The Taijiquan Journal Logo Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003 New Moon

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May 2003
"The Way, at the beginning, is obscure. Even the initiatory steps are wreathed in mist. The heights toward which the path leads apparently are closed within clouds, which seem, from a perspective below them, beyond penetration. And that is for the best, for to see too clearly what lies ahead would be altogether too intimidating. The sobering realizations come only in retrospect: the traveler on such a Way has left behind a familiar and comfortable place; he has entered a journey more challenging, more rewarding than ever he could have imagined at the start. Further along he comes to see that his Way is to a destination still utterly unfathomable, yet intensely attractive to him."

— Dave Lowry, "Sword and Brush: The Spirit of the Martial Arts"

"He goes because he must, as Galahad went towards the Grail: knowing that for those who can live it, this alone is life."

— Evelyn Underhill

01: Thursday


Truly the retrograde (planet Mercury) is upon us! It was one frustration after another at work. But I had plenty of time to practice my taiji while I waited for programs to reinstall!

Karate, in retrospect, was a little frustrating, too. Sliding side kicks over a bo. They kept telling me to "Do it slow"— to a four count. But I don't have the strength. I need the inertia— momentum I gain with the speed. I have to build strength before I can go slowly in karate.

It seems a paradox when I think about my taiji, and yet, it took me a very long time to gain the strength to go slowly there, too. How long did it take for me to kick in slow motion? I remember how often I hurt myself trying to go slowly, how many setbacks I suffered. I didn't have strength then, either.

Control requires strength. Strength can be more safely built up by using the momentum that comes from speed. That's just true.

Tonight I was introduced to spinning side kicks. I don't believe there's a more confusing move. Forward stance— seisan dachi, then pivot on the forward foot while hiking the kicking leg up to waist level and spinning around towards your rear into a side kick to the front... I have a lot to think about.

Even in the few simple opening moves of the Sun routine David is teaching I have found a myraid of puzzles to solve. I still have not caught the knack of the coordination David has...


Well, it's no wonder it was such a bad day: my underwear was on inside out!


Spinning side kicks up and down the porch. My form sucks, but at least I have the feel of them now. I did some sliding side kicks over the railing, but I have to keep my distance so I don't go over it. Guess I'll have to rig up a line so I can practice hiking my knee up close going into the kick.

One run-through of shima jiri bo ichi cuz I've got kobudo tonight.

Kicking is easier on a solid surface; bo practice is easier with a light mop handle. It'll be nice to be strong some day.

I worked on the Sun style opening moves again. There's a lot of power in those moves: I can really feel the qi. But I haven't worked out the coordination to my satisfaction.

02: Friday


Tonight we began learning a new kata. I can't remember the name, but it's also called "bo three." (Shima jiri bo ichi is "bo seven.") The new kata is very interesting: it's got some spins and fancy work about it.

I wish I had someone to talk with who understands taiji and karate. The power for the blocks and strikes are the same except for how you hold your hand. I wish I had enough experience with taiji applications that I could experiment with them in the karate context...

I wish, I wish, I wish... What would happen if David and Sensei sparred?

03: Saturday


Beautiful day.. I can smell/taste the bone meal I was fertilizing the bulb plants with. Daffs, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, tulips: they're scattered here and there in odd plantings of transplanted potted bulbs from various occasions— Easters mostly, I guess. Right now I've got a pot of red tulips to find a place for...

Six or seven sets, left and right, as usual. I feel very alone in my taiji practice. David isn't instructing me in 24 Formnow. I feel I'm cast adrift with my problems. I don't know what to do about the creeping snake.

I practiced the first section of 42 Form a few times. I understand it a little better now...

Sun style is more diffiuclt than it appears. Lots of control and coordination required. I practiced it both left and right— the small sequence we've been shown, that is.

Tuesday's class was... less boring. David extended the sequence to include single whip (Sun is not like Yang here). It's a very short sequence, but, as I say, the Sun style is very powerful. Lots of qi is generated. During class, David went around checking on each student's form. He didn't say anything to me.

After practice today, I did my cool-down qigong, thanked my teacher, then I went on to practice my katas.

When I'm here, I'm much more relaxed and I can generate a lot of power— though I'll still need to be a lot stronger to get control of my moves. It's frustrating, but encouraging, too. And, as with the taiji, to begin, the moves must be exaggerated.

04: Sunday


My feet are tired. I started with six very slow sets...

The sets felt nice and solid. But I was very aware of not having the balance on my left foot correct for grasping that peacock. After the sets, I worked on that, stretching my left leg and ankle. The ankle has very limited motion when my foot is pointed straight ahead.

Next, I practiced Sun style, both sides.

Next, the first part of 42 Form. Both sides. (I get very confused going left in 42.)

Cool-down qigong to end.

Bo practice with my mop handle. My bo is too long to use on the porch, which is why I took my bo down to Jo's yesterday. I practiced at Jo's until I was tuckered out. Too bad I can't remember much of "bo three."

After bo practice, kicking and blocking and punching practice. I can't tell if I'm improving or not.

A few more kicks...

I'm too tired to make spinning side kicks work.

05: Monday

06: Tuesday


Rainy day. Makes me feel very alone in my practice.

Karate class last night made me feel discouraged. Everything is more difficult on those mats. And I really do think Sensei is ignoring me. I wonder if he thinks I never act on what he tells me.

07: Wednesday

08: Thursday


It's a very mild night. Overcast and a bit humid. I lit the lanterns and the candles.

One good set this morning before I left for work.

Karate tonight. Sensei actually noticed that I've been practicing my kicks. And he had Kim help me out with han bo. I got my right thumb whacked doing bunkai. I hope it doesn't swell up and make kobudo impossible tomorrow.

Four sets by lantern light. Not very good sets: I was tense— worried. I'm worried that I'll never learn.

Last night's taiji class... *sigh* David has changed. Ma says so, too. He's closed himself off and so he isn't teaching well. He's giving nothing of himself.

We practiced Wave Hands In Clouds (Sun style) a lot. Sun style is very powerful and I generated a lot of qi... I'm beginning to see auras like Ma does. I wasn't sure at first, but I think it's true. I thought I saw a gray aura. But since it was gray, I thought maybe it wasn't an aura. But I told Ma, and she said she was seeing the same thing. Gray aura. Ma says the person who has it has been in deep trouble for a long time.


Three or four sets. Thinking too much. I feel very alone in my practice.

09: Friday

One set? Two? That was before work and I don't remember now.

10: Saturday


My heart is very heavy. Unless something changes drastically, by the end of this lesson cycle, I won't be continuing. I can't. I am reluctant to say this, but I believe David is punishing me by ignoring me in class. It's very passive, but he's not teaching me... What's worse is that he's not teaching taiji. David is teaching T'ai Chi for Arthritis as if it were merely a physical routine that has no significance other than some motions you go through.

11: Sunday


Yesterday's practice. Sets left and right of 24 Form. I can't remember how many. Two I did as fast as I could. One other set came out exquisitely slow and flowing. I did some silk reeling and was aware of how much more smooth I am now.

I practiced the Sun style routine left and right quite a few times. It's very relaxing and it gets you breathing.

I did some 42 Form, too.

And some stretching. You probably think I'm odd to stretch afterwards. Truth is, I usually can't stretch to begin. Much better to stretch when you're warmed up, if you ask me.

I remember yesterday as a very low energy day. It was a chore to move.

After taiji, I practiced katas, but I did them slowly and gently. I tried generating some power, but I couldn't do it. Later I took my bo over to Jo's and practiced. I remember only bits and pieces of bo three, but I also practiced other bo katas and did some drills.

Today: Six sets, alternating. Two in the middle very fast. My balance improves.

12: Monday


I feel very bad today. Emotionally. I wish I knew why.

Two sets, cool-down qigong— first I went up and down practicing Sun style Opening Form.

13: Tuesday


Six sets, alternating. Good sets. Caught myself rising once on Press and was careful after that. I find I'm full of questions again. I think I need to know the applications to answer them. Joe (the fellow who emailed me) recommended a book. I'll look it up the next time I'm at the bookstore.

Spent some up and down on the Sun style Wave Hands in Clouds.

Last night, Sensei mentioned that we should be paying particular attention to blocking technique. In the middle and low blocks, the fist turns into position only at the last moment. Today, I spent a lot of time working that out. Once I got it, I found some more power in my blocks. I'm still pitiful of course, but I'll get there.

We also learned more about naihanshi shodadan doing bunkai. Sensei showed us how the first move is both an attack and an escape. Done right, the move covers a lot of ground... Bunkai are a lot of fun if you can relax and play with them.

Applications. I want to learn applications.

14: Wednesday


Taiji class was interesting tonight. David cleared up my confusion about Sun style Wave Hands— not that I asked, you understand; merely, he decided to work on it during class. Also, we've gone on to learn Sun Brush Knee and Twist. Very interesting. But for some perverse reason, my left foot didn't want to step out straight. I haven't found the balance or coordination for the move yet, in spite of having been able to watch David do it a bunch of times while following along.

I cleared up my question of how to move my hands into single whip (Keep holding the ball until the weight transfer to the estended foot is complete, then "break the head of lettuce" and turn the palms out flat to slide them apart.); and also satisfied myself as to how much "lurching" David does when he takes that first step forward (The same amount of lurching I do!).

Before class, while we were all milling about, David settled into a set of 24 Form. But he got messed up at Kick with Left Heel and stopped. I was a little surprised to see him mess up. I wonder what he was thinking... Anyway, I wish he'd gotten through Snake Creeps Down. I'd've really liked to see that done right. Rats.

The "distracting woman" was in front of me during class. I was very surprised to discover just how bad she really is at doing this form. I thought Ma was kidding when she told me about how badly this woman performs t'ai chi. And it is very distracting. According to Ma, the woman has been coming to classes— albeit she arrives late most of the time— since last fall. And, after all this time, she continues to do the form wrong (she actually steps deliberately into a wide horse stance when bringing her right foot forward in Opening Form, instead of bringing her feet together!) and her physical movements are very exaggerated and not at all graceful. The really odd thing is that David doesn't correct her— no, that's not true. I have heard him try to correct her, and very gently, too, but she seems to get angered by his criticism. Once she glared at him and then walked off. Another time, Ma said, David corrected her and when he turned away, she kicked out at him. All I can say is, she must have some very bad personal problems.

15: Thursday


Beautiful day. Warm and sunny with a light breeze.

Today, during practice, I realized that Wave Hands Like Clouds had become one continuous movement— at least one time! But I also noticed that Repulse the Monkey— though much improved in coordination— has not. Still, both sets (one left, one right) were very smooth and the qi was flowing strongly.

Before the two sets, I was practicing the Sun routine. We've only got up to Brush Knee and Twist, but I find I have a lot to work with in those few moves. I spent more time than I realized on it. That's why I could only get in two sets of 24 Form.

16: Friday


The clouds parted long enough for us to watch the eclipse reach totality. Neat. Watching the shadow move up the face of the moon I was reminded that our notions of "up" is really "sideways" as far as the planets are concerned. It's good to remember that there's always another perspective.

I twisted my right knee tonight practicing the spin in sueyoshi nokun ichi (bo three). My foot stuck ot the mat. Fortunately, the taiji has strengthened my leg muscles, especially the ones in my thighs that hold the knee, and so I didn't do any serious damage.

At Ma's, between peeks at the eclipse, she was trying to show me the rest of the Sun sequence. She's been learning is since last November, but I think she was leaving a step or two out. We'll see.


Everything feels so disturbed and disturbing. Either I feel so tired I think I've been drugged, or I can't sleep at all. When I do sleep, I have strange, disturbing dreams. (I can't remember them, only their effect and some flashes.) Maybe I should bag work and go do something... Practice.


Four sets of 24; two of Sun.

Solid sets, but not as flowing as yesterday's.

I was thinking how, sometimes, during the sets my mind flashes on the moment when a certain part of a move "clicked." If you mapped out the forms linearly, and you marked a point on the line where each "click" happened, by now my line would have a fair number of points marked on it...

But the really interesting thing about this analogy is that a line, any line, even a line segment (which my chart would be), contains an infinte number of points. I can practice taiji for a thousand years and never map all the points of the sequence!

17: Saturday


Sometimes the forms feel so good— smooth— I wonder if I've got them completely wrong. (Other times they feel so disjointed that I know I've got them completely wrong!)

Six good sets. Some of them felt... as if my body was part of the air. I didn't feel my muscles struggling to move and balance me. I just was moving with perfect balance. Sometimes.

I've got to master the creeping snake, yet. I wish I could ask David for help. He's been so closed off, though. I don't feel comfortable approaching him. But— could I ask?

I practiced bo katas with my mop handle. I remember big chunks of sueyoshi nokun ichi, but the chunks aren't necessarily in order.

I still can't remember han bo.

My katas— the five I know— all need lots of work.

18: Sunday


Bright moon shining on the back porch. It's 35 degrees out there: I watched my breath as I practiced...

Not my best sets: my balance was off: I kept over-balancing. I've gotten out of the habit of practicing by moonlight.

I practiced my bo katas, too, with the mop handle. The mop handle makes it much easier, since it's so much lighter than my hickory bo. But soon I'll get stronger and the bo will be just as easy to manipulate as the mop handle. Too bad the porch won't get any wider.

This afternoon there was another rank testing session at the dojo. Not so fancy this time. Sensei wore his plain white gi with his red and white stripe master's belt. (Sensei is an 8th degree black belt. Master Odo was a 9th degree black belt.)

Kevin, Daniel, and Laura were testing for green (gokyu). Rob was testing for brown two (nikyu). Heidi was testing for green four (yonkyu)— or was it brown three (sankyu)? Anyway, they all did pretty well, but... hard to assess.

Sensei and Rob put on the corslets and masks and did some sparring. Rob did well, but Sensei had the control. It was fun to watch.

During the questioning, Sensei asked each about the origin of the kata each had chosen to do. None knew. I'm pretty sure Sensei will be making sure we all know which katas come from whom in future.


The kitchen floor is still very cold from last night. Upstairs isn't so bad.

During the night I noticed my knee bothering me, but, each time, I stretched it out and it went back to not hurting. I guess I'll have to be a little careful of it for a while.

Just now, stepping with my tea, annoyed that I wasn't keeping a straight line going backwards, I was also thinking about sparring (kumite, is it?) and wondering if I could ever learn it. Learn to defend myself successfully, in either karate or taiji. Maybe not, since I don't see myself that way...

It would be nice to study taiji applications and bunkai.

Today is one of those days when I feel old and as if the Way is lost to me. Rats.


Hey! I found the muscles that control my pinky toe on my left foot! Now I can move 'em both, left and right. Tiger toes both sides. Yay!

19: Monday


Too warm today: 70 degrees— for practice, that is, or outside work.

Some stepping wtih my tea, then some Sun style. Then a set of 24 Form. I'd've liked to practice more but my head help chattering at me throughout and I couldn't shut it up, so I quit. Pfui.

Only Kevin and Heidi were promoted.

20: Tuesday


Sometimes, like today, I feel very discouraged by both taiji and karate.

Lat night, Sensei had us trying to do katas as fast and as powerfully as we could. First, he had us do wansu very slowly, feeling each move— in taiji mode, if you will. Then he had us try to go as fast as possible and try for as much power as possible. For me, that isn't very fast or very powerful. I felt as if I had no strength at all— though I know that can't be true. But I don't have enough strength, and I hate it.

Worst of all, just the thought of how hard it is to do pushups or leg stretches makes me want to cry.


Ugh! Practice most dismal! Two sets that were all very well, but I didn't want to do more.

I tried some Five Elements Qigong and my qi was strong: in the metal segment, I had to work hard to bring my hands together. The qi was there in Sun style, too.

I tried a bunch of katas in slow taiji-mode to work on form and power. But today everything is difficult.

21: Wednesday


A little rain...

Today, I hate taiji. Two sets of 24 Form; 4 sets of Sun (We're up to Strum the Lute). Okay sets. But last night's lesson was... dismal? I'm not sure why, though...

David puts in a lot of time with Ma and the other older students, but he ignores me. At least, he doesn't speak to me. But I think he does watch to see that I'm not straying too far off the track. Once he parked himself right in front of me for a couple of sets, and I noticed that he has lost a lot of weight. I hope he's okay.

But class was dismal. And today I feel bad about taiji. I just do.

22: Thursday


I am up betimes to attend a meeting. But first, I had to satisfy myself about shihonuke.

Last night we did it in class. Twice. Both times I did it I felt I had left something out. I was consistent though. I did it the same way each time. And Sensei didn't say anything...

But I was leaving out a spinning block to the left each time. Eight times.

I have it fixed now.

23: Friday

Oh! I ache! My neck! My knees! Sueyoshi nokun ichi! (That and the intense drill beforehand!) My toes ache a little, too. Nothing debilitating, but I am very aware of my aches... I need more strength!

Add to the list: Strength Training with Bo. Hold the very end of the bo with one hand. Stretch your arm out straight. Now, raise the bo until the far tip touches the ceiling. Lower the tip to the floor very slowly... slowly raise it to the ceiling... How many times can you do do this? Last night we did it only once with each hand. Using my left hand, I had to choke up about 8 inches on the bo when it got near the floor. But I'll practice. A lot.

Last night, too, in the class after kobudo, Sensei had everyone do some soul searching. What, he asked them each, do you need most to work on? Then he told them to work on it, and he went around to each helping to find the best ways to go about the work.

I wasn't in the class, but from the sidelines where I was watching and listening with Linda and Eric, I took heed of the lesson. I will have to work harder to remake my body into a vehicle for what I want to do: practice taiji and karate. I do push myself to some extent— and that pays off— but I've never buckled down to master the things I hate the most: warmup exercises and stretching. I haven't yet decided to confront my fear that I may be too old in body to acquire the strength I will need to excel at taiji and karate. What if I can't do it?

24: Saturday

25: Sunday


Dull, rainy day. But quiet and excellent for practice. I've been practicing since around one o'clock.

Mop katas to begin. Nice and slow, trying to invoke the "power train." I still haven't got sueyoshi nokun ichi in its entirety, but I've got most of it.

After that, six (or more) sets of 24 Form. The first three sets (right) felt very, very solid— balanced. In fact, the third of those sets was one of the magical ones where yo're so relaxed it's as if your body is weightless. And the nicest part was that I could maintain that feeling even after I became aware of it!

Sun style next. The coordination comes and goes— it goes when I think about it.

42 Form next. It was working today. And I hcould even do it to the left— though I had to work out White Crane.

Katas next. Slowly, paying attention to form and stance— and that "power train."

Five Elements QiGong and my relular cool-down qigong to finish up.

Last night I practiced lifting my bo. I also did some reps on the total gym: overhead presses and leg exercises. I need more strength and flexibility in my legs so I can creep like a snake and properly return tigers to mountains.

26: Monday

Rain. Pouring rain.

Six good sets. Butt tucked; slow. Mindful.

Bo katas, nice and slow. the "power train" is there— but will I ever be able to access it "at speed"?

27: Tuesday


Sun style... I wonder what the applications are.

Later: Class was better tonight. We actually laughed a couple of times— the distracting woman wasn't there: that seems to make a difference.

28: Wednesday


Six sets, neither fast, nor slow, but recalling to my mind's eye the ease David displayed as he practiced last night before class... though, once again, he stopped when he got to the kick. Anyway, today I got my left arm to relax and so my left elbow didn't keep drifting upwards.

29: Thursday

No taiji practice this morning. Had to take Ma and plant geraniums at the cemetary.

30: Friday


Bad day for practice: no concentration. Bugs and neighbors and small worries.

One mediocre set, and once through sueyoshi nokun ichi. Pfui. And my left foot doesn't feel balanced, either!


Four— five? sets in the warm evening. Good sets, and I wanted to do more but my tolerance for the "joyful" sounds of children at play is low.

Joe emailed today to tell me about a Push Hands workshop this Sunday in Colchester, Connecticut at Peaceful Wolf Tai Chi. I'm thinking about it...

31: Saturday

Spent the day at the Pequot Museum with Jo. It was the opening of their "Hunters of the Sky" exhibit and we got to see Veedor the Condor in person. Neat. But it was a long day and I'm bushed.

Copyright © 2003 New Moon

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