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August 2004

Summer Dragonflies by Lizzie © 2004 New Moon.

Summer Dragonflies by Lizzie
Copyright © 2004 New Moon

01: Sunday


Blue moon. It's shining like a spotlight, clouds scudding across it madly. The wind feels cool, but the air is hot and humid. The sweat was running off me as I practiced— no "low light" balance problems tonight with the moon so bright!

I went out to Peaceful Wolf T'ai Chi today for a workwhop with Jonas Sanchez. It was supposed to be a Push Hands workshop about using the first four kinds of energy (peng, liu, ji, ahn), and that's where we started, but... with Jonas you always seem to end up traveling a different path to places much more interesting than you would have imagined.

We started learning the push hands, then he decided that we needed to know more about peng energy, so we worked with that, and, after a while, we were talking about spiral energy and silk reeling— the same silk reeling that I learned at the workshop in Willimantic with Zhang Zhi Jun...

Today, working with it, I really began to understand it. And the exercises I learned from the article in T'ai Chi Magazine where you trace the T'ai Chi circle, turning your hands palm-up, palm-down as you go, all clicked for me. It all makes a lot more sense now.

I like Jonas a lot. Not only does he really know taiji, but he is very articulate. Learning from him is a wonderful experience— truly full of wonder...

For instance, he knows something about karate that I was only beginning to suspect: the moves are intended to take advantage of the opponent's pressure points, just as the Chinese Martial Arts do. Jonas is of the opinion that most of the knowledge behind the karate has been lost because of the Japanese history of trying to purge all things Chinese. So, nowadays, it all looks like stylized blocks and punches and the real applications have been lost, along with the knowledge of the energies. I think he may be right— especially since he demonstrated exactly what he was saying on me...

I wish I could describe and explain all the wonderful things I saw and learned today, but that's impossible. I barely understand most of it, and most of it is still only physical memories and intuitions for me.

I'm very glad I went to the workshop. I almost didn't go. I was feeling mootsy, and I knew Joe wouldn't be there, so I wouldn't know anyone... But it turned out well. I enjoyed the workshop and the people I met. And when we left, Jonas and David Shaver (who owns Peaceful Wolf) were planning the next workshop— Part 2. I'm looking forward to it.

Jonas holds a taiji class on Tuesday nights. I think I'm going to take some lessons from him. I asked Jonas if I could contact him about it. Such a teacher is too good an opportunity to pass up.

02: Monday

Two sets. Hot and humid.

After seeing Jonas demonstrate Repulse the Monkey Chen Style, and hearing him explain that the application is for dealing with multiple attackers, I realize I am supposed to keep the stepping distincly on the diagonals, distinct and separated. I have been keeping too straight a line of retreat.

03: Tuesday

04: Wednesday

Monday night Bruce ran our class. Afterwards, he told me he had noticed how hard I had been working. I had, too. I was giving each kata my all. I'm glad someone noticed.

I didn't practice Tuesday. It was too hot and humid. But I did read about taiji. I went looking for the silk reeling article and found also the article by Zhang Zhijun (TCM, Volume 26, #4) about "leading" the energy with the extremities. This is what Jonas is teaching. The author of the article the same person I had the silk reeling workshop with two years ago in Willimantic, and he is Jonas's teacher, to boot.

Today: three sets, trying to find the spiraling energy, and trying to move my whole body as one unit. I'm not at all sure how I'm doing. Maybe some lessons with Jonas will help. I wrote to him yesterday (Joe gave me his address) to ask if I could join his Tuesday class.

Ran into an old taiji classmate at Peter's today. He says David's beginning them on Sword Form soon.

05: Thursday

06: Friday


Three sets...

As I practiced I remembered something from yesterday's standing practice: I made a point of imagining that string attached to my bai hui holding me up, and it really seemed to take weight off my feet.

I could feel my hips and knees today because of karate earlier tonight. I worked hard on my horse stance and we did a lot of katas tonight. I put a lot of effort into them— I've been doing so since I've been feeling better. I don't know if Sensei or Tim noticed as Bruce did.

Tonight in my taiji I was trying to get the spiral energy going in my hands. I haven't quite got it figured out. I think my Wave Hands in Clouds must look very strange now, with my hands turning every which way...

Tomorrow I should work on the silk reeling exercises, I think. The "horizontal" ones Zhang Fuxing described where you trace the t'ai chi symbol with your hand turning palm-up, palm-down as you go 'round the pattern.


Three sets, paying attention to the downward push (ahn energy) in the last half of Peacock and after Punch, and other things, too...

07: Saturday

08: Sunday

Silk reeling to start. All the kinds I know. Around and around the taiji symbol... verticle, horizontal... sometimes holding my elbow in place. I'm not very good at Zhang Zhijun's silk reeling.

Two sets. Good sets that would've been better if I could stop worrying about all the things I imagine I'm doing wrong. (Is it my imagination?)

09: Monday

I've been practicing my pinan katas. I do know them, I just have to go slowly. It's not a bad thing, but...

I've been beating myself up for being so slow to learn. (Don't even think about the changes to the kobudo katas!)

I haven't heard from Jonas yet. I wonder if I will be invited to join his class.


Tonight in karate I finally found my balance during punching and blocking practice. Suddenly, I could block and punch without falling over! Yay!

We had a very small class tonight, only seven of us. Bruce led the class— Sensei and Kim-san had left after the beginner class before ours. We had a good time. I worked hard, and, once again, Bruce told me he had noticed.

I was thinking today about rank testing. I was thinking that the system we use doesn't work really well because it fosters the wrong kind of competition and it encourages people to practice hard only when their test is coming up...

I was thinking, What if a person had to be nominated for promotion to the next rank? What if one had to be nominated for promotion by more than one person of higher rank? And, What if the test was therefore not a test, but an affirmation of the new rank? This way, no one who wasn't ready for a new rank would be promoted, and everyone would have to be on best behavior, working hard, at all times.


Warmer today, sunny.

Two sets to Rod Stewart's "American Classics, Volume 2." "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" worked particularly well.

My left hip joint, left knee, and the supporting muscles of both are twinging today. I did work hard last night. It's good, though, the twinges, I mean, because I was forced to be very careful to move correctly in the forms today. I had to be especially careful to keep weight off my knees.

I miss David. But I don't know and can't figure out why I should. He taught me a lot, not all of it taiji. I learned a lot about myself from trying to communicate with him, but we never did understand each other.

10: Tuesday

I had an email. Good news. It looks as if I have a new taiji teacher: Jonas Sanchez. His teacher is Master Zhang Zhi Jun, the gentleman I had the Silk Reeling workshop with in Willimantic in November 2002. (Check out the article by Zhang Zhi Jun in the August 2002 T'ai Chi Magazine, Volume 26, Number 4.) What I'm learning is called simply Chen New Frame. So far, all I know about it is that there are 83 movements, of which I have beeen instructed in one, the name of which I didn't catch.

There were four students besides myself in class tonight. My friend Joe was one of them, of course, and Bob, John, and Lorna. I had met each of them previously either at World Taiji Day or at Peaceful Wolf Tai Chi. They are all very nice people, and they seem to know a lot about taiji— they're all serious students. I could tell because we all laughed a lot and had a good time while learning very interesting things. My kind of people.

I like Jonas a lot. He's articulate and very good at taiji. He speaks Chinese and always uses Chinese terms along with the English ones. He also seems to be very patient, doing his best to help us understand the how and why of the moves and keeping a close eye on each student to be sure the moves are being executed correctly.

There are a lot of new concepts I need to learn for this style, a lot of things it will take my body some time to learn, but I understand the moves I've been shown, and I understand the applications, and I can see how the energy runs. I may not be able to effectively execute the moves I learned tonight yet, but I am confident that will come.

What surprises me most is how naturally joining this class has come together for me. Sure it's an hour-and-a-quarter drive, but it feels so right to be going there, and I feel so at home with everyone, that I know I belong there.

11: Wednesday


It's difficult keeping the Yang out of my Chen. I keep wanting to shift my weight to the forward foot!

I have no idea— yet! — what my new form is all about; I'm still trying to recreate the movements I "learned."

One set of 24 Form. Different. Something has changed, but I can't pinpoint it... It's a good thing, I think.

Last night's lesson gave me a whole new way to lok at taiji. And it gave me... applications. That's what has been missing in my practice. I've been needing to know the hows and the whys, and Jonas is very good at that. As he put it while demonstrating application after application on Joe and Bob, "The nastiness just never ends."

12: Thursday


Trying to find my new form (Fan Through the Back) in the hot and humid dark...

Tiger back and closed stance... and trying not to shift onto the forward foot... I'm getting it— maybe.

After each attempt at recreating the movement I was shown, I find myself walking around, as if trying to get away from something. After the last move, I'd find myself shaking my head, going to get a drink. Once I'd shaken off whatever was bothering me, I'd resume my starting position and try again.

I like the feel of this style— assuming it's "this sytle" I'm feeling. I think I'm doing some of it right.

Afterwards I practiced my pinan katas. Much better. I almost have something to work with.

It scares me a little to find myself in this new place. But, when I think about it, I'm just following the same path, stumbling in the same direction I've been going since two years ago when I went to Willimantic and took those workshops. They showed me there was more out there that I wanted to learn, and now I'm going exactly where I wanted to go, doing what I wanted to do.

I think this Chen style taiji is an even better complement to karate than I could have imagined. I hope I'll be able to continue with lessons.


It's cooler— breezy— and the humidity has dropped: it's almost comfortable!

Three sets of 24 Form. Some things are different— changing. My hands move differently because of Jonas teaching how to lead with the extremities. My Wave Hands is, and feels, very different. At least it did on the second set, the set I noticed the change during and thereafter couldn't duplicate because I was noticing.

13: Friday


Tonight karate made me feel stupid. I did okay in the katas, but I'm still rotten at bunkai— as the attacker, I mean. Luckily, I was paired with Daniel for a while and he's very good at bunkai. I tired emulating the way he moves easily from one stance to another when he's the attacker, keeping in very close... I'm not very good at it, even with a good example before me. After class I thanked Daniel for his patience with my ineptitude. He's a good kid. Green belt, 15 years old, I think. I like working with him.

Earlier today I was wondering how in heck I could, in good conscience, even contemplate taking on the expense of lessons with Jonas and traveling to Connecticut every week. I mean, the gas costs more than the lessons, and it's very financially irresponsible of me to be spending money that really ought to go towards sensible things (like keeping the house in one piece) on what is a totally non-essential personal indulgence— especially considering I already indulge myself with karate and kobudo lessons. It was a very depressing train of thought...

But when I opened the mail tonight, I found a bunch of money I never expected. I'm taking it as a sign that these new lessons are meant to be— for a while, anyway. Yay! (Thank you, Kwan Yin, for watching over me so well.)

David had an ad for Sword Form classes in "The Neighborhood" today. Ma saw it. The ad says the form is "easy to learn" and "very gentle exercise." Ma says she's going to call her friend Pit and see if she will go with her to classes. Pit used to take taiji at Landmark until last year when the classes were discontinued due to lack of enrollment. Her teacher's name was Mr. Knight; Pit didn't know what form she was learning. I hope Pit does agree to go with Ma. It's high time Ma got back to her taiji lessons.


Chen style. Going slowly, trying to figure it... If I go slowly, it's easier... Joe says the movement is called "Fan Through the Back." It means the energy fans out through your back into your opponent. It's related to "Hands Unfold Like Fan," and it may even be exactly the same thing, only I was only given a very elementary view of that application, so I don't know.

I think I understand the mechanics of this new movement, but I can't be sure. All I can do is keep practicing, keep looking for the energy lines, and wait until my next lesson.

(Just for fun, I tried mirroring the movement. Now I remember vividly how impossible it seemed when I was teaching myself to do 24 form in mirror image!)

14: Saturday

11:00 +

I've been reading "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chödrön, and I'm thinking that, perhaps, I've been using taiji and karate as an escape. So many times I've been confronted by the impossibleness of my own life, the insurmountableness (are there such words?) of my personal situation, only to find myself retreating into practice.

Not that practicing taiji or karate isn't a good thing and healthy thing to do; but I think I've been using them as an escape from myself.

I wonder if David has done much the same thing. He is very much like me in many ways, and I find this kind of escape is very easy for me.

I wonder if David has read Pema Chödrön's book.


Wow... things are changing! Three sets of 24 Form (after working on my Chen move), and I seem to have acquired the ability to keep my shoulders relaxed and my elbows down and steady. The sets felt good.

It's very warm and humid again, so I'll save pinan kata practice until later.

15: Sunday


Rain. Very dark.

The details of pinan sandan have proven elusive. I think the turn moves into the kibadachi with fists on obi, but it could be feet together... kibadachi, I think.

My pinan katas need lots of work— a thousand repetitions. Last Monday, I remember telling Bruce I had found my balance point in blocking and punching drills. I had it that night. I wish the feeling would come back...

It had something to do with keeping my weight forward in the stance and using the back leg only as the brace— a brace ready to take the weight, make the transfer, do whatever it does... How does the stance really work? It's not working the way I thought it should...

I'm beginning to think a leg doesn't have to have weight on it to be rooted....

Maybe I've finally lost my mind.

16: Monday

Some Chen practice and one really good set of 24 Form.

In the 24 Form, my elbows were staying put, my shoulders were down and relaxed... it felt really good.


One of the really hard classes. Not because Bruce was working us hard, but because there were no good examples to emulate. How can you learn a physical move if you don't have someone competent to watch and emulate? I know it's impossible for me to do.

Dan (Joe W's son) and I were paired for bunkai. Kids! He jammed the fingers of my left hand for me, twice. It's my own fault, of course, for not keeping my fists closed tightly. *sigh* I iced the fingers when I got home, and they're only stiff today, but I can't make a tight fist. I think I'll be able to do bo katas tomorrow for kobudo, but I may have to be careful on Thursday in karate.

17: Tuesday

18: Wednesday

Bo katas with mop handle before leaving for work. No real problem with the fingers.


three good sets in the summer evening, and now off to kobudo. My finger is very swollen and I can't make a fist, but it will do for bo practice.

19: Thursday

Mop handle bo katas this morning. The endings of all my katas have run together in my head. I resolved to go to the Sunday practice and beg for help in straightening them out.

A little Chen style Fan Through the Back practice. My left hand is much improved. The kunckle is bruised and clicks when I reel silk; I can't make a tight fist yet, but I can punch and connect.

Tonight I got my pinan katas right. Yay! And I have also learned a little about "loose-tight" because, tonight, we went slowly enough through the katas that I could relax between moves.

Sensei is thinking of instituting an "Over 40" class. He mentioned it to Bruce, who mentioned it to us tonight after class. I said, at first, that it was a terrible idea because "over 40" classes I've been involved with have been quite dismal and very low-energy. But we talked about it some more, about what Sensei might have in mind for helping the older students get comfortable with falling and being in physical contact with other students, and the idea seemed better and better as we talked it over...

Bruce asked me tonight if I saw myself as "going further, learning more katas, advancing." I said, "Gosh, yes!" Now that I think about the question, I wonder if Sensei and other think that I don't intend to go any further. Perhaps they think I'm afraid of getting really hurt (not just bruises), and that I'm just doing karate and kobudo as a hobby. Perhaps they think that because I don't push for being tested. Or perhaps they think I'm pathetically slow to learn... I wonder.

If I thought there was no hope of ever achieving the ranks of dan, I'd quit breaking my heart, and karate, too.

20: Friday

Humid... but, there's a breeze.

Three sets. Good, solid sets— my first was the best, the most effortless. Somewhere in the second set my balance went off a bit and I began feeling a pain in my knee— right— that I couldn't fully correct away.

21: Saturday

Katas I know:

01. Naihanshi Shodan
02. Naihanshi Nidan
03. Naihanshi Sandan
04. Wansu
05. Seisan
06. Ananku
07. Pinan Shodan
08. Pinan Nidan
09. Pinan Sandan

01. Shihonuke
02. Shima Ijiri Bo Ichi
03. Shima Ijiri Bo Ni
04. Sueyoshi Nokun Ichi
05. Chounokun
06. Nakamura No Sai
07. Matayoshi No Sai
08. Matayoshi No Tonfa Ichi
09. Matayoshi No Tonfa Ni
(10. Han Bo)

Eighteen (nineteen) katas. And I don't yet do any of them particularly well. I haven't practiced enough yet to really be able to execute them. It's like the taiji— or anything else— it takes time to train the body and the mind. I've only been learning this for two years.

Rain. Lots of rain. All the humidity falling out of the sky.

Ma started 32 Sword Form today. After class Ma told me David had greeted her with, "Where's your sword?" He was supposed to have the swords! I told her she could use mine until she gets her own.

When I picked Ma up after class (she still doesn't have a car, so I'm her chauffer), she wasn't feeling well. Low blood sugar. She'd eaten her breakfast very early, and by the end of class she'd run out of fuel. I asked what the class had been like. Ninety minutes and all they'd learned was Opening Form. (She showed it to me. One move.) Ma said they did a lot of warmup exercises.

22: Sunday

Beautiful day!

Bruce opened the dojo for a practice session, so I went. Jon was there. Bruce, Angie, Kevin, and Steve— Tim had practiced before we arrived and was doing chores around the dojo when we arrived. I did get some of the changes to the kobudo katas straightened out— but not all. That's okay, though, cuz everyone has questions.

23: Monday


Six sets. (Preceded by mop handle katas.)

The first sets were the best. Effortless effort— mostly. The first and second sets were the most coordinated I ever remember. My feet and hands were exactly where they were supposed to be— and my elbows are staying down.

Yesterday Bruce asked if I ever had knee pain and I told him I did when I started taiji. I also told him that I had learned that the warmup exercise we do in the dojo where we squat on one leg, stretch the other out to the side, and the shift from side while balanced on the balls of our feet, is one of the worst exercises for knees. And I told him about the article I'd read about preventing knee injury... was it in T'ai Chi Magazine? I don't remember, but the author recommended that one keep one's feet flat on the floor to avoid injury.


Tonight we had an excellent class— I thought so, anyway. In honor of the Olympics, Sensei asked us to look at our katas as if were were competing and having points taken off our "performance scores" for each... inadequacy. For instance, you'd take a point off for punching but not bringing the other hand back to your obi, or for not breathing in on a block, or for not sliding your feet into position. It's not the scoring system they use in the Olympics, of course, but it did give us a vivid way of scoring ourselves.

Sensei broke us up into groups in charge of senior students. Each of us got up in front of our group and did a kata (student's choice), and then we were critiqued by the senior student. Then each did the kata again, and this time we were critiqued by the rest of the group.

Everyone was both honest and kind in his criticism. Positive. We praised the good along with noting the inadequacies. I found it a very positive experience— even though I did have quite a few inadequacies in my pinan nidan:

  • Not sliding my feet into stances (I have trouble with my feet sticking to the mats).
  • My wrists weren't level in the punches.
  • My high blocks weren't in good position.
  • My shutos needed work. The protecting hand position wasn't correct, and the elbow wasn't protecting my side.
  • My opening block/strike in Pinan Nidan didn't come from a relaxed position, and so it didn't "whip" enough.

Each of us did better on the second run of the kata.

I didn't think my punches were so bad, but everyone noted that my wrists weren't stright. After we did the katas, we were sent to work on the bags. I worked on my punches and I realized that, though my wrists look straight to me, they aren't in correct position when they strike the target. I actually have to turn my fist down more than looks right to me in order to punch with my first two knuckles. And I noted that when I get the punch right, I see a sharp crease appear in the bag and there's no strain on my wrist.

Sensei talked to us about the need to work on getting things right, about the need to master the basics before trying to move on— or move up in rank. Basically, he was saying exactly what I've been thinking lately, i.e., that more katas and a higher rank are not a substitute for real learned skill.

Sometimes I wish I could be like Kevin, for whom mastery of the skills seems so easy. And sometimes I feel a bit envious of folks with higher ranks who aren't so skilled as they might be. But, mostly, I am content to be myself, puzzling it all out in my own way, a fit at a time.

24: Tuesday

+/- 11:00

I'm finding it very hard to concentrate today. My mind seems to be whirling with thoughts about karate and taiji practice... I guess it's good in some ways.

I did some pinan nidan practice while waiting for the oil guy (time to clean the furnace!). Better. I still understand now what Angie was trying to teach me about the openeing block and how both hands/arms should be relaxed at "yoi."

My hips are loosening up, but more needs to be done so that I'll be able to sink into my karate stances (and creep in taiji, too!).

I did some TCA after the karate. I was probably going too slowly, but it felt good. Two sets of 24 Form after that. Good sets, but I felt... stiff. Stiff as in just not being able to let go. Too much thinking.

25: Wednesday


Gorgeous day; but too much like fall.

Four sets. Some good, some bad.

Wish I had the whole day to potter around.


Kobudo tonight was pretty intense. Bo kata after bo kata, mostly, and as fast as possible. I lagged behind the others many times, but I only forgot where I was a few times— and there were those who forgot more than I did! It was a very good class.

26: Thursday

Practice consisted of the odd set or form. One set of 24 while waiting for breakfas's timer; one set of 24 at Ma's while ignoring the late news. A set of TCA in the moonlight on the back porch— this one generated some powerful qi.

And in between those sets, some "Fan Through the Back" practice. My knee bothere me in some of these; and I'm still looking for consistency. When the form is right, nothing hurts.

Karate was excellent. Jon, Joe, and I were sent to work with Angie on punching and kicking. Excellent!

27: Friday

No practice.

I could feel the effects of kicking and punching practice— and of the kobudo, too. My body is learning to do more. (My legs would ache if I let them.)

28: Saturday

Hot and humid today.

The first day I haven't had to get up early to schlep Ma somewhere. She has a car now and can drive herself.

I had strange dreams. Very.

Thursday morning I took Ma to the dentist. While I waited for her I read the latest T'ai Chi Magazine. There was and article "Fan Through the Back: Form and Application" by Chun Man Sit. In the article, he states that the name "has no real meaning," and up on reading, one discovers that his interpretation of the applicaion doesn't seem to include any dispersal of energy "through the back" as Jonas demonstrated to us in class. But, the author's interpretation seemed to be a lot like my own Yan style "Hands Unfold Like Fan" — which is the same thing, only different. A little change in "Hands Unfold" and you've got "Fan Through the Back." Interesting.

Ma called. Her second Sword Form lesson was much better. She said David seemed more like his old self.

Practice. I have lots to practice. I'm glad there's a cool breeze.


"Fan" practice. I foudn what was giving me the pain in my knee and corrected it. I hope I haven't compromised the posture. It doesn't feel as if I have.

Spent some time practicing "fan" using the kicking post as opponent so I'd have something solid to "hip check." I tried working both sides, but haven't got the mirror image hands sorted out yet, and so I keep flubbing the pull that goes with the hip check.

Some stepping while I munched a carrot and thought about... things.

Two sets of 24 Form with the sweat running down me. Good sets.

I'm finally beginning to understand what "relaxation" is all about in Martial Arts. It's more to do with the mind and body being prepared to calmly do what is needed that it is with any state of relaxation. You get to the point where you know what to do without thinking about it, and your body is conditioned to be able to go along with the mind, effortlessly. Cool.

29: Sunday

Hot and humid.

It's way too hot for practice— I could, but I loathe the feeling of the sweat runing down me, and I hate that whatever clothes I wear for practice today will have to be laundered immediately afterwards. I need more practice clothes.

So. I read, and had breakfast. Then I got curious about Sword Form. The Opening Ma showed me didn't look quite right, so I watched the tape and tried to set in my mind the first three moves where the footwork was linear. I finally got the moves to stick in my head— after a dozen reprtitions. No wonder Ma has trouble remembering it!

Cindy should be arriving soon. We're going to see "Hero," that new Jet Li Martial Arts movie that's being so highly touted. I hope there aren't too many people in the theatre.


"Hero" was a good movie. I enjoyed it. "Logan's Law" was observed, and so the ending felt satisfying. (Josh Logan stated that a movie/play/story-of-any-kind would be successful/satisfying, no matter whether the ending was an "upper" or a "downer," as long as the main character experienced a positive catharsis/learned something. Josh is right.) I've been thinking, What, exactly, is the correlation between caligraphy and Martial Arts?

Had a long discussion with Cindy about energy. She has some very definite ideas about what it is, what it isn't, how it works, how it doesn't work, whether it can be positive, negative, or neutral, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I've got my own ideas...

The more I learn— or think I learn— about energy (qi), the narrower the path seems to become. All I [think I] "know" at this point is too complex for me to explain, much less teach, to anyone else. "Those who talk don't know; those who know don't talk." My ego wants to believe I'm one of the Ones Who Know, but, who knows? No, my best option seems to be to keep my mouth shut, especially if I ever do get the notion in my head that I might have a hope in hell of explaining anything to anyone, cuz how the heck would I know if I know anything?

30: Monday

I was up betimes today to get the Jeep's fan belt replaced. While I waited, I read "Compression Breathing" by Greg Brodsky in the latest T'ai Chi Magazine. Very interesting. I'm wondering if I should five the article to Sensei to read. If nothing else, it would give him some idea of what taiji is all about.

Since Ma started Sword Form, I've gone back to the video tape. If I at least keep pace with her lessons, she can help me out and clarify what's happening on the tape.

So. Some sword practice. The first three moves. Then "Fan Through the Back." It's too hot for more than that.


Kicking the bags. Pinan shodan with Bruce. Lots of good work. My kicks are getting better— though I'm not sure of what my hadns are supposed to be doing during the front kicks. We got some new instructions about how the hands are supposed to move, but I'm not clear on them.

31: Tuesday

Too muggy to practice in the morning. Sticky. Nasty hot. But the weather cleared late in the afternoon and it was nice for taiji class.

Jonas was late. While we waited, I followed the rest of the class in going through the form. We went through it three times, me following along as best I could. Wave Hands was the only move that seemed remotely similar to anything I knew before, but parts of the form bore a remarkable resemblance to my karate katas. And I did get Fan Through the Back pretty well when we came to it.

Jonas had planned on starting section five of the form tonight, but a couple of the students couldn't make class, so he postponed introducing the new section, and decided we would work on basics. First, Wave Hands. This is very different from Yang style. No turning the waist here, and the elbows stay "fixed" so the hands never cross the center line of the body. And there's a new concept here: "splitting," which I can't explain to you as I have, as yet, only the foggiest notion of what it's about. It's all very coordinated, I can tell you that much.

After that, we worked on a particular kick that has some similarity to Kick with Heel in Yang style. Knees bent, legs crossed at the knees, hands crossed in front of chest, you kick with the leg that's behind— lead with the extremities!— and strike out horizontally with your hands, like Cranes's wings, the one hand slapping the kicking toe. That toe then drops to hang while the arms recoil on the horizontal. The arms then expand out again— the elbows remain "fixed" at chest height, the arms working the spiral energy— while the foot that kicked steps, toe pointing to the back forty-five so the body turns and the knees cross while the arms cross, and you're ready for the next kick... I wish I could explain.

One more move for the two "newbies" in the class: "Hidden Hand, Red Fist." My karate came in handy here— but this is not karate. Horse stance. Left hand out blocking at shoulder level, right fist at tantien. Punch under the blocking hand, and, as soon as the punch passes the blocking hand, the blocking hand comes back to the left shoulder in a tiger claw.

I am very glad to have found these lessons. But, right this minute, I can't imagine I'll ever be able to do any of this Chen New Frame competently. Not unless I go live in Shangri-La and spend all the rest of my fabulously extended liftime practicing— How do you like that! Two lessons and I'm already beating myself up for being so slow! LOL!

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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