The Magic Words

In Chinese, the word for the top level players is 高手 gao shou, which means expert. (It literally translates to tall hands, which is why I chose the picture above. Get it? heh heh…)

In economic terms I would say I’m solidly middle class. A white collar worker on a good day. The gao shou are the upper class (and the pro’s are the one-percenters.)

I’ll never be a one-percenter, but I can get to the gao shou level. Its my burning goal and desire: gao shou.

My coach knows it of course, and he’s started using it, very cleverly, as a motivating tactic in training. When I’m struggling with something, or bemoaning footwork practice, or leaning over and breathing heavy he’ll just casually mention what I’m doing is a “gao shou technique” and all my grumbling, or heavy breathing will stop.

Gao shou technique?” I say all excited. “Okay!”

It’s almost too easy. If you know what buttons to push, you can easily talk me into anything. (My friend Hannah once figured out that if she wanted me to go somewhere with her, or do something, and I was hesitating she could just say “you can write a good story about it after!” and I would do it. Having experiences I can write about it another trigger for me.)

My coach can basically get me to do anything if he tells me it’s a “special gao shou move.” It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or hurt or whatever. I’m gonna power through it to keep practicing the gao shou moves.

The thing the magical words of gao shou can’t get me to do it, is do it right. It’s not like I intentionally fuck up the moves and suddenly he says gao shou and I’m doing it perfect. It’s not that magical.  I can fight lack of breath or exhaustion. I can’t fight my dumbness or inability.

This week he had me change my “ready” position. Previously my body lunged forward, and my weight was on my forward right foot. Now, he’s making me push my center of gravity back, my hips down and back, putting most of my weight on my back left leg.

Not exactly right, but close enough as I could find on the internet to what we practiced this week. Look at the girls positioning. We were practicing singles, not doubles, and my left leg was further back, but you get the idea. Upper body is low and leaning forward, but hips, and most of the weight, are back.

While I can see how it’s faster, It’s also something my left leg isn’t used to. My right thigh is the workhorse of my legs, taking all the lunges and weight previously. My left thigh, I quickly found out, is a weak little baby in comparison. It can’t take all my weight over long periods of training time (yet) and doesn’t allow me to pop up as fast as I can with my right leg.

As such, my body kept compensating, trying to not shift my weight so far back. But it’s clear from my stance that I kept doing it wrong, and my coach kept trying to correct me. He even got a strap, put it around my waist and kept pulling it to force my hips back more. It was equal parts funny and humiliating.

Kinda like this, only I wasn’t trying to run anywhere. I would get into position, and if my hips weren’t far enough back, he’d tug me, then he’d let it go as I ran to a corner to “hit” the birdie. Then I’d go back to the center position, and he’d tug again if I was to high in my stance.

I hated that move and despite constant training for an hour, I just wasn’t getting it right. My coach tried his best, but he got just as frustrated as I did because I just kept doing it wrong.

After practice we went out to lunch with his wife and jie jie. (In Chinese jie jie means little sister, but they aren’t blood related. I think they used to train a long time ago although now she doesn’t play much.)

I told his jie jie that my coach got really mad at me in training.

“What? No I didn’t,” he said defensively.

“You yelled and hit the box of birdies in frustration when I kept doing bad form,” I said.

He nodded.

“Well,” he told jie jie, “I’m teaching her a new technique. It’s the gao shou ready position, so she’s not used to it yet.”

“It’s a gao shou technique?” I asked. He said of course. “Then I’ll work on it again next week.” just a few minutes prior I hated, hated, HATED that technique. And as soon as he said gao shou, I suddenly wanted to run back to the gym and practicing.

Damn that magic word!





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