Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Kali Laziness

The class with the Tanods is going very well. I think we've gotten used to each other and figured out how to communicate. I don't talk as much and use one of them to demonstrate on. Most of them are more physically and visually oriented people. They observe then follow. Usually if I do a technique on them, they understand it.

Most of my students in the U.S. are more aural/listening learners. Not that they're any brighter, but that they process information in this way. They like explanation and words to understand. They hear what you are talking about. As opposed to feeling it or seeing it then copying. Most people are stronger in two and weak on one. I'm a physical and visual learner. If I see it, if I do it, I remember it. Maybe that's why I'm an oral teacher, going to my weakness. If someone tells me something I don't remember it as clearly as seeing or feeling it. If I focus really hard I can remember something heard just as well, but I need more practice at it. The key as a teacher is to find multiple ways of communicating to try to catch the students. I'm a fisherman.

Each day we have a new audience. Filipinos are quite curious and have no problems wth stopping to see what's going on when there's action some place. One day it was a group of tennis players. Another day was a group of kids. Today is I guess what Americans would call homeless. He kind of wanders around. They say he's gone crazy, but seemed to be coherent enough to watch what we were doing. He even tried to move his hands around in a circle.

I'm learning a great deal from them each day. In understand more and more why the techniques are the way they are. It's archeology really. Though this style of kali is being practiced and evolving in the U.S., there's still a certain essence and spirit to it from the Philippines. I've always held onto this idea that somewhere in this movement you can find an essence to Filipino. In the same way that so-called "pagan" rituals have seeped into saint festivals and the like.

The sliding of our feet, I've always linked to tsinelas/flip-flops. The double sticks movement is called Sinuwali. Sawali is the woven house walls. Sinuwali is weaving. The small steps I believe comes from wearing malongs, the tubular skirts which prevent large steps. It fits with the story of the Blind Princess. How else would a woman move in a long skirt?

I now understand when my teacher talks about laziness. No effort or energy used in the strikes; the slow movement like pushing through thick air. It's 3p. Today is scorching hot. We're lucky that there are a few shade trees in the plaza, but still, the air is thick and heavy. It's not so much laziness, it's really the only way to move without pushing yourself to exhaustion. It's conservation of energy. In this heat, the moves become easier because it's the only way to move efficiently.

I teach them open hand against weapon, some arm breaks, learning to duck a strike, learning to move out of the way. They are picking it up rather well. Not perfectly, but enough that I know they're going in the right direction.

One of the students during the break tells me he told his Baranggay Captain (Neighborhood leader) about me and that he wants to come by to see the class. They've never seen a woman do martial arts. He told his Captain that I'm very soft spoken, but very good.

I don't come up with the techniques any more. I show a simple technique and watch them. Even as their mistakes lead to new techniques. When I watch them step in a different direction, I see a new move which I teach them. Each person's body is different and the techniques translate differently in each person. They may end up doing the technique I showed them badly, but their "erred" movement is actually the beginning of another technique. It's a crystal really. Once you're in motion, you can bounce to any direction and all the rainbows are just as beautiful.

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