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January 2003

Snow Pine © 2003 New Moon

Snow Pine
Copyright © 2003 New Moon

01: Wednesday

It's pouring out. I figure just about the time the last of the snow melts, the rain will turn to ice, then snow. I hope the pine trees don't suffer.

Three sets (2 right; 1 left) and cool down qigong.

My left side has learned to "tuck." It makes a difference I can feel on the outside edge of my left foot. In fact, it will probably make my foot a bit sore until it gets used to the change. (In fact, the outside edge of my left foot was bothering me— aching, just before I injured my back, and the "tucking" is probably why. I did wonder.)

The sets were nothing special, but, oh! how glad I am to be practicing again!

02: Thursday

03: Friday

04: Saturday

05: Sunday


I've lost my mala bracelet. Somewhere between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, it disappeared from my wrist. I've searched the house...

I know I put it back on Friday night after kobudo class, but after that...

I suppose it could have broken or slipped off when I was toting stuff to and from the car. If that's the case, I'll never find it under the 9 inches of snow we got Friday night. Rats. My wrist doesn't feel right without my mala bracelet.

It's 50 degrees out. Bright sun on melting snow, and there's an awful lot of snow to melt! Yesterday there wasn't time— rather, I never made time to practice taiji: too much noise from people clearing snow. Now I'll practice.


Temperature is dropping and it's clouding up, but it's still very pleasant out. Melting. While I practiced bits of ice kept falling from the trees and bouncing on the porch. Diamonds underfoot!

Six sets of 24; three of 42; niahanshis shodan, nidan, and sandan. Then cool down qigong. During cool-down I could feel the "tucking" muscless in the back of my left leg and the outside sole of my left foot. I feel I may have lost a bliitle ground, not being able to practice over thos two weeks, but it was only physical ground. The chi was flowing and the mental components were there.

42 Form worked better today than it ever has... come to think of it, so did 24. A lot of the "sticking places" seem to have smoothed out. For instance, Hands Unfold Like Fan seemed to flow into Parry; and, for a wonder, Punch through Returning the Tiger didn't make me feel my feet were in the way!

Practice felt good. I wish I could do more, but I know I'm tired and need to rest now.

I felt light as I practiced my taiji.

06: Monday

07: Tuesday


I'm feeling discouraged, especially by karate. I feel as if I'm never going to be able to learn to important things, like proper kicks, and proper stance...

I know it's only been a very short while since I began, but... but.

I ache a little all over today. Last night we practiced shihonuke and then Sensei set up all the bags and we ran around the room kicking and punching. We laughed a lot, having a good time. But my technique was nonexistant, of course. I have no idea yet how to go about kicking a moving bag. Maybe I'll learn. I don't know.

I have a dark brown bruise on the outside two knuckles of my right fist. Guess I messed up on correctly punching with the first two knuckles, too.


Three sets. I can feel an ache in the outside edge of my left foot, as well as a little ache in my back. Bo practice is rough on the back.

During the first set, I was thinking how great it would be to be a wandering monk like Kwai Chang and be able to just up and go to find a new teacher and learn something new, or just have an adventure. I could "sell up" and take to the road if I wished. No one could stop me. And I'd probably be okay, too... though, I'm not good at living off the land.

It's cold out there. I could see my breath, and hear the ice chattering in the trees. Brrrr.


David and I said merry new year to each other when I dropped Ma off for class. Too bad there was no time to talk.

08: Wednesday

09: Thursday

10: Friday

11: Saturday

12: Sunday


I have been practicing. I haven't been writing about it.

I've been a little achey all week because of bo practice. I've got a crick in the right side of my neck, and all across my lower back above my hips. It's annoying. A bo doesn't weigh much, and you wouldn't think flapping it around would require much strength. You'd be wrong, though. And besides that, you've got to get your stance correct while being thrown off balance by the centrifugal force of the bo contorting your upper body. It'll all settle down, and I'll get the hang of handling a bo without spraining myself eventually. I'm sure of that. But meanwhile, it's a pain in the neck.

Today I was talking to a woman who says she has studied T'ai Chi for over 25 years. She said she has studed different styles with different teachers. I don't know if she knows or understands T'ai Chi in the same way I do; we didn't go so far as to physically compare notes, but...

The conversation bugged me on some level. I expect a long-time practitioner of taiji to have— at the very least— a command of his physical body: I expect to be able to see evidence of the study—, especially after so many years. Not that she was boasting, or even trying to imply that her study was even serious. She was quite clear about her study being intermittent...

Maybe that's what bugged me: I was once again disappointed. I keep hoping to find another student who is both dedicated and entusiastic about the study— not to the point of being a dead bore; just to the degree of delighting in regular practice and increasing skill. Someone who keeps it up even when the teacher is away and there aren't any lessons scheduled. 12:20

Today I woke up thinking about Taiji applications and wondering why Strike Opponent on Both Ears is the only form that mentions an opponent, and why it doesn't have a colorful, symbolic name. There must be another name for it. Maybe it's boring name is only a failure of our Western interpretation— a lack of poetry in the soul of the translator.

I was also thinking about Taiji bunkai, trying to work out some of them. As I was thinking, I was wondering if it really matters what style the opponent is using, and whether and how much the actual strike of the attacker matters...

When you're doing bunkai, under ideal conditions with experienced people, the attacker seems always just to be looking for the best target— but the thing is that the attacker has to attack exactly where the defender is going to defend with the move of the kata, so there are limitations to how he may attack...

And both taiji and karate are defensive forms, so "attack methods" don't realy exist except in the sense that the attcked person will choose to end the fight with a decisive "counter move." Read: "attack."

13: Monday


There was a dojo Sundae/Sledding party at Kate's today. It was fun.

I missed the rank tests yesterday. (I was teaching. Journaling.) Pete, Angie, Jason, Rob, and Eric were up for promotion. And they used the kobudo gear (masks, gloves, and corselets) I've been furbishing up for the full contact portion of the test. I wish I'd been there to see! They said it was an excellent experience. Resluts of the tests will be posted Monday.

I talked to Pete and Angie and Eric at the party. Pete was very nervous before the test, and he was very worried that he may have failed. He has a tough time believing in himself. But I told him not to worry. He's good. And even though I know Sensei would fail a student if he felt he had to, I didn't think it would happen to Pete.

I feel as if I'm losing a lot of ground in taiji. My left ankle was getting as limber as the right, but it seems to have stiffened up again. And now my back and neck are bothering me, and I don't want to practice anything...

I miss David.

14: Tuesday


All five who tested Saturday for promotion were promoted. Pete, Angie, Rob, Jason, and Eric. Yay! I'm especially glad for Pete.

Got my bo tonight. A nice-feeling hickory one. There's a dark flaw on one end. I was given a choice of two. The other was "cleaner" looking, but this one felt better, and, somehow, the "flaw" seemed right. Mine.

Tonight we did some kicking and I think I'm getting a little better at it. I can almost coordinate all the moves. I'm going to have to figure out some sort of something to practice kicking on. Making contact on the kick seems to help.

I feel a little bad about not practicing T'ai Chi today, but I was exhausted. I did try a little stepping with my tea, but it was very cold and I was running late.

Three solid, satisfying sets (left) in the glare of snow, and chill air. The sun was very warm, but I kept my gloves and quilted jacket on.

My sets were long today, running 7 minutes and more by the music. I wasn't even trying to be slow; I was merely enjoying the movement.

My left leg is definitely getting stronger: karate kicking builds strength and control fast.

I can also feel the increasing strenfth in my lower back— and the strain. Now that my strength is increasing, my body strives to go further than it could before, and so it tests and pushes my limits, asking to do more and better. Neat.

I felt the solid presence of qi today, not it's liquidity. It's probably the cold. There's nothing flowing today. Even the sun can't melt the snow on the black south-facing roof shingles today!

15: Wednesday


Ma said last night that her qi was very strong when they did the qigong exercises in class. She said she could feel chi shooting off the tip of her right little finger, like lightning bolts. David was opposite her and she wondered if he felt them— but she didn't mention it to him, of course!

When we got home she went into the living room and did the exercise again. (Stand, hands three inches apart, palms facing each other, making small vertical circles, as if you'd got two magnets and were using them as a dynamo.) When she "got it going" she called me in and made me feel the energy. I felt it. But she wasn't generating lightning bolts this time. Maybe it needed David. Or maybe I should have done the exercise, too.


Tonight I got to do bunaki with Sensei Engel. Just the two of us. Excellent! He is very clear on the moves and explains everything well. He made me feel I almost know what I'm doing!

But, earlier, we had been working very hard, and I was so tired and flustered that when he said, "Everyone who knows shihonuke up, please," I had to ask, "Which one is that?" Honestly, it sounded like— a foreign word to me! I didn't know what it meant. He was startled by my question, but said, "Bo kata." "I know that," I said. And I did. Phew.

16: Thursday


The taiji shoes that felt too narrow for my feet now feel fine— and it isn't that they've stretched, for it's the moulded soles that felt narrow, and they have not changed. My feet have.

Three sets (2 right; one left), my breath visible the while. It's cold out there! Gloves on!

My hip/back that was pulled is getting better— it's now stronger. I hope that one day soon I'll figure out how to generate power both in taiji and karate. I know the principles, but I just haven't got the knack of it.

17: Friday


Two really good sets (left), and cool-down qigong. Something really neat is happening. I think I'm becoming coordinated. Feet and hands, knees and elbows. Honest. Wish David was here: he'd disabuse me of any false sense of accomplishment.

I emailed David from work to tell him about my coordination experience. It's real, I decided, and I had to tell someone. I wrote only a line or two, just to share the joy of it with my teacher.

18: Saturday


Kobudo class was interesting again. I still don't have a good handle on that sweeping swipe in shima jiri bo ichi because I need a big place— room enough to swing a cat, to practice that one. I wasn't good at the kata tonight... I think I was trying to correct too many things.

I need to work on limbering up my wrists— as well as strengthening them. In the hip blocks I can't get the heel of my hand against the bo.

Sensei always demonstrates the kata for us at least once. Every time I see him do it, I resolve to practice harder. I have the vision of it in my head, so all I have to do is get my body to match the visions— just like taiji. The coordination I achieved today in taiji came from years of trying to match my movements to the vision I have in my head of David doing 24 Form oh! so beautifully and gracefully and powerfully.

I told Ma tonight that I wished Sensei was my taiji teacher. If David taught the way Sensei does, I'd be very good at taiji now...

But David doesn't have his own dojo for me to hang around in. Yet.


Very cold today. With the sun at a lower angle and the long blue shadows of the railing marching in close formation as they advanced across the porch, I was really beginning to feel the nip of it in my toes!

Six sets (3 each) an some work on my bo katas. Not as good on the sets as yesterday, but pretty good. In fact, I almost begin to hope I will conquer the Snake!

On the bo katas I can't help but notice how much the tai chi helps. The karate has certainly improved my tai chi!

19: Sunday

20: Monday


It's cold (35 degrees) and very windy, but the back porch is sunny and, with gloves, it's comfortable for practice. There's a constant rumble from the wate going over the dam: the sound travels far in the cold air. And the wind soughing in the trees... it sounds... powerful, and I find it a little disturbing.

Six sets, 3 each side. some work with bo and nunchaku, then cool-down qigoing.

The taiji sets went very well. I could feel the coiled power— though I have to admit my coordination was not extraordinary today.

Bo practice is frustrating because there just isn't enough room on the porch. Still, I can practice the form.

I haven't had the nunchaku out in a while. I think it's almost time to take them up again. My hands are stronger now. Maybe I'll ask Sensei for a private lesson to learn the kata.

21: Tuesday


I want my taiji teacher back.

22: Wednesday


I watched from the car as I waited for Ma's class to finish. I don't know why I just don't go inside to get her...

When Ma came out, the full moon was rising. It looked huge, so we took a ride up to Sweet's Meadow to get an even better look. It's amazing how it's so big when it's near the horizon, and then gets so much smaller as it rises. Ma told me she was glad I had taken the time to drive her up there to see it.

23: Thursday


What an interesting day. I began by getting a new battery for the truck. My cousin Peter gave me a ride to pick it up.

It was 5 degrees by the back porch thermometer when I was out removing the old bettery, but I was in the sun, and out of the wind, so it wasn't bad working without gloves. By the time Peter and I fetched the new battery and installed it, the temperature was up to 20 degrees, so I called work to say I might be late, and went out on the back porch to practice.

My back porch is a bit like Shangri-La. It's sheltered enough that its environment is very different from the surroundings. Warm in winter, cool in summer. It was very comfortable out there in my gray sweater. "Outside," I could hear the wind roaring in the trees.

Six excellent-feeling sets (3 each side). The coordination I noticed the other day is real. And the "coiled power" is still present. I truly feel I am making progress. I think I am coming to terms with the creeping snake. It all feels very good.

And today I noticed that I was ending consistently, very clsoe to starting position. I was within a board-width to the inside and half a foot-length ahead. Interesting.

the cool-down qigong felt good, too.

After I took a shower, I took time to write to David. I didn't get any reply to my email about my coordination last week, but that's not unusual since it didn't require any reply. But I've been meaning to write to him about a few things, like about how good I feel about taiji lately, and about how the karate is making me stronger, and of how the good energy at the dojo reminds me of how I felt those nights in the parking lot when he was teaching me 42 form...

I told him I miss classes, and that I had asked the I Ching about it. I got 53: Chien: Gradual Progress, which seemed to indicate that, in good time, all would be well and lessons would resume.

I didn't do well at karate tonight. But I stayed to watch the advanced class. They were working on Matayoshi no nunchaku, and that was very neat. I told Sensei I was thinking it might be time for me to learn that kata.


I comfortable enough on the back porch at 25 degrees, but practice is... strange. All the katas an forms seem to have run together. The niahanshis especially. All the moves are jumbles together in random order— no, not random, but similar moves are taking each other's places, mutating the katas. It's very odd. Feels like my brain is scrambled.

Last night while the black belts were practicing the nunchaku kata, Sensei reminded them to practice their katas slowly— all of them, so the moves would be correct and good habits would be developed. I mentioned to him how strange it is that even though I know this from taiji, I still want to go fast when I pick up my bo. He said it's true of all of us...

If I apply my taiji methods to learning my bo katas— and go slowly as I do in the forms, I wonder what will happen... I'll just have to try it.

24: Friday


Tired... even knowing I am valued in the dojo, it's not taiji, and so it isn't enough. But what is it that I'm really missing?

301: Oneness

"The task of following Tao is to cease all distinctions between the self and the outside world...

"That understanding comes after a simple breaking down of a wall, a shattering of the mistaken notion that there is something inherent in this life that divides us from Tao... We are Tao.

"...When you can bring yourself to the understanding that there is no difference between you and Tao, and that there is no difference between meditation and "ordinary" activities, then you are well on your way to being one with Tao."

— Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

25: Saturday


Six sets (3 each). Good sets. The first three (left) I ended where I began, a foot-length ahead. the second three (right), I ended two to 4 board-width's to the inside and half-a-foot-length ahead. Go figure!

As I say, the sets were good. but the creeping snake got underfoot and messed me up a bit.

Afterwards, I got the bo out and tried applying my taiji coordination principles to shima jiri bo ichi. Very interesting. Keeping hands and feet coordinated makes a big difference in how the bo moves. I expect it will make a difference in power generation, too, but I haven't gotten that far yet.

While I was practicing, I had a couple of interesting thoughts. One was about how my body has had to rebuild itself over the past three years to accommodate the taiji. All the bad bady habits of a lifetime have to be overcome so I can mover properly. And it's still happening. All the little aches and pains that have come and gone have been readjustments. Very interesting.

I also happened to think on the other night in karate when Sensei told the black belt class that Angie had taught him something new about the Matayoshi no nunchaku kata. She had taken a private class in the kata to prepare for her latest rank test. It seems that when she practiced it, she had, without even thinking about it, added a powerful hip movement to what had been, for Sensei, merely a weak backward block/strike under the arm. He laughed as he was telling the story, laughed at himself because he had been doing it, unquestioningly, the same old blah way for 24 years. It had never occurred to him that the move could or should be different.

My thought was this: It was a very good thing that Angie got promoted through the ranks so quickly. (Angie went from white belt to brown belt in one year's time.) If she had been held back, by the time she got to learning that kata, she'd have done it exactly as Sensei showed it to her, and the extraordinary discovery of the power lurking in that move would have remained lost to Sensei and his students, possibly forever.

26: Sunday

27: Monday


I just want to cry. Everything seems wrong. I don't even want to go to karate tonight.

28: Tuesday


I feel terrible...

I even feel bad about karate. Jon has been placed in more advanced classes. Sensei does that with some of the guys. They are bigger and stronger and therefore more capable of executing techniques powerfully. It makes sense to put them in with more advanced students.

I wish I were physically strong. But I'm not.


One set. Without the sun, it's cold. I'm pushing myself for all the wrong reasons...


Four sets, all tolled. 2 each. It's gotten so I have to practice, even when all else fails. Even when I'm worried that I'm on the wrong track because I've lost my teacher.

The sun come back out when I did (metaphor?), so it wasn't too cold— but just barely!

29: Wednesday

30: Thursday

31: Friday

Being able to do a thing is not a good enough reason for doing that thing. For instance, I can do the crunch exercises where you balance on your butt extending and contracting torso and legs in a kind of situp maneuver. I can. But now, because I did do them Wednesday night when Baker-san was leading the karate class, I have a nasty lower back ache. Rats. This is very annoying.

I sent David a Happy Chinese New Year email card yesterday from me and Ma, and today we got a Happy New Year back. Yay!

* 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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