Cheng’s senior student. I used to visit Maggie when I lived in upstate New York some years ago. On this visit I was playing fencing with her students and she kept chastising me for clashing - the sound of the wooden swords hitting off each other. She picked up her sword and walked over to me and suggested we duel. “I wonder if you know about sticking?” she asked. To put this in context Maggie is 89 years old and I am 39 with over 20 years experience in tai chi and martial arts. All morning she’d been slowly moving around the studio, sittingdown, at one point laying down to rest but as soon as she picked up the sword her whole body came to life. I remember reading a similar thing about Ueshiba Morehei – he would walk like a old man but the second the students would attack and he started moving he was untouchable–the chi took over. That happened straight away, as soon as we touched swords. She advanced, chasing me all over the room as I tried to mount a defence. And it wasn’t an attack. As soon as we touched swords I couldn’t turn her blade aside. She just stuck to me and controlled me so that I was compelled to move into a bad position in order to try and escape. If you’ve ever seen the video of Professor Cheng chasing students all over the room, with them getting all backed up and being unable to move, and then eventually getting cut because of their own error-it was exactly like that. I used to wonder why they didn’t just turn Professor aside and cut him. Now I see it was because they couldn’t. It was a covering energy-listening, sticking, controlling. I tried turning the blade one way to get her off and she would follow and cut me the other way. It was more than just technical skill, it was her chi that allowed her to control me through the point of contact with the sword. At one point I was doing so badly that she just started having fun. It looked like she was just moving through the form, following and cutting me on the way as a by product of the movement. Amazing feeling. Now, how toget that happening in my own practice? Maggie is a true master and has great kung fu. Her students are very lucky! – Morgan