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September 2003

Press In High Summer Copyright © 2003 New Moon

Press In High Summer
Copyright © 2003 New Moon

01: Monday

02: Tuesday


Bo and han bo practice. I have no power.

03: Wednesday


Tonight in kobudo we were doing drills with the bo, and Sensei came to watch me. I was having a terrible time getting power to the bo. He stood next to me and said, "Keep going. I haven't figured it out yet." In a minute he did figure it out: I wasn't using the "twist" created in my hips by stepping to drive the bo. No power. It's been like that for weeks. I couldn't figure it out. But Sensei could and he did.

Later, Sensei came over and told me that I was doing very well— in all my bo katas. He said my form was good. It was very nice to hear that...

By the time I've done the bo katas as many times as I've done 24 Form, I may begin to get a clue. But not yet.

04: Thursday

05: Friday

06: Saturday


Sensei awarded my a blue belt Thursday night. We had a big class and everyone came up to congratulate me. It felt very good. Yay!

07: Sunday

08: Monday

Patience is the key. I figured that out today. Taiji or karate, you must be patient and allow the move to happen. You don't move your hand or your foot or whatever. You set everything in motion and then allow it to unfold without forcing or hurrying. Wait. Be patient. Don't anticipate...

Beautiful day today. I did five deliciously leisurly sets this morning. I was feeling patient and unhurried and that's when I learned about letting the moves happen.

In the evening, I practiced bo katas at Jo's. The grass dragged at my feet, and the ground in the field sloped, but that was okay... I wasn't patient. But I worked on a few things and drilled with my bo.

Just now I went out to see the moon and found myself trying 42 Form. I'd watched the tape today— how can anyone learn from a tape? It's impossible!— and... Dr. Lam and David definitely have very different approaches to that form— I did a few sets of TCA, one of 24 Form and came in.

09: Tuesday


All I want to do today is cry and scream...

I was reading the article "Standing Practice in T'ai Chi Yiquan and Xingyi" by Tu-Ky Lam in T'ai Chi Magazine, volume 27, number 3. Good article. I've experienced the feeling generated by the postures. But I need to practice them more— and do more visualization.

I was practicing han bo... there's a move where you step from a left-hand strike in left seisan dachi (forward bow) into a two-handed level block in kibadachi (horse stance). I've been moving my right foot into the kibadachi, but it occurs to me I could move the left as easily, and that would take me into my attacker... which could be a good thing under some circumstances. I'm going to have to ask Sensei about this one.

Yesterday, I tried learning 42 Form from the tape again. I can't put it together. Honestly. I don't know how anyone can learn from a video.

Last night, Eric worked with me on the turn in shima ijiribo ichi. In practicing on my own, again, I find there may be two ways to do it: stepping into the block and stepping away. Two different applications? Me being dense? I'll have to ask.

10: Wednesday

11: Thursday


I feel I've been negligent in the keeping of this journal. A lot has been happening in my practice in both taiji and karate, but, when it comes to putting my thoughts down, my mental focus is nil and any cogent thoughts I may have had scatter to the four winds.

Last night in kobudo, Sensei again spotted the roughness in the turn in shima ijiribo ichi. Eric had got me mostly on the right track, but I hadn't got in enough practice to make it "stick."

Last night, Sensei emphasized putting power in the moves. In the drills and in the katas, he had us trying our best to find the power to drive the bo. Watching him— and he made sure I was in the group watching— was very helpful: now I have a picture of what should be happening in my mind's eye. If I take some time to do some visualization meditation, maybe my body will start to get the idea... I'm pretty sure I was dreaming about all this last night. It's a start.

Taiji still worries me. David hasn't answered my request for a recommendation to a teacher, and all the reading I've been doing in T'ai Chi Magazine has my head spinning because I don't know what I need to do to improve my practice and there's so much interesting stuff out there...

Joe has offered to teach me 42 Form. He used to compete. I hope we can find a time and place to get together.

I did practice taiji yesterday. A little. When I got home, the moon was so bright, and the night so delightful, I couldn't help being drawn onto the back porch. How beautiful it was! I did a bunch of sets of TCA. I wanted to do more, but I was so tired finally that I couldn't concentrate. Reluctantly, I went to bed.

Today I did two sets of 24 Form. I just couldn't get it together... Maybe it's the after effects of the full moon.

12: Friday

13: Saturday

14: Sunday

15: Monday

16: Tuesday

17: Wednesday


Some squats— one legged— on the machine. It helps my knees.

Three sets, left. So-so. I need direction.

Worked on the details of my bo katas. Still can't find the power in myself— even though I know the theory and can see it in others.

Still no word from David on a teacher. But Joe's offer stands— and he tells me he knows the "new, recently improved" 42 Form.

Absolutely gorgeous day.

18: Thursday


Got out of work early today (worked long on Tuesday).

Mild today, and breezy because of Isabel. I took the lanterns in and will batten down the rest of the porch stuff later.

Last night kobudo went well. Sensei gave me some extra attention, I assume because he can see how much trouble I have finding the power... It seems, you have to keep the driving hip back when you step— it's like punching, really, but when you're holding the bo it's difficult to do.

After class, I thanked Sensei for the extra help. I told him I felt I was "getting closer to seeing the dawn." He laughed. And he showed me again how the punch translates into moving the bo. Sensei seems so pleased to teach weapons— it's his favorite thing, I think. I just hope I can learn to do it well.

I just did three sets of 24 Form. Pretty good, but I got tense a couple of times and over-balanced. I was worrying again: I keep thinking my forms are straying farther and farther from what they ought to be and that soon no one will be able to fix them— or want to!

19: Friday

20: Saturday


I just saw something odd. Walking back from Ma's just now, I paused to look at the sky. Isabel has passed us by and the sky is clearing. When I looked up, I saw a "hole" in the clouds, stars shining throgh. The "hole" was shaped like a fat, graphic arrow, fletched and all, very sharp in outline; and the arrow was pointing directly at Mars, which was shining just behind some thin clouds half-an-arrow length away. Odd—

I hope I wasn't supposed to notice something important or apprehend some profound cosmic truth. All I noticed was... well, I just told you.

Last night's karate class was excellent. Sensei Engel and Kim-san took the class, as Sensei had something to attend to. We worked on blocking and kicking and also shihonuke.

Sensei Engel showed us a new way of understanding the "block and side scoop" in shihonuke (the block catches the opponent's bo ; then you pull back and throw him down and to the side), and he reminded us— as Sensei has done often enough— that jabs are not made by pulling the bo back, but by moving forward from where you are.

Sensei Engel also had us practicing staying out of reach in karate blocking practice, and he had us practicing double kicks.

Sensei Engle concentrated on showing us a different way of seeing the moves we're doing so we would better understand how and why we're doing them. I really enjoy his classes.

And there was a very interesting new exercise he showed the class before mine. I tried it as I watched from the sidelines. It was very interesing. Try it yourself and see: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Now, twist around to the back, allowing your feet to turn as they must, bend your knees, and touch your hand to your opposite heel. Cool, huh?


Four sets of 24 Form. I've decided it's not the number of sets I do, but whether I learn anything from the one's I do.

I'm getting better at "rooting" my left heel. Turns out that's important in both taiji and karate. The qi has to go through with the heel down and the "bubbling well" open, or you've got no "roots."

I felt the qi today, especially in Closing Form. When my hands descended I know it was the pressure of the qi against the palms of my hands that helped raise me up. Neat.

Two sets of TCA. Probably the best I've ever done— though far from perfect! The power in the follow steps comes and goes.

I have a lot of notes in my karate notebook. Little lists, bullets next to which I've written "Fix...", and after which I have drawn a box to check. Some of the boxes are checked.

It was only a little while ago — two weeks?— that such notes were impossible. Then I didn't have the right way of thinking about my katas; I didn't know how to tell myself what to fix. Now I'm seeing the bits and pieces and I can say, "Fix..." and know what to practice... "Fix..."

21: Sunday


Today I began with standing. I amazes me how much easier it is nowadays. It was quite pleasant to stand watching the bees and other small bugs swirling through sunlight and shadow around the goldenrod. I don't know how long I stood. 20 minutes, perhaps. Half-way through I lowered my arms and took off my glasses so my eyes could relax, too. I quit when I felt as if there was a ton pressing on my feet and I could no longer relax.

Two sets of the first quarter of 42 Form; a few sets of TCA; then three or four sets of 24. The standing made me very aware of the distribution of balance on my feet, and so I was much better at keeping the weight distributed evenly, which in turn kept me from "going over my knees," and kept my butt tucked under.

After that, I worked on the fixes to my bo katas. The work Sensei did with me last week is making an improvement, and I think I maybe soon have the knack of working my hips so my bo will have a bit of power.

22: Monday


My concentration has gone all to bits today. I think I could get it back if I had time... but I have to go to work. Rats.

One set of 24, one of TCA, and one of naihanshi shodan... the kata was best.

Oh! How I wish I could take the day off!

23: Tuesday


Summer is over. *sigh*

Yesterday, as I was coming back from the computer repair shop, I went by way of the Green and stopped to do a set on the grass. The footing was very uneven— clumpy— and because it's a public place, I was on my mettle to be very sure of my footing on each move. The set went very well, but I did wobble twice. It was a beautiful afternoon.

Today, the wind in is the southeast and rain is spitting onto the back porch. There's a coolness in the wind and it's strong, but it isn't a qi-sucking wind and practice felt good...

I had the music on. I noticed when it got to the 6 minute pieces, and I started a new set with it. I didn't think about the music after that Opening Form, I just enjoyed the movements. When I got to Closing Form, I noticed the music again: the last chord sounded as my hands came down. My feet came together as the chord faded away. I couldn't've timed it like that if I'd been trying!

The snake has me psyched again. Karate, too. I'm afraid my legs aren't strong enough... and so they aren't. Psyched. Sometimes, in the back of my head I hear a small voice saying, "You're too old." Sometimes I believe it.

Last night, it seemed as if everyone at the dojo who was waiting for class was practicing han bo. Even Mr. K. I was watching him and he seemed to be a bit rusty, so, at his invitation, I helped him out. (Strange me knowing the kata better than he, but then, I have practiced it more recently.) He asked me afterwards if I'd learned the whole kata. I thought I had, but I asked what he meant. He told me that I only do the first half; it reverses after that. Cool! He said there are two slight differences: one is in the sequence of the kicks, and I don't remember the other difference. Next time I have the chance, I'll get an explanation of the transition.

I asked Eric about the double jab (neck, then groin) in shima ijiribo ichi. He says I've got the mechanics right. I also asked him about the power in the jabs, asked where the drive was coming from. He thought it was a good question. On the "groin side" jab, we figured it was working like a downwards side block. I'll have to work on it some more before I really "get" it.

24: Wednesday


Yesterday afternoon David called Ma and told her he was cancelling Tuesday night lessons. Ma asked if there were another class she could attend. He said no. Ma was very upset.

I don't know what to think. Why couldn't David have suggested she come to one of his other classes— or doesn't he have any?

Two sets. Six minutes each, exactly.

David is a puzzle. Why'd he cancel the class?

25: Thursday

Three sets (right). I had the music on... I was very... uneven of pace. But it made my think about timing. I remember seeing David timing moves differently— moving quickly to block then slowing again. I expect taiji is just like karate where sometimes you step slowly, then punch or block quickly. And there are some "sets" of moves that are supposed to be done quickly, some slowly...

There's a rhythm because it's a martial Art and the moves have purpose: they're meant to be used against a real opponent. Rhythm. I'll have to think about that.

I started today with bo drills. Diagonal blocks, backwards and forwards. Some katas then. Han bo, left and right.

Last night we practiced bo jabbing accuracy. Straight jabs at a stationary bo; low jabs at a shoe. As Sensei told us, "Using a shoe for a target is good practice. It's almost exactly the size of a foot."

Jon is very good at shooting his bo out to tag the tip of another (my) stationary bo. Very good. I've got a few doinks in the ends of my bo from the nice solid hits he made. I do okay with jabbing myself. I'm good hitting my shoe. And in straight jabs, I come very close to the target, usually grazing it. But on the straight jabs, I'm not strong enough to keep the bo absolutely steady— and my hands were sweaty and the bo was sticking to them. (Excuses, excuses!)

Sensei put together the annual package to send to Master Toma. Ususally he asks only the kids to contribute, but this year he invited us all to send pictures, poems, drawings, and whatnot. I made pictures for Master Toma and wrote a short letter. The pictures were a portrait of Sensei, and a picture of Sensei conferring with his senior students last March at the rank tests when Sensei was dressed to the nines. I liked them. In the letter, I told Master Toma that I believe it's because of his teaching of my teachers that the dojo is such an excellent place, and I thanked him and told him that I was honored to be a part of it.

But Jon thought up a really good present for Master Toma. He made a cloth wall-hanging and put his hand print on it and drew the kanji for "bond." As he explained it, he feels there's a bond with Master Toma because he's our teacher's teacher, and our teacher's teacher's teacher, too. He's right. We're all part of the line. And Jon said he could imagine Master Toma getting the present and laying his hand of top of Jon's handprint... yeah. Cool.

26: Friday

27: Saturday

Ma went over to the Lodge this morning to ask David if she could join the 42 Form class. There are a couple of other ladies Ma's age in the class. But David said no. Ma wasn't particularly upset by David turning her down, but she misses classes, and when David cancelled the Tuesday class he never said whether he was even going to schedule more classes. Ma told me she actually asked if he was trying to get rid of her! He reassured her that he wasn't, and told her he was trying to get a daytime Sun Style class going, but...

I spoke to Cindy and she told me that the other old ladies aren't any better at taiji 42 Form than Ma. So we figure they just got "grandfathered in" to the class because they were doing Saturday classes when David switched it from 24 Form to 42 Form. Obviously, he can't kick them out now, but Ma's out of luck. Ma did say she had the impression while she was talking with David that he is afraid someone— not specifically her#151; will fall and get injured. If that's true, I can see where he wouldn't want to let any more "seniors" join the class... though I must say, I can't see why they shouldn't, either. None of them have fallen, and practice improves balance.

In any case, I don't think it wasn't very nice of David to cancel the Tuesday class before he set up the new class. I don't think he realizes how important regular classes are to his students. But he's always been... a little oblivious. Since we've known him he's done things like cancelling on short notice, and not letting people know about changes or new classes... Sometimes, I wonder about that man.

I took yesterday off from practice. It was pleasant to spend the evening reading and not beat myself up about it because I wasn't practicing.

Thursday night Sensei sent three of us off to work on ananku with Sensei Engel. When he sent us off, he told Tim (Sensei Engel) to be sure "she knows what she has to work on," meaning me. (Everything?) So he paid a lot of attention to me.

"Keep that knee pushed out... more...more!... Don't wind up that shuto; it's got to be fast... Take more of a step on those turns so you'll end up in a good solid stance..." It was excellent. But we didn't get through the whole kata.

After class, I stopped and talked to Gabrielle. She's a brown belt, a little bit of a thing— I think she'll be turning 11 in October (her birthday is the same day as mine). Anyway, she is excellent in both karate and kobudo, and I've noticed her keeping a lot of notes in her notebook, so I asked her about how she "explains" the stuff she has to work on in her notebook. She showed me her notes. She has pictures and diagrams and explanations. Even so, she told me she doesn't always remember exactly what she meant by the notes. But she gave me some very good advice about how to describe where in the katas I'm talking about, and what moves I mean. (Divide the katas up into beginning, middle, end, then which move; if you're talking about a punch, jab, kick, or block, remember to give the target.) Gabrielle draws pictures of stuff like hand positions.

I have to say I've felt... intimidated about taking notes. I guess I feel that since they're "notes" and my notebook is small, I shouldn't get too wordy. But, until I invent a symbol system, what else is there? Or maybe I should just get a bigger notebook.

28: Sunday


Three sets in the humid dark. Nothing special, but I could feel the qi in my hands...

I spent all afternoon transcribing journal entries. There's so much good that I would forget if I didn't keep this journal. And then I'd probably quit both taiji and karate.

My right shoulder is hurting. I was doing pushups on the railing Friday, and now it hurts. I did a few more tonight to see if that'd "take the kink out." Alas, it didn't. I took some pills.

This afternoon, I worked on ananku and did some bo drills. I'm trying to "get" it.

Shugyo. Train. Practice. I'm too tired. I'm too discouraged. But if I don't practice, there is nothing but weariness and despair.

29: Monday

30: Tuesday


I didn't go to work today [Monday]: I just wanted some time.

Practice. The sun is just low enough at noon to shine in my eyes when I settle in Opening Form.

Four sets. Uneven. And I couldn't kick. My right leg wouldn't straighten out until the third set, and the snake was bugging me something awful!

I've got it into my head that I can't do it, and I know I've got to convince my self otherwise. On the third set, I made myself just drop down on my right leg... and I went down, and my foot stayed flat, but my torso bent forward and next thing I knew I had grabbed the railing and was falling backwards thinking I was about to hurt myself and wouldn't be able to get up—

Stupid. I was okay. But why am I in such a state about it? I can't figure that out.

It took me a few minutes before I could make myself do another set, but I figured I'd better, or I'd be psyched-out about more than just that dopey snake!

Afterwards, I practice ananku— the turns, really. I went up and down turning and blocking left and right... stepping left and blocking right is harder, but it's improving.

Unfortunately, the blocks in ananku are different from those in seisan. In ananku, the non-punching hand comes back to the obi; in seisan, it stays in front, near the elbow, protecting. As a consequence, in class tonight, my blocks were all messed up.

Tonight Sensei had us working on han bo. It was excellent! He corrected me on a few things, and I got a lot of my questions answered. Neat. But now I have a whole list of things to work on:

  • Mind thumbs! (I have a tendency to let my thumb lay along the han bo, instead of keeping it wrapped around.)
  • Don't grab too high. Let the bo come back a bit so you don't have to reach for it.
  • Hand-palm. The hand goes out with fingers extended straitish until just before contact when the heel of the hand thrusts forward and the fingers go upwards. What you're doing is striking someone in the chin with the heel of the hand and letting your fingers go for his eyes; then your hand slides up to grab the hair and pull the head down to meet the upcoming knee.
What else... I know there was more...

You should see Sensei do han bo. It's impressive the way he makes that stick whistle! (Did I tell you that Sensei wrote— choreographed? han bo? Yup.)

I told Sensei tongit how well the notebook is working out for me. And I mentioned that Gabrielle had given me some very good advice about making notes, too. It was an excellent class.


I started with han bo practice... I remembered a nother note: on the block after the one-legged strike, be sure to use both hands in a push-pull to power the block to the left side. Also, when bringing the bo back after the second groin strike, be sure it's pointing center back.

I practiced heel-palm. Slowly. It's a taiji hand, just like in brushing knee when the hand comes by your ear— though maybe a little more straight at the start.

After that, a bit of shihonuke to try out what I saw Sensei doing last night. It's hard to describe what I see in my head. But he powers the bo as none of us do.

One— no, two sets of Matayoshi no Tonfa Ichi, but I'm not sure I've got it right.

Fours sets of 24 Form, nice and relaxed with my weight properly distributed on my feet. I felt very balanced. And I stayed relaxed, even when I got to snake. Much better!

Copyright © 2003 New Moon

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