“Stop, stop. Come back and do it again,” Sifu barked at our contender.
The young Siheng walked back to the point on the floor where the last section began and proceeded with the run into the aerial. He landed and spun his lower body into the upright, seated pretzel we were all used to seeing, the one we always routed for him to nail flawlessly. He’d done just that, and all of a sudden, he was fired up.
For the balance of the wushu form, every stance was as low as he could possibly make it, and he hit every stop with the unmistakable punctuation of power. His head snapped sharply when and where it was supposed to. His cranes were tight and dangerous. He was simply a joy to watch. The final section of the form only lasted about thirty seconds, but it was the most electric half minute in the building in recent memory.
“What you just did in that last section, was better than all your form practice lately,” Sifu said walking to within a foot of the contender. “You should be doing it like that all the time.” He nodded his agreement at Sifu, probably thinking: Easier said than done.
The poor kid is so tired. He told me so last night after we’d spent almost an hour sharing the floor and taking turns in rotations, as the two-person sparring class took place downstairs. He said he was feeling slow and he just had to quit for the night, as if I had the authority or inclination to tell him to keep going. I gave him a sympathetic nod, in lieu of giving him a hug.
But what a difference a day makes. What a difference a public scolding by Sifu can make. The contender may have been exhausted last night, but if he does his forms in two weeks’ time with the passion he showed in the final section tonight, he’s going to Turkey as a member of the national team.
I’ve spent the week worried about one little performance of a form that barely requires that I get off the ground. Meanwhile, the boy wonder has lost count of the number of aerials he’s had to do across the room without landing on his head in a moment of exhaustion.
Everything – absolutely everything – is about perspective. It’s a lesson I’m always so grateful to relearn.