I don’t teach men

pigs.png

The weight shifts to my back leg and I follow with the arm. Slow. And I say: “Now front leg to the left, opening space… so you can… stretch… forward and back… at the same… time.”

There is a moan somewhere behind me. The erotic type. I get it, the single whip is one of my favorite moves in Tai chi too. I wait for it every time,  even though I shouldn’t. The form is meditation in motion, Sifu says. Where thoughts and feelings have no place. Let go, I tell myself, which is breaking the rule already.

The air in the park is crisp, the sun hits hard. A spring blessing, when pollen count is low. Summers can be colder than the winter in the Bay Area.

The class goes on. There is Miranda, the sad pretty girl with bad taste for men. Jen, an MBA student that I am still trying to figure out. Nancy and Viv, two hot baristas from a Starbucks nearby. I go there sometimes and can hear the mental fantasies the hipsters concoct while the girls serve their Iced Vanilla Mocha With Soy Milk No Whipped Cream Please, Grande. And there is Mrs. Lee. Tanisha Lee. She must be sixty or something. She holds her position a bit longer and has another mini theatrical orgasm. The whip is that good.

So many thoughts. Resisting never worked. I’ll keep pretending.

Mrs. Lee, so she says, is the best black acupuncturist in the Bay Area. Must try, someday. Her real job is teaching cognitive sciences, that’s how we met. I was her student, now she is mine. I believed I could understand the brain to shortcut my research on the shadow leap, so I ended up in her class. She walks into the auditorium, dressed in a manicuredly sloppy way. A respectable afro-hippie. She plugs her computer and points at the slide she projected. An iceberg. She says “Thoughts are like this: most of what happens is under water, away from our conscience” Sifu would agree, but frown nonetheless. Meditation better, he would say. But I can’t. Not with the anger, not with the flashes.

Swoosh. Here it comes. An arm swings above my head, making my hair move. I can smell the sweat and the rage. I hit him hard, three times. His skin spatters at me. A drop of his perspiration hits my mouth. So fucking gross.

Since my “enlightenment” (a label my master would most definitely dispute) the flashes have been stronger. More vivid. I don’t just see them anymore. Reliving would be a more suitable word. Replaying would work too. The flashes, they come and go. Sometimes one inside of the other.

Swoosh. I am always angry.

Now the alley. I am sticking a knife into the thug’s thigh. The bitch behind me screams and slaps me as if I wasn’t protecting her. Threats to call the police. I twist the blade anyway and pour a mad yell right at his face, then run before the cops show up.

Swoosh. Too much yang. It’s a curse. Runs in the family.

Back to the park. Snakes creeps down, push, recoil. They haven’t noticed my absence.

Swoosh. A baby cries, a mother covered in blood lies still, eyes lost pointing nowhere. Smells like China and decay. I know the place. The scene. Have seen it way too many times now. Can’t tell if it’s a real recollection or something I implanted in my own mind after all the stories I heard. Mrs. Lee says it was possible, forging a memory. That police likes to do that to confuse black people and make them confess.

Sifu holds the little me like I am a rock.

Mrs. Lee moans once more. It brings me back. “This is so sexy”, she says. Always a naughty comment. Others laugh and I shoosh them silent. Had they known  my mind is always screaming…

Another flash. This is worse than usual. Maybe I had too much coffee? No, that would’ve made me poop. I am at a large prairie now. A sharp edged fence stretches to infinity and there is a gate. The shadow monkey gently holds my hand. Everything moves like a bad video-game. MineCrack or something. They say this game gets people to lose their mind. End up believing that squared place is the real world. There are some that even adjust the lights in their houses to match the sun in the game. Nerds.

We march to the gate, me and the ape. There are pigs. Pink and square. Millions of them. Up the hills, through the horizon. I try to hold my breath, but there is no air in MineCrack. I open the wooden door and let them escape. “Go, little fellas. Enjoy your fake life!”

Fake life. Look who’s talking… I feel my hand squeezed. “Now you are free, too” I tell the monkey. No more raising pigs.

There are more apes around us. They get close and sit, staring like if we were a totem. Gods, even. I am not angry anymore. Maybe enlightenment is a good expression after all. Then, from afar, I look into my own eyes. Dive inside of them. Through the darkness of the pupil and deep into the brain. From above, I see Berkeley, the Park. Tiny pathetic creatures are practicing Tai Chi. Myself, my students. Down on the floor, I remember, I am trying to hide the flashes. But I tumble, instead.

“Are you ok?”, Miranda asks.

I tell her I am. Just a little embarrassed. That hadn’t happened in a while. The twins help me stand up. Their hands are so soft…

I am ok, I promise.

“The sun is too hot, sifu.” “Have some water” offer the sisters.

I accept. That was enough for the day.

“Nice class”, says a skinny dude with a scarf and acne. “I mean, before you fell.”

I gaze and say nothing. I’m way more verbose inside of my mind. His eyes meet mine and suddenly he flinches.

“Is… is it possible to… can I… are you still taking students?”

“Don’t teach men”, I answer. And the conversation is over.

He leaves in such shock, he moves in a drunken, wiggly line. That’s how I met George.

Pretty Boy

Bruce_Lee_1973

I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area because of Bruce Lee. As a young girl isolated in mainland China, I fantasized with the vibrant fighting community he inspired, to this day ready to confront laws and canons, set to prove new combat ideas in the real world.

So I applied do Berkeley. Physics. This way I could witness that culture and also pick up some science to supplement my training.

The opening day, I was there. All suited up, the world so much smarter than what I knew… I couldn’t wait to meet the real fighters, the wild scientists. Then the classes commenced. Months in and there was still none of the juicy stuff. Just basics and more basics, no sign of getting better.

Tedius quickly turned annoying when the grades arrived and no one believed my D’s and E’s. Apparently, if you are an Asian in STEM, you have the duty to get A’s.

Stupid whites.

I had already made the decision to drop out when I walked in the classroom and the chick next to me tried to disappear behind her hair. She was sniffing, her face so red and swollen it appeared she head-butted a hornet’s nest. “Are you ok?” – that’s all I said. The story erupted from her lips: the party, the drinks, the hookup, the… “If you are not careful, it will happen to you too.” – she interrupted her account to warn me.

I may not be good with numbers and formulas. But I know a few things. Beating people. Breaking bones. Sending assholes to the hospital. She wouldn’t give me the name, though.

We made a deal: I would teach her to fight. The coming morning, I was showing her first moves at the park next to the Campus. Tai chi felt like the most suited for her hippie-ness. I was right. She loved it, both the slow and the fast. The ideas and actions. The applications. I chose to go easy but deep, making sure each motion she learned, she could truly use.

Her enthusiasm must have made an impression. For every class, an onlooker asked to join. I took them all. Young and old, students, professors, college officials and store clerks. Anyone, as long as they didn’t have balls.

The multiple ironies weren’t mute to my ears, of course. I had jumped from being the Asian in science to the Asian in Martial Arts. Moved from the People’s Republic of China to teach at the People’s Park of Berkeley. I was a walking, pushing and slow kicking cliché. I was having fun, though. Finally.

Until Miranda didn’t appear two classes in a row.

I searched for her. Called. Nothing. Days later, I noticed one of the Cal star swimmers limp his way through the corridors. I’ve seen him before. Good looking, hopeful Olympian, full of himself. He had a black eye too. You know, the pool may distress a hamstring, but no belly flop would cause a dark swollen socket.

From class to class I followed the guy. When he left the school grounds, I went behind toward the dorms, waiting for the right opportunity. A little alley, poorly lit. That was it. I reached out. “Miranda asked me to check if she hadn’t hurt you too much” – I bluffed. The jock never questioned who I was. Just begged for forgiveness.

Which of course I did. But I broke both his legs first.

Yinyin’s silk hands


She spat no grunt, despite being the third time she got hit on the face since they entered that room. Digging her chin to the chest, she pressed the pupils against the eyebrows. He gasped.

Yinyin Yang, her name, was an attempt to undo the curse of the family name. “Double softness of chi, to balance the big hardness of our lineage.” – her father explained. That was a generations long problem. Lots of the hardness of yang, not enough lightness of yin. Not balanced enough for great Kung Fu.

In his prime, through the woods around Wudang, Mr. Yang trained every day. Mornings for hsing-I, wing chun, bagua; polishing the aggression of his yang. Afternoon was for tai chi, his favorite method to build yin. That’s how he practiced. Then, at night, after everyone excused themselves to bed, he took another pass at the soft side. One has to train harder its weak side. That’s how she learned too.

The kick on the ribs stung for a second. But she grabbed it. On the opposite side of the hanging limb, Andrei, a thick-necked young cadet (that in another situation she would have considered banging), threw his arms in a chaotic swirl. The dude may have even closed his eyes!

Idiot.

She leaped ahead, snatching his leg out of its socket, and swiped the Russian’s supporting foot of the ground. He flew like a carcass, lifeless before he hit the floor. The loud, high-pitched slam informed his state. He was out.

Breathe, Yinyin. Soft.

The other guy didn’t mark time. Came swinging his best haymaker that nearly hid how much he dreaded being there. Igor, if she remembered well, the cook. Everyone fears the cook in a military ship, they say.

When her hand touched the massive forearm, it was almost sensual. Like silk. Then her body whipped. Or waved. Or some confusing coordinated move only tai chi masters could do. The big fist followed in a gentle circle that started downward to her back, then forward and up. Soft and perfect. She had loaded all that power she stole from him into her rear leg, and was ready to spring back in full force. When the arm snapped out of her control. He was free.

Enough.

And just like that, before the poor man could gain distance, she spun her body, in move she would later call The Bolshoi because of that night, landing a back fist on Igor’s face. He was done too.

Still groggy with the fall, Andrei dragged his body towards the lifeless cook. His face was swollen. Bones to fix, both of them. Not very yin of her. But who gives a damn? Sifu wasn’t around to belabor anymore.

Yinyin marched towards her gym bag. Grabbed a few twenty dollar bills and tossed at the two.

“Next time, I’ll try the Polish.”

Fleet Week used to be more fun.

Buffalo

gradeMy first night in the cage was a few years ago.

The place smelled bad. Piss and beer. They used to allow the animals to drink, until the day an idiot started a brawl that sent twelve wire-heads to the hospital. Following day, police was making questions, and alcohol was forbidden.

The Pit didn’t seem like the most enlightened place on earth, but I had little choice. The sports scene in the Bay Area, with its McDojos crowded by Lululemon-moms, makes me want to puke. Tournaments were crap too. Misguided by America’s obsession with safety. Even the MMA scene got corrupted: rules, controls, can’t dos. I haven’t trained my entire freaking life for that.

The cage wasn’t perfect either. Eyes and spine still off-limits. But that’s all. Beyond that point, bringing more reality into my training would send me to jail.

The dude was a monster. Hairy, shoulder climbing over his melted ears, biceps as large as my chest. Good. They are slower that way. Buffalo, they called him, smiled. From the side of his mouth guard, a thick string of spit stretched down to the ground. I cracked my knuckles. It would be fun.

The bell rang.

Men get dumb when they fight. Try too hard to grab, to block, to show strength. I kicked him upstairs. A foot slap only, light and fast, just to raise his guard. Silly, I know, but works. As he followed my instructions, I blew a single short punch that pierced through his muscle reef. His liver deformed to my command and he folded with a grunt squeezed through the plastic between his teeth.

A few steps behind and bouncing again. Safe.

Sifu told me I had to be more like shadow, cross the opponent without being touched. I always liked clouds better. That’s why I chose Claudia as a name, when I moved to America. The image of giant smoke puffs splitting around a mountain and reuniting unharmed and victorious on the other side fascinated me.

Head down, he charged once more. Buffalo, huh? A double-leg take down. I trained with a boy that tried that all the time. The only day it worked, he laid over my chest tried to kiss me. Bastard. Next off, I came for his face. Never again.

As Buffalo dove, up went my knee. Straight onto his snout. The cartilage snapped against my thigh. Crunchy. My landing, I admit, wasn’t very cloud-worthy. But his was worse.

The bovine face-planted. I gave him a few seconds to stand. Blood rained from his breather. In China, they say red makes us happy. There was so much joy in that vision…

His fists returned in a combo: jab, cross. So unoriginal. Does anyone still get hit by that? I dodged, switched angle like you learn when you are lighter than every foe, and chain-punched his ill-fated face all the way to the fence. Bam bam bam bam bam!

The wire threw him back at me, his chin straight into my uppercut. A mouth guard flew through the ring. His knees failed. And man, the Buffalo was big. On threes, the fourth limb up, begging for mercy, he was still almost my height.

The crowd exploded so loud I got a little aroused. Next came a yank. A push on the back of my waist. My feet lost the ground, then down. Hard. I could have sworn there was a mat underneath us? The shock pulsed through my spine all the way into my head. The world, so distant, sounded like inside of the womb. Everything was slow and nice. It didn’t hurt anymore. Buffalo was on top of me. His teeth, so much whiter than I thought. A shadow grew from inside my eyes. No, please, no! Lights dimmed up again. His jaw, clinched in anger. A giant fist dropping fast. Closer and closer. Until it eclipsed his head.

Then dark.