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August 2002

The Beginnings of Tiger Toes © 2002 New Moon

The Beginnings of Tiger Toes
Copyright © 2002 New Moon

01: Thursday


The humidity is nasty. I feel so sticky I can't make myself practice.

I did better at karate tonight (Wednesday). I did a lot of warming up— t'ai chi warming up, and kneeling practice. Qigong. It helped a lot. When I went to kneel, I was almost comfortable, and during class I was better at getting up and down.

I still have a lot of trouble with the stances. The Horse Stance requires toes to point directly forward, knees well apart. The "Forward Bow Stance" requires the forward foot to be turned inwards, knee directly over toe, and the rear foot to be pointed directly forward, leg "locked." Weight is mostly on the forward foot, of course, hips straight forward. It's very stiff, and very awkward feeling. And moving forwards and backwards in this stance is a sliding of the foot and transfer that I haven't quite worked out...

And I can't figure out where the power for punching and blocking on the move comes from.


Well, I didn't think I was going to practice t'ai chi, but I found myself doing it. I went out to hang the hummingbird feeder (I had thought to fill it before I sat down to write), and noticed that the temperature and the humidity had dropped to a comfortable level, and I just kinda automatically settled into a set.

I did three sets and qigong. The first set I did barefoot, and I had a little trouble in the final forms where pivots are involved: the porch is getting very, very rough. I put my topsiders on after that.

I concentrated on trying to smooth out the turning of my waist in parting and brushing. I noticed when we were practicing stepping the other week (with our hands clasped pointing in front, kinda like we're dowsing) that the turn is really quite finely coordinated, and that I've been turning too quickly, getting ahead of my hands and feet. Watching David, though, it looks so easy.

Tonight I made sure I was bringing my leg straight forward when going into Golden Rooster, and I made sure to work the shuttles as precisely as I could.

I am still a little surprised that my balance is so good in the dark— even when I'm being blinded each time I turn to the east because my idiot neighbors left their back garden light on.

02: Friday


It's funny. I had made up my mind I would skip practice tonight. Tired. Hot. Humid. But, I went out onto the porch and the cool darkness was so inviting— and, for a wonder, it was quiet except for the crickets and frogs! I'm tired and sticky now, but I did three sets and cool-down qigong.

I found myself tensing up on snake, and so I didn't quite have my balance coming up into rooster, but I came up straight. I still haven't smoothed out my waist turn in parting and brushing; and I lost my coordination in peacock. I couldn't decide— and it thinking that probably caused the problem— exactly when I should begin the slide back into forward bow stance after pulling the peacock's tail. I think I'm going to have to do some intensive tail pulling— to the point where I stop thinking and my body finds the proper coordination.

Another thought was this: Whether/how much actual arm movement is required when pulling and pushing that ball?

I noticed tonight that I'm still treating the forms separately instead of as a whole. But I think that's because I was thinking. Gotta stop doing that.

No karate practice tonight, though I did show Ma the two neat escape moves we worked on yesterday. One is for breaking a hold someone has on your lapels; the other is for breaking out of a wrist hold. Ma caught on to he technique immediately, but then she usually does. The applications always make sense to her and she doesn't over think. She'd be pretty formidable if she'd discovered martial arts earlier on. Yay, Ma!

03: Saturday

04: Sunday


I didn't practice Friday night. I just came home and went to bed. On Saturday I "walked the stripe" while I went through a few cups of tea. It's an interesting exercise. I learn a lot abut how my body's balance system works.

I meant to practice Saturday night, and, indeed, I did two sets, but I was so uncomfortable from the humid heat, and so off balance, I stopped. I was tense for some reason and couldn't get past it.

05: Monday


I can no longer stand the heat and humidity. It's that simple.

One set— barefoot because shoes are too hot. A fair set, but I need to work on making all the forms flow together as one... At least the stepping practice seems to be paying off in increased smoothness in parting and brushing...

I didn't bother with the qigong. I was sticky by the end of the set and couldn't make myself go on. I've lost any tolerance I had for the heat. It's a shame; because I really do need to do some t'ai chi. I hope this weather breaks soon.

06: Tuesday

A Zen Prayer:
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.

07: Wednesday


Karate on Monday bothered me. I got pulled aside for stepping practice. Ironic that. Mr. K kept telling me, "Don't think. Just let your body move naturally." I tried to explain to him that I've just spent two-and-a-half years training my body to move "naturally and instinctively," and that, at this point, if I don't think, my body will move by the rules of t'ai chi. Mr. K wasn't couldn't comprehend what I was saying. Still, it was funny.

I wore my T'ai Chi outfit to class. Tai' chi was... I don't know. David was laughing and joking, but he looked tired. And when it came to demonstrating applications, he didn't want to touch. It wasn't anything real obvious, but... I don't know.

I've been thinking about the bunkai some more. I do wish we had them in t'ai chi, and the reason I wish that is because they so clearly demonstrate the applications. We were trying to learn the application of Grasp Peacock's Tail last night, and we had trouble working in pairs on our own because we couldn't decide hoe the attacker should move. If we had bunkai, both attacker and defender would know what the basic moves are.

08: Thursday


Last night when I got in I did one set and went to bed. I think that if that set had felt better I'd've kept going. But, from the first, I was... I felt as if I was relaxed, and yet I felt tense. Perhaps I was just trying too hard. Whatever. I felt I shouldn't push it.

Earlier, before karate class, I had done a half hour of qigong to warm up. It seems to help. But my chi didn't feel strong tonight.

I've begun learning a new kata, and the roundhouse kick. I'm still having a bad time stepping, but I'm beginning to get the balance— it's a lot like t'ai chi, really. You keep your knees bent and remain at the same level throughout. You stay over your tantien. You stay upright, as if suspended from the bai hui. You move your feet in the curved line of the t'ai chi circle. The "odd" thing is the "adjustment." When stepping forwards, the rear foot is brought into position by the twisting of the hips to the front. This pulls the rear leg forward. When stepping backwards, the front foot is drawn backwards into position by the same hip twist. It's very interesting. And if you don't keep your back upright and stay over your tantien, you can pull your lower back muscles. Ouch!

09: Friday

10: Saturday


The day is warming up, humidity building. It's cloudy, mostly. Some breeze.

I "took a vacation" from t'ai chi yesterday. I can't see this "vacation" lasting very long— unless the weather gets really nasty again over the next few days.

I was reading the 'Classics, the section by Master Wu Yu-hsiang. Then I decided to do some stepping practice. After a few trips up and down the stripe I noticed I was rising ever so lightly when stepping out to the right going forward. This is because of my left leg problems. I was barefoot, so I concentrated on the feel of my soles on the boards, and noticed that I still don't balance my weight evenly on the bottom of my left foot. My left ankle and hip still aren't supple enough. I'll have to concentrate on stepping for a while— I knew the left wasn't keeping up with the right when I realized I still don't have control of my left toes!

11: Sunday

12: Monday


Five sets last night in the dark. My socks were driving me nuts by the fifth set, so I quit and did the minimal cool down qigong. It was getting muggy by then, too.

Tonight I lit the lanterns and candles, and I put on the music. It was almost comfortable. I wore my topsiders for the first five sets, the, out of curiosity, I put on my t'ai chi shoes for the sixth.

The soles of the t'ai chi shoes are narrow, and I can feel them press exactly along the outside edges of my feet— where the "nails" are supposed to be. I guess that's good. I still haven't sorted out the balance on my left foot, but it's improving.

I paid particular attention tonight to keeping to the same level throughout. I've caught myself coming up lately when my weight is supposed to be on the left side. It's that left leg, dammit!

After the sets, I practiced stepping again. This time, I found the trick of smoothing out the apparent motion of the leading hand in parting. I can't quite explain it, but it has to do with coordination the rising of the hand with the turning of the hips and waist. Before, when my hand came up there would seem to be a pause in the motion before the hand continued to the side. Now it moves up and over in a smooth arc. Well, it did tonight. I hope I can remember how it's done from now on and don't have to go "hunting" for the method again.

My chi wasn't super strong tonight. It was there, but not consistent. I wasn't as relaxed as I would have liked.

The Dojo Kun:

Endeavor to improve your character.
Defend the way of honestly and loyalty.
Strengthen your spirit through continual practice.
Respect others and be courteous.
Seek harmony and practice humility.

13: Tuesday


I get so keyed-up before lessons now I want to quit going. It's my own fault, of course. I do it to myself. But I am afraid of losing David as my teacher. And I'm afraid of losing t'ai chi...

It's all left over crap, of course. Fears left over from a time years ago when I lost everything I loved most. And now, when I love, and I notice that I love, I get scared that the things I love are going to be taken away. I really need to weed out these old fears.

I mentioned to Ma that I was afraid that David would up and quit teaching. She told me not to worry about that because, she said, David needs to teach t'ai chi as much as I need to learn it. Maybe she's right. We all have our demons chasing us. Maybe sometimes David gets afraid that no one will want to learn t'ai chi.

I want more from lessons. I want David to have a studio like the Dojo. I want more good students to study and practice with. I want to learn more techniques. Push hands, sword form— everything else there is to learn.

But David isn't Sensei. David is David. And I am being impatient and pushy. It wouldn't be right to push David into being other than himself. And yet... perhaps he needs a push to grow into the best he can become...

Sensei is maybe ten years older than David. Who knows what David will be in ten years?

(Who knows what I'll be? History, maybe!)

14: Wednesday

15: Thursday


I didn't practice t'ai chi on Wednesday. I was too tired.

Tuesday's lesson was good. We worked on Grasp Peacock's Tail again, and, finally, David continued on to show the new student where the sequence went. I was watching closely then and got to see exactly how High Pat on Horse goes, and I was surprised to see what I'd been missing in the sequence from Press through Split into Kick. I was so surprised that I said "Aha!" out loud, and that made David turn to look at me. I grinned and told him I'd just filled in a few blanks. After class, when we were packing up he asked me about it again. I told him I knew I hadn't been doing it right for a while, but— he called me over and showed me the whole thing again along with the applications. Neat.

During class I had quite a few opportunities to watch David in various forms, and watch him I did! I watched his feet moving in Wave Hands Like Clouds and I envied his supple ankles. I watched the graceful and powerful and coordinated moves and tried my best to emulate them, but, as I said to him that night after executing a shoulder/elbow/wrist press in Peacock, "Mine's not as nice as yours yet." He laughed.

The reading tonight was "Image." It was about how we metaphors to describe the things we find difficult to describe, and about striving to see the truth behind the image.


Bits and pieces at first. Grasping. Now that I understand the motion of the roll-back, the shoulder-elbow-wrist "nudge" works very well. I think I've nearly got it right!

After that, a little work on High Pat on Horse. I haven't quite got the half-step forward and the opening of the whip hand coordinated, but it is better.

After that, I remember David mentioning that we might try practicing with a book balanced on our heads. I didn't want to use a book because it would get damaged if I dropped it, so I used an empty S.O.S. Soap Pads box. When I went into the first Parting, the box slid forward. Same on the second, but on the third, I had it and didn't have any trouble for the rest of the set— nut there was a little effort involved! I think a little more practice with the box will be worthwhile.

At karate tonight (Wednesday), I got to watch sensei in the katas. His stance is low and remains level as in t'ai chi. There's quite a similarity, and I enjoy watching him, too. He's very much like David in precision and power. And watching him is helping me to understand the karate. I haven't quite figured it out yet, not consciously, but I think I am beginning to "get" it. Oh, there's still a lot of hard work to do (like training myself to balance on the rubber mats— so much for deluding myself into thinking my balance is good!— but I am beginning to get the idea.

I wonder if one could do a kata with a book balanced on one's head...

I wish I had David to play t'ai chi with every day.

16: Friday


Nasty, hot and humid tonight. Lots of noise from crickets and frogs and whatnot.

Two sets and qigong. I did the sets balancing a book on my head. (I pulled the book from the bookcase in the foyer. "Peaks of Shala," by Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder), of all things. It's about a walking tour of Albania. I must've bought it because of the author's mom.)

On the first set, I had trouble with the book only when I got to Snake Creeps Down. My head tipped forwards as I stretched my leg out. The slip made me tense up, and I had to take a breath and try again. I was okay then— I was doing the "advanced" form wherein there's no rocking, just a creeping across to come up in Golden Rooster.

On the second set I felt myself tense on Snake and I ended up having to rock back to get my balance— but the book stayed put! And I did notice that having the book on my head was doing wonders helping me keep my weight distributed evenly on my left foot. Interesting that.

(Just for giggles, I tried naihanchi shodan with the book on my head. I had to go slowly, of course, and couldn't punch hard. But I'm wondering now if it could be done at speed. I betcha those Chinese acrobat guys could "stay under the book" while doing the katas.)

While I was doing the qigong I was reminded of how hot my palms got during the qigong we did at the beginning of class on Tuesday. My palms sometimes get warm, but that night they felt as if I'd held them near a flame. Interesting.

17: Saturday


I didn't practice yesterday. It was way too hot— same as today. And the night wasn't any cooler. I've no tolerance for the heat. It's 90 degrees here on the back porch, in the shade. At least there's a breeze.

18: Sunday

19: Monday

20: Tuesday


An orange moon was settling into the trees when I went out to light the lanterns. Gorgeous.

Three mediocre sets. I feel a rank beginner. I couldn't calm my mind or relax my body. The qigong felt better, but not much.

I'm tired of my feet feeling uncomfortable. The heat and humidity make shoes impossible, and the porch boards make them necessary. I can't win in this weather.

Tonight I was awarded a yellow belt. Ku kyu. Yellow nine. Yay! It was a surprise. We all lined up at the end of class, and then Mr. K called my name, and I immediately thought, "What did I do now?" But then I saw him with the certificate and hustled myself up to the front of the class. Neat! But I feel funny now, though. There's a niggling thought that they'll discover it was a mistake and take it back.

Tonight was Jon's first karate class. He's my brother. I'm glad he was there to see me get promoted; and I hope he'll stick with the classes. I think they'll be good for him.

We practiced escaping wrist grips tonight. I was paired up with a new student, Gus. He hadn't learned this particular move, so I was the teacher. Kim, a black belt (and Sensei's wife), was supervising us, but she let me do the explaining and demonstrating to Gus. I guess I did okay cuz she didn't stop me. I explained the horse stance (kibadachi), and sinking, and staying upright, and breathing out, and making the circle— and I even put in everything I know about the tantien and chi. (This is all t'ai chi stuff, after all.) Gus caught on quick and did it right, escaping easily from my grip. But I couldn't do much escape practice myself because of the bruise I still have on my right arm from last week. Still I did get in some left arm practice.

21: Wednesday

22: Thursday


At last! Cool, dry weather. Walking today, everywhere I went— Providence, over to Ma's, up Mowry Street— the air smelled delicious. I can't explain it; I don't know what I was smelling, but it made my mouth water. Savory. Spicy. Delicious!

The moon is full tonight, bright blue whit in a milk blue sky. Beautiful. Plenty of light for practice.

Four sets left. I wish I had done better on them, but I'm tired— my leg muscles are tired from karate. Especially the left leg because the karate forces the left to work more of the leg muscles. The instability of the mats really makes 'em work from the toes up!

Karate was excellent tonight. We had a large class— 18 maybe, plus four black belts assisting. And, since most of us were yellow and orange— close in level— we were able to concentrate on the basic moves and katas. And the assistants helped us get more out of them.

The other night after class I asked Kim about the timing of the kiais during warm-up exercises. She said she did them on the exhale of the last count, so, tonight, I made sure I did good kiais . I think I inspired the others to do better. But I need to practice relaxing my throat and making sure the kiais come from the tantien.

One thing I did notice: the t'ai chi has given me a good solid horse stance.

Before karate class I went into the small dojo and did some qigong and kneeling practice. I need to learn to relax. I wish I could do it on demand... that will come in time. Just like the tiger toes.

I spent a few minutes memorizing the Dojo Kun. Five precepts.

Endeavor to improve your character.
Defend the way of truth and loyalty.
Strengthen your spirit by continual practice.
Respect others and be courteous.
Seek harmony and practice humility.
there. Did it from memory. Next I'll learn the lineage.

23: Friday

24: Saturday


The moon is bright, the air clear and dry... and my practice goes so badly I could cry. I don't know what's wrong— everything.

After three klutzy sets left, I switched to the right and it was just as bad. I can't do anything right— especially Snake! I practiced just that for a while, even changed shoes! But it didn't help.

I just want to scream. Right now, I feel as if I'll never get any of it back, ever.

The moonlight is so white... and there was white mist rising and swirling on the water tonight. Very beautiful.

I keep worrying— it feels like worrying. I enjoy karate, and I like being part of the dojo, but it makes me miss t'ai chi so very much...

What I really want is a t'ai chi dojo to be part of. But I very much doubt that could ever happen...

I wonder if I'm beating myself up for "betraying" t'ai chi with karate... maybe not. I know the two things are not mutually exclusive— in some ways they are complementary...

What really bothers me, what I resent, is that David isn't giving me enough. As a teacher, I mean. I keep comparing all I get at the dojo with what I get from David's lessons. I can't help it. And I hate it, but David comes up short.

I love t'ai chi, though. And I love David. But I also love the feeling of belonging I get at karate. I won't leave t'ai chi or David, but it hurts. And I feel disappointed.

25: Sunday


I slept too long— and dreamed too much. It was summer in my dreams when I woke, but I think it had changed from winter... Awake now, the place I was seems very disturbing.

Jon called a few minutes ago. He wants help getting naihanchi shodan "down" before class tomorrow. I said I'd stop over tonight.


Up and down, and up and down, and up and down... for hours. I began simply stepping. It was as if I was learning it for the first time... settling... growing roots... relearning the balance, noticing the difference between left and right... correcting... balancing...

No hands at first, just feet. Up and down... then stepping backwards... forwards and backwards, up and down... then with hands. And my hands felt light and full of chi at first... but then they got heavy and stiff.

So I grasped the peacock's tail, left and right, backing down the porch inches at a time— I've never been able to get grasping left and right to stay in the same place...

Then what? Waving, back and forth, then working the shuttles, then brushing and pushing, then parting...

No creeping, though. And no fan unfolding. And no parry, nor tiger... Hmmmmm. Now I think of what I didn't do, I feel bad.

26: Monday

27: Tuesday


I don't have any shoes that don't drive me insane now. How am I to practice if I have no shoes?! Aaaaarrrrgh!

Karate was tiring tonight. I feel I'll never, ever get the hang of karate stepping: it's too different from t'ai chi... I feel quite discouraged.

But, mostly, I'm tired— and I haven't been eating right. That always makes me feel bad mentally.

I was trying to practice creeping, meant to get in some practice on that and unfolding and parrying and punching— maybe even returning, but I'm so tired and my shoes are driving me crazy.

In karate tonight we began learning the bo (long staff). I may be able to get the moves eventually, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to hire a foley artist to dub in the nice crisp "snaps" required. (There's supposed to be an audible "snap" of the bo against the cotton cloth of the ghee, just like when punching.) Rats.

I wish I had some comfortable shoes. I'd really feel better if I could practice and make a stab at getting things right.

28: Wednesday


Tonight's lesson was... a little different. We went outside. We did quite a bit of qigong to begin— a lot of playing with the chi. After that, we went through a set, then we worked on shuttling and continued on through grasp needle and hands unfold like fan. When we'd worked through that sequence, David had us practice the footwork for hands unfold. By then it was getting dark, so we went inside and continued working on hands unfold, then we went on to parry. David corrected me on that because I wasn't parrying with the back of my hand and wrist.

We did a couple of sets then— no, we continued to the end of the set and David noted that we weren't returning the tiger to the mountain correctly. Firstly, one must turn the left foot and root it; only then does the right foot turn out. And, when gathering up the tiger and bringing the right foot in, one must remember to come off the right toes, not the right heel. David saw me come off my heel and asked if I hadn't felt some strain in my lower back. I said I'd been doing it wrong for so long now that I've learned to compensate. He laughed. I did it right after that, though, and I told him that I felt the difference.

We did a couple of sets to end. It was interesting to me to be able to actually slide my foot out when doing Snake Creeps Down. Can't slide on my porch, or on that so-called lawn up at the lake. There's a little better slide on the hard beach sand, but I've found that surface mostly unsatisfactory.

David says there's to be a Martial Arts meet in Willimantic, Connecticut this fall. And also that the T'ai Chi Farm on Long Island is back in business. He was very enthusiastic about the meet and the farm and says he'll send us all the information. Sounds like he's hoping to be going to both places. Maybe I can go to Willimantic.

David forgot to give us a reading. Next time he'll have to give us two.

29: Thursday


T'ai chi practice yesterday and today was stepping forwards and backwards and that "toe in" turn in Hands Unfold Like Fan. I learn or relearn something every time.

I was feeling very discouraged during and after karate class yesterday. It's so difficult to balance on those mats that I find kicking nearly impossible. The only consolation is taht when I stand on solid ground I can almost do the kicks right.

I found the website for the Chinese Martial Arts Competition in Willimantic. There are some neat seminars listed. "Tai Chi San Shou," for one (wasn't there something about that in the last T'ai Chi Magazine?"). There's one on nunchaku, too, and silk reeling... and qigong, and "Spring-Autumn Fan." I emailed David and asked if, after he looked everything over, he might tell me if there are any seminars from which I might profit.

It's raining today. Not hard, but it's rain and we need it, so I don't dare complain about the gloom... but I'm feeling very discouraged about my relationship with David. I wish we were good at talking easily with each other... but we aren't. I hope he answers me about the seminars.

30: Friday

31: Saturday


My spirits are still worn down and I feel discouraged.

* Please note:

The times given are in 24-hour military notation. 01:00 is one o'clock in the morning. 13:00 is one in the afternoon.

Copyright © 2002 New Moon

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