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October 2003

Pine Dojo Copyright © 2003 New Moon

Pine Dojo
Copyright © 2003 New Moon

01: Wednesday

02: Thursday


A mild day. The breeze is light, sending leaves and "helicopters" flying from the maple trees. Every once in a while, a kamikazi pinecone dives from the pines to crash on the stone wall... Fifteen years in this house and this is the first time I've found bits of smashed pinecones on the porch. I don't know if they're being blown there or if birds and animals are bringing them to munch on.

Sai. Truncheons. They look like devil daggers...

The thing I appreciated most while geting acquainted with them was that I could tase them. they seem to be made of cast iron. There's a coating of some sort on them, like shellac... something, but it doesn't seal the surface by any means. I can taste—

Here Ma called to say her electricity had gone off. I went to get in the truck, and the door fell off! Guess it's one of those days, after all, and here I'd been thinking how good practice felt!

It did, too. You know how, some days, your body feels light and doesn't seem to always be getting in the way? Today was like that.

I started with sai, just continuing to get the feel of them. I can only remember pieces of Nakamura no Sai. I can taste the sai, especially when my hands sweat.

Then tonfa. Last night, Sensei had Gabrielle and Stephie doing Matayoshi no Tonfa Ichi, and I got it straightened out as I watched. My clunky hickory tonfa may not be as easy to manipulate as others, but working with them will pay off by making me stronger. (And if I don't learn to relax in the over-the-shoulder swings, I'll have lots of bruises on my shoulders from the knobs on the handles!)

Taiji felt good. Not perfect,but good. A lot was right today, and I realized that I don't have to beat myself up about snake. I'll get there. All I have to do is relax and get out of my own way.

03: Friday

04: Saturday

05: Sunday

Friday... I had to take the truck in to have the door welded back on... I can't remember practicing.

Saturday, I was supposed to meet Joe, but I had to cancel because the alarm on the truck got screwed up when they welded the door back on the truck. I haven't used the alarm for nine years because it never worked right. It was turned off all this time. Now it's in a state where it's half-way on and I can't turn it all the way off. I have been able to get the truck started each time I've tried— so far! But each time it took a different combination of manouevers to get it running, and I didn't want to chance not being able to find the right combination and getting stuck out in the wilds of Connecticut. Rats. Joe and I will have to meet another time.

Saturday was cold and rainy. I did get a few good sets in, and some practice with the sai.

Today was beautiful. Three sets... they felt good, but I could feel a cramp in my left shoulder. Tension. Sai practice helped that.

It's interesting to me how... natural it feel working with the sai— even with my bum thumb. The sai are dangerous, though, and I will have to continue to remind myself to go slowly.

Around five I wandered out onto the back porch and found myself practicing again. Very slow sets. I'm getting a better balance on my feet: there's a straighter— clearer? transmission of qi/power coming from my feet to my arms— especially on the right side. I still have a bit of a "kink" in the left leg— in fact, tonight I've been feeling twinges in my left hip, so I think I'm on the right track.

I've left off worrying about the dopey snake. It will come.

Today I noticed that I've lost power in Fair Lady Works the Shuttles. I think I'm hurrying it.

In Repulsing the Monkey, I noticed that I can make the arm movement into one continuous push. Duh! Heretofore, I've pretty much done it as two moves, felt it as two moves, kind of a part one and part two thing. Part one gathers up a handful of qi and pushes it forward past my ear; part two pushes the qi forward into my imaginary opponent as my other arm pulls the opponent in with the turning of my waist. Part one goes with the foot stepping bakcwards; part two goes with the foot drawing in. Now, if I can get the arm movements to always be continuous instead of "breaking" in the middle for the change, I bet my foot movements will smooth out too!

I wonder if I'll ever be able to duplicate the coordination David has in that last "pull-push" after the punch. His hands seem to move so smoothly from the punch to pulling at the opponent at just the right moment... Maybe when I've been practicing for twenty years!

06: Monday

07: Tuesday


Didn't have time for practice this morning— but I got the truck down to the autobody guy and he turned the alarm completely off. Yay!

Beautiful day today. I was tempted to skip work. But I went in because I had promised to do a computer system software upgrade. It took the whole afternoon. The only good thing was that I could spend all the "wait time" practicing grasping the peacock's tail. My left leg still doesn't quite "root," but it's getting better.

I need to work on that for karate, too. My right forward stance— taiji and karate— has no root and no power. My left ankle still doesn't flex enough to let me get the weight onto my heel. And my left hip need to be loosened up, too. Rats.

Ananku is messing me up something awful. It's those blocks. I get flustered and can't keep them straight. Also tonight I was breathing wrong. I kept exhaling on the blocks and I couldn't reverse it. Ugh!

I have a few notes tonight:

  • Fix elbow blocks in naihanshi nidan<.../li>
  • Fix wrists (keep them straight)...
  • Fix back hand (snap the wrist!)...
Lots of notes.


Today I feel... frustrated. I feel as if I can't do anything right.

A couple of raggedy sets of 24 Form and then I switched to katas trying to find something new I could "get."

Ananku... naihanshis shodan and nidan.. I know— or think I do— what is supposed to be happening in those katas, but...

Maybe I'm just getting ahead of myself. I want to feel in karate the way I feel in taiji: knowing the power is there, right below the surface, almost within my conscious control... But I haven't done any of the katas anywhere near as many times as I've done the sets of 24 Form.


All six who tested at the dojo last Saturday passed. Linda now has a higher rank in kobudo (sankyu/brown 3) than she does in karate (yonkyu/green 4). Interesting.

*sigh* I have so much yet to work on.

08: Wednesday

09: Thursday


Last night when I got in I opened the back door...

Mild... mist in the meadow was luminous... moon like a flood light high above in a milk blue sky...

One set of TCA. No power; no roots. I think I need someone to explain Sun style to me.

Today, said practice to begin. I can't remember the proper sequence of moves in Nakamura no Sai. I have the pieces, but not the picture of the puzzle. Did a bit of extra work on the double strike/block from kibadachi. I'm better punching with my right; my left arm/wrist doesn't want to stay straight when "punching" holding a sai.

Next, review of bo katas. Sueyoshi nokun Ichi had me for a minute, but I remembered the diagonal sequence correctly after getting it wrong the first time through!

Two sets of 24 Form. No power, no nothing. Pfui!

Katas. Seisan (trying to breathe correctly); ananku (trying to figure out why I end so far from starting position).

As, well. Time to go to the dentist.

10: Friday

11: Saturday

12: Sunday

Rain today, but mild...

I don't think I got to practice on Friday. I felt exhausted when I got up and for the rest of the day. I fell asleep early, too. Very.

Saturday was a beautiful day. I spend a while drilling with tonfa and sai. My shoulders get tired, so I know I need to build up my strength...

Last night, I noticed some achiness in my hands and forearms. Sai and tonfa are very good for strengthening hands.

I remember doing some sets yesterday, but there was... nothing there. I felt very discouraged.

Today, I did six nice, slow (seven minute) sets. They were very... uneven. But once, as I began, I felt my feet rooting differently, as if maybe my feet reaaly were attaching to the porch boards.

After taiji, sai, tonfa, han bo, and bo. I keep hoping I'll find the same feeling of flow and continuity and solidity I get from the taiji, but, no, I haven't been at it long enough, yet.

At least today I remembered all the katas correctly. I even got through han bo backwards after a couple of tries.

It's nice listening to the rain on the leaves— thought so many have fallen it looks as if the yard is decorated for a pary with big colorful yellow, red, and orange confetti on the green, green grass.

13: Monday

14: Tuesday


Yesterday, three sets; today, one.

15: Wednesday


There was a storm during the night, and the wind was out of the south and southeast.: today my porch— my dojo was covered in dull gold pine needles and orange and yellow maple leaves. I had to sweep before I could practice. I think I was right when I decided Kwan Yin must be the spirit watching over my dojo.

Three sets. Opening form felt very powerful each time. And the sets felt good, but once or twice per set I felt a p"hitch" in my moves that broke the flow.

I also have been having trouble with kicks. My right hip hurts and... expecting pain makes it worse.

My overall energy level has been low for the past few days. My body doesn't want to be pushed... I wonder again if I'm too old.

16: Thursday


Today the porch is covered in mapel seeds. time was short, so I left the, crunchy, underfoot.

One set. My left let still doesn't "power" like my right. Practice! And I haven't recaptured the incredible coordination of Repulsing the Monkey— but I know it's in there! Snake? Some day.

My left foot is sore on the bottom. I noticed it last night after kobudo. The mats are really strengthening my toes— Nakamura no Sai with all it's turns certainly give on'es stance a thorough workout.

We've completed the kata now— though I can't say I remember the last moves in the right order yet. there's a jum and block that will be hard for me. Either I have to forget about it completely or I've got to convince myself I can do it.

Yesterday I found myself wondering if hypnotherapy could convince me I can do the jumps— and snake!

No one dropped sai during class. (50 pushups if you drop your weapon!)

The latest T'ai Chi Magazine arrived Tuesday. I haven't even had a chance to unwrap it.

17: Friday


Three good sets (left)...

What am I going to do for a teacher?

18: Saturday


Pale, October day. Cool. I swept all the maple seed off the porch before practice. The sky is lightly overcast.

Six good sets... nothing special. Rats.

Snake is coming along. I stay more relaxed during the sttempts and so I can drop and keep my weight on my heel— but I still have to learn to control the drop: if I drop too low I haven't enought strenfth to complete the move. I get stuck. I did that once today. But my weight stayed on my heel!

My left leg needs more practice "driving" in peacock.

Sai practice. Lots of drilling to get the sai positioned correctly— the prings have to be turned to catch whatever was struck or blocked. I think I'm getting the hang of it. Also drills to get the overhead strikes right. The arms come down, "whipping" the sai strike. I think I've got that. And the jump and block isn't so difficult, really. You just have to believe you can jump. (And, for a wonder, I do!)

In class Thursday night, Sensei had Angie demonstrate Seisan. It's a tough kata. Angie did it better than I've ever seen her do any kata. She was really generating some power. I belive she's improved so much because she is now teaching. Truly there's nothing like teaching for learning. I wish I were up to teaching... some day.


Bo practice at Jo's. I felt I had a dozen thumbs.

19: Sunday

20: Monday

21: Tuesday


No practice Sunday. I didn't know where to go next.

No taiji practice today... I wasn't avoiding practice, but I think I need a break.

Had an excellent karate and kobudo workout tonight. I arrived early and there were no spectators at the 6 o'clock advanced class. Sensei had them working on kobudo. I watched for a few minutes while Sensei gave some pointers and demonstrated a few of the finer points in Shima Ijiri Bo Ichi, but the new dojo space was calling to me, so I changed and went to practice my own bo katas.

I still have a lot to work on, but the new mats are slippery, so I had no trouble with the spinning blocks in sueyoshi nokun ichi. In fact, on the first one where it's only a half turn, I had trouble stopping!

After that, I practiced Nakamura no Sai. Luckily, Sam came in and had a free moment and was kind enough to show me the ending. I practiced it on my own then, and so it was fresh in my mind when Linda arrived. She wanted to practice it, too, so we practiced together. We practice enough that I have the kata now firmly in mind. And the new mats make the last block both easier and more hazardous. Your left foot can slip out easily to the side when you come down, but then your left foot can slip out easily to the side when you come down.

After that, a bit of han bo— no, that was while I was waiting. Lets's see... After a while some new students came in and were waiting for their class. I did naihanshi nidan with them. One new girl was too shy to work on anything... Guess I should've just pulled her in and set her practicing.

Linda and I practiced ananku, too. Then it was time for class.

Class was excellent. Blocking and kicking practice. I still have trouble keeping a good, solid stance for punching and blocking, but I think my kicks are improving— thought I need to be more economical in my moves so I can regain my "ready stance" more quickly.

We practiced some kumite (sparring) drills. I was working with Joe. He's a big guy and he gave me a few good thumps.

After class, Sensei told us that the handsome copy of the Dojo Kun in the red frame that's now hanging in the shinza was a gift from Master Toma. Master Toma is getting on in years, but he is a master of calligraphy as well as karate and he did a beautiful job. I told Sensei I hope Master Toma know how much his gift is appreciated.


The sun coming out lured me onto the porch. Two quick sets of the first part of 42 Form, one quick set of 24. My balance and control have improved— but not enough!

22: Wednesday

23: Thursday

24: Friday

Karate tonight was fun— in a dreadful sort of way. Sensei had us doing katas as fast as we could go, and many of us blanked out entirely! I thought I knew my katas, but the only one I got through was wansu. Going so fast and having the kistraction of everyone else moving at their own paces is a real test of concentration. You don't realize how much you rely on sight cues from others until you try this exercise.

I'm not very fast anyway. I don't have the strength (though I am improving!). And I'm not used to ignoring everyone else, either. I've been trained by taiji to match my speed and moves to others. Given those two circumstances, it's not surprising how badly I did...

If I practice with someone very fast, would I get very fast, too? I'll have to get Jon to work with me.

Tonight angie made a point of coming over to tell me I have very good "floor kicks." Those are the kicks you do lying on your side on the floor. It was nice to hear that. Now, if I can only get the rest of my kicks working! (Never mind everything else!)

Jon has asked Angie to coach him for his rank test in December. He'll probably do very well and get his gokyu (green 5) rank in both karate and kobudo.

Today I wrote a note to David to tell him not to be discouraged about not getting enough new students to hold classes. I remember when I was teaching enrollments went by cycles and sometimes you just didn't get any new students. I said to just keep on holding the classes and the students will come. I hope I did right.

25: Saturday


Happy birthday to me! It's a beautiful day. Ma gave me a wooden taiji practice sword. Yay! Now all I have to do is figure out the form from the video tape!

Three seven-minute sets, right. Six as-fast-as-I-could-go, left. The first two of those went just over three minutes, then I put the timer on the stove on and tried besting two-and-a-half minutes. I can do that.

I was a lot more stable at speed than I expected. A lot. Only the snake really got me— and kick with right heel. Evidently I haven't been getting my left leg properly rooted for the kick. I'll work on that...

Afterwards, I worked on naihanshis shodan and nidan. I did them quickly to "set" them in mind for the next time Sensei tells us to go "all out." Going quickly kept me from thinking too much... but I need to practice slowly, too, so I get my balance as I do in taiji.

Han bo practice. Bo practice. And then I decided to have a shower and go for a walk.

26: Sunday


Overcast and mild. A bit of drizzle tossed in the shifting wind. The last of the leaves are brilliant yellow and orange.

Six sets, slowly. Frustrating. I can feel my right foot rooting, feel the yung chuan opening up, and the qi flowing, but my left foot... only sometimes. The problem is in the ankle. I can't bend it enough so the heel and toes evenly distribute the "push" when I'm in right forward stance. Even if I take a shorter step, the weight remains mostly on the toes. Very frustrating— but at least I know what the problem is. And I can work on it.

You'd think that after all this time there wouldn't be so much idiosyncratic body development to work on... I wonder: is that because I haven't got a teacher watching me like a hawk, monitoring my progress, making sure my qi is properly directed? *sigh*

I began with sai practice. Nakamura no Sai is a fun kata. Today I noticed my breathing. For the most part, I seem to be inhaling on the blocks, and exhaling on the strikes. But my breathing needs a lot more work.

How am I going to get the left foot working? Rats.

27: Monday


Two sets, neither good nor bad. Got to work on that leg.

28: Tuesday


Tonight I found out that I can get up off the floor from a sitting-legs-out position by putting my feet flat and pushing myself up with my hands. I never used to be able to do that. Cool. (But I'm still working on "rising like smoke" from a kneeling position... Soon.)


Two sets. I feel stiff today. Energyless. My left leg annoys me.

Sai drills. I found myself stepping very sloppily on the strikes last night during practice. I need practice stepping in general. I made myself jump high on the block. Why is it we get afraid of jumping when we grow up? Silly.

TCA. Very relaxing. After that, I reviewed the TCA warmup routine.

29: Wednesday

30: Thursday

31: Friday


I've got some nasty bruises from kobudo class on Wednesday. Sensei had us doing bo-sai drills. I was paired with Sam. We both have control— Sam moreso than I by far (he's a shodan)— enough so that we can go a little bit hard. My strikes don't give Sam much of a workout; and my blocks leave much to be desired; but, even so, we made a lot of good wood chips hacking away at the branches Sensei brough in for us to use in the drills. And I have some good bruises because I haven't quite got down the techniques of blocking. When I got to Ma's after class, I went looking for ice to put on my pinkie and wrist, but there was none in the freezer, so I ended up applying an old bag of frozen cauliflower to my wounds. I ate my supper with my hand and wrist resting on the bag. My pinkie is swollen but not too sore or discolored. I have a blue lump on my wrist. Happily, I was able to avoid getting whacked on it tonight during bunkai.

I felt stupid tonight. Sheera and I wer working on bunkai for ananku. I've only done it once and she never had, but Sensei left us to work it out. We were pretty bad. About five minutes before the end of class, Sensei sent Gabrielle over to help us. That was excellent, but I wished we had more time with her.

Jon has signed up to test for his green belt in December— I think I've mentioned this. I noticed that Kevin has signed up to test for sankyu (brown). I'm thinking he'll be skipping yonkyu (green 4), but maybe I'm mistaken— or maybe Sensei told him to test for sankyu. Kevin is very good.

Jon convinced Rose to sign up, too. She took her name off the list last time because she didn't really feel ready then.

I've been toying with the idea of signing up myself... I wonder. If taiji had belts, and the levels of skill were those I've seen in the dojo, I believe I would be a shodan— snake notwithstanding!

Today, this morning, I taught my first TCA Class. Jo's mom and some of her friends were interested, so I agreed to teach. I have no feeling for how this will go...

We met at Jo's. I wish I had a big space to teach in.


Two good sets in the mild, breezy, sunshine with ladybugs (Chinese ones) everywhere, and Kwan Yin watching over me and my Pine Tree Dojo. (A friend at work presented me with a little brass Kwan Yin statue.)

I'm thinking I've a mind to test for green myself.

Copyright © 2003 New Moon

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