Martial Arts -Tai Chi

performance, technology

Yesterday (and today), for the first time in about 9 years I practiced Tai Chi. My old tai chi teacher sent out a mailer saying he was doing zoom classes with Ba Gua and I asked him for a Tai Chi refresher. I did Ba Gua in the past and I enjoyed it but it did not speak to me. It felt off in my body and did not vibe with my inner vitality. Tai Chi however I loved. I preferred it to Kung Fu. I also loved Qi Kung. But I loved and still love Tai Chi.

I love the dance of tai chi, the precision, the angles of the body, the role each party of the body plays, but I also love the martial aspect.  The story is… and I might have already written about this, but that the Shaolin monks would fall asleep while meditating, and a Buddhist yogi one day came to the temple and taught the monks yoga and this was the beginning of their physical practice. So they could stay awake while meditating, or working on their inner life. I am not sure where the martial aspect was introduced but this is key for me.

When practicing tai chi you it is important where you are looking, where your energy is coming from and how your hands are positioned because you are theoretically engaged in combat. I mean they are important because it is important to do things well, but this doing well has to do with sparring with an opponent. 

This is a critical aspect to Tai Chi, that I value, that does not exist in other inner arts like Qi Gung or Yoga. What does it mean to be martial. When I think about sparing I think about refining my ideas, testing myself against the world, interacting with the world. This interaction can be a dance, it can be a fight, it can probably be a number of other things. With the martial aspect you are defending yourself, you are preserving yourself. You are not merging with a dance partner but asserting your own sovereignty in opposition to another. 

What are other martial symbols? Sagittarius with the bow and Arrow, Diana the huntress, Mars/Tyr and Tuesday (Tyr is the norse god of war). Some sports are more martial than others, like boxing. Fencing or archery could be construed a western martial art. I am not sure what my own Jewish tradition would be considered martial historically, but now there is Krag Maga.  

When I imagine the archer, I imagine someone with a goal. I imagine a crystallization of will. The will flows from the body, from the inside, and is tested against the world in the martial art.  So I may never fight someone in the street, but that is not why one should practice a martial art. It is to practice testing oneself against the world and asserting sovereignty.

Also – this is technology,,,

 

 

Theater of the Oppressed

performance

I have been thinking a lot about theater and performance in advance of the Art of Python in April (that I am co-planning this year).

In an earlier post I mentioned that the Art of Python was Brechtian. Over the weekend I unpacked this a bit, when .I read Theater of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal.

Often, in conversation with friends, there is a discussion about how people end up in certain situations. Is the the external circumstances (Marxist), or individual character  (sort of) (Hegel)?  I have been unwittingly in the Hegel camp. I really did not have the words to articulate this in this way until I read Theater of the Oppressed.

I do believe there are certain external circumstances which are so dire that perhaps it is impossible to exercise any agency or freedom. However, that most people reading this blog probably do not live under those circumstances.  And I also have believed in ability of the individual through various means, to transform themselves, and perhaps transform their situation, or perception of those situations…. and perceptions create reality.

Brechtian theater expresses narrative as a series of forces that constrain or force certain actions. Romantic theater expresses narrative as the individuals acting within certain constraints. What Boal seems to suggest is a narrative that, while existing within a constrained structure, creates dynamism through individuals acting with one another – infrastructure.

There is the notion that the format of the theater has become stale and ridged. That it supports certain forms of narrative (bourgeois perhaps), and that this itself must be addressed in order to make theater vital (alive) again.

It is easy to think of these concepts in reference to something like the Art of Python.The art of python are performances that are structured by the social constraints of working in technology. How does working in technology force people to act in particular ways. From the performances last year, I do not think we had examples of a well made play, or an epic play with a hero and an Aristotelian story structure.

The emphasis was on expressing the drama inherent in this social constraints – the social constraints of technology.  This year, we are going to incorporate some of the theater of the oppressed, and maybe rethink the structure of the performance itself. Already art of python was doing this by not being traditional theater. But this year we have a component where we involve members of the audience in contributing and creating their own works.  This is a movement to replace the original aristocratic tendency of Aristotelian theater and return theater, art and performance to expression and reflection  – to create a crises in technology work.