TCEC 2014 Part 2 – Let Go

Continued from Tiger Claw Elite Championship 2014 Part 1 – Recap

Thank you to Tiger Claw and Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine for hosting the tournament on Saturday and Kung Fu Tai Chi Day the following day. It’s always good to see old faces and meet new ones. Shout out to Gene Ching for his support and his announcer skills :)



Even though my main goal for the TCEC wasn’t to win, placing dead last didn’t exactly feel great. But even when I took 1st in other competitions, there was a feeling of emptiness because I was never happy with my performances. At one point during the day, I wondered if I should quit competing because I will always feel inadequate and that’s probably unhealthy on some psychological level. It’s the martial arts way to never feel satisfied with yourself or you’ll no longer try, learn, and improve. It sounds a little masochistic, but we value respect (for others and the art itself) and humility. There’s always room for improvement and there’s always someone who is better. I won’t quit competing just yet because I now see something I didn’t see before.

For myself, I now see the competition in different stages. Who knows, maybe when I get to the next stage, it will be nothing like what I describe below:

  • Stage 1: Looks and sounds like what a spectator sees – an outline of the ring, 5 judges, a time keeper, other competitors, spectators, videographers, photographers, the entire venue. The goal is to block out the environment and concentrate on the sequence.
  • Stage 2: The noises are gone and the setting is a blend of the venue and an empty white room. They’re both transparent and it’s almost like I’m in two places at once. There is only me, the ring, and the judges. The goal is to perform my best while being judged.
  • Stage 3: I am alone in the white room and the goal is to own and feel the movements and display physical ability. When I feel it, it’s natural for me to make a sound like “ha!” or “ci!” at certain parts to manifest the feeling. The next time you hear someone’s sounds, see if you feel it from the body’s movement or if the sound seems forced.
  • Stage 4: I am on a battlefield facing my opponents and the goal is to display sense of enemy along with feeling and physical ability.
  • Stage 5: I am on the battlefield fighting bad guys and I’m able to coordinate my movements with my breath, mind, Qi, and raise my spirit (Shen).* This is a very advanced stage that will take years to reach.

I’ve competed with 14 sequences since 2010. This time, something inside me changed. As I wrote in my rehearsal post, I wasn’t as nervous as I has been in the past. My stomach usually felt like it had a huge tangle of heavy knots inside. I was able to block out my environment but I wasn’t able to perform at my best because I kept worrying about it. This time, I had a few small jitters when I started Shi Zi Tang but it was more excitement than nerves. About halfway through San Cai Jian, I just didn’t care anymore and let it go. I lived in the moment. My form wasn’t great, but it was about as best as I could do at this point in time. I can’t tell if letting go made me more confident, or if it was my confidence that allowed me to let go.

I’ve begun to strip away one of the layers that will allow the martial artist inside me to flourish. For me, it was nerves, but everyone is different. It could be ego, anger, fear, or some other self destructive thought or emotion. I’m not sure what my next layer is or if I just need more conditioning and practice before my sense of enemy and spirit can fully emerge. My goal for next time is better form and feeling. If I can show sense of enemy, that would be great. Spirit will take more time.

I won’t post my Shi Zi Tang performance since my rehearsal performance had better jumping and stances. I need to condition my legs, increase stamina, and work on body mechanics. I don’t own and feel it yet, but I’m working towards it.

My competition San Cai Jian was about the same as my rehearsal, but here it is:


  • Loose wrists: The head judge said I need to loosen my wrist. I’ve been told this before and I’ve tried and hit the sword on the ground as well as against my forehead. Aside from continuing to practice with a sword and possibly wearing a helmet, I’m open to suggestions to help me loosen my wrists.
  • Power: It’s not coming out every time or all the way, especially in the splitting cuts. Those are tough and need practice.
  • There are many more corrections, but generally I still need quite a bit of conditioning and practice for several years before my form can be decent.

*There’s a section in Dr. Yang’s book, “Qigong Meditation Embryonic Breathing” that describes raising the spirit in greater detail.

5 thoughts on “TCEC 2014 Part 2 – Let Go

  1. Loose wrists,,, practice basics with a heavy sword, this will give you power and looseness with a lighter weapon. A heavy weapon will force you to be more rooted and correct in your technique. The same reason you run down and up the mountain with a backpack full of rocks.

    • Michelle,
      I noticed while training you wore correct shoes for your past knee injuries. I really like the Adidas Sambas for good stability and support. I noticed you had a pair of Adidas martial arts shoes as well but they were not the Adidilux. The Adidilux offers more support to the sole and ankle which gives a little better feeling in the knee. Next time I see you I can bring my wife’s pair if you want to try them on to see if they feel any different. I am still searching for the perfect shoe from injury and a little age.
      As long as you keep going forward with Master Yang you are on the right path. You have some of the best navigators in the world for your journey.
      M. Fox

      • Hi Mike,

        For training, I wear Sambas because they fit me well. I’ve never tried the Adidas martial arts shoes or Adidilux, but I’m more than happy to. I’d like a shoe with good support and thicker rubber to last longer on the concrete so I’ll have to keep searching.

        Yes, I am very fortunate to be here :)


    • Thanks Kevin. I didn’t mention this in the blog, but we do practice with weighted weapons. I also probably need to stretch more since my wrists seem to be tighter nowadays. – Michelle

  2. Being nervous is inevitable. The day you don’t get nervous is the day you don’t care and then, why compete at all? I have not competed but I have taken tests, which is also about being judged… and by those that you respect the most. In those occasions, I just aimed to be able to perform to my level, to emulate what I had trained with no pressure. I found that it helped if I concentrated on just enjoying the performance. Doing it for the love of the practice. I don’t know if this is the recipe for best performance, but in the long run, I think it is not about how well you can perform, but how much the practice means to you. Hope that helps.

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