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February 2003

Taiji Calligraphy © 2003 New Moon

Taiji Calligraphy
Copyright © 2003 New Moon

01: Saturday

Happy Chinese New Year 4701!


Six— or seven? sets. I think I did an extra.

Good sets. My back still aches a bit from karate; and so it was difficult to kick with my heels. But, other than that, the sets went well.

I was checking out Dr. Lam's site today, and I found a picture of my teacher among those posted from last October's T'ai Chi for Arthritis Certification Workshop. It was a tiny picture, but I recognized David right off. I'd know him anywhere. Here he is:

David front and center at Dr. Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis Certification Workshop

There were some interesting articles to read on the site. I may "join up" so I can contribute to the online discussions. Not that I think I have anything to say, but you never know.

02: Sunday

03: Monday


Some days— ! Pfui.

I woke today with katas runing through my head. I lay abed, doing wansu in my head. Later, I read the articles by Dr. Lam that I downloaded from his web site. Lots of good stuff to think about.

One of the things he recommends for improving one's T'ai Chi is to get a tape of a master and watch it until you can visualize yourself as the master going through the sets. I already do that: I have David clearly in my mind's eye, and now Sensei is there, too.

I wish I were stronger. I know my lack of strength is holding me back. But I hate to think how much work it will take to get where I want to go. Rats. The stupid thing is I have that Total Gym thing, but I set up a schedule to for useing it. It's really so simple to get into shape when you exercise regularly and have a plan, like when I did Nautilus.

My head doesn't feel right. I'm depressed about everything, even karate. I almost want to quit...

I know one thing I'm going to quit: those strenuous warmup exercises. They've done me more harm than good recently. The last batch have kept me from practicing karate any place but in my head since the day after we did them with Baker-san— and it didn't do my taiji practice any good, either! From now on I'm going to be very careful. I hate losing practice time.


February thaw. It's 48 degrees out there. Wish I had time to practice more.

Two regular sets, and two as fast as I could go. The fast sets really let you know where your balance is off!

04: Tuesday


Six sets— seven, if you count the first one that went all to bits. Good sets. I can actually "sink" on my left leg for the creeping snake. Yay!

Rain. My breath shows, and fog is rising from the melting snow. Diamonds hang from the trees. This won't last. I only hope the rain stops and it dries out before the cold returns.

Remind me to tell you about the very ugly kata we did last night.

05: Wednesday


I was stepping with my tea, back and forth, up and down, when I noticed how warm my right hand had become. I felt I was holding something very warm in my hand. I looked down. My right arm was hanging at my side, and, for some reason, I had clenched my hand slightly— I believe I was thinking of applications— and my middle fingers were pointing at my lao gong point. I wondered at first if the warmth was from my hand being in the sun, but it was in the shadow of my body. Upon taking a physical inventory, I noticed there was qi flowing into my left had, too, the one holding the mug of tea. Guess that's why I didn't notice it on the left at first. Very interesting.

Ma told me that, last night, she saw David practicing 42 Form when she arrived, and that she had never seen him do it better. That's pretty impressive. She said it was so beautiful that she applauded when he finished.

06: Thursday


Six sets (three each); two of 42 (one left, one right); a couple of passes at shima jiri bo ichi; cool-down qigong. I think I may be at a point in my taiji wher I can begin to actually learn something.

I've got some dandy bruises from doing bunkai with Bruce (black belt) and Jean (blue belt) last night. Bruce doesn't hold back. Ouch! You should've seen my shin last night: the lump was an inch high! But this morning it's just another bruise. It goes with the ones on my forearms.

Sensei promoted a bunch of people to Orange 6 last night. Jess (the 14-year-old; she's a good kid), Tina, Kevin, and... hmmmm... Michelle got promoted to blue as a reward for quitting smoking. I don't think anyone resented her promotion, but if she ever picks up another cigarette she'll have to quit the dojo!

I learned last night that I need a lot of practice in moving while punching.

Thursday Evening:

Ma and I watched tape I of Dr. Paul Lam's 42 form videos. His style is very different from David's. David does all the forms more cleanly with fewer "extra" movements. At least, there seemed to be a lot of "flourishes" and "curlicues" in Dr. Lam's performance— and I don't mean just that he was using a different style of the forms. Anyway, I like David's version much better. So does Ma.

07: Friday

08: Saturday


Yesterday we had a big snowstorm. Light snow that piled up quickly to a height of ten inches or so. I had to wear my boots. At some point I crouched down to do something or other, and my boot crunched my left big toe hard. It hurts to walk, but I can practice okay.

Practice yesterday was very nice with the snow falling. There was no wind, but the light snow piled up so high only the slightest vibration or movement set off cascades of whiteness.

Six sets, 3 each. I was going slowly: between six-and-a-half and seven minutes each set. I noted that I tense my back muscles when preparing to kick, so I took care to consciously relax. The sets went well. My "orbit" brings me within a board's width of starting position. My legs are getting strong. When returning the tiger, I can almost keep my back upright; and even as I'm bring my one foot in, I have better balance.

I practiced shima jiri bo ichi, too, and tried to apply my taiji principles. It's going to take a while. There's so much to think about.

I haven't practice yet today, except for some stepping with my tea which allowed me to assess the extent of the injury to my toe. Practice, yes; walk, no.

I'm getting annoyed by this constant achiness. I know it's because I'm moving to a new level of fitness, but I can't help but regret the delightful, relaxed, perfectly comfortable feeling my body enjoyed last fall. Did I even notice how well I felt then? Only in retrospect, I'm afraid. But the achiness will pass.

09: Sunday


Six sets (3 each), and a couple of "quick" sets. I'm wondering if I'm supposed to cut out all the "rocking back" when going for speed... seems reasonable.

My left leg still isn't as stable as my right, but it improves daily. I'm gaining on that creeping snake, too. I'll catch him yet!

10: Monday

11: Tuesday

12: Wednesday

To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 2:05 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello, David.

Hey, I saw you practicing your sword from last night. Cool! Too bad you were nearly done when I got there. I was going to park and stop in, but by the time I went round again, you had put it away and were getting ready to start class. Rats. Did Ma tell you that we had been watching Paul Lam's 32 Sword Form just before class? I forgot to ask her.

And that reminds me of something I wanted to ask you about 42 Form. I got hold of Paul Lam's 42 Form tape, and I noticed that his 42 form looks a lot different from yours. Your forms are very... clean and efficient looking, his are... he seems to have a whole bunch of extra little flourishing movements-- do you know what I mean? It's not just that his forms are different (Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, for instance!), or that I think one style is "wrong," it's... You both have a lot of qi in the movements, and I know the applications are there and I can understand most of them, but your forms are... very different. His seem confusing; yours seem very clear and understandable.

Anyway, my question is, WHY is there a noticeable difference between the two styles of 42? Is your style "cleaner" because that's how you were taught? Or did you, and maybe even your teacher, work from the "flourishing" style into the cleaner style you now own? That's my question.

I still miss classes. And I find it's quite difficult being and "advanced beginner." Which means I know enough to know how much I don't know, and I've got enough learning that I'm now teachable, but I still can't imagine what there is next to learn-- I can't see past the bend in the road ahead, you know? It's a little lonely out here, on the road alone. Even if it's only "for the time being." I sure hope things hurry up and work out and we're back together soon.

Thanks for putting up with my questions, meanwhile...


13: Thursday

From: David
To: Lizzie
Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2003 10:51 AM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello Lizzie,

The Combined 42 Form is based on the Major Taijiquan families and each school has its own subtleties in execution. In 42 form Fair lady works the shuttles is executed differently then it is in the 24 Simplified form. (martial application). Is this what you see as different? I practice and teach the way I was taught by my teacher who I respect greatly.


To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2003, 12:40 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello, David.

No, that's not exactly what I'm seeing, or what's puzzling me. What I'm seeing is Dr. Lam adding lots of flourishing movements to all the forms in the 42 sequence. I understand that the Chen and Sun and Wu (are there more?) styles of Fair Lady and other forms are all different. I've seen most of our Yang forms done in different styles, so I know that sometimes I have to work at recognizing ones we have in Yang style.

I do know 42 form is made up of forms from all different styles. Dr. Lam's style of 42-- have you seen him do 42 form? Do you have the tape?-- is very different from your style of 42. I guess what I'm asking is, does everyone who does 42 form do it in his own "home" style?

When Dr. Lam does White Crane in 42, he does it Chen style (I think it's Chen). When you do White Crane in 42, you do it Yang style. So, when one performs 42 form, is one supposed to do the forms in their own style?

I suppose my confusion comes from being so literal minded. I had imagined that everyone would do 42 Form forms in the same general manner-- as in the Olympics when the competitors all have to perform the same routine the same way. But that's not what I'm seeing happen in taiji...

So. I've got two, maybe three, questions:

1. If I try to learn the basics of 42 Form from a tape, should I apply my Yang style to the forms that are included in my 24 Form? And then...

1.A. Should I just do White Crane, Fair Lady, etc., the way I learned them, or are there concessions that have to be made to the style of 42 Form?

2. Do the other forms included in 42, such as Rhinocerous Gazing at the Moon (Dr. Lam: "And then you look to the right... just like a rhinocerous gazing at the moon." You have to ask yourself, Just how many rhinocerouses has he or anyone else seen gazing at the moon?), have co-relating forms in the Yang Style long forms?

You know a funny thing, though. The 32 Sword Form is closer to our Yang than I thought it would be; and the 48 Form Dr. Lam demonstrated at the end of his tape, is less similar to his own 42 Form and more similar to our 24 Form. Go figure! I am now completely confused.

Yours in puzzlement,


P.S. I practice the way I was taught by my teacher who I respect greatly.

To: Lizzie
From: David
Sent: Thursday, 13 February 2003, 18:35 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello Lizzie,

You already know the answer to your questions.

You purchased the tapes to learn from. They contain what you should learn.

The names of the postures are for you to visualize.

As I mentioned earlier the 42 Combined has elements from the major Taijiquan schools and as such the postures should be executed to the schools they are from.


14: Friday

To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2003 12:50 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello, David.

Hmmm... I've been thinking very hard about what you wrote and I've been wondering something: the form name Rhinocerous Gazing at the Moon, yes, it's a visual, but when you visualize a rhinocerous gazing at the moon, doesn't it make you want to laugh? I think it's a wonderful image, and, if you're fair, you have to admit it is very funny in this day and age to have Dr. Lam say, perfectly deadpan, "... look to the a rhinocerous gazing at the moon." I'm sure he knew it was funny when he said it, too. No intelligent person could be oblivious to the humor. It's wonderful.

And, you know, it's an excellent visual, too. Just as it was intended to be. Because once you start to imagine yourself a rhinocerous gazing at the moon, you start to ask yourself all kinds of neat questions about the taiji you're performing. At least, I know I do. It's very cool. And very funny. And that's the best way of learning. If you're not laughing, you're not learning as well as you could be. (We used to laugh a lot in class, didn't we?)

I understand about having a lot of the answers in me. It's true. That's why I don't bug you constantly with questions. Still, I have thought much on these, and I need you to answer the question that I don't have the answer to.

You wrote this:

> As I mentioned earlier the 42 Combined has elements from the major Taijiquan
> schools and as such the postures should be executed to the schools they are from.

But that doesn't seem to be true. When you are performing 42 Form, you do Fair Lady just as you taught us to do it, not as Dr. Lam is doing it. So, according to your answer, one of you is doing the form "wrong." And I know that's not what you mean. That goes against everything you have taught me.

But let me talk this through, so we can both understand the question I'm asking. If Fair Lady was invented in the Chen Style, then, by your answer, you should conform to that style when you perform Fair Lady in 42 Form. If, say, Brush Knee and Push was invented in Yang Style, then Dr. Lam would change from Chen to Yang Style when he performed it in 42 Form.

So, David, my question stands: Why is there a difference between how you perform 42 Form and how Dr. Lam Performs 42 Form? I don't have the answer to that. But I know you do. I know I'm handicapped by my ignorance and lack of experience and exposure to all forms of taijiquan, and I wish it wasn't so, but there's no remedy for that but teaching and time-- which brings me to this:

I didn't purchase tapes to learn from (and what makes you think I purchased tapes at all? You never heard of a library?) I intend to learn from my teacher, and that is what I am doing. But, I need exposure to taiji. The tapes are for finding out what other taiji is out there that I don't know anything about. They're only a means of gathering information. Like reading Tai Chi Magazine and books and going to workshops. They can't substitute for a real, dedicated teacher who cares about his students. I'm lucky enough to have that, though. Even though we are separated for a time.

David, you've got a lot more answers in you than you know, I think. And though the heuristic teaching method of "you have all the answers within yourself" is all very well for the answers that really lie within, you know and I know that the best learning must be personal, teacher and student communicating, exchanging ideas, learning from each other, growing with each other.

I'm glad you're my teacher.



To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2003 15:50 PM
Subject: P.S.

Hello again, David.

I forgot to tell you-- and Buck-- to have a happy Valentine's Day!


15: Saturday


Eight sets, then some bo practice, then a bit of 42 Form, frontwards and backwards. Qigong.

When I got out of kobudo class last night I felt completely discouraged about everything. I was completely uncoordinated doing the bo exercises, and after that, in kata practice, I felt Sensei had given up on me: he never said a word to me to correct me.

Practice today made me feel better. I'm wondering about some things I do in 24 Form, like whether I'm turning my waist too soon in parting and in brushing...

I did get the bo exercise worked out, though. To get the coordination between hands and feet, I had to translate into taiji, and then go back and apply karate. Fortunately the principle are identicle, even though the foot positions aren't.

I'm still completely confused about 42 Form.

I miss taiji lessons.

16: Sunday

Bitter cold today. Too cold to practice outside.

To: Lizzie
From: David
Sent: Sunday, 16 Feb 2003 13:06 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello Lizzie,

The 42 combined forms are executed to the Schools they are derived from.

Intent must be present along with the elements.


To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Sunday, 16 Feb 2003 17:31 PM
Subject: Taiji question

Hello, David.

Did you and Buck have a nice Valentine's Day? I hope you did.

Listen, I apologize for writing such long emails to you. I wish we could be standing on asphalt on a warm spring evening discussing taiji at length, laughing, communicating, instead of trading faceless, smileless, emails back and forth...

My questions would be the same, of course, but if you saw me smiling as I asked them, if you saw a friend and student standing before you, I'm thinking maybe you wouldn't feel so put on the spot and daunted by having to answer. Maybe you wouldn't be wanting to tell me to shut up and go away. What do you think? (I think emails suck.)

Imagine this: I'm standing before you in a warm parking lot, smiling. The moon is up and the stars are out. I'm laughing. (Because that's how I am. Now. My heart finally learned to laugh and I have learned to love laughter and want to share it; I want others to laugh with me.) Can you see me?

I'm smiling at you. I'm smiling into eyes that are always the color of the sky. I'm smiling at the teacher I never dreamed I'd find, smiling at the teacher of whom I have become so very, very fond, trying to get him to laugh... Can you see me? I bet I look a lot like a silly rhinocerous gazing at the moon!

Now I'm asking you my question-- not to annoy you or to test you (I wouldn't do that to anyone I care for. And I trust my teacher's teaching and his knowledge.), but because I truly don't understand something. And I want very much to understand because I have a very demanding mind that wants to know *everything*, and because, sometimes, I forget how to laugh. But, mostly, I'm asking because I have come to love taiji so very, very much and I know you love it, too...

Perhaps my question isn't important. I certainly don't need to get an answer to it to continue learning taiji. And an answer won't change how I feel about taiji or you...

But my question still stands-- look at my face: I'm laughing! I'm laughing at myself for being so stubborn about asking! Teacher, I ask, why is the 42 Form you perform so very different in execution from the 42Form Dr. Lam performs? Why does he do Fair Lady one way, and you do it another if, as you say, you are both supposed to be performing 42 Form the same way?

David, I know I can be a pain in the ass: I turn into one every time I forget I can laugh. Other times I know I laugh too much. But I'm not laughing at you or anybody else, except maybe me. And I'm not laughing because I don't take things seriously. I'm just laughing because... because now I *can* laugh, and...because a rhinocerous gazing at the moon *is* funny.

I'll leave you with my questions, now. Do with them as you will. Joy to you, and laughter. To you and to Buck, the Way Cool Dog.

Thank you for whatever answers you choose to give.

Please don't hate me for laughing. Believe me, you wouldn't have been able to stand me the way I was before I learned how to laugh. I never want to be that way again.

--L :)

Where did we begin?
Empty? full? Light? Dark?
What is 'beginning'?

Hands up, eveyone who knows how to spell rhinoceros.

To: Lizzie
Sent: Sunday, 16 Feb 2003 19:01 PM
Subject: Taiji question


I am sure Dr. Lam performs the form different from myself and others. Difference may be seen in ones frame of application. Larger or smaller movements. I am sure no ones form is "wrong". The forms are executed to the schools they derive from.

42 form and 24 form fair lady works shuttle are executed differently!


17: Monday

To: David
From: Lizzie
Sent: Monday, 17 Feb 2003 03:01 AM
Subject: Taiji question

Yes, David, I know...

Fair Lady IS differently executed in the two forms. But, "frames of application" and "larger and smaller movements" notwithstanding, that still doesn't explain why you and Dr. Lam do all the forms in 42 Form so very, very differently-- not wrongly, you know I never said that, just differently. Especially if the forms are supposed to be "executed in the schools they derive from." If that were true, you'd be doing them the same. And you don't.

*sigh* I'll just have to remain puzzled for the time being. I hate email.

But thank you very much for your answers-- and your continuing patience.

I hope that, at the least, you did laugh while imagining me looking like a rhinoceros (I learned to spell it!) gazing at the moon. Their eyes are close together, and there's that horn to look around, you know, and they are very nearsighted, too, so they tend to squint...

    LOL :)


Cold and snowy. this is supposedly going to be a big storm, but, for now, the flakes are the compact, pwedery kind, and accumulation is slow. It's calm, too, though the snow is blowing deep onto the porch. I did my first three sets on it so I could see my "orbit," then I swept up. But the time I finished, all the snow was back— and it was getting slippery!

I did ten or more sets. Not my best ever, but I was learning from them. Sometimes that's easier than others. Today my head was making notes as I went of things to correct or watch our for next set. Like, "Oops! Waist turned too quickly there and you lost power!" or " Hey! Watch that hand coordination!"

Sometimes I hear myself noticing good stuff, too. Like, "Wow! That was the best Wave Hands footwork you've ever done!" I think my head is pretty balanced between praising and criticising.

I didn't even think of practcing 42 Form today, though I was thinking about what an idiot my most recent email exchange with my teacher has made me feel. I hate email. I really do. While I was practicing, I heard myself thinking, "Well, if the forms are supposed to be executed in the style of the school to which they belong, one of you didn't get the memo!" I should just take that stupid video tape over to David's so he can watch it, that's what. I wonder if he'd sic Buck on me, though.

After taiji, I practiced with my bo, then I practiced katas. Then I did some QiGong and came in. The snow seems to be coming down harder now. I'm glad today was a snow holiday for the JCBL.

18: Tuesday

19: Wednesday

20: Thursday


It's 54 degrees out there, sun glaring off melting snow. I wish I could practice all afternoon.

Three sets, right. Good sets. Next two sets, left, with my eyes closed. It was difficult: the qi was swirling so strongly, and I could "see" it so much better with my eyes closed, that it was making me dizzy. It took me half a set to find my center of balance!

The next set was easier, and I had the qi under better control. I definitely need more practice blind-folded. The last two sets, left, I did fast. Not blindingly fast, but fast. I was pleased with the improvement in my balance.

Cool-down qigong to finish. What a beautiful day!

21: Friday


Stepping with my tea and one nice set. 54 degrees again. Wish I could bag work.

22: Saturday


Pouring rain today. 40 degrees. I can see my breath...

Ten sets. The coordination was there— for the most part; I did note a few lapses. Good qi flow, but nothing like Thursday.

Grasp Peacock's Tail has finally come together. For the first time, I felt it was right. Before it felt complicated: I felt it was alittle like a contortion; but today it felt simple. Clean and simple.

The snake has the upper hand again, though. It's always something. And my left leg still isn't as stable as my right. But I'm beginning to feel more use in that atrophied calf muscle.

Today I noted that my butt wasn't tucked under as well as it could be, and it makes all the difference in all sorts of things, from kicking to returning togers to— a lot of difference. Add it to the list of things to pay attention to.

I practiced with my bo for a while. Simple exercises: stepping and striking. I minded my feet: last night in class, Sensei said to "watch that t'ai chi foot!" The left foot has a hard time pointing straight forward, but it's getting there.

I practiced stepping and punching. I have the principle correct— and my feet are good; but I don't have much strenfth even when I use my hips correctly...

You know, if I could press my own weight over my head (as I used to be able to do), I'd be stronger than most of the guys at the dojo now. And if I weighed 115 pounds, I'd be 25 per cent lighter and pushups would be easy! But I'm 30 per cent heavier that someone who weighs 115 pounds. Rats.

I stood post today, but aches crept up on me. The center of my back is tight from spinning my bo last night. I did pretty well spinning a circle left side, right side in one continuous motion, but I couldn't make mine hum like Sensei did.

I miss taiji. I miss David.

23: Sunday

Strange to Note:I didn't make any entries for the rest of February. I have no idea why. I was watching taiji videos, and reading T'ai Chi Magazine articles, and taking in all kinds of information, but I didn't write anything down. Go figure.

24: Monday

25: Tuesday

26: Wednesday

27: Thursday

28: Friday

* 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 © 2003 New Moon

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