When I woke up today my back felt fine. No spasms. No pain. Go figure.
Ma and I arrived early for class, as we were used to. I was very, very nervous. And the school cafetorium had been repainted light beige and all the lights were on and it was very bright and I felt very exposed. I did a few warm-up exercises. I was half hoping David would come early, too...
I did a practice set and found I was shaking. I did another set, left side, and that calmed me down a little mentally, but I was still very shaky...
It got to be 7 o'clock and still no one else had shown up for class. No one. Well, we thought, it wouldn't be the first time Ma and I were the only students. But where was David? He had told me the session started this week; he had told Ma last week that the new session was starting tonight. Ma and I waited until quarter past, wondering...
I took Ma home, and went home myself. I didn't quite know what to think. I felt... lots of things.
Ma called David. He was at home. He didn't apologize. He just said that he hadn't gotten around to "finalizing" his plans yet, but he thought he'd be putting an ad in the Bargain Buyer "soon."
Maybe Ma and I were April Fools. But if you want to know what I think, it's this: I think David was even more terrified than I was of me coming back to class, and he was buying himself some time. That's what I think.
My back gave me a very slight twinge after I'd been sitting at the computer all afternoon, but I went to class anyway. We did a lot of punching and kicking practice on the bags. Sensei said I was doing well with my punches. Too bad I wasn't doing better than "well." Too bad I didn't always punch with the first two knuckles only. If I had, I wouldn't have such lovely bruises on the 3rd and 4th knuckles of both hands.
I got my stripe. The certificate was dated Monday. Guess Sensei hadn't forgotten me.
I don't remember practicing on Thursday... I know I didn't practice at all on Friday. I was busy Thursday making a birthday present for Nicky Nicholson cuz I was going to the surprise party celebrating his 50th birthday on Friday night. (I hadn't seen Nicky in 25 years, but I had run into his mom a few times over the years. We enjoyed chatting. When she and his wife were planning the party, they decided to make it a real bang-up affair, and they decided to include me among about 150 other people. I'm glad. It was good to see Nicky again, and the party was excellent. The Empire Brass played and there was a fireworks display. Happy birthday, Nicky!)
Today it's cold and rainy. There's sleet on everything from last night, and the ground is just cold enough that it's not melting.
Six sets and a lot of work on the last part of peacock where one grasps the ball and pushes. My left hip and leg make that movement very difficult when I'm in a right forward bow stance. But I think I can correct it now. With work. With practice.
After taiji, I went on to practice karate. The katas are beginning to make sense to me and I'm beginning to find the power. The taiji and karate are coming together in my head and it's very interesting.
I need a bigger space to practice with my bo. As Sensei demonstrated to us two weeks ago in kobudo class, one really needs a lot of space to do the bo kata shima jiri bo ichi right. He used the whole length of the dojo when he cut loose.
While I practiced both taiji and karate today I found myself thinking a lot about stance...
Sensei is always saying, "check your distance," meaning drop and measure. There are wide and narrow stances, of course, and it comes out different depending on whether you're checking your kibadachi (horse stance) or your seisan dachi (left or right forward stance), but the measuring goes like this: keeping your toes in place as you kneel, you put the knee of your trailing foot on the floor in line with your leading foot, behind your leading heel. There should be on fist-distance between heel and knee. And, if you're checking your seisan dachi, when you resume your stance (don't move your leading heel or trailing toes, just pivot on them!), your heels should be shoulder width apart when viewed perpendicular to the plane of your hips.
And over the past three years I've spent a lot of time considering my taiji stance. There are lots of nuances, but, all in all, the two disciplines seem to be in agreement as to balance and distance.
Sunny and windy. 45 degrees.
Six sets and cool-down qigong. My heart feels very heavy today, and I couldn't feel any qi.
Lessons, lessons, lessons...
Tonight we were practicing breaking holds. One hold was a straightforward grip on each wrist from the front. The way to break it is to straighten your hands, then move them slightly forwards and upwards your elbow seems to move in a slight arc.
Well, Joe and I were practicing, and Mr. K heard me say to Joe that it was the forward push that seemed to do the trick. Well, Mr. K came over and grasped both my wrists, holding them so that his arms were pressing them straight down with all his weight, and he said, "Okay, go ahead." I couldn't budge him, not by pushing forward or otherwise. "Guess it's not the push," he said. I had to agree. Right then, Sensei moved the class on to practicing another hold, so Mr. K went off to help some other students.
While Joe and I were practicing the other hold, I wondered aloud about the last one. Joe said I should ask, and before I could tell him I meant to ask after class, he had called Mr. K over again. Mr. K grabbed my wrists again, and again I couldn't budge him. But now he told me to relax, to stop using force. So I did. And, by gosh, it worked! Relax. Duh! I told Mr. K to be sure not to mention this to my taiji teacher.
It reminded me that for all I've learned in taiji, I have very little experience of its practical applications. That's what I'm missing.
After class, while I was waiting to change, one of the newer students stopped Sensei to ask what he could do to develop his qi. I listened as Sensei gave a long, rather vague, explanation. The explanation was correct rather, it was in keeping with my present understanding of qi and qi theory, I should say, but it certainly wasn't as clear as the explanations I found in the T'ai Chi Classics.
I told Sensei that. He said he found the Chinese explanations vague. I said I would lend him my copy to read.
Sensei said something else to me. I think I had reiterated my assertion that karate and taiji are like yin and yang, two sides of the same coin, and that I would not willingly give up one for the other. He said he thought that if I studied one discipline exclusively that I would find in the end, when I reached the highest levels, that they were the same. I agreed. That's exactly what I meant by them being yin and yang. Same thing, only different. I don't think he understands me. He certainly doesn't understand taiji.
Stepping with my tea, thinking...
Are taiji and karate different when you get further on? How, exactly, is the handling of qi different between the two?
If I could have my wish, I'd be sitting and watching and listening to Sensei and David as they play and learn from each other. That would be an education!
Ma had a message from David today saying that classes would start on April 22.
Stepping mindfully! Then practice grasping. I watched my reflection in the kitchen window and noticed how I let my hips wobble when grasping to the right. It's that left hip/leg: it needs strengthening, which it is getting: last night's karate class consisted of a whole lot of kicking practice. I did rotten, but better than I thought I would.
I got paired with Bruce (black belt) for blocking practice and today I have some truly excellent bruises.
I had an email from a fellow named Joe. He says he has been playing taiji for 20 years, and he thanked me for my journal because, he said, it helped to remind him of why he continues to practice. Neat, huh?
World T'ai Chi and QiGong Day. At 14:00 EDST, who was I practicing with? Where in the world were they?
Six sets. I always know when I'm in trouble: my shoes don't seem to fit. Today it's the left one. Perfectly understandable, of course. I've been working on the left leg, and it's been getting a good workout kicking in karate classes, too. It will take a while to readjust.
The last sets were better than the first. I had completely misplaced the coordination of Repulse Monkey, and I'm still not sure what I was doing when trying to grasp that needle from the sea bottom. Ah, well. It improved in the end.
Cool-down qigong and some kicking practice to finish up. My kicks are improving: I can get the blocks out and I'm better at keeping my body in line. Yay!
Kobujutsu last night was... I was awful. I couldn't seem to do anything right. I even left out part of the kata. Sensei hauled me up short, laughing. And I knew immediately I had messed up. No big deal, really. Happens to everyone, even Sensei. But after that I was flustered.
And for some unfathomable reason my fingers seemed to keep getting tangled in the bo, and I couldn't remember the bunkai, either. Rats.
I haven't been sleeping well for the past few nights. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Beautiful day. The daffodils and tulips are coming up. Late this year or early last?
Six sets and I have no feel for how good or bad those set may have been. None. I did have some qi going.
Before beginning, I had to do some stepping to get the kink out of my left big toe. I have no idea what I did to it. If anything. Just walking, probably!
My left shoe "still doesn't feel right." That means the left leg hasn't found a new equilibrium yet. It was obvious in grasping and in closing forms. I wish there were some way to hurry it along or do I? That could be painful. Better to go slowly.
I haven't made up my mind about taking a workshop in New London... I'm thinking 32 Sword Form.
I took my bo with me to Jo's. Her old horse paddock (she doesn't have any horses at present) is fairly level and there's plenty of room enough to swing a cat. I practiced my katas and some of the bo drills. Couldn't practice barefoot, of course. The uneven ground was a bit of a difficulty, but I didn't have to worry about accidently hitting anything.
Now that I've had a chance to run through the katas multiple times uninterrupted, I'm beginning to get the feel of them and questions are starting to form. It'll be interesting to find out where I'm at when I've done each kata a thousand times.
Beautiful day. Warm (65 degrees), breezy.
Bo drills, three sets of taiji. I still don't know where I'm at. Some things are right, some are not. I need teaching.
Last night Sensei had us hopping like frogs around the dojo. He was the champion. It's hard to believe how high he can jump from a squat. And he brings his knees up, so it seems even higher.
For the rest of the lesson we worked on kicks and wansu and seisan, and a bit of han bo. Now that I've been introduced to han bo, Jon can teach it to me. He says he'll have me up to speed in about half an hour. Probably true. All I need is to go over the whole sequence uninterrupted a few times something that doesn't happen in class. That's why I still suck at seisan. They every blessed one of them keep stopping us to explain, and I can't get the sequence clear.
Two sets in the twilight. There's quite a breeze from the southwest, but it's warm. The air smells delightful...
Snake and closing forms are annoying me.
The sky was gorgeous with high icy clouds tinted silver-white, and gold, and orange, and pink, and purple. There's a full almost full moon over in the east. I'll probably practice again later.
Stepping (with tea), and one set, done mindfully.
T'ai Chi Magazine arrived yesterday, and I was reading it last night. One of the articles reminded us that practice without mindfulness isn't T'ai Chi at all. I have to admit that, lately, I've noticed my mind wandering during practice.
Concentration. It should be easy. After all, one has merely to do each move right one time.
Cold today. Sunny and breezy.
Stepping mindfully with my tea. It didn't feel like practice weather.
I worked on grasping. Wide stance, narrow stand. You don't creep backwards in narrow stance. Which is correct? I wish I knew.
I was going to work on creeping, but the snake has creeped me out, and after only four tries I felt so hopeless that I quit.
Last night in karate, I was again paired with Bruce for punching and blocking practice. This time I had my arm pads. It was excellent! But my form is bad. It's easy to get my hips to pull my trailing leg into position on a hard, smooth floor, but on those mats I can't get it to work... too much drag, I guess....
There was a gap in the padding at the wrist because I hadn't got the pads adjusted yet, so I didn't come off completely unscathed.
Yesterday, I decided I need to put discipline back into my practice. When time is short, I let the cool-down qigong slide, and so I forget also to thank my teacher and those who went before us.
So. Friday: Two solid sets and cool-down qigong. Slow and mindful, in spite of the hurry I should have been in.
Last night, in kobujutsu class, I was paired with Eric. He's about six-foot-four, and all legs. We were working on bunkai, and now I know how Bruce Lee felt going up against Kareem Abdul Jabbar. It would have taken Puss's seven league boots to match Eric's strides! But it was lots of fun and I learned a lot besides getting a great workout.
Sensei announced that he's making some changes beginning next month. There will be regularly scheduled kobudo classes every week, instead of only the three Friday kobudo lessons. This way more people will have a chance to learn weapons, and it will be cheaper, too.
A shodan, that is, a first degree black belt, has to have eight kobudo katas. Over the next two years, Sensei will be teaching 10 different katas in the classes.
A dozen sets and cool-down qigong. Good, even sets, but the snake has me psyched-out. It's my own fault for letting it get to me. Time to send my brain in for re-grooving!
I practiced katas afterwards. Slowly. In seisan there's a move similar to the set-up for Strike Opponent on Both Ears, but in the kata, instead of stepping out into the strike, you've got to step across and then turn 180 degrees around. I haven't quite figured it out.
Rain. Nice to hear, but I was getting used to the warm sun.
Yesterday: One set on the Marcus Aurelius quad on the way back from schlepping Richard's printer to repair. Then, on the way to the dojo, I remembered I hadn't grabbed my arm pads, so home I went. I had a few minutes (my class is now at 8), so I adjusted the pads, inscribed my mark, and labeled them "L" and "R." It was still early, so I did a set. Both sets today felt very good.
Last night we practiced kicking, and wansu, and seisan, and han bo, and break falls. Beginning break falls...
From your knees, to begin. Turn your belt around so the knot is in the back. Put your arms up so your hands are shoulder width apart, hands to either side of your face, palms facing outwards. Hands and forearms remain in a straight line. Cock your elbows inwards a bit. To save your face, remember to keep looking upwards. Now, fall forwards. Your forearms and hands should slap the mat at the same time as your belly hits did you remember to turn your belt around? and you kiai. I hope you remembered to look upwards, too.
T'ai Chi class tonight. T'ai Chi for Arthritis.
Three old students; three new students: two ladies and a man. They were all younger than Ma, but they all seemed older.
Class was... boring. And not because it was "only" T'ai Chi for Arthritis. I'm always up for learning something new, and I've seen David perform this and know how powerful the style is. But the class was... boring. Amazingly boring. David just wasn't there with us. He wasn't teaching us.
The "distracting woman" (as Ma calls her) showed up. I have to say Ma is right: she is very distracting. She seems to have some form of ADD.
Perhaps class will be better next week. Perhaps David's enthusiasm will return.
This monring, before work, six sets and some work on Sun Style Opening Form. The sets were good, but the snake still has me a little psyched. I remember working on keeping my butt tucked under. I can do it now, easily, but I find that I don't always have it tucked.
I haven't quite figured out the Sun coordination. The foot positions aren't clear to me, and the way I'm doing them feels unbalanced
We start with heels together, toes pointing to the forty-five. From there, we step forward with the left foot, then bring the right foot forward to land next to the left... but I never noticed if my feet are supposed to come together at the heels, feet at forty-five, or...? David never said out loud. Hmmm...
Last night at karate we did blocking and punching, then kicking. I'm doing much better at the kicking, especially when I go slowly and treat it like taiji practice. I did okay in the katas, too. I'm glad I spent time Tuesday night on seisan and naihanshi sandan.
Sensei had us do shihonuke. Others were messing up and it messed me up. I think I'm too used to practicing alone and the others distract me. I have no problem with the katas when I do them by myself.
Rain. Dark. But the daffodils are bright yellow.
Everything feels so... wrong... Practice!
Today I began with kicking practice. Front kicks and side kicks up and down the porch. Then isde kicks to the knee on the post. Good kicks and blocks.
Six sets of 24 Form, 3 each side. Snake was a little improved, but I am still psyched by the belief I haven't a clue how to do it right with or without rocking back like a novice! I did remember mostly to keep my butt tucked under.
As I was doing Wave Hands Like Clouds it suddenely made me think of naihanshi shodan. For the rest of that set I was looking for siilarities between the forms and the katas. When I have a few minutes (!), I'm going to see if I can draw up a list of co-relating moves.
I practiced Opening Form of Sun style that David gave us for homework. Then I practiced the beginning of 42 Form...
I thought again about my dojo in the pines.
I've been messing about all afternoon, practicing this and that, and the other. Taiji. Karate. I swear it's all one.
I put tango music on todday. It's great for both ward offs and blocking.
The gentleman who stumbled across my web site wrote back trying to answer my question about frames. From what he said and he said quite a lot I did have the concept correct. I was glad to know that. (Thank you, Joe.)
Two solid sets, and cool-down qigong. And I remembered to thank my teacher
But is David my teacher now? I don't think so. I don't think he's anyone's teacher, even if he still is holding classes...
My heart is heavy today.
One more set...
Maybe I'm being unfair. We'll see.