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March 2003

Kicking Post © 2003 New Moon

Kicking Post © 2003 New Moon. The marks are for knee, groin, ribs, and chin.

01: Saturday

02: Sunday


Rain today and 40 degrees. The icy snow is melting fast. I was comfortable practicing, but I was aware of the cold dampness around me. For and my breath were visible.

I began feeling the panic of thinking I'll never get any of it right, taiji or karate. Everything I did from taiji stepping to karate stepping to bo stepping felt wrong and impossible and incomprehensible. I wanted to scream from both frustration and fear...

But I pulled myself together and settled myself into a set of forms... six sets, I think. I do know something about taiji.

Yesterday and Friday Ma and I watched some of Dr. Paul Lam's video tapes. One was on Five Elements QiGong, the other Yang 24 Form. I learned a lot, especially from the set of warm-up exercises included specifically for the 24 Form. He called them qigong, and they are, but they were form from the set performed individually. As I watched and listened to the demonstrations, all sorts of concepts became clearer to me...

Dr. Lam's executions of some of the 24 Forms differ from David's, but because the principles are the same, I understand the differences. And it was the differences that helped to give me a better understanding and helped me to answer some of the questions that have been piling up. I think I now understand how Grasp Peacock's Tail works. And I learned about the spiral energy that's in Golden Rooster... and I learned more about kicking...

I wish he had included some specific exercises for Snake Creeps Down (which he doesn't even call it).

03: Monday


Cold (24 degrees), sunny and windy. The sun is higher now and doesn't shine in my eyes: spring isn't far off.

One set. I'm all distracted. Exhaustion, stress, and bad dreams.

04: Tuesday

05: Wednesday


Ma's chi is really flowing. She says saw a gray/black aura covering someone in class. At first she thought that it was a shadow, a combination of the lighting and her bad glasses, but when she looked around the room, everything else looked normal. But the person was covered in a gray aura from the neck down that got darker and blacker towards his feet, as if he was filling with darkness, Ma said. She thinks the aura is from a bad— a psychically killing relationship that this person is in. Wow. Glad it ain't my aura.

Ma must've been on a qi high all Tuesday. She said she was just sitting quietly at the kitchen table late in the afternoon when she noticed a ball of bright purple light on the tabletop over by where I usually sit. Purple is for healing, and psychic ability. I wonder what was going on there!

Ma wrote an anniversary card to David today. Thursday is our third anniversary of T'ai Chi lessons. I thought about sending a card, but I didn't.

Ma and I watched Dr. Lam's 24 Form video again after class. I still prefer David's form. It looks much cleaner and I honestly think David's form is a better example of the martial applications. I think that David knows the applications better than most, even Randy Li, the fellow I had that workshop with last fall. Still, there are a lot of things I've learned from Dr. Lam's tape.

06: Thursday

My third anniversary of taiji lessons. Ma sent a card. I didn't.

07: Friday

08: Saturday


It's a beautiful day. 55 degrees. The snow is melting fast; the air is fresh: excellent practice weather.

Six— or seven?— sets. During one I reversed direction somehow, and was surprised to find myself at the opposite end of the porch from where I started.

Some things seem to be working quite well. Grasp Peacock and Repulse Monkey, for two. Watching Dr. Lam's tape got me to see very clearly what I needed to be doing. But Snake has gone all to pieces again. My legs still aren't strong enough or flexible enough to sit me down on my heels. But I'll persevere...

I think I need to watch the tape again.

A little bo practice. My stances are improving; my foot positions are more correct. I find if I let my qi sink and relax, my back heel automatically pushes itself outwards and straightens the foot.

Five Elements Qigong and cool-down qigong to finish practice. Thank you, David.

09: Sunday

Cooler today (50-ish), with a bit of wind. The sun feels warm, but it's higher now, and only my lower body gets its warmth.

Ten or twelve sets. I completely lost track, what with working on one thing and another...

Snake is bugging me. It will continue to bug me until I can develop the strength and flexibility I need to do it right. Sure, I can do it in "high" form, but—

You know what it is? I'm getting impatient again. I need to quit worrying at this and just get on with trying to do my best.

After taiji, I practiced my katas, and then did a lot of drilling with the bo. The porch is too narrow for bo katas, but it's just dandy for drills. Up and down, and up and down, stepping and manipulating the bo...

The taiji relaxation comes in handy here, along with the stepping— in spite of the feet having to point differently. Because my balance is so good, I have no problems at all moving backwards and forwards in nekko dachi (cat stance: weight on back foot, forward foot in empty stance, toe-down-heel-up) blocking, and very little problem keeping level and low moving forwards and backwards for strikes.

I also seem to have a bit of a knack for handling the bo, though when it comes to some of the blocking techniques, I have the impression that an operation may be necessary to get my wrists and elbows into the correct positions.

After karate, Five Elements QiGong, and cool-down...

I always remember to thank David, but I'm still not in the habit of thanking Sensei. Probably because there's no way I can kneel on the back porch. In karate class we kneel and bow to all the teachers at the end and say "domo origato." Maybe I'll see if I can get a mat.

10: Monday

11: Tuesday

12: Wednesday


Stepping; one set; cool-down.

Ma said Tuesday's class was very much improved from previous weeks: the "disruptive woman" wasn't there, and so David was more relaxed and "with it." Ma says it has become painfully obvious that the woman gets to David because he is so obviously different (in a good way) when she isn't in class. Ma and the other students keep hoping she'll stop coming to class. According to Ma, the woman also goes to Saturday class and the Saturday students feel the same way. Poor David.

13: Thursday

14: Friday


Two sets (after stepping with tea), cool-down qigong. Interesting. Very interesting. But nothing I can put a finger on.

15: Saturday


Six sets and cool-down qigong. It's cloudy and in the 40's, but the wind is cold. While I practiced, a hawk was hunting in the meadow.

My leg muscles are tired from lat night's bo drills. Mostly my right leg because the move is one-sided. I need to practice the left side drills on my own—

Time to go to the dojo to watch the rank testing.

Seven students testing today. One for first degree brown; two for first degree green; the rest for second degree green. The testing wasn't anything like I imagined.

Sensei was in full regalia, from the red hachimaki down to the tabi socks. The five black belts empaneled to assist in the testing were wearing gi's. There weren't as many spectators as I thought there would be, either.

After warm-up exercises, all the students were sent to sit and then they were called upon by Sensei one at a time to perform a kata. After that, they were recalled one at a time for questioning by both Sensei and the black belts. Some questions were about the history of karate; some were personal questions, like "Why are you testing today?" or "How often do you practice?" or "What has karate done for you?" Some questions really put people on the spot, and Sensei didn't let anyone get away with avoiding or evading. As Jon told him afterwards, Sensei would make a formidable trial lawyer!

But, even though the questions were tough, and some people had to be very honest about their own shortcomings, the atmosphere of the testing was friendly and supportive. That's one of the things I like about our dojo. The people there really do try to live the Dojo Kun.

Results of the testing will be posted Monday.

16: Sunday


Today I got my fill of practice. The sun is out and the temperature is around 65 degrees, and I almost quit after the first set because I got so warm. But just as I finished the first set, the breeze kicked up and it became delightfully cool.

I started with six sets. Good sets, but nothing special. I went on to bo practice and worked on some drills and exercises. Then I found myself doing a few more sets. After that I decided on some kicking practice.

I though— have been thinking that I need something to kick. So today I marked the heights of knee, groin, ribs, and chin on one of the porch columns and had at it. Front kicks are easy, and I can kick chin high landing my heel on the chin mark.

Side kicks are a bit harder because the support foot has to pivot. Ain't no way my foot can pivot on the rough porch boards, but I found that if I put my pivot foot on the old piece of carpet that has served as a back door mat since forever, it spins around quite nicely allowing me to pivot beautifully.

I'm glad I decided to practice kicking here because I discovered that my kicking is quite a lot improved when I'm on solid footing and have an actual target to put my kick against— ever so gently, though, so I don't kick the porch down!

After that, I practiced katas. I think naihanshi shodan is finally coming together. I spent quite a while on it, and I think I'm finding a little "power" at last.

After that, I did a few more sets. The chi was flowing better. I did some 42 Form, too.

I ended with Five Elements QiGong.

I still can't get down into snake as I would like, but the rest is… okay.

17: Monday


One set in the 60 degree sunshine. I tried to get myself up early, but I didn't sleep well...

It's a beautiful day... something rotten will probably happen— Ha! Bush will see to that!

18: Tuesday

Bo drills and four sets (2 right; 2 left) and cool-down qigong.

Every day I learn something new about the forms. Today I learned where my balance was wrong in Grasping to the right side. Once again, I find it's a trick of the left leg. But now I have enough strength to fix it. It'll take some practice, but I'll get it fixed.

Last night at the dojo— six of the seven who tested were promoted, by the way. The one who didn't pass was testing prematurely— he's only a young kid— and Sensei probably knew it, but thought the lesson would be valuable. —

As I say, last night I was reading the notebook Sensei keeps for the students to look through. It has information about his teachers and the history of karate and all kinds of interesting things. I found a description of a particular karate form that one of Sensei's teachers, Sensei Gowdy, created. From the description, I have to conclude that Sensei Gowdy must have had some exposure to taiji or some form of the internal martial arts. He must have. There's no other explanation. And as I find out more, I am continually being amazed by how many Chinese "roots" there are in Sensei's karate lineage.

I figured out why I am reluctant to go back to tai chi class. It's because David has never acknowledged that anything happened. He never even acknowledged (never mind accepted) my apology. He has never said anything to me. Not "Get your butt back to class, now!" nor even, "Go! And never darken my classroom again, you insolent and insubordinate pain in the butt!" Nothing. That's not right. He could at least have acknowledged my letter, if not my apology. But I guess he doesn't care. And why would I want to take lessons from someone who doesn't even care?

19: Wednesday


Well—! Tonight Ma decided it was time to get me and David talking. So, she confronted him after class. I was waiting in the car for her. She came out with him and they were talking. And they kept talking, and talking...

I couldn't hear what they were saying. But after a while they were done. David gave me a tight smile and a short wave and walked off towards his truck. Ma came over and opened the door and poked her head in and asked me, "Did you apologize to David?" "What? Yes," I said, "I sent him a letter—" And then Ma was hollering, "David, she sent you a letter—" But he didn't hear her.

Ma got in and we drove over to his truck and Ma got out and told him again. I could hear him when he told her, "I never received an apology." And, it seems, David did get my letter, but he didn't perceive any apology in it. He also thought that I had insulted him somehow in our recent email exchange about the differences I perceived in 42 Form— I heard him tell Ma that I "had copped an attitude" about it. Well, I couldn't let that go! I turned off the truck and got out.

I went over to David, and the first thing I did was apologize for any misunderstanding he may have had about those emails. I certainly didn't mean to insult him. I told him that, told him how much I admire his form and his expertise. And as for the letter I wrote, I asked about that. He continued to maintain that it didn't contain any apology. I apologized for not being clearer. I assured him that I had apologized most sincerely. "I don't know," I said, "I did apologize. But it was a very long letter. Perhaps the apology got lost amid all those words." He said it had. So I apologized again...

David was angry. Angrier than I would ever had imagined. And it seems he had been angry with me ever since November. And I had actually thought in those emails that we were on a friendly footing again. Just shows you. David and I can not communicate in writing— maybe we can't communicate using words in any fashion... I hate emails.

Ma broke in asking David, "Well, can she come back to class?" He said I could— if I filled out a release form. I said, "No problem." (And that really wasn't the problem in the first place!) Then he told me the next session begins the week after next, and I said I would be there. Ma thanked David, and then gave him a hug and made him bend down so she could give him a kiss on the cheek. I thanked him, too...

And then I asked if I could have a hug. I think he wanted to run, but he didn't. So I got my hug, and I told him I'd missed him. When I let go, I asked, "You are my teacher, aren't you?" And he said, "If you mean for t'ai chi." "What else?" I queried; and then I asked again. Again he answered, "For t'ai chi." And a third time: "But you are my teacher?" "For t'ai chi."

Now I know what I meant by my question and so did David. T'ai chi is mind, heart, and spirit, not just forms. And teaching is a sacred trust...

I know I was pushing. And I know that David is afraid because he knows I want more than he is willing to give. I do. But what David doesn't know is that he could give all of that— all of himself to every one of his students and not compromise or diminish himself in any way. The well fills from the bottom, and the more you give, the more you have to give. David hasn't learned that lesson yet.

And now I am to go back to class. I should be happy, but the truth is, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I meant to write a bit about why I don't write more in the journal about karate. I believe it's for the same reason I didn't write much about T'ai Chi the first year. It means as much to me as the taiji did; and a lot is happening. It's just that I don't yet know exactly enough what I think about it to write coherently about my experiences. I really don't know much about karate yet, even though it's been nine months since I started lessons.

20: Thursday


Four sets in the cool, rainy dark. I didn't change and my jeans were inhibiting my movements. The sets weren't very good, and yet I learned more about correcting the right side Peacock, and about how my feet must adjust to accommodate the more correct snake.

My orbit consistently brought me back to starting position.

It's always interesting.

I wonder what David will have to say to me about my form when I go back to lessons.

21: Friday

Kobudo tonight. Some nights are better than others. I still have that nagging thought that Sensei isn't taking me seriously...

Tonight I couldn't find power anywhere.

At Ma's there was nothing but the War on TV, so Ma read while I watched taiji tapes and practiced along.

22: Saturday


Warm today, and the sun is coming out...

Six— seven? sets. It's my left hip need work to get that Peacock right. But I'll get it worked out.

I spent a lot of time— until my legs couldn't do any more!— on creeping that snake up and down the porch. I discovered that I'd been keeping too narrow a stance. When I slid my leg out, I wasn't going back far enough, and so my feet were almost on the same line.

I still can't hunker down and keep my heels flat. I practice, but, for now, it a true creeping of the snake seems an impossibility.

23: Sunday


A little bo practice, then ten or eleven sets and cool-down qigong. Kicked the post rib and chin high. Then oiled my bo...

I practiced spinning the bo, making like a drum major, letting the bo roll over the backs of my hands... If you drop it while it's spinning, it bounces back and forth on the ends and the middle stays high and level so it's easy to grab it again.

I'm learning a lot in the sets now. My orbit is changing again. I'm beginning to truly understand some of what's happening in the forms....

The toes on my left foot are taking a beating in shima jiri bo ichi. There's one move where you have to go down on the left knee and then push off on the left toes to go up and forward into the next stance. If your toes aren't "cocked" just right, Ow! Practice.

24: Monday

Stepping and one set before work.

The kicking practice seems to have improved my kicking in class— not that Sensei noticed. But I did.

25: Tuesday


Stepping up and down, backwards and forwards, with my tea... then four sets and Five Elements qigong. Oh! And some bo drills.

The interesting thing about taiji is that when one part improves, you then notice a shortcoming elsewhere, and so you work on improving that... and so it goes, around and around. Neat.

Beautiful day today. Wish work and taiji and karate were all one and the same.

26: Wednesday


I called work and said I'd be late. There's so much... grief in my heart. I don't know what to do...

Three very slow sets right; two very fast and one very slow, left.

This grief is hard to bear. I'm not sure where it is coming from, either. Some dream of mine must have died.

27: Thursday


Four sets. Good, solid sets, and cool-down qigong.

I'm thinking too hard about Peacock and it's all balled up.

28: Friday

Four sets.

29: Saturday

Warm and muggy and there's a nasty qi-sucking wind. I tried one set and it was all to pieces; snake nearly sent me screaming. Practice is impossible now.

Talking with Ma last night I realized that I now know enough about taiji— and karate, too— to enjoy practicing. When you have no idea about what you're supposed to be trying to accomplish, you lose interest very quickly. Practice seems pointless.

And most people probably don't know why they're learning, nor do they know how to learn.

And most teachers don't really know how to teach, that's for sure!

But, if you have an even semi-good teacher, and if you have practiced enough to gain basic knowledge and body experience, you find yourself identifying real "problems" to work on, and you also find have the "tools" to do the work, and the confidence to tackle the job. And that makes the work enjoyable.

30: Sunday


Thursday and Friday, as I was drifting off to sleep, and when I awoke, I was practicing bo katas and bunkai in my head. Very vivid they were. Guess I've taken to practicing the bo in my mind, cuz, small as that is, it's the only place around with room enough to swing a cat!

31: Monday


My back, where I injured it before using the mop, has suddenly begun aching for no reason— unless the "reason" is that I'm upset by both karate and taiji...

I don't want to go to taiji tomorrow, I know that...

And I'm a little tired of karate. I feel a bit miffed, as a matter of fact. Somehow I've got the notion that I've been passed over for my orange stripe. I think I'm probably imagining it... but I do wonder.

My back really does hurt. What could I have done to it? All the muscles from my hips to my neck seem to be in spasm. Maybe I should call in sick...

Ratballz. I wish my back didn't hurt.

I took some industrial strength painkillers I had left over from my oral surgery 18 months ago and went to work. The pain was bearable, but by the end of the day I'd decided that I'd better not try karate, especially since I couldn't figure out what was going on with my back, and every joint in my whole body seemed to be crackling when I moved.

I stopped in at the dojo as usual. I watched the 6 o'clock advanced class. Afterwards, Sensei came over to see what was wrong. I told him about my back and he sympathized. I went home.

* 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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