Underneath my yellow skin

Just Call Me Mulan

When I was younger, I used to go to bed praying I’d wake up a boy,* and I would be severely disappointed when I woke up still a girl. Even as I grew older and stopped believing in God, I thought I would have been better off as a man. Let me be clear: I never felt as if I were trapped in the wrong body. It’s all about the rigidity of patriarchy and how punishing it is to people who don’t fit in. I played with dolls, but I preferred stuffed animals when I wasn’t running around playing softball and other sports. I was what was called a tomboy back then, hating dresses and anything feminine not because they were feminine, but just because they didn’t interest me.

As a teen, I didn’t care about makeup and clothes, though I tried desperately to fit in. I had a Farrah Fawcett flip, and I’m wearing a powder blue sweater and pink eye shadow in my senior photo. I look like a freak and not at all like myself. I curled my hair, used hair products, and applied makeup like it was spackle. Also, I’m allergic to everything, and most makeup was rough back then. Literally and figuratively. I was allergic to whatever was in it, which was not a pretty scene. In addition, I hadn’t perfected the skill of eating without eating off my lipstick, which made me constantly worried about walking around with my lips outlined in lipstick and nothing else. I also was allergic to whatever’s in shaving cream, so I would get bumps any time I shaved. Imagine how fun that was the one time I shaved my pussy.

I gave it all up at some point–makeup, shaving, and trying to keep up with fashion. The shaving thing happened when I was on my semester abroad in Asia and a shower was a hand-held sprayer. Plus, I’m Asian. I don’t need to shave as my body hair is pretty sparse. I haven’t tried makeup in decades, but I know it’s better now than it was when I attempted to wear it. I wore lipstick for longer than I did any other makeup, but I gave it up when, OK, backstory. Wand lip glosses were in for a hot second, and I thought, “I can handle that. It should be pretty easy to apply.” I bought a rich plum-colored lip gloss (I prefer dark shades) and tried it on in the parking lot of the glasses shop. I looked in the rear view mirror, and it looked like someone had punched me in the mouth. I blotted and reapplied, but it didn’t look any better. I concluded I was shit at makeup*** and gave it up that day.

I still feel more like a guy than a woman in many ways. Again, I want to emphasize that it’s not a matter of feeling trapped in the wrong body, but of societal expectations. I bring this up because my taiji teacher started showing me the sword energies in class yesterday. There are fourteen, and she showed me three. we started with the one that takes the least skill, the split, which is basically taking your sword and cleaving someone’s head in two. I call it the barbarian move, which is not PC, but it’s apt. Any nimrod can do the split because it’s just swing the sword up and ┬ábring it down on someone’s head (or shoulder joint or whatever). It takes no finesse, but it’s a lot of fun to do.

The second energy is stab. It’s all in the name, really, with this one. You take your sword and stab someone with it, with the blade sideways in this case. She’s teaching them to me from the least skillful to the most skillful, so this is still pretty basic. It’s also the most like fencing, and it’s fun to practice. The third energy is press, and it’s a way of blocking an attack. You step to the side then press the blade down on their blade. This one didn’t feel as intuitive to me, and it’s the third easiest energy.

I practiced them all today, and it’s definitely a weight-bearing activity. I loved weightlifting back in the day, and I would love to be ripped. I know there are some women who pride themselves on how little they are, but me, I want to be strong. I want to be able to kick someone’s ass if need be, though I hope I never have to use what I’m learning.

This is not something I can talk about with some women, though, my love of swords. Any time I talk about it on social media, inevitably, a woman tells me she’s uncomfortable and that taiji is supposed to be all woo and hoo. I usually say something like, “Taiji is good for mental health, but it’s also a martial art. It’s still taiji, though, so the Sword Form follows the tenets. It’s more about unity with the sword, blah, blah, blah.” Then I send a video of Master Liang doing the sword, and most of them can see the beauty of the form, even if they’re still uncomfortable with weapons in general.

My favorite weapons are from another form, Baguazang. My teacher practices it, and she taught me how to walk the circle doing the 8 Palm Changes when I couldn’t tolerate meditation. She had her practice deer horn knives with her, and I was immediately attracted to them (as she knew I would be). They’re based on deer antlers, of course, and they were invented to counter attacks from swords. I posted a picture of them on Twitter, and I had a woman gasp, “They look so brutal!” Well, yes, they are, but there’s also something beautiful and elegant about them. There are wooden practice ones and ones with blunted ‘antlers’, but, man, I would love the Fire Wind and the Mountain Gao from the link above.

I love the applications for postures in general, and I come alive when we talk about the sword in class. I want to study Bagua one day, and I will grab the deer horn knives (by the antlers, heh) as soon as I possibly can. I have to admit I feel a little weird about my obsession with swords and knives, but only because of the reaction I get from other people, mostly women, when I talk about it. My taiji teacher and I talk about how women in this society are taught to be nice and to deny any violent feelings. For some women, even the thought of hurting someone (even a hypothetical someone) makes them feel guilty, so good is the societal training. My teacher has told me that she’s known several women in her classes who were uncomfortable with the weapons aspect of taiji, and I’ve seen it myself as well.

Me, the minute my teacher put a sword in my hand, I was hooked. I knew this was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. I’m glad taiji is good for my mental and physical health, but I’m much more interested in the martial aspect of the martial art. Tell me why I’m doing a posture, and I’ll listen extra-carefully. Point out that a certain movement with my sword means I’m cutting someone’s tendon, and my ears will perk up. I want to make clear that I am not bloodthirsty, nor do I want to actually use these techniques in real life. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I want to be able to defend myself if I need to. I don’t think that’s a revolutionary thing to say, but as with my decision not to have children, the declaration that I love sharp objects is a repudiation of my womanhood, apparently.

The way I deal with it is that I mostly don’t talk about it except with other people who’ll understand like my taiji teacher. She’s ALMOST as into weapons as I am, and she doesn’t judge me for wanting all pointy things all the time. I’ve come to accept my love for swords and knives, even if it still makes me feel weird for a second. I don’t think it makes me any more aggressive; if anything, it helps release the aggression in a safe way.

Whether or not it’s a healthy thing (and I think it is), I cannot deny that I love my sword. It’s a part of me, and I will not give it up, no matter who judges me for it. ‘Til death do we part!




*I also used to pray for blond hair, but that’s another post for another day. Also, still a bit salty that God never answered my prayers. Don’t tell me He couldn’t have. He’s God. It should have been a breeze for Him.**

**I don’t believe in God, just in case it’s not obvious, but I did at the time. And I concluded He hated me because he never answered my prayers. Those or any I had later on.

***The other possibility is that I just wasn’t used to the way I looked with it on so anything I did would make me think I looked strange.

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