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January 2002

Whip Hand © 2002 New Moon
Whip Hand © 2002 New Moon

This month, well, I was all at sixes and sevens. I practiced, but I didn't keep a faithful record. I don't know why. I just didn't.

01: Tuesday

Happy New Year!

02: Wednesday

03: Thursday

04: Friday

05: Saturday

I went to Saturday class at The Lodge. Jo and Paul were at Tracking School, and... I like the Saturday class, like the The Lodge, I like the "extra" lesson... but it was a mistake. I knew I wasn't having the best of days to begin with.

Dennis and I were early. Before class, while I was still puttering around, David and Dennis began a set. When I noticed that they'd begun, I thought I'd take the opportunity to watch, but David said, "Come on, Leslie, join in. Isn't this what you came for?" So I joined in, behind and to the left of them, at "White Crane Spreads Its Wings."

But, when we hit the turn, and I was "leading," and couldn't see either one of them, instead of taking the pace from me, instead of cueing me to what they were doing, David continued at his own pace, Dennis following him, and suddenly I noticed that I was lagging behind. Unfortunately, I then looked into the mirror to try to get back in synch, and that was when David said, "Quit looking at yourself in the mirror!" Well, that was that! The dyslexia kicked in and I couldn't get back in synch to save my life, so I said, out loud, "Screw it," and I walked off to get a drink of water while they finished up.

When they were done, David looked over at me and asked, "What happened?" And I told him.

I told him that, just for the record, I wasn't looking at myself in the mirror, I was trying to get back in synch with them. And I told him it was interesting that he would yell at us when we didn't keep pace with whoever was "leader" when we were in class, but that it seems to be okay for him to go at his own merry pace, regardless of the pace of whoever is "leading." I was pissed. I didn't yell, but I stated my case... strongly. When I finished, both Dennis and David gave me a "Ooooooooo," the way guys do who have just been justifiably told off my their wives/girlfriends.

I was ticked. But not so much at David as at myself. I kept thinking that I should've kept my own pace, just as he does, because it would have been really interesting to find out what he would have said about me going more slowly, and whether he would have gotten on my case about not following them, knowing that I was ahead and couldn't see what they were doing.

The rest of the class was great. We practiced "Wave Hands Like Clouds" forever, and did some push hands, and we had a lot of fun. But I was grumpy when I left class. Really grumpy. I knew I shouldn't have let it get to me. But it did.

06: Sunday

A mild day. Pale sun in a cloudy sky— though the gray is Paynes Gray and looks blue in places. There is a breeze making the wind chime ring, and the old leaves still hanging on the maple tree chatter... any minute now, I'm going to practice.

It isn't strange that I've been thinking a lot about the Rhythm of t'ai chi. I've been thinking about it for quite a while, as a matter of fact. Almost since the beginning.

I'm a musician— I've been playing the piano for— too many years— and I'm good at keeping the beat. I keep an even beat. You can ask Ma.

I "hear" a rhythm when I practice t'ai chi. Each form, each part of each form, well, it seems to me that there's a rhythm, and I keep to it. But am I keeping the correct rhythm? Perhaps not. David tells me I go too fast; he tells me I go too slow. But there must be a correct rhythm, be it fast or slow...

Where are the beats supposed to come? Do I keep the beat with the yang foot? Are those beats evenly distributed: yin, yang, yin, yang... tick, tock, tick, tock... one, two, one, two...?

Are the beats uneven— syncopated, like a Scott Joplin rag? Two yangs to a yin? Other way 'round...?

But Chinese music seems pretty straight forward, and they keep time same as we do here in the west. The beat is even in the T'ai Chi Melodies... but how do I synch the forms to the music?

I think I need to sit and watch David when he's "cooking."

But, you know, depending on how well my body can accommodate each of the moves in the form, the possibilities for the rhythm change. What I mean is, it's like working a rusty hinge. Until it's been completely freed-up, there are little "hitches" in the working that keep the beat from being truly smooth and even. And maybe I don't notice the "hitches," or perhaps I can't detect them reliably. Maybe that's why I can't get the rhythm right. Yet.

07: Monday

08: Tuesday

Payback is a bitch, as they say.

Tonight, again, David gave me a hard time about my speed in the forms. Again, I got pissed. Then I tried to ask a question— which wan't even a question, not then, but I was thinking about the rhythm of the forms, and I wanted to ask, but he got impatient with me not knowing exactly what I was asking, and snapped, "So ask already," so I said, "Okay, just forget it," and went to get a drink of water. When I came back in, they were working on Grasp Needle, and I took my place and then I started to realize how funny it was— how funny I was... it made me laugh.

I waited around after class, out in the parking lot, in the cold, and finally I got to talk with David. I apologized for not being a model student. He said, "No, you're really doing well—" I said, "No, I mean, sometimes, you piss me off, and I know I shouldn't let you, and I know I shouldn't lose my temper, but I do. And I'm sorry." He seemed to think that was amusing. Anyway, we stood around in the parking lot, in the cold, talking about t'ai chi, and this and that and the other, for about 25 minutes. I like David. I think things will be a little better between us now.

09: Wednesday

10: Thursday

11: Friday

12: Saturday

I decided that attending Saturday class wasn't a good idea.

Six sets. Each time I ended within a board-width of my starting place... and yet, I don't think any of the forms were occurring in the same locations during the sets. Odd... or is it?

Later, I went to Jo's. Paul was there, too, and we got to horsing around, and I pulled a muscle in my back. I hope t'ai chi practice "cures" it.

13: Sunday

14: Monday

15: Tuesday

We worked hard tonight.

I learned something about "Whip Hand."

Or, now that I think about it, maybe I haven't. I don't know how the hand is supposed work... I don't know.

16: Wednesday

17: Thursday

18: Friday

19: Saturday

20: Sunday

Sun and snow, but in the 40's on the back porch.

Two sets, plus bits and pieces: up and down the porch "parting" and "brushing," making sure of my balance on the left foot, coordinating hands and feet... I could feel the "silk thread" unreeling from my hands as I moved. The strained muscle in my back is still bothering me a bit, but I can feel that it's almost healed, and quit after the second set when I noticed that I was tensing up, reagravating it.

21: Monday

I didn't practice today. It was bitter cold outside and sleeting— but that wasn't why. Nor was it the pulled muscle in my back: that's almost healed. I don't know.

22: Tuesday

Class was fun. Everyone was in a good mood. I brought my new digital camera and took some pictures. (David does not like having his picture taken, but it didn't make him grumpy, just goofy!)

We worked on "Snake Creeps Down." The rules changed again, however: now the whip hand must stay up until the shift into "Golden Rooster." *sigh*

And— of course! — I wasn't "creeping" properly. But I never did have a clear picture of the coordination between my hand (the "snake"), and my sliding foot before. So much to learn!

I was also having trouble with "Wave Hands Like Clouds." David noticed— and told me very nicely. I wasn't turning my waist enough on one side. I told him that I know I'm a little stiffer on one side, but he said it was a rooting problem. I don't know. I think it's probably six of one and half a dozen of the other with me. Whatever, he knew I hadn't got it right.

As we were getting ready to leave class, I said, "You haven't read to us in a while," and David brought out one of his books and read to us about bamboo. I wish I could remember the whole of the passage, but it was long. All I remember is that bamboo is strong, but hollow, and that makes it "noble." I need to get a copy of that book.

23: Wednesday

24: Thursday

Warm today. Overcast and damp.

Four sets. One before the dentist; three and QiGong after.

I almost got "Wave Hands" coordinated a couple of times; but the creeping snake is going to require "regrooving."

25: Friday

26: Saturday

27: Sunday

28: Monday

David said he and his mom both liked the picture of him I put up here. Phew. I was worried I might have to find another teacher.

29: Tuesday

So warm today: thermometer says 64 degrees! Hazy sun and a slight breeze rattling the dry leaves...
"Chi is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs... directed in the waist, and expressed in the hands."
That's what David said last week. Jo and I had to ask because we could not remember, and I couldn't find the fool passage in the Classics. But I have found it now, and the follow-up is
"This allows you to develop your mind to guide your body, so that you can move in any direction at will: forward, backward, to the right or left, up or down."

My copy of the T'ai Chi Classics is translated by Waysun Liao.

Tonight we worked on Repulsing the Monkey, and we did some "circles" following the outline of the yin-yang symbol with our hands as we shift forwards and backwards... I'm still raising my left shoulder— and the whole arm needs to relax. And in repulsing, my right hand wasn't shifting from yin to yang as it came forward.

David's mom came to class tonight. She and Ma talked quite a bit: about what, I don't know. Kids, maybe.

David also told me he liked my "Whip Hand" picture.

30: Wednesday

It's 45 degrees out on the back porch, but it feels warmer. Overcast. It rained during the night, but not enough...

I'm not practicing... because they're taking down a tree up the street and it's very noisy.

Today isn't a good day. I woke up with too many long thoughts, too many bad thoughts, and the gray weather sinks my spirits— though I suppose I could learn to crank them up somehow if I tried. I could think good thoughts and remember that I have good friends...

Why is it that, even knowing that t'ai chi always makes me feel better, I don't make myself practice? Why are we human beings so perverse?

31: Thursday

Sleet. It sounds like something sizzling. I can see my breath, too. Quite a change from the past few days. (Should that be "passed," as in days that have passed? Hmmm.)

Three sets and QiGong. I wasn't quite in the groove— and the porch boards are so rough that the snake has a hard time creeping smoothly. (Never mind trying to retrain the hook hand!) Still, at times, I feel the flow...

I still have a little movie in my head from last Tuesday when David was practicing before class. He was doing the forms at a brisk pace— Paul and I were watching— and I could really see the flow and the chi and the power... but he quit at Grasp Peacock's Tail when he noticed us watching. Rats. It would have been excellent to see the whole form like that. Seeing David perform always gives my mind a lot to work on.

Copyright © 2002 New Moon

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