The Taijiquan Journal Logo Copyright © 2001 New Moon

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May 2001

01: Tuesday

So warm today! As I practiced I could smell my own sweat and feel it running down my ribs.

Another strange thing: I end up in the same place regardless of the fact that the forms in between aren't always performed in the same place. How does that happen?

02: Wednesday

I'm not practicing. I don't know why. Too much to think about, maybe.

03: Thursday

I was up early to practice. Three sets each side. David said I was to "make it flow like the water," but, as I told him, the water seems to be running over cinder blocks—

I got to talk with David today. A lot. And I got what amounted to a private two-hour lesson, which focused mainly on practicing "with intent." I'm to practice Grasp Peacock's Tail— with intent, that is, being sure to imagine blocking my opponent, then grasping my opponent's arm and pulling him downwards, then blocking again with Press, then grabbing my opponent to pull him off balance and then push him away. And I'm to practice this until I can do it very, very smoothly.

It was a wonderful lesson. I got lots and lots of information, but all that information is... overwhelming.

04: Friday

As I feared, all the information made practice impossible today. I "sketched" the forms a few times, but I was thinking too much about everything David said.

05: Saturday

Much better. Now that I know exactly how I'm grasping that peacock opponent's "tail," the move makes much more sense.

06: Sunday

Today I noticed that I haven't been keeping upright while grasping that peacock. I noticed that I was leaning my upper body out to do the grasping. So I practiced staying upright, "as if suspended by a thread from the shen." Makes a big difference.

07: Monday

No practice today because of having to wait— all morning— for the workman to arrive...

08: Tuesday

Practice today was six sets each side, and trying to incorporate all that David told me last Thursday...

Some things are better, others, well... there is a flow to the movements, but... I feel I'll never really get good.

When I practice now, I can still smell the red bark mulch the neighbors have been spreading in odd patches around their flower beds. When first they put it down, in the heat of last week, it smelled so strongly it made my eyes water.

The black flies are out, too, even though the air has turned cooler. I swat at them, instead of properly ignoring them. David said his teacher, Pin Pin Su, told her students to ignore the bugs during practice, to concentrate and "not think." He says it was quite a feat to do so when she'd take them down to the tide flats to practice with the sand fleas.

I went out to the truck and got the Off.

09: Wednesday

Practice today: three sets each side and try not to think...

I can kick comfortably with both heels now that I'm not thinking about it. And Snake Creeps Down is getting better, too.

And I've been reading Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts. I find it odd that I've never read any of his stuff before. Very interesting.

10: Thursday

Practice today was... interesting. At times I felt almost as if I was floating. And yet I knew I wasn't balanced correctly. At other times, I felt an almost dizzying sensation, and then I'd "come to" realizing that I hadn't been thinking.

I tried to be mindful today of keeping my spine straight and of letting myself be suspended from the top of my head (the shen, bai hui, crown chakra). During cool down QiGong, I could beel my feet, but my arms were completely relaxed and weightless, and I felt warm energy filling me.

11: Friday

I hate the black flies, but I've got plenty of Off. (So much for learning to focus and "not think." I have to learn that some other way than by letting bugs bite me, I guess!)

Had an email from a fellow student, Henry, asking if I'd like to get together with him and a few others for practice. I said I was up for it.

12: Saturday

01:15 ayem: Over in the southeast, it's own diameter's height above the dark trees, is the old moon. It's a rich orange color, and the sky is hazy, so the deep blue is alive with orange-purple light. I did one set of forms out on the back porch, watching the moon moving back and forth behind the silhouette of the pine tree... As I brought my hands together on the last repitition of the QiGong, I thought I saw light gather between my hands. Thank you, David.

12:15 pea-em: Warm today. Too warm. And the sweet scent of the lilacs is almost too sweet, too. Today I practiced to the music, the 6 minute and 10 second T'ai Chi Melody piece. I had to keep myself moving to come out even! (Who'd've ever thought there'd come a time when I'd be moving too slow!)

This afternoon, Jo-Ann and I went to the Open House at Calvin Chin's Martial Arts Academy. Jo knows two of the students, a brother and sister, who have been taking t'ai chi lessons there for many years. The style taught there is Wu. Today all the students from beginners to advanced were performing, everything from plain old t'ai chi forms, to sword, to lance, to quarter staff (I think there's another name for that, but I always remember is as the weapons Robin Hood's men used when they weren't using long bows.), to knives to Kung Fu, to— lots of stuff. Oh, and there was a Lion Dance, too. Neat.

It was interesting. I didn't recognize any of the moves in the forms— but David had warned me that I probably wouldn't. And I had never seen any of the weapons performed before...

But it was also disappointing. The students were not concentrating. Most of them, even the very advanced students, didn't seem focused, or even rooted. They seemed to be unbalanced. Though when the advanced students were performing the lance and staff routines, they did seem to do much better. And there was one, Jo's friend Guy, for whom the lance almost seemed to be an extension of his body at times...

I'd say that the failure was in my perceptions, but there was one girl aged about twelve who seemed to know exactly what she was doing and why— she had "intent" down— and you could feel the chi flowing in her performance; and there was one young boy of about eight or nine who seemed to have a lot of chi, too. They really stood out from the crowd.

At the end, Mr. Chin performed t'ai chi sabre. Again I'm sad to say I was disappointed. I didn't have the sense that the sword was an extension of his body, nor did I sense that the chi was flowing through him, much less out through the sword. Perhaps it was just a bad day.

Still, it was interesting to see a different style and the weapon forms.

In all I came away from that demonstration with two things. One was a resolve to work on my focus, and my form; the other was a greater appreciation of how good my own teacher is. (My teacher would've beaten 'em all to flinders for sure!)

13: Sunday

One set and I feel as if I've lost any flexibility I ever had. Why? I warmed up. Perhaps it was an effect from yesterday's exhibition.

Later: I snuck in one set while at Jon's waiting for Mom's Day lunch. My flexibility did come back and the set went well. Strange that it should have disappeared like that, though.

14: Monday

Three and three. And I'm concentrating on making sure I'm not "double weighted." I've noticed that I sometimes take too big a step and that means the yang can't be fully yang, and the yin can't be fully yin, and so my weight isn't distributed properly on the one leg or the other, and therefore I can't shift myself to respond correctly to moves by my invisible opponent...

My gosh there's a lot to learn.

15: Tuesday

6 sets each side. Today, between sets, I bent forward to stretch my back & I noticed the scuff marks on the toes of my practice shoes, and it finally dawned on me that it's the dragging of my feet (toes) that's causing my foot problems (among others!). See, putting weight on the dragging toe jams my foot forward in the shoe & squashes my toes. Resolved: no more foot dragging!

I had another revelation too: I've found what I believe to be the correct posture for opening form. My body found it, not my head. It feels right. My back-- spine is straight (chin and butt tucked), my shoulders relaxed-- slightly rounded-- and my arms hang loose with a bit of space in the armpits. Guess it was seeing opening form done so badly the other day that spurred my subconscious to find the right way!

And the last thing I noticed today was that I began and ended in almost exactly the same spot. Both sides, every time. Go figure.

16: Wednesday

4 sets each side to the 6' 10" piece, and I tried to get each form to flow into the next, as if they weren't all separate. I wasn't doing too badly, except "Snake" fell all apart because I was worrying that I'd drag my toes.

We had some rain— not enough— and the day is cool and cloudy. Nice to be able to smell the earth again after all that dryness. As I was doing qigong, I could see my breath. I didn't realize it was that cold. The back door remains open.

17: Thursday

I didn't practice. I had a meeting and then work, and then... things are better when I practice.

18: Friday

Three sets each side. No, it didn't go particularly well. I've been getting a pain in my left shoulder. Tension. Mental, I'm sure. I tried to consciously relax, but... *sigh*

19: Saturday

Practice today: 3 sets each side. The little gnats were pestering me and I ignored them— mostly. But I got to thinking too much and couldn't get that snake to creep down, nor wave those hands like clouds. Thinking surely does screw things up.

20: Sunday

Too many worries kept me from practice. I couldn't handle them. I couldn't practice. Some days are like this.

21: Monday

I'm on vacation. The air is cool, but the sun is out— for now. The wind is from the east and it will rain.

Practice? I don't know.

22: Tuesday

Today I put on Jimmy Buffett's Somewhere Over China for the first 5 sets. Then I put on Coconut Telegraph for the other 5. Both albums are just the right length for 5 sets runing 6'30" (+ or -!) each.

I'm glad I decided to change music because it was an interesting experience. As I practiced, I could really hear all the lyrics, and somehow, that helped me to be better in the forms— I think.

It's raining today: a nice, steady, light rain. The sounds are wonderful (the patter on the leaves is different rhythm from the raindrops falling in the gutter, and the drip from the odd edges has a different beat. And the rain has made the air smell wonderful, too. There's a sweet scent I can't trace... I don't think it's the dogwoods.

23: Wednesday

Practice: 3 sets each side. I put on the Yin music. It was raining again today. I need to warm up properly before practice else I can't kick correctly.

24: Thursday

Felt very bad about practice today— not that it went badly, it just didn't seem to... advance me in the process. I didn't do any bit of the forms any better than I did them yesterday. And I'm back to feeling I'll never get Snake Creeps Down right.

I put the Jimmy Buffett CD's on and didn't time the sets. I just did sets until the music ran out— and since I'm ending almost exactly where I begin, I just keep going when I've "reset" my heels on the boards. Five sets each side, most likely.

It was cool and overcast today, with the wind still in the southeast. Dogwood blossoms— petals were blowing liek snow. Neat.

This is the first year since I've moved in that the dogwood blossoms are white. There used to be a red dogwood, the one furthest west of the three that are growing up against the back retaining wall. The blossoms on the three trees always shaded from red to dark pink to light pink. A few winters ago the red on got damaged, and finally it died. Since then the blossoms on the remaining two trees have reverted to white.

25: Friday

I put of practice "until later."

26: Saturday

It's 02:45 in the morning. I've just finished practice. ONly two sets. It's much more idfficult in the dark: balance goes all to hell. It's a beautiful night. I was really hoping I'd really relax and do well, but no, I couldn't get out of my own way.

When I got up I didn't feel like practicing. I did some calligraphy and went to mess with my plants.

Why does today seem to unsatisfactory? I visited the heron's pond and saw the mama duck with 5 ducklings; the mama goose in her nest, and the papa swimming about; the heron himself— the color of those grapes— and so big! Plus yellow water lillies, and iris, and frogs, and turtles...

But my gutter is making a waterfall over the front steps again and it bugs me. And the rain keeps the garage from drying out... I don't know.

27: Sunday

The sun has come out and it's beautiful. Soft sky and clouds. I haven't practiced. Must need the time off...

I went to the cemetary to plant Dad's grave. Red geranium and red and blue pansies this time. Afterwards, I stayed to show him my t'ai chi— so he could see how improved I was from last year. This year I told him about my teacher, how much I like him, figuring Dad would like him, too.

28: Monday

Wind's kicking up: feels like it might rain...

The Handbook of T'ai Chi Ch'uan Exercises by Zhang Fuxing is very good. He says he practices outdoor every day. I knew it was okay to do so! (He does practice inside when it's very inclement, but then he doesn't have my porch.)

Practice: I stretched and massaged my thigh muscles. I worry that the kicks will hurt and that makes me tense, and then of course, I can't kick properly. Vicious cycle.

My feet didn't bother me today. I felt lighter on them and that did help me to relax, so the six sets each actually felt pretty good.

At Peter's I did another two sets. Why is it easier on the concrete floor?

29: Tuesday

Today I "got" Repulsing the Monkey. When I step back, I pivot my waist above the yang leg, and then shift my weight! (It's painfully obvious now, of course!) I'm really looking forward to the moment when Snake Creeps Down works. I know it will heppen. Eventually.

But the really cool thing about t'ai chi is this: even when I "get" one of the forms, there will come a day when I "get" that same form in a whole new way. There's always more and better to come. Like the Tao it can be used infinitely, yet it is never used up.

30: Wednesday

Why does practice go better on some days? What is the determing factor? Amount of sleep? Dreams? Breakfast before or after? The weather?

Today I felt my feet and it was distracting. Oh, I did well enough, but not as well as yesterday. And as for Repulsing the Monkey, well, the mechanics ain't the Art.

31: Thursday

Three sets each side... better than the day before, but not as good as it could be— as far as being relaxed and feeling weightless.

I warmed up beforehand. Stretched. Put my heel up on the railing and touched my toes.

Copyright © 2001 New Moon

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