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November 2003

01: Saturday


It's a beautiful, pale November day. Mild and breezy. The leaves are falling and the insects are busily readying for winter. I guess I'm a long way from being a taiji master: the ladybugs that land on me also fly off unhindered by my efforts to detain them.

I haven't finished practicing yet. I just wanted to write some of my thoughts down before I forget again.

I have more confidence in my self now. I realized yesterday that I would sign up for the December rank test. Not because of pride or ego, but because I believe in myself now, and it's right that I try.

It came as a surprize to me that I do believe in myself now. I never did before. I never thought I mattered or counted— and I didn't, not even to myself. But now I do matter, and I do count, and I can be very brave and dare to... to— everything.

And now I will be a good teacher, too. My students will learn what I have to teach because I believe in me.


I lost count of the sets. Solid, good sets but not magical. I couldn't get the qi to flow freely— strongly. But my confidence has improved Snake. I don't panic now. Now I allow myself to do as best I can... and I do.

I'm still working on my left leg.

02: Sunday


Another mild, paly autumn day.

Six sets, three each side. I am gaining on the creeping snake, and my left leg it showing sign of cooperating: sometimes I can feel a bit of rooting and qi traveling up frm the heel— yes, I know the heel isn't the key, but it's a beginning for getting my foot to root completely.

I still have a lot of work to do on snake, of course. But now I can work on it. I feel really good about that.

I wonder if I can learn to "rise like smoke" from kneeling now.

03: Monday


Another pale autumn day. The sun is very warm and there's no breeze.

Four sets, two each side. My creeping snake is an unlovely thing, but, as I say, now I can work on making it better.

The strong feeling of qi is missing. Perhaps I am more ... worried than I know. I do so want to do well in taiji.

It is very warm today.

04: Tuesday


Ugh! I feel so stiff and achey today— low energy.

Two sets, one each side, then one set of TCA. I didn't even try to get the snake to creep low.

It seems to be, though, that I'm building muscle and that means there must be recovery time between workouts, as when I did the nautilus machines all those years ago. We only went every other day, then, as was the recommendation.

It's cold and cloudy today. A little rain. It would be excellent for practice if I had the time to get the kinks out.

I have put my name down for the rank test. I don't feel half as sure of my reasons as I did before, but I know it's the right thing to do.

05: Wednesday

06: Thursday


Today I taught my first TCA class. I have four students. One is quite debilitated by arthritis; one had a stroke seven years ago and still can't do too much with her right side; the other two are in pretty good shape. It's all new to three of them; it will take a while to get them used to taiji movements.

Before and after the class I practiced alone. Only one set of 24, but I also did a few sets of TCA and a couple of 42 Form— as much as I know.


Tonight, before karate class, Emily and I were practicing han bo. I surprized myself: suddenly, it all worked! Each move had power and energy and I felt good doing the kata. It was a breakthrough.

In class tonight Sensei Engel had us doing katas, the naihanshis, with our eyes closed. I did pretty well, only losing my balance a little with in cross-legged transitions. I kept to the correct line and finished where I started.

Sensei also put us in the floor in random locations, facing at all odd angles and has us run through different katas to test how we'd do when in a different orientation. I did well there, too— and fortunately, we had the katas fresh in our minds from practicing before class.

It's odd, but I feel good about my work even though I know there's still an incredible amount yet to learn. Tonight, Gabrielle gave me some help on seisan, and during class Sensei also made some valuable points about the turns— so many things!

I miss the taiji lessons when David was so enthusiastic and was always teaching us applications and other neat stuff.... Someday I'll find another teacyer— when the time is right. Until then, I'll learn all I can from Sensei.

07: Friday

08: Saturday


I took a few minutes before I left for work yesterday to do one set. It was a beautiful mild day.

Today is clear, but cool and windy. I woke up worrying about getting my turns right in karate and kobudo. I practiced a bit whith my mop handle while I waited for the guy from the property valuation company (the town is revaluing everyone), to show up...

I found the brochure from YMAA (Yang's Martial Arts Academy) in the kitchen and puzzled over it while I had breakfast. Master Yang teaches seminars only, it seems. Two or three day, eight-hours-a-day seminars. I do want to learn more taiji, but seminars? I don't know. I'd be all on my own, no one to practice with afterwards. How much would I retain?

I lost count of sets today. I gean with TCA because I was feeling stiff, but that passed. I went on to 24 Form, and did eight or ten sets. Middle stance on the snake until the end when I got down to low stance. I don't have enough control of low yet to feel good about it— it kinda stops the flow now. After the sets, I worked on Snake a bit.

During the sets I figured out that I haven't been relaxing my left leg enough and that's what's been keeping my heel from staying rooted. duh!

I did a lot of work on my katas today. And a lot of work on my turns. I finally realized that in karate a forward bow stance should be double-weighted with the tantien in the center, sinking towards the ground. If you can keep control of thte center, you won't go off balance in the turns. (Duh!)

I did a bunch of practice on haihanshi shodand and naihanshi nidan, doing my best to find the power, and I did find some. I also worked on bettering my blocks, making sure to turn my fist at the very end for that "little extra." And I worked on loosening up my backfist so it "snaps" nice.

I worked on parts of my bo katas. Turns, mostly, tyring to get the stepping right, as in the katas. I'm not sure I've got things right, but I'll be sure to find out, either in class on Wednesday, or from Eric or one of the others.

It has occured to be that I also need to work on my breathing. I'll ask about that, too...

I'm worried about losing taiji. My head knows I won't lose it, but...

It's because I signed up for that rank test. If I commit mylelf to the dojo— as I feel this will do — I feel as if I won't be allowed to love taiji... I feel as if I'll have to pretend taiji doesn't mean anything to me or I'll have to leave the dojo...

But that's stupid. Why should I have to put aside something so valuable as taiji, just to belong to the dojo? Learning both is a good thing, not something to be ashamed of.

09: Sunday


Record cold last night and tonight: 20 degrees. But the day was sunny and — it felt colder that 45 degrees.

I began practice late today, around 14:30, and the sun was in my eyes. Because I felt cold and stiff from sitting and working on the computer, I began with TCA.

Four sets, and... I was concentrating on doing them well, but I wasn't thinking about them and I suddenly noticed that I seemed to have finally caught the spirit of the Sun Style. I found myself moving lightly and nimbly, more quickly. It was a very different feeling.

I was warmed up them but even so, my hands were cold, so I put my gloves on and was reminded of when I was still trying to learn to relax my fingers and keep them slightly separated so that the qi would flow... back then, the gloves taught me that.

Six sets, nice and slow. My left leg had to be reminded, but was working most of the time. Snake was all over the place, but I didn't let it bother me. I'm working on it.

Afterwards, some cooldown qigong— ah, some standing, first. I felt very relaxed, especially my legs. Finally, it was my shoulder that prompted me to quit standing.

Tonfa and sai. The tonfa are much easier now my hands aren't sweating. I think I may even be getting some hips into the swings...

Han bo, and some naihanshi shodan and nidan that made me wonder why I thought I should test. I left off practicing han bo when I started questioning the turns. Until I can check on whether I've got the turns right or not, there's no sense practicing everything wrong.

The sun had set when I finished up. It was still light, and I wanted to do more, but I could feel I was past learning more today.

I wish I knew more about the tajij applications, and push hands. I wish there were a teacher for me now...

I wish I could figure out those dopey video tapes.

10: Monday

11: Tuesday

12: Wednesday


A soft, mild night— even though it's only 46 degrees. The moon is high and bright in a milky sky: only a narrow pattern of light and shadow edges the porch. Soft clouds look painted on: only edges both lighter and darker than the sky define them. The stars are few, but diamond bright, and a luminous white mist fills the meadow. I can hear the water going over the dam, and a light breeze rings the wind chime a single note at a time.

Three sets of TCA. Two sets of 24 form. As I practiced, I thought about the upcoming rank test. By taking the test— pass or fail— I know now I will be committing myself to the dojo and to the responsibility of passing on karate and kobudo and karate-do— of helping Sensei to keep the dojo going, to keep the ideals fo the dojo kun alive in the world.

13: Thursday

14: Friday


It's been windy since yesterday. Very. But not too cold.

Yesterday, I taught my TCA class. Everyone is doing well, and they seem to be enjoying class. Only one has done any taiji before, so everyting is new to them and they feel a bit overwhelmed by trying to coordinate hands and feet. But I tell them not to worry about it. Just practice and it will come clear.

Strange dreams this morning. Very. I was on campus and an old girlfriend of Mr. T's came up to me and told me all about him and about why he got rid of all his previous girlfriends... later I was living in Peter's old barn, and there was a climbing rose growing on the wall at the head of my bed and another vine besides. I decided to cultvate them and create a rose a bower over my bed...

The dreams reminded me of that show Northern Exposure, the episodes where Chris and Bernard were sharing weird dreams because of the aurora. Been a lot of sunspots lately.

15: Saturday


David's birthday today.

The poor pine trees have lost more boughs because of this windstorm. It makes me sad to see so many broken branches.

The wind has died down enough for practice. Six sets or 24 Form, preceeded by three sets of TCA and one of 42 Form, part one. (I really must find a way to get past the first part!)

The TCA went well. I'd really like to know more about sun Style now... The 42 Form... I've got to look at that Strum the Lute, and figure the transition to White Crane. It really tripped me up today.

The six sets were... okay. Snake gave me a hard time: my socks were slipping in my shoes throwing me all off, so I guess my balance wasn't right going in. I think I failed in my mind today before I even began.

I'm wondering now whether taking the rank test is the right thing to do. Do I really want to commit myself to the dojo? Is it where I belong?

Am I taking this all too seriously?


Tonfa, sai, and han bo practice. I'll take my bo down to Jo's and if the wind in the field won't knock me over, I'll practice there.

16: Sunday


Warm today. It was sunny while I practiced; the clouds are moving in now. Only a breeze today.

Six sets. Good sets— if you don't count creeping. Afterwards, I practiced stepping. the problem with my left leg is partly caused by not keeping my left hip straight. Got to strech it out— it plagues my karate stances, too.

After that, practice stepping and blocking. Sometimes, I get it right.

Then Matayoshi no Tonfa Ichi; then Nakamura no Sai...

Some naihanshi shodan.

I'm going over to Jo's now. I'll practice bo there.

17: Monday


One slow set, listening to the crackling of light rain on dry brown leaves.

18: Tuesday


Gorgeous day... 60 degrees... sunny... I should bag work... but I won't.

Six sets— and all but two landed me spang! back on my starting point. Excellent. And I could feel some 1i today, too. Did I mention I began with three sets of TCA and one of 42 Form , Part I?

Between sets right and left of 24, I broke for tea and a few kicks. Kim spoke to me last night about my test. She said being able to kick well enough to keep up with the more advanced class would be a factor in the test. And besides that, last night Sensei noticed I wasn't keeping my blocking had steady, so I wanted to work on that, too.

I miss taiji. I want to know more...

19: Wednesday


Three sets of TCA...

I don't know what to do.

20: Thursday

21: Friday


Sometimes I really dislike the dojo— and Sensei, too.

Last night, after a bunch of "kick and hold it out there" side kicks we got harangued about our lack of serious dedication to practicing our kicks. Oh, Sensei was very tactful in his harangue, but what ticked me off was his complete incomprehension of the fact that the dojo floor mats present the most difficult conditions for kicking, and that his students don't have access to such a floor for everyday practice. Heck, even the floor of the "second" dojo is a hundred times for stable than the mat flooring of the main dojo! So, tell me, Sensei, I wanted to ask, how am I supposed to get good at doing my kicks on this unstable footing when I only have class three hours a week, and only get to practice my kicks for twenty minutes of that time?

What ticked me off even more was later when Sensei Engle told me that not being able to balance on the mats was "all in your head." I suppose the Flying Walendas never had to practice on the high wire, either, but had only to tell themselves it was no different from practicing on the kitchen floor!

Sometimes in the dojo I feel as if I'm surrounded by arrogant jocks who have no understanding of how hard some of us have had to work to come as far as we have.


Two sets of TCA and I have to go to work.

22: Saturday

23: Sunday


Yesterday and today were gorgeous days. Warm and sunny. Indian Summer. The nights have been cold and clear.

Satruday I practiced. TCA— and the follow steps and the rhythm were working. The sets of 24 Form were good, too— though I haven't been able to get the snake to creep so very low as before. But my left hip is loosening up amd I'm getting the foot to root better, so grasping that Peacock's tail is easier.

I've corrected Strum the Lute, too. I noticed I wasn't directing my attention to the front when strumming, and so I didn't have my hands or my balance exactly correct. It seems I was anticipating the move into repusling that moneky, and turning too soon.

I've got myself questioning repsulsing now, too. I step stright back, and then— how, exactly, is the coordination of that turn of the hips/spine supposed to work? Do I shift my weight back before turning? Or does it happen simultaneously? I really wish I had someone to watch.

I've begun to work on finding the correct coordination of returning the tiger to the mountain. It doesn't feel right yet.

I didn't practice karate or kobudo. But the ketas are vivid in my head— guess I'm practicing by visualization.

I'm worrying about committing myself to the dojo. Silly, but I am. I'm not used to placing myself at the mercy of one person's subjective opinion, either. Maybe this is a lesson that I need to master.

24: Monday

25: Tuesday


Today I practiced katas— the linear ones— while I waited for software to load. Tonight, we worked on bunkai for naihanshi nidan and I recieved a couple of good thumps, one on my arm, and one on my leg. I got to work with Michelle, Linda, and Jason— not all at once, of course. But I learned a lot from them... I still have a lot of work to do on "moving in." I just haven't got the knack of moving in to deliver a punch.

26: Wednesday


Achey. I've been achey now for... two weeks. It's the good kind of achey that means my body is growing in strength— and flexibility, too.

My back muscles are getting a workout from putting more effort into punching and blocking. My lower back is bothering me because I'm lengthening my stances, and trying to sink lower.

My hands ache from bo drills.

My ties ache from trying to grab the mats— and sometimes after class they burn from sliding so fast on those rough mats.

My knees ache from kibadachi (horse stance), and my hips ache from kicking.

Right now, I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a bad showing at that rank test. I'm still not strong enough, not flexible enough, not... poised enough.

I believed in myself a few weeks ago, but I don't feel that way now. Why?

I wonder if I'll be able to "rise like smoke" in time for the test. Doesn't seem likely.

I learned in kobudo tonight that my left wrist doesn't bend enough and that is what causes my bo to whack me on the right wrist.

Sensei reminded me to keep my hands closed on the bo. Practice.

27: Thursday

Gorgeous day, but no time to practice...

Three sets: Two of TCA, and one of 24 Form with my eyes closed...

Easy to keep my eyes closed when the sun shines so bright. My balance wasn't very good, but I only opened my eyes the one time my gingers brushed the house, and I ended up one board-width to the inside, and one foot-length behind my starting point.

One set of Nakamura no Sai; one set of Matayoshi no Tonfa Ichi.

28: Friday


Mild and foggy with light rain; it's nearly dark now.

Four sets. Good sets, but nothing special— though my left leg has been cooperating.

Afterwards, I practiced my Sueyoshi Nokun Ichi turns. They're making a lot more sense now. In fact, when I take my time with them, they're nearly automatically correct...

It's all in the details.

29: Saturday

30: Sunday


No practice yesterday: the wind'd knock you over.

Today it's sunny, mild and breezy. Two sets with my eyes closed...

It's interesting. I know from practicing in the dark how much I rely on sight cues for balance, but no sight cues is a while different thing. All you have is the feel of your body moving, and the sense of what's around you is... odd. You seem to feel where you are, what's around you, but you aren't necessarily right about it.

Copyright © 2003 New Moon

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