Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Restaurant Kung Fu

I was recently discussing the various merits and drawbacks of alcoholic beverages with my friends, when it reminded me of some of my time in China. Master Liming Yue had organised a get-together with some of his martial arts friends. There was a Shuai Jiao master (Chinese wrestling), some various modern Wushu practitioners, a young boy who was learning Shaolin and a couple of Tai Chi practitioners. 

I had just received my instructors certificate, but was under no illusion that I was in the company of people with far more experience. Things were very formal. Everyone was polite. We went to a restaurant, and ate a hearty lunch together. As per normal Chinese custom, we started toasting each other. As the beer flowed and inhibitions dropped, the young boy (prompted by his father) got up and did some Shaolin Long Fist form. Everyone cheered and clapped. 

Then up stood the Shuai Jiao master, who wanted me as his stooge. He showed me some locks and throws - very interesting techniques. Then as the drink continued to flow, I think just about everyone got up and showed their skill - me included. There was no hint of competitiveness or ego. Everyone wanted each other to do well. 

With all of the problems that alcohol causes, it is interesting to note that in this situation, it was a definite aid to conviviality, and a big learning enabler for me. I wonder how little I would have learned that day, if everyone remained polite, formal and defensive?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That’s a nice story - not least because it provoked some amusing images of drunken Tai Chi in my head – although probably not a good idea for me – my balance is pretty terrible without introducing extra complications…
There’s no doubt that alcohol can be a good “social lubricator”. Just last week I had a similar experience. I found out on the grapevine that an old school friend I’d lost touch with was due to be in London (she now lives in France). By coincidence I was planning a trip “darn sarf” as part of my OU course, so I got hold of her email address and we agreed to meet up for a drink. At first we engaged in small talk (joking about how we were both now tourists in our home city) but as the wine flowed the conversation became more personal and we were sharing our various triumphs and traumas of the last ten years or so since we’d last been in touch. Around the third bottle she stood up and announced “I’m going to do it.” then she delivered a touching speech about how she’d always valued my friendship and how much she enjoyed my company and how she regretted that we’d lost touch and that we shouldn’t let it happen again. Almost in tears I responded by giving her a big hug – almost the classic “You’re my best mate, you are”.. I doubt she would have had the courage to make her “speech” without the wine. And it was a lovely moment to share. I guess it’s a bit of a shame that most of us need a bit of “Dutch courage” to say how we really feel – “in Vino Veritas” as those clever Romans put it..…
Of course there’s a downside to alcohol as well – at the moment I’m trying to provide emotional support to another friend who’s coming to terms with his own alcoholism which is putting his life at risk at the age of 29. So I guess it’s all a question of balance (oh look, there’s that word again…).

Jennifer T