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The Butterfly, the Hurricane, and the Cow Hands

Sifu Antonio’s wife, Suelen told me that the students requested that for the grand opening show in Brazil, I do at least 1 butterfly kick.  It seems to be my signature move.  It makes me laugh because the very few films I have worked on always involve this movement. Mulan, Mortal Kombat Conquest, etc.

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Growing up I always called the butterfly kick the hurricane kick.  Why? My father called it hurricane, so it was the hurricane kick.  Fast forward to when I was 16 and trying to learn Cantonese.  I started dissecting words and expanding my vocabulary.  The Chinese for the movement I was so famous for was Wu-dip-tui, which translates to… Butterfly kick.  What!?! For 16 years of my life I called it hurricane and now it’s a butterfly?  I was so frustrated!  Why would my father call it hurricane?  I am not sure really, but the tornado kick in Chinese is a jumping crescent kick, so I am guessing he confused tornado, hurricane, and then the whole thing got jumbled.  Either way, it was crazy to have that discovery after so many years.  I also have an affinity for the butterfly kick, because it was a move I absolutely could NOT do.  I could do gymnastic aerials before I could do the butterfly kick.  So what did I do?  I practiced and did thousands of them.  Maybe 10,000 (DYK: 10,000 is the number of hours for mastery according to Malcolm Galdwell, but before that book came out the number of days for mastery according to the Wah Lum Handbook states… you guessed it, 10,000!)

That’s my short story…

Oh, wait. Cow hands.  You are probably wondering why I have cow hands in my title.  My mom is the chief tai chi instructor at the Temple. She is a master of tai chi and has been studying extensively for decades.  Around the same time of my butterfly epiphany, she also had one of her own.  She would teach the students cow hands, because that is what my father taught her.  One day she decided to print out all of the moves of the form for everyone and translated the Chinese.  The Chinese translation for our ‘cow hands’ was actually cloud hands!  My father had been pronouncing it cow hands, but meant cloud hands.  Ah, communication.  So much fun! I can only imagine how many things have been lost in translation, or pronunciation through the years.

Oh, wait, wait.  Did anyone get my title comparison?  Hint: any C.S. Lewis fans out there?

Tai Chi at Sea

In my previous post I talked about kung fu at sea. Tai Chi at sea is equally as challenging as kung fu, as I need extra balance on a moving ship. Most days are smooth sailing, but there are some windy and rocky sea days that make tai chi really difficult. I admit, when I am at home I rarely practice tai chi. If I do not get my kung fu training in as often as I would like, you can only imagine how frequently I fit in tai chi training. I find tai chi and meditation really challenging because it requires one to move slowly. I try to meditate in the morning to start my day, but my mind is usually racing to ‘get to work’. I’ve been working on reminding myself that in order to ‘get to work’, meditation helps me to reset and gets my brain ready to function properly.

The thing I like most about practicing tai chi at sea is the same things I like about kung fu at sea; the fresh air, the ocean, and the overall atmosphere. I also welcome the challenge of doing chen tai chi and really having to root yourself into the moving img_2350ground. Watching my mom do tai chi is inspiring because she really roots herself into the ground despite the moving ship. She is after all the tai chi master. (note: one of the great films of the 90’s: Tai Chi Master with Jet Li)

Our daily routine has been doing kung fu in the morning and tai chi in the afternoon. This might seem odd to those who know tai chi is usually done in the morning, but we meet the needs of our instructors’ schedule. As many of you who frequent the Temple early mornings know, my father is a morning person, so that is when we do kung fu.

 

Since I have been practicing chen tai chi (the older form of tai chi and the one most like kung fu), it feels good to practice in the afternoon, as I need to be warmed up to tackle it. For me, the biggest challenge with tai chi is the fluidity and pacing. I am so accustomed to kung fu, that learning to slow down and pace myself is not easy for me. However, I know that this is the yin and yang to life, and practicing both kung fu and tai chi will help keep me balanced in the long run.

Which do you prefer?