Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Thursday 23 September 2010

News from Shangri-La, martial arts utopia

I sometimes muse what it would be like if everyone trained in some martial art or other. Maybe it would be part of the school curriculum....(cue wavy utopian dream visuals)

"Apparently, in the old days, people would start a fight just for bumping into one another or if one had cast an eye over the other's partner in an over-keen manner: imagine! Of course, people fight still. Traditionalists like the formality of an official duel with seconds and everything, but most people if they are going to fight just get on with it there and then. Often a curious crowd will gather to appreciate the spectacle, trying to guess the school in which the brawlers have trained, and to heckle them if they use any overly-dirty techniques, the sort that still hurt on a cold day many years in the future. 
Children used to be discouraged from rough and tumble, especially girls, but they say its good for them now, so long as it doesn't get out of hand of course. Folks who don't like contact with others are seen as, well, a bit strange: what with so many people about these days, you've got to get used to a bit of heaving and jostling!
We love to watch the boxers and those MMA fighters from the old fashioned telly programmes. Of course, you can take your pick from fifteen or twenty different pugilistic events these days, and the fighters do very well: look at old "Iron Fist" McGill, Mayor of London now would you believe...
The best fighters are sent away as kids to the big schools in Tokyo, Manila or Shanghai, that's where most of the telly fighters get trained...
I hear it's fashionable for younger men to take trips to rough cities like Rio or Johannesburg: "tag-team tourism" they call it, where they go and pick fights with the local gangs and whatnot, but of course many of 'em don't make it back alive. Stupid isn't it? Boys will be boys though.
Of course, the kids have all got their favourite fighters and styles, they're always bugging the parents for the latest action figure or computer game. 
Me, I still like the odd bit of recreational sparring, nothing heavy mind: me and the lads from work book a slot in the dojo of a weekend and give each other a mild going over. We can only really manage the softer martial arts these days: no spinning back kicks for us! It keeps you fit and healthy, and it's all good fun.When I was younger, I hated it, but mainly because it was teachers pushing you to do it. But as you get older, you see the worth in it. 
If I'd have had any sense, I'd have out some money into the Instaform mouthguard company a few years back,now they sponsor most of the big schools and events, but you can't win'em all I suppose.
Amazing how times change eh?"

Monday 13 September 2010

Gone fishing?

When the Autumn rolls around again, spreading its wan light across the lawns of St Ann's Well Gardens, a tai chi man's thoughts turn to spear practice, something vigourous to warm his bones and get the blood pumping. The spear is a bulky object, and when carried in its case, people often mistake it for fishing gear: "Caught anything today?" they say, "Not today" I reply.
I like that people don't know, that in a small way, I lead a double life. Ninety percent of the population seem to find the idea of combatic martial arts mildly offensive, and I also like that.I like tai chi for its secrecy, for its aversion to showiness. When they wanted someone to teach a self-defence course at work, no-one thought to ask me, despite the fact I already teach there. It just didn't occur. Now, I'm no Geoff Thompson, but compared to most of the mortals that inhabit my workplace, I'm Conan the goddamned Barbarian. But they just don't know. The great thing is, even people that do tai chi don't know. They've convinced themselves (someof them anyway) that it's all just a fitness, wellbeing thing. "Those bits that look suspiciously like punches, they're not...?" "No, absolutely not. It's good for you. Now stop asking questions ands wave your arms about a bit." Not for us the showy pecs and abs of the gym-bunnies. Not for us the flash uniforms and spinny kicks that others favour. Just pure, unblemished anonymity, quiet dignity, and no glory-seeking whatsoever. Sigh.