The Taijiquan Journal Logo Copyright © 2001 New Moon

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April 2002

01: Monday

Three sets, nice and slow. There's more to Press than you'd think. Applying the Principles makes all the difference. Now I have to put them into proper practice.

02: Tuesday

Class was interesting. We learned some new QiGong— Drawing the Bow— and I got to watch David doing Press. I didn't have it quite so wrong to begin with. Still, I'd like to see it again.

We're "on" for Saturday. World T'ai Chi & QiGong Day at the Lodge. Yay! I'm going to make Yin-Yang Cookies.

03: Wednesday

When I got home, I sat down a watched "Moon Over Parador." Not a bad movie (Richard Dreyfus, Raul Julia), good tango music. Afterwards, I went to clean up the kitchen in preparation for cookie making, and I put on my tango CD. I got to dancing as I cleaned, and that turned into t'ai chi, and that turned into a kind of t'ai chi tango that was— wonderful! You have got to try it! Especially Repulse the Monkey— and Fair Lady Works the Shuttles— oh! and Grasp Neeedle, and— the forms almost all lend themselves beautifully to the tango. The kicks are— incredible!

When the kitchen was cleaned up, I took my t'ai chi tango out onto the back porch. It was cool, and it had rained earlier, but the stars were twinkling in the pines, and the neighborhood was dark and quiet. I practiced in the half light coming through the kitchen window from the light over the stove.

I lost count of how many sets I did. Four or more. I could really feel the ball of chi energy we're supposed to be controlling with our hands. The liquid rhythm of the tango music seemed to make movement easier and more flowing, and the chi was just... there. Amazing. It felt great. Some of the tangos worked better than others, the Blue Tango, for instance.... wish I had a copy of Besame Mucho. That was the one they played in "Moon Over Parador."

After the sets, I just "free-formed" it to the music until my legs were tired and beginning to shake. Not too badly, but I'd been at it for... two hours? I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to have someone to dance with me— you know, in the forms when you're supposed to be pushing or pulling an opponent, if you had tango music, it would be dancing...

Here's something I've wondered before: Does David dance? I don't see how anyone knowing t'ai chi could not dance, too. T'ai chi would— must make one a good dancer. And a t'ai chi tango... can you imagine it? Wow.

04: Thursday

No additional practice.

05: Friday

Three sets to the Blue Tango. It really is amazing. I think the tango must be a form of t'ai chi. The energy really cranks. Think about it:

To dance the tango, you've got to be very concentrated, very balanced, and very fluid. Think how those moves go: the glide, into the pause, into the turn... pause again... reverse. All so slowly... step out, glide onto that foot... it's t'ai chi, for sure! Rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, distributed in the waist, expressed in the hands. And when you have a partner— aiiiieeee! The power that would generate would be incredible.

I could really feel the chi flowing today— and it was staying right with me, a ball of energy I was controlling. Wow.

I keep thinking what it would be like to be a trained dancer and know t'ai chi, too... It'd be like... flying.

06: Saturday

World T'ai Chi & QiGong Day. Yay!

World Taiji & QiGong Day Gathering 2002 © 2002 New Moon

World Tai Chi & QiGong Day 2002.

We did a lot of QiGong, and then at ten o'clock we did three sets. Afterwards we had refreshments: Yin-Yang Cookies, Jo's special Cowboy Cookies, and all kinds of tea. Then David took us through 42-Form— he says we're going to be starting to learn it session after next. Yay!— And then I took the picture. It was an excellent gathering!

I was feeling brave, and I asked David if he could dance. He said no, but his teacher did, and then I got to telling him about my t'ai chi tango dancing, and then I was demonstrating it (Repulsing the Monkey, Brush Knee...), and he was looking at me like I'd lost my mind, but he was smiling... well, I had a flyer from Providence Tango in my jacket, and I showed it to him and asked if he might be interested in taking a few lessons with me. He said, "Maybe." Maybe? Maybe. Maybe! Wow. I hope I wasn't hallucinating from the sugar in the cookies.

07: Sunday

I didn't practice.

08: Monday

Three sets and qigong. I didn't put on music, but I could hear tangos...

09: Tuesday

Tonight we worked on Snake Creeps Down— actually, we worked the sequence beginning with Strike Opponent on Both Ears, through Golden Rooster. David really worked us hard, making sure we were getting the foot positions, and the slide for Snake. (He worked Ma especially hard: she has to really watch how she sets her feet or she gets all off balance.) And to top it off, he told us we will now be required to to the advanced form (no rocking back, just creep down, and turn your feet, and come up golden), which means I'm going to have to work very hard on "regrooving." I've been creeping the beginner's way for two years... practice. And I have to work on my left ankle, too. It has to bend easily enough that I can slide my left foot out with my heel properly on the floor.

And more than practice, I'm going to have to find some sort of surface to practice on that will allow my feet to slide. There's no sliding over the porch boards. They're too rough. Rats. What the heck am I going to do?

(I didn't ask about the tango lessons cuz I hadn't got the information on when when they'd be starting. And, to tell the truth, I'm a little reluctant to "put it to the test." What if I was imagining that "Maybe"?)

10: Wednesday

I took the day off from work, so I had plenty of time to practice. Three sets each side and qigong. It felt good/right, but the porch boards bugged me.

11: Thursday

Rats. I've got to find some sort of pad or something to put over the porch boards...

12: Friday

I didn't practice today.

13: Saturday

Warm today. 70. And very humid. Windy, too, but a soft wind, not a chi stealer.

Six sets, three each side, and qigong. No music of any kind but the wind and the wind chimes, and yet I was flowing to a rhythm I could only feel...

Snake got in the way today because I can't slide properly, but the whole rest of the set felt so smooth and flowing... at times I had a feeling that the air was thick around me, as if I was swimming in it. Chi? I don't quite know. I do know that each set but the sixth ended up exactly in starting position, and the sixth ended exactly one board over.

In the evening, I went walking in my t'ai chi chucks. They're wearing thin and I can feel every bit of texture of every surface I walk on. I also noticed that I feel very connected— rooted, and balanced. I do a lot of walking, and I know I've never felt quite this way walking before. It's very neat. I could tell if the surface I was standing on was smooth or rough— I could tell the difference between the cement of the sidewalk and the cement of the walk; I knew how smooth or rough the porch boards were. And walking home, I could even feel the rain water beneath my feet.

Went to Lowe's looking for a "surface" today, too. Didn't find one.

14: Sunday

Six sets and qigong. I practiced to the tango CD. I didn't feel as solid as yesterday, but the sets were good. I have made some progress regrooving for Snake, in spite of not being able to slide properly on the boards. And today each set ended within one board-width of starting position. Go figure.

15: Monday

Six sets: three each side. Didn't feel as ... solid as yesterday's sets, but they were good. I practiced to the tango CD.

I have made some progress regrooving Snake, in spite of not being able to slide properly on the porch boards— I did go over to Lowe's Saturday night to see what I could find for a practice surface, but there wasn't anything suitable, so I'll have to tough it out.

Again, I ended each set within a board-width of starting position.

16: Tuesday

I practiced from noon until one. Six sets and qigong to the tango. It still makes a big difference in the flow: better than ever— though, one has to guard against going "dance-y."

Snake is getting regrooved. Only on the last set did I forget and rock back! However, I still can't slide.

No class tonight. I'm a little disappointed and angered at David. He didn't remember that this is school vacation week and that we therefore don't have class— and he keeps a calendar book! Yesterday, I overheard someone mention that this was school vacation week, and I emailed David to ask if there would be class. I thought perhaps he had been able to make some arrangement for us to use the cafetorium as usual. But, no. He had merely forgotten. I hate it when he's a space ranger.

17: Wednesday

I haven't practiced yet today. I've got to remember to try to keep contact on my left foot— the heel and outside points. That atrophied muscle plays old Harry with my roots! Who knew the inside calf muscle controled the points on the outside of the sole? Anatomy is certainly amazing...

18: Thursday

Four and a half sets in the humid night by the kitchen lights and the pale crescent moon. I stank. No balance— no roots. I went for a walk afterwards, and on the way back, when my mind had calmed a little, I suddenly noticed that I could feel the ground beneath my feet again. All the time I was practicing, and for two miles of walking, I hadn't been grounded— rooted. What a difference it makes!

19: Friday

I lit the lanterns and put on the Yin music. Sometimes I think that, long years from now, I will only have to hear this music to be transported back to my porch, to feel the boards beneath my feet, to feel my heart begin to lighten as the melody lifts me and begins to carry me into and through through the forms...

It's warm and humid tonight and the sky is cloudy. There's a cool breeze that seems to caress me...

Three sets. Better than yesterday, but there is something wrong in Fair Lady Works the Shuttles to the right. I spent a while going up and down the porch working the shuttles both right and left, but I can't quite pinpoint what's wrong. There's no power to the right, even though I am stepping out, then turning my waist... it works to the left, though. Very frustrating.

I've been wondering it there's more I ought to be doing/learning. Sometimes I think David is neglecting us. We don't do Push Hands— heck, we only have a short 90 minutes a week for class! I've been wondering if I should go for some sort of related lessons elsewhere... I suppose I ought to talk with David about this. But he's so hard to talk to.

I wish there were lessons every day. Maybe I'm just frustrated because of wrestling with the "problems," and what I really wish is that I had someone to talk to about them. But, even so, I'd still have to find the answers myself. I just wouldn't feel so lonely. Maybe.

20: Saturday

No practice.

21: Sunday

Six sets in the cool, dark night, listening to the Yin music... I just finished.

I lit the lanterns and left the kitchen lights on, but my balance was... wobbly. I'm not sure if it was because of the dim light or if it was tenseness. I don't seem to be able to relax. I can't feel my roots.

As I began each set, I saw Scorpius twinkling to the right of the pine tree. Red Antares wa just above the bough. Scorpius is my sign. David's too.

I'm worried about the porch. A couple of boards popped up, and when I went to nail them back down, I found that the joist had rotted beneath. I hope I can fix it.

I found out tonight where the mild ache over my right hip is coming from: practice. My body is changing balance again and I'm working different muscles.

Only a few times tonight could I feel the chi. And yet, I think I've been feeling it outside of practice. I was reading the latest issue of T'ai Chi Magazine today and there was an article about how bad practice can cause chi problems. The article was dopey (the author didn't really know beans— didn't sound as if he knew, anyway!), but it made me wonder if I'm in another of those transition phases— on another learning curve. I keep feeling the heat rising when I practice, but I don't break a sweat. David described that sensation to me a while back and ascribed it to chi rising. I don't think it's menopause.

22: Monday

"Never trust a spiritual leader who doesn't dance."

— Mr. Miyagi
The Next Karate Kid

I believe that. I really do. Ma agrees.

Three sets, right side. All sets ended one board to the right of starting!

Why is balancing so much easier in daylight?

Today, Wave Hands Like Clouds clicked. Hands and feet coordinated and the movement was fluid. One continuous movement instead of the usual right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot thing. It felt good. Now I do know what flowing feels like.

23: Tuesday

Class was the best ever! Before class, David called me over to do some Push Hands with him. I do it badly, of course— "Turn your waist!" — but that's because I try to watch when I should be feeling, and try to feel when I should be watching, and I get nervous working with David, my Teacher, anyway— though not as nervous as I used to get!

We worked on the application of Grasp Needle from Sea Bottom. Really worked on it. My left wrist is sore today from trying so hard— don't say it!— to get the elbow lock right and then to turn that into Hands Unfold Like Fan and toss my opponent— we laughed a lot. And we learned a lot, too. It was the best lesson ever.

24: Wednesday

I didn't practice. Guess I was too wound up from last night. I did tell David that last night's lesson was the best ever.

25: Thursday

It's very windy. I'll practice later...

Later: Thirty-seven degrees, but I feel quite warm. It's dead calm now, and the nearly full moon is bright in the milky blue sky. Only a few stars are visible— red Antares twinkles in the gap in the pine boughs— and a few raindrops in the branches of the maple mimic them. It snowed earlier tonight, but you wouldn't know it now. I could see my breath as I practiced qigong...

Three sets and my balance was off. Between the moon and the lanterns and the kitchen lights, you'd think there'd be enough light to practice by. But no, it's still too dim for good balance. Maybe I should keep practicing in the dark until I can keep my balance.

I think that I was tense, though, and couldn't let it all go. My left leg couldn't compensate. I could feel myself struggling for balance from my foot up through my hip. No root.

Snake has been regrooved, but not being able to slide over the porch boards makes execution difficult— and I'm still rushing. I "creep" more like a quick green garden snake than a big old python.

I did practice sliding at Ma's tonight. Her floors are painted wood, but there's very little room and the TV was on and the furniture and the TV antenna got in my way— I wasn't concentrating— didn't make myself concentrate. I gave up.

26: Friday

Why is my balance so much better in the light?

I just did fifteen minutes of kicks (kick, strike opponent, kick, strike opponent...), and had very little trouble. My left leg still needs to develop compensations, but, in the daylight, my balance is ever so much better!

27: Saturday

Sunny, cool, a bit of wind. While I was practicing— during Repluse the Monkey, the heron flew over. Six sets today, and lots of bits and pieces and qigong.

I'm learning about balance and coordination. I learned a lot today. Snake is making a lot more sense, especially when I can get my sliding foot to slide flat, heel down, so the weight transfer works. And I also found I was forcing my turn when coming up into Golden Rooster. I was turning farther than necessary.

I've almost found the balance points on my left leg/foot. That side is getting stronger, and I can feel that my left hip is now becoming properly engaged. Before, it was too stiff to give me the flexibility needed to making the transfer of my dantien go across, parallel to the floor, instead of making that little upward arc. This makes Brush Knee feel much better.

Wave Hands Like Clouds is working consistently better. One move flows into the next instead of being separate— I wish I could get the whole set to feel like that! I'll get there, though. I'll get there.

Sometimes Repulse the Monkey goes all to pieces. Then I have to remember to visualize the "silk thread" between my hand sweeping back and my foot drawing in—

I wonder if I'm actually doing the things I feel are right, right. I keep finding that I wish I could talk to my teacher about all this stuff, and yet, when I really think about whether talking would help, I feel it wouldn't make a lot of difference. Nearly all the things I'm learning are things no one can tell me. Practice and self-awareness are my teachers in this, not David.

And yet, David is and always will be my teacher. Go figure!

28: Sunday

No practice today.

29: Monday

No practice today. I am feeling very bad. Green tea and chocolate were all I had to eat today. At least I'm getting my antioxidants!

30: Tuesday

Gibbous moon in a clear sky. Gold. It was raining earler tonight. I walked to t'ai chi. Ma was to tuckered out from dragging the krebners (my nieces) all over creation that she wouldn't even let me bully her into going to class. So it was just the four of us: me and David and Jo and Paul.

While we were still warming up, David got to showing us Lotus Kicks. They're from the 42-form, the kicks where your arms describe an ellipse, which is echoed by an elliptical kick— leg swing, really— and at the intersection of these two elliptical movements you slap both hands on the outside of the kicking leg. An interesting exercise in coordination.

David seemed quite amused by our initial efforts at doing the Lotus Kick. But he encouraged us, and when we were getting the idea, he recommended that we switch sides, and then he gleefully demonstrated how we would proceed practicing alternating kicks by doing a whole sting of them. He was having such a good time it made us laugh, too!

So. Push Hands tonight. Facing off in Bow Stance we practiced single, then two hands "on." I wasn't turning my waist, then I wasn't keeping "hugging the tree distance," then I wasn't keeping contol with my Whip Hand, then I was raising my shoulder, then my left arm was too stiff— and that was only the mistakes I was making while we remained stationary! When we started to take steps, there was a whole new world of mistakes opened up for me!

I had one early pang of "I'm never going to be able to learn this!" And then I made myself stop worrying and had some fun. (I think way too much! And, each of the mistakes I made, David corrected. I learned.)

I was just now re-reading the Two Person Practice section of the T'ai Chi Classics. I think we were doing the Rolling Hands practice. (It felt like something I'd call "rolling hands," anyway.) "This is important because it teaches the student how to both follow the opponent and yield to him..."

One thing I do understand now is how important my two years of practice of the forms has been. And now I also understand how the control of the movement of our chi is related to actual application of the forms. Practicing alone, we send the chi outwards, then gather it back to send out again, always keeping it moving, always keeping it under control. In two-person practice, we "share" the chi, and the control of it, almost as if it were a basketball. When the opponent has control, we await our opening, then snatch the power/ball deftly back into our own control, and so on, back and forth between us... neat. Though that's not the whole of it.

"In performing the forms, you should be like the eagle which glides serenely on the wind, but which can swoop instantly to pluck a rabbit from the ground." — T'ai Chi Classics III, Master Wu Yu-hsiang.

"It requires years of practicing the T'ai Chi Meditative Movement in order to achieve this ability." — Commentary on Master Wu's treatise by Waysun Liao.


But look how far I've come! Two years ago, when I opened the T'ai Chi Classics for the first time, except for a very vague notion that some of the descriptions reminded me of the science in physics texts, I couldn't make much sense out of the principles— and I certainly couldn't apply them! Today, I begin to think I may have the beginning of a clue.

Copyright © 2002 New Moon

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