Today I need to write to David...
I started my letter to David on Sunday. Sunday night. I was up until 03:30, but hadn't finished. By then I was so tired I gave up and went to bed. But I knew I had to get the letter written and mailed. Too much time had already gone by.
I got up Monday morning and started over. I wasn't really pleased with it, but I got it done. It was six pages long.
I apologized. I acknowledged how stupidly I had behaved. I chalked the whole eipsode up to the fact unrealized until I wrote this letter that I have been feeling lately that my entire life is unraveling. Realizing that, I also realized that I needed a break: I told him I was going to take one. I suggested to David that he would probably be glad of a break from me, too. I told him that I was going to sign up for kobudo classes; that, for a while, I thought it might be good for me to whack things with a stick. I told him I would keep practicing taiji (how could I not?), and that I would look forward to coming back to lessons when he gets an intermediate class together. I wished him a happy holiday season, and told him I hoped we'd run into each other around town. I put a big "O" above my signature, with an asterisk explaining that it was either they symbol for wuji, or a hug, whichever he preferred.
So. It's done. Maybe it's all over. I just don't know.
Got my orange belt in karate last night. Jon got his on Tuesday night. Cool. As with taiji, though, each lesson I learn only makes it more clear how much more there is I have to learn.
It's snowing again. Very fine snow. It's 28 degrees out there. Practice will be interesting... I think I'll wear my gloves.
Seven sets and cool-down qigong. The snow makes a soft, sizzling sound. And I'm late for work.
Two good sets today before work. I was saying to Ma how different practice is now. It's no longer a chore. Now it's becoming a pleasant exercise in learning. I no longer have to fight to get my body to copperate. Oh, I'm still a long way from where I want to be physically, but now I see some hope of achieving some realy physical skill.
Tonight was my first kobudo class. We wear hakima, the pleated britches. I haven't got my own bo, yet, but Jon bought a nice hickory one.
I get discouraged sometimes because I always seem to be arriving back at square one. Tonight, watching Sensei, I started thinking again how long the road is.
But I stayed to watch the advanced kobudo class afterwards. Sensei had them perform the kata shima jiri bo ichi slowly. It was almost as if they were doing taiji. He was making the students aware of the sequence of the moves, of how the power transfer from the root up through the bo happens. And it was all very, very, very familiar to me. I wished David was there to see it.
The more I think about it, the more I believe David would fit in at the dojo.
Cold, windy, and there are long, blue shadows on the snow. I'm beset by melancholy thoughts. But practice went well.
Six sets (3 each side); three sets of 42 Form, and a little bo practice. (I don't remember all of shima jiri bo ichi.)
I think Snake will plague me forever, but, today, it dawned on my that the problem I've been having when rocking back (yes, yes; I know I could cut that out and do the advanced form, but why not get it right?) is caused because I come up at the end of the Snake's slide. If I say down to rock back, it works. (Duh!)
The sun was so bright. I closed my eyes as I began one set, and all I could see was the red behind my eyelids... I liked the feel of the sun on my eyes, and I felt balanced and so comfortable just standing there, centered, that I decided to keep my eyes closed for the set.
At first, before I began to think, I did very well keeping my balance. It was an interesting feeling, not having any visusal input to keep myself adjusted. All my body had to go on was the feel of the movements, the pull of gravity... I must practice this more.
Six sets (3 each); some 42 Form; a little naihanshi shodan; some cool-down qigong oh, and one run through of as much of shima jiri bo ichi as I know (not much!).
Today I could feel my weight was going to the inside front of my left foot. I kept wanting to readjust and did so quite a few times. I'm back to feeling as if my shoes are working against me. I can only hope my left side catches up to my right soon.
The sets all the sets should have been better. I feel there will never be time enough for all the practicing I need to do. It's very discouraging.
Stepping with my tea... a couple of 42 Form sets, right and left. Going right I hardly recognized White Crane!
I wore my Pine Tree Taiji shoes today. the balance felt better. Before I felt the soles were too narrow, but now they seem fine though my left foot still needs more strength.
One set of 24 and cool-down qigong to end. The sun is bright; the air cold. I was warm and should have worn my hat to keep the sun out of my eyes.
Four sets (two each), and a little shihonuke with my mop handle. The fourth set felt really good.
Tonight I feel stupid, and I'm not quite sure why.
My wits seemed scattered before and during karate class. A yellow belt, Jess, asked for help in Wansu, and I couldn't even get "Yoi... hajime" right. I performed the kata okay, but it certainly could have been better.
We had a guest visiting tonight. A black belt gentleman who was also a student of Master Odo. Sensei had him doing katas with us, setting the pace. He had a very different pace that threw me. I messed up a lot.
One thing that really bugged me was when Angie was trying to help me learn back punches on the bag. Angie is a brown belt, and I like her a lot, but... the way she was showing me the punch, the way she moved her hips during execution, she was pulling power away from the punch. I could see that it was interfering with the power delivery even when Angie did it. She didn't notice anything wrong, but I think that's because she was concentrating hard on teaching me. Perhaps if she hadn't been showing me how to do it, she would have done it differently. All I know is that it doesn't and won't work the way she was showing me. I could see that in the punch.
I know I'm not very good at generating power yet, but I do know the principles, and I believe I was applying them correctly in my punches. I could feel that. Later I heard Angie telling Sensei about my/our difficulty, and he told her the problem was that I wasn't up to that level yet. True enough.
Jon and I stayed to watch the black belt class. They had a long discussion about how difficult it is to deliver power effectively when one's stance is a sliding one. Amen. Unless one foot is rooted, it is very difficult.
All this qi theory discussion made me feel both stupid and smart by turns. Right now, I honestly don't know what I know. Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe I don't know doodly-squat about generating power or rooting or anything... But I know what I see.
Six good sets and some shihonuke between. Last night I dreamed of karate punching, and the movements of my hands and arms woke me.
A mild day. Stepping with my tea, then one good, solid set and cool-down qigong. On the last gethering of qi, I saw a point of indigo/purple light when I closed my eyes. I'm told that's a healing color. I sent some to David.
The luck was with me tonight. Our practice tops for kobudo are dark blue, not royal blue as I had been informed. Thank goodness. When I wear royal blue, I look like I've got jaundice. These tops aren't as elegant looking as the white embroidered ones, but they're warm and tough, and good for practice. I do hope there is a summer weight version, however.
One hour is too short for kobudo class, but that one hour tired me out. I love it. This is exactly what I want and need: the other half of taiji.
Tonight as I watched the advanced class, again I saw that these two disciplines, as taught by my teachers, are truly two halves of a whole. I can't believe no one else knows this. It's the embodiment of the yin-yang principle: opposites in balance, each containing elements of the other, complete only together.
As I was watching Pete tonight, I note again that he already has the taiji. He's a natural. And he reminds me very much of David. They even look alike. (Pete's birthday is the day after David's different years, though.)
As I watched Sam, all power and external force, it occurred to me that Pete and Sam are yin and yang. Pete is learning from the inside out; Sam is learning from the outside in.
I still can't believe that the two disciplines mesh so perfectly. And I can't believe no one else knows this though, perhaps I've just never run into the ones who do know. And this certainly isn't something that would come up in casual conversation. Still, I feel as if I must be wrong...
But I know I'm right. And that I'm lucky to have found both my teachers.
I hope David and Dennis will meet. I can only imagine now, but I am sure they will each delight in learning from the other. It just couldn't be otherwise.
There's a strong inclination today to want to believe spring is in the air. The sun is warm and golden; the air cool and fresh. There's a wind with an edge on it, but all but the iciest snow has been melted by the rains, and the green, green grass and the crazy pansies blooming in my front yard look like spring. But we haven't even come to the winter solstice yet. *sigh*
Ten sets of 24 Form today, interspersed wtih some 42 Form, bracketed by something I call "shiho jiri bo nuke." I can't for the life of me sort those two bo katas out!
In taiji today, along about the eighth set, it finally dawned on me that I haven't been tucking my butt under sufficiently when working my left side. This has been causing part of my left foot weight distribtion problem. Evidently, I wasn't capable of the "tuck" before, and so I wasn't aware I wasn't doing it. But now I know. And now, happily, I have fixed it. In taiji you learn something new every day. Cool.
All the snow is back.
Bright moon on new snow. Canis Major leaping in the branches of the maple. It's 26 degrees out there, but after the first set I had to take off my gloves and the quilted shirt.
My balance wasn't goo I knew that going in because my shoes didn't feel right. I was a little tense, too, but I did relax... Three sets that I wouldn't want anyone to see.
I practiced shihonuke with my mop handle. I think I had it right but I could easily have left something out. I tried shima jiri bo ichi, but... it's pretty much a blank after the sweep block.
I really wish practice had gone better. On a beautiful night it really ought to go better.
Three sets, left, and cool-down. It's so gorgeous out I practiced in shirtsleeves I wish I could bag work and practice 'til I'm worn out.
I'm up laundering my gi (yeah, I found out how to spell it!) for class tomorrow. I'm making up for missing Monday because of the JCBL Christmas Party.
Tonight at karate we did a lot of kicking. A lot. I got quite winded, and Sensei told me to take a break. I needed it. Between just getting over my cold, and not remembering to breathe! I bowed out and went and washed my face with cold water, then I was okay. I need a lot of practice kicking.
We also practiced bunkai for niahanshi shodan. I could barely remember the kata. Ugh!
At work today, while taking care of my email, I somehow ended up at a web site called "Easy Tai Chi." What a hoot! It bills itself as "Tai Chi for Busy People," with a four minute set! They were also trying to recruit teachers and leaders and trainers to spread the word. "Be the first in your area!" The certification procedure was a trip, too. I had to tell David....
And besides that, there was something else I wanted to share with him: the converstation I had Tuesday night with the instructor from American Martial Arts Center in Foster.
There was a big ad in the Bargain Buyer. "TAI CHI" and a yin-yang symbol with no dots in it. No mention of what style, just the class schedule and tuition fee. The spiel was the usual: increase your focus, mental and physical energy, stamina though they didn't mention balance. Then this: "Our trained professional instructor will provide you with a comfortable atmosphere that will enable you to lean, relax and rejuvenate yourself." Well, I had to call.
The instructor sounded nice. I asked about the style and he told me it was Yang. I asked which Form... and then it got interesting. He told me, "Well, that depends on how you count the movements." That's a quote. I let him do some explaining, which was both interesting and amusing, then I mentioned that the Chinese had done a little standardization over the past few years, and did he happen to know if he was doing short form 24, or long form, or competition combined 42 form, or even 108 form. He did some thinking out loud about combinations of forms, and then said, "Well, there have to be over a hundred. It must me 108."
I asked who he had learned from. He mentioned having taking lessons from a man (I didn't recognize the name, but then I know very few teachers. I will check him out, however.) in Connecticut for a few years. But that was a while ago, he said. His thing now is Tun Su Do, and he's been practicing that for ten or twelve years. And that's why it was so easy to pick up the tai chi, because of his training in Tun Su Do, not to mention Aikido and Tai Kwon Do. So, he "picked it up," and has trained two assistants to help him with classes. And they teach it in eight week sessions because, as he pointed out, six weeks is really not long enough to learn the whole routine.
It seems he also teaches karate at this place. Which was interesting when you consider that the above mentioned martial arts are none of them karate. I asked about the form of karate he teaches, but he wasn't sure of the name... he did know a bo "routine" he could teach me, but he didn't know the name of that, either, but he had a couple of tonfa katas, that he knew were named "Odo something..."
And that's how it went. Very amusing. And I wished to high heaven that David had been in on that converstaion not to mention Sensei!
So I told David about Easy Tai Chi, and about the American Martail Arts Center, and I also told him something interesting that my cousin told me the other day: Star Trek's Klingon fighting techniques are based on Taiji. It seems the fellow who invented all the Klingon fighting and weapons was also a player of taiji. I'm going to have to try to find out more about that, for sure!
I also told Sensei and Kim about the American Martial Arts Center. They had seen a Karate ad, and were curious. I told them about my converstaion. They were, as I was, equally apalled and amused.
Kobudo class tonight. I almost know shima jiri bo ichi. Almost. We had a very good class tonight and a little extra time, too, since the advanced students were all busy with the holidays and weren't meeting.
After class, Jon and I got to stay and talk with Sensei. That's always interesting. Tonight we got onto the subject of how he has had to change the curriculum of his school, modifying the weapons requirements so that folks who just aren't interested in weapons, or who can't afford to purchase weapons, can still learn the karate. It seems you have to make a lot of changes when you're teaching Americans on their home turf.
No taiji practice today yet. Yesterday, I did practice. What a beautiful day it was! I practiced in shirtsleeves.
Six sets (three each), some 42 Form, and cool-down qigong. It went well. I have better balance on my left foot now that I can tuck my butt under on that side.
Before practicing taiji, I spent some time with my mop handle doing shihonuke. When I got to class last night, I foudn out that I had left out one move: the block. Ah, well.
We spent a lot of time on the push hands exercise in karate. I just don't get it, though. I know the principles; I am fairly "shoong;" and I have a good low, solid stance. But I am always getting knocked over. It seems everyone can "get" me. It really puzzles me a lot. I wish I could get David or Sensei to work with me... but that will never happen!
I was so tired last night I was in bed before eleven, and I went right to sleep.
Rain today and very mild, near 60 degrees. Too warm for karate. In July, when I began, I thought that by October surely it'd be more comfortable practicing karate. Surely I wouldn't be sweating so profusely when the cool weather arrived. Ha! Looks like I'd just best get used to sweating.
I think "karate" is really a Chinese word meaning "laundry." I've never done so much laundry in my life as I have since I started learning karate.
I pulled a muscle in my back yesterday morning while mopping the floor upstairs. Stupid. It didn't feel serious. But taiji didn't help it, so I stopped. I took some aspirin. I iced it. I went for a walk in the cold, and that seemed to help for a while, but today it just hurts and I'm pissed because I signed up to practice at the dojo today and I won't get much out of it like this! Rats.
As soon as I entered the dojo, I felt myself relax. I could still feel the pull, but I could practice. It was just Bruce and me practicing. He was kind enough to help me through shima jiri bo ichi a couple of times, too. He says that kata is usually only taught at the green belt level, to kobu-jutsu students. He called it "Bo Seven." I still don't have the sequence down perfectly.
And I actually felt better when I left the dojo, even though Bruce and I washed the whole floor. Today mopping didn't bother my back at all! Go figure.
My back aches though not where I expected. I've got ice on it now... It was feeling pretty good when I turned in last night, too. This is very disappointing.
I wonder why it felt so good yesterday while I was at the dojo.
Rats. Looks like I won't be able to participate in class tonight. Rats. Wish I could call in sick to work, too.
By coincidence, the latest issue of T'ai Chi Magazine arrived today with a big article on how to treat injuries. Too bad I wasn't injured doing T'ai Chi or karate! It was housework did me in. Bah! Who knew the domestic arts are a lot more dangerous than the martial arts? From now on, I will stick exclusively with the martial arts.
This backache is truly annoying. I didn't go to class last night because it was aching so much when I got out of work. Jon called after class to tell me how much fun they had. He got to do shima jiri bo ichi with the "big kids." Rats.
No karate. No taiji. I can't practice anything. Rats. Rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats.
All I can manage to do is iron my hakima, those pleated pants. What a nightmare! The material is polyester and rayon, and it slithers and slides.... I almost got out the pins. But I finally got it ironed neatly, with the pleats in the right places. Phew. Good thing I don't have to wash 'em each time I wear 'em. And I think the pleats will stay in better next time. I hope.
Jon and I got yelled at. We were practicing and I kiaied just as Susan was loading the good china into the dishwasher. She almost dropped it. Oops. (Oops! is not a kiai.)
My back is better, but not better enough for a lesson tonight. But I'll go watch.
I had an email from David in answer to mine about Easy Tai Chi, etc. The reply was dated Monday. He thought the Easy Tai Chi was quite something, too. And he said I should by all means go visit the American Martial Arts Center. He said I knew enough about taiji principles to be able to judge. (It's good to know that my teacher thinks I know something!) He also said the Klingon-taiji connection probably explained why he'd always liked Star Trek. It was good to hear from him.
When I replied to the email, I told David about how much I'm enjoying kobudo classes, and about how much I hope that he and Sensei will meet one of these days.
Tonight, I had to sit by and watch. But during warmup exercises, Sensei came and talked with me. He told me that the class would be learning a new kata, nihanchi sandan, but very kindly alss told me not to worry because I would have plenty of opportunities to lean it. He suggested that I try to figure out the breathing while I watched.
Sensei also told me he had been thinking about Sensei Shimabuku's practice method, and that he thought, perhaps, the seven point of focus might be different for him than for me, and that there might be more or less "points" to consider, depending on where one is at in training... It is certainly true that his practice must be different from my practice. How could it not be different? But are the points different, or are they the same, but more deeply considered, more complexly employed?
Sensei noted that he has been practicing nihanchi shodan for 25 years and he's still finding out new things. In fact, he said that the only thing he's sure of now is that the number of things he doesn't know are far greater than the number of things he does know. I have that same feeling, which is growing into a certainty. The more I learn, the more aware I become of how much more there is to be learned. Sometimes the thought is very daunting. Very. But, mostly, my curiousity won't let me give up. As long as I know there's something I don't know, I think I will keep trying to learn.
From my chair on the side-lines, I practiced the moves of the new kata, even moving my feet as best I could... The breathing on this one is going to be tricky. But I have the kata down as well as anyone who participated in the class.
Tonight I had nothing to do, so I took myself off to the bookstore. There were a bunch of new books in the Martial Arts section, so I gathered them up, found myself a quiet corner, and perused them for a few hours. I made a list of the ones I'd like to own.
One book was about Okinawan Karate and had a lot of good information in it about origins and techniques. It seems there are two ways of footwork: one where the toes turn in; one where the toes turn out. (We turn our toes in for ryukyu hon kenpo kobu-jutsu. We turn our toes out in taiji.) I hadn't realized that it was a karate style difference before, or what it meant and I didn't write it down, so I can't tell you the difference now.
Anyway, reading about the techniques, once again I was struck by how so many of the principles are identicle to those of taijiquan. The balance, the movement around the tantien, the rooting of the stance, even the transmission of power, are... identicle. The book explained the "loose-tight" concept that Sensei is continually trying to convey to us: it's actually a wave of power that is transmitted through relaxed muscles so quickly that the muscles seem to get hard all at once I may be explaining this badly, but that is exactly the same as taiji. I know it is. The power comes up through the feet, is developed in the legs, distributed by the waist, expressed in the hands. From Tinker to Evers to Chance, quick as thought. And you have to be completely relaxed for it to work. And once the "wave" has passed, the relaxed state returns.
I've actually gained weight this week because I can't practice. But tonight today, my back is feeling much better. In fact, it feels as if it needs some exercise.
I tried a little tai chi while I was at Ma's earlier, and it felt pretty good. I couldn't extend my legs fully in the kicks, but otherwise there was little discomfort. Perhaps I'll be able to practice this afternoon Taiji, anyway. The karate, especially the bo katas, will have to wait another day. I hope I'll be ready for class on Monday.
At last! I can practice! One set of Taiji, and one very gently executed shihonuke (bo kata). Yay!!!