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December 2004

Shan Ben Di Lei Characters © 2005 New Moon
Shan Beng Di Lie. It's a delightfully devastating application— quite spectacular to behold. The translation is: mountain explodes, ground splits open. That pretty much sums up how this month felt to me. I hope the new year will be... less disruptive. Just remember to keep your elbows down.


01: Wednesday

Rain and wild winds. Even Shangri-La isn't safe today. Shan Beng Die Lie: mountain explodes and the ground splits open.

Liu Feng Si Bi: Six Sealing Four Closing. Last night in class this move made me feel the most uncoordinated I've ever felt. There's so much going on it that it'll take a lot of practice to sort everything out.

Tonight when I went to visit, Ma donned her Imperial Storm Trooper brace and we went for a walk through the corridors of Pine Grove. I took the sword with us and we ran through the form once. She remembered it perfectly, but the brace put her balance off a little. Excellent, Ma!

02: Thursday

Some Chen. Trying to be song, as I am when I do Yang…

One set of 24 Form. I continue to be amazed by the way my body relaxes the moment I step out into Opening Form.

03: Friday

Beautiful day. 50 degrees, sunny. There was frost last night.

Some Chen. Slowly, as I do Yang, feeling for the power…

I'm learning.

04: Saturday

Cold and sunny.

A little practice… some days seem a dead loss.

05: Sunday

Mild. A little practice. Some 24 Form, some Chen. All slowly…

I have questions about coordination in Chen, but I'm not sure if they're asking or practicing questions. Maybe I know by Tuesday.

06: Monday

Cold today. One set of 24 Form to loosen my bones.

Slowly, looking for answers… Six Sealing Four Closing seems to make sense today…

I think I just need a lot of practice to get my Chen working.


Onle six of us in class. Angie was drilling us in stepping, an exaggerated method that emphasized the coordination of the stances, blocks, and punches. Then a few katas. It was a light workout, even if you pushed yourself.

07: Tuesday

Dan Bian: Single Whip. An excellent lesson that clearly demonstrated how xiao jie ling jing (leading with the extremities) works. And, even though the previous move is called Six Sealing Four Closing, it's this move that has all the "closings."

There's so much going on in these classes that I don't have time or words to explain here.

I reminded Jonas tonight that he's promised to teach me to deal with folks who give me a hard time about taiji. He said I need to practice my lie (splitting) energy and he showed me how: the move is akin to tearing a phone book in half— fast. Of course, it's harder than it looks. I'll have to practice.

I think Jonas was surprised tonight by my grasp of the energy flow in Dan Bian. Guess I do have a good understanding of qi flow: all my years of practice have not been in vain!

08: Wednesday

09: Thursday

Dan Bian seemed so clear and simple last night; but today it's mysterious and confusing. I can do it, but— it's always clearer when you can see the teacher. So much is communicated non-verbally.


Bo katas. Sensei sent me off with Angie to "go over things," so we tried to straighten out the endings to my katas. Unfortunately, Chounokun got confused again later when I was left to run through it with two other people who were even more confused that I.

Sensei had us do tonfa tonight, too. Matayoshi Ichi was okay, but when Rob and I tried Ni, it was a mess! I had the right of it, but Rob missed the punches after the turn, and after that— *sigh*

On my way out, Sensei did tell me that I was doing well. But I don't feet it. I sometimes wish he liked me better and would give me more— but, in the end, it's down to me: practice. All the attention in the world won't make up for a lack of practice.

10: Friday

Two sets of 24 Form; no time for more just now. I had a revelation about an (push down energy) last night, though, and I want to work with it, so I'll have to make time later.

Karate. A good workout. I can feel it in my hips— lots of kicking. Bruce took the class— the cast comes off his hand tomorrow. Sam was sidelined tonight because of a bad landing. The dojo's getting dangerous.

I'm going to have to sign up for kumite. Sensei won't be including it in regular classes any more— not at the lower levels. I don't know that it will be gun, but I need to learn it.

11: Saturday

Rain and fog and water diamonds in the trees. I can see my breath...

Four sets of 24 Form. Very slowly. I am still learning new things. (Don't tell anyone, but today the creepy snake was an awkward mess.)

Some Sword Form, left and right. I have to look at the tape again: I think I've strayed a bit in my execution.

Chen. Slowly, trying to remember all of Jonas's instructions... I have corrected some of my coordination.

I'm beating myself up for not practicing enough. I've been exhausted, though, with Ma and all. Why don't I cut myself a little slack?

12: Sunday

No practice— though Jo had me go through 24 Form with her a few times.

13: Monday

Springing Ma from durance vile today: no time to practice.

Karate. Evidently, I don't do anything right. All I get is criticism. I thought there was a rule about giving only one correction at a time. I got nine. One after the other. Didn't have a chance to try to fix anything. Why do I bother going? Sensei isn't teaching any more. He turns our classes over to others and walks away. So what am I paying for?

14: Tuesday

Only a little practice. Rats.

Taiji. A review of Six Sealing Four Closing and Single Whip with the addition of the very next move, which is a neat fajing liu (pull). We're to practice it slowly until we get the hang of the exact move, then we're to try to relax and fajing! it.

At the end of Single Whip we fang song (sink and relax). To do that properly, you must again xiao jie ling jing (lead with the extremities). So the whip hand's fingers must go up and over the imaginary bar under the wrist before the body can sink as a whole, fingers leading the way down. It's a very interesting coordination.

15: Wednesday

Sunny and cold— 34 degrees— and my breath steams.

One set of 24 Form, noticing Single Whip. I only vaguely remember David mentioning the application... I believe the whip hand was capturing/blocking beneath the wrist, but I don't remember a strike... though I can see how that could work.

Chen. Without thinking, the fajin move works. Hope I can keep not thinking.

Part of me wants to quit. It's too hard... It'll take too long to learn... I'll never really learn the applications... I've been in this place before. Kwan Yin, please send someone for me to play with who knows taiji applications and weapons.

The sun is warm. I wish I could stay and practice.

Kobudo. Jon said he was going to speak to Sensei Tuesday night. I have a feeling Jon must've said something to Sensei about me because tonight Sensei told me more than once that I was doing well and that my hard work on my katas shows.

Sai and tonfa tonight. I finally got Matayoshi No Tonfa Ni straightened out— me and Rob. Matayoshi No Sai remains a bit rough, but I've got it.

Towards the end of class, tonfa got very difficult to control. I'm not sure it's weakness on my part, though: it could be that I get so very tense.

My tendonless thumb was giving me some trouble in the sai katas. I wish I'd had the tendon repaired. Too late now.

16: Thursday

A beautiful practice day: sunny and forty degrees. Wish I could take the day off.

Two sets of 24 Form. Lots of qi flowoing— I love the way this form flows and feels when it's working...

Some Chen. Slowly, like the Yang, finding and working the qi... relaxing...

Karate. Couldn't kick worth doodly-pooh tonight, but other things were working. Bunkai went well— pinan nidan. A little sparring to practice getting out of the way and ready to counter. I'm still pretty dismal at that, but I'm learning.

17: Friday

Some days this Chen style makes me feel very stupid.

Cold and clear today with a pesky wind. There was a dusting of snow overnight and it's lingering in the shadows.

Two sets of 24 Form. Good sets.

Chen. My right foot refuses to close during Single Whip— or, perhaps, if I did it correctly, it would close naturally.

Tony asked last week if anyone could learn the form the first time through; Jonas answered with an unequivocal no. There you have it: another four years, at least.

18: Saturday

Sunny and cold: excellent practice day. So why do I seem to be avoiding practice? Every time I step out onto the back porch I think of something else that must be done now. What is wrong with me today?

I've got some nasty bruises from bunkai Thursday night. I have to find some better pads. The ones I have are too easily slid aside by incoming blocks and strikes. I don't mind taking a hit, but not repeated hits to the same spots. I've still go a mark on my shin from bunkai with Sam months ago when we went over and over the same kick/block sequence. Ow. Maybe I won't sign up for kumite.

Maybe I should just get out of the house for a bit.

19: Sunday

Today I do not understand taiji— at all. Wo bu ningbai taiji. Rats.

At the part last night I learned that Jon injured his knee in class yesterday morning. Grappling practice. It sounded serious.

20: Monday

16 degrees and snowing. I didn't sweep the porch.

I little Chen. My footprints look so sure and solid in the snow. No blurred edges to indicate a lack of balance or intent…. I still feel lost however.

Stepping. Just because. I'm warm enough in my turtleneck and sweater; I shouldn't be, but I am. The mug of tea feels very hot on my fingers…

The cold is seeping through the soles of my moccasins. Wish I could keep practicing long enough to warm them again, but I have to go to work.


Colder 'n hell. The snow squeals underfoot as I walk...

Kibadachi grappling tonight. I did my very best, but... I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to do. Sensei said the point was to take down the other person, but all I was good at was... fang song, I guess. That and evading leg sweeps. The only time I went down was when I tried to take my opponent down. But I didn't know if I should've just let myself be taken down for the practice of falling.

I keep wondering whether I'm particularly dense or whether my karate teacher has failed to mention certain important things to me.

I've got more nasty bruises on my knees now— my opponents' failed attempts at getting their legs around behind mine— and bruises on my upper arms and chest— indiscriminate grappling! I despair of ever learning anything useful. Peng, liu, an, ji. Counter peng with liu; counter liu with an, counter an with ji— and what counters ji? I tried.

Dan kept stepping on the tops of my feet (I've got bruises there, too), trying to off balance me. But all that did was give me a solid root and pivot point, so I sank and swung and avoided the throw. Of course, Dan could've mashed me flat any time— had that been the requirement of the exercise.

Angie came over and said to me, "Try to feel when he's off balance." Well, I knew exactly when he was off balance and said so, but unfortunately, I was always off balance myself, so I had no base for a counter move.

I feel so stupid.

Peng, liu, an, ji— there are four more energies. Maybe one of them is what I need.

Or maybe I'll just never get any of it, taiji or karate.

21: Tuesday

Winter solstice. How low the sun was this morning! How long the shadows at noon! And it was cold. Single digits last night, and only sixteen by mid-morning. But, by late afternoon it was above freezing.

Taiji. A very good class. We learned the unnamed move between Single Whip and the second pounding of the mortar. Jonas said we should bring our name suggestions next week. I say call it Joe Folds Toast.

The moves are all quite... neat. The shun chan ni chan works like gears. If you exaggerate them only a little you might see how mechanical they look.

We talked again about xiao jie ling jing. Someone commented that one always sees Yang stylists trying to move from the waist, not moving the body as a whole unit, especially when pulling or pushing. I spoke up and said that my old Yang style teacher wasn't guilty of that and he wouldn't let his students get away with that stuff, either; but, I have to admit, there are a lot of bad Yang style teachers out there. I was very lucky to have had David for my first teacher. He really does know what he's doing.

Jonas confirmed for me tonight that I do understand most of what I'm doing in the moves. My moves need refinement, but I've got the basics correct.

Joe asked me what I want Santa to bring me. I said, "Martial Arts brains." And I meant it. Oh! to be able to think like a martial artist!

22: Wednesday

It was just 32 degrees when I began practice an hour ago. Now it's 45 degrees and delightfully warm.

The back meadow with it's cover of snow is like a huge tracking box. From the porch I can trace the trails of all the animals and know their kind and size. If I watched by moonlight, I'd see some interesting things! Like maybe a big weasel, for istnance, if I'm reading aright...

Chen. Slowly, keeping in mind the principles and the six harmonies. Better. Each day a bit more clicks into place. I am beginning to understand. Soon I'll be able to fajing.

Han bo. Just because.

Kobudo tonight. I wonder what Sensei will set us to practicing.

Kobudo. Bo practice. I remember Chounokun now. But I blanked on the beginning of shima ijiri bo ni. Pfui.

Sensei was at the counter tonight when I was cleaning after class. I asked if he'd ever seen any pads that had more coverage, as that's what I'd need if I were to participate in the kumite classes. But, no, he hasn't seen any. I'll keep looking.

We spoke a little about bruises and kumite. He said I could join the classes any time. In fact, holding off a while might be an advantage as there are, as he put it, a few students who need to learn control. I allowed as how he might be right.

23: Thursday

Fifty-four degrees and cloudy. Warm for hard practice.

Stepping with my tea...

Some 24 Form... I'm still learning. Today, I made mistakes because I was deliberately trying new things. A different timing here, a different coordination there. Some worked, some didn't

Some Chen. Slowly at first. It's hard to tell whether my extremities are doing the leading. As Jonas says, you've got to have someone give you resistance to get the feel of the techniques...

A set using deep stances to work on strength. Phew! My legs are still tired from kibadachi practice on Monday. But, if I want to get strong and flexible, I'm going to have to push myself. (Rats.)

24: Friday

All at sixes and sevens: mind won't focus. I want to practice, but I can't settle down.

25: Saturday

Sunny and cold. Twenty-five when I got up; over forty now.

Chen. Beginning sequence. I can't tell if I'm making progress or not.

I practiced the fajing liu over and over, quickly, 'til my heart was pounding. I think I'm doing it correctly, but I don't "snap" like Jonas and Joe.

Today, I worked on bits and pieces as I went, stopping to watch myself, repeating here and there, looking for the "line" and the balance... I had a question last week on the tying of the coat. I didn't get a chance to ask to and though perhaps I could answer it with practice, but the answers I've come up with— to do with the weight distribution and balance and getting my right foot into correct position to go on to sealing and closing— I have been inconsistent. I may be forced to ask.

Time to fetch Ma and head over to Jon's.


Jon showed me the medical report on his knee. He did indeed injure his knee badly. He'll need to have the ligament replaced surgically. Looks like it might be a long rehab, too. The worst part is that Jon knows it happened because he got stupid. Rats.

Practice while waiting for the laundry. Yu Bei Shi through Dan Bian and into the unnamed move, over and over, slowly... I corrected one move— actually I'd forgotten the coordination of Lazily Tying Coat, but I have it now.

I'm still puzzled about Liu Feng Si Bi. Where should my feet be pointing when the tui happens? My right foot is pointing to the forty-five throughout, but that makes the closing feel awkward.

I've been trying to mind my elbows, not let them move independently. Sometimes I've caught them creeping out or crowding in— just a bit.

I've been thinking again about joining a gym. Just for a while, to build up my leg strength and flexibility. But time and money are tight, even if the gym is conveniently nearby.

I'm tired. I wish Chen relaxed me the way the 24 Form does. Perhaps someday it will— though that seem unlikely now.

26: Sunday

Snow and bone-chilling cold, even in the house.

I put my gloves on and practiced Yang Single Whip...

Over and over, feeling the balance and the qi flow... smooth and flowing, solid and balanced... I didn't realize it could feel like that.

I found some video clips on the Internet. One of Chen New Frame took 30 minutes to download. I don't know who the performer was, but it looked... so deedy, full of extraneous movements, no... line of power. Very uninmpressive— though I did recognize the moves. Jonas's interpretation is ever so much more clean and powerful. Why don't others recognize how the forms should be done? How can there be so much bad taiji out there? Can't they see the qi and the power?

I've been wondering: am I crazy? or lucky? or something else? How is it my teaches are the very best? Am I mistaken in thinking they are so very expert? What do I know, after all? And yet, I am sure that I am not mistaken. I feel in my bones that I am right about them.

I thought it might've been luck that I found the teachers I have, but the truth is, I've seen lots of teachers I didn't want to take lessons from. The teachers I've chosen to learn from were chosen because I could see that they are, indeed, the very best. And their accomplishments are not a glamour conjured by my affection or pride.

I downloaded a Chen sword video clip, too. The person performing did seem to have something. In most of the moves I could see the qi, follow the flow. But there were gaps where the moves made no sense. I'm glad I saw this clip, though, because it showed me a little of where and how to look for the power in sword form, and how the sword qi works.

27: Monday

Sunny and cold. Six inches of powdery snow. The temperature is rising. It took a while to clear the porch.

Two sets of 24 Form to warm up, then some Chen. As I practiced, I remembered watching the video clips last night. In the Sword form one and the Qigong one, I could see the qi flow, and I remembered as I practiced how relaxed the hands were. Not limp, mind you, but full of energy... moving like a cat's tail does, all alive with energy and easy movement. I tried to make my hands do the same; and in doing so, I noticed how much tension I still keep in my hands. Another thing to work on!


Sensei is on retreat and Angie had the class. She rushed us through warmup exercises. I noticed tonight— because she was shouting everything she said— that she doesn't use her hara/tantien to kiai or to support her voice. And evidently she is under the impression that doing the warmup exercises very fast is somehow beneficial, and that shouting conveys power. I'm more scared of the quiet people who mean what they say quietly. But go figure. Angie meant well: She was trying to get the class to exhibit a bit of enthusasism and put some energy into their katas.

It happened again tonight, and is fast becoming a pet peeve of mine: changes to the technique are being presented as if they've been in place all along and the students just hadn't got the message. Tonight it was middle blocks. I was shown a completely different way of executing the middle block and informed that we'd been doing them like this ever since forever. Well, I know I'm not crazy; and I know I was never shown this particular way of doing middle blocks— the "more advanced" method I was told.

What gripes me is this: it seems as if beginning karate students are being shown alternate methods of execution because, presumably, Sensei feels that the "correct" method is far beyond the beginning student's ken and that, therefore, showing the correct method to the beginner is a waste of time and frustrating for the student. So instead, the beginners are shown an "easier" method that they will find less difficult to learn, and they will be "corrected" later— if they stay in the dojo.

Hrmph. If this were the case, I would find it very insulting. And what a waste of the serious student's time it is, too! I don't know if it's true. I don't that this is the case. But I have run up against this a few times now with changes to kicking, blocking, and punching techniques that I had put a lot of work into practicing correctly being, seemingly, dismissed as a bad job on my part. And I've been made to feel quite stupid about it, too. As have others I've talked to at the dojo.

All I know is that my taiji teachers have always shown the absolute correct methods of execution for each and every move, and they've always told the beginners that, yes, the moves are difficult and it will take a long time to learn them, frustrating as that may be. But in taiji, I know that if I practice assiduously, inept as my practice may appear for what seems a long time, I will eventually learn to execute the moves correctly— and I won't have to unlearn years of "incorrect" practice.

Note: I had to stop at Jon's tonight to pick up something for Ma. While there, I performed a "reality check:" I asked Jon to show me a middle block and he did it the exact same way I had just been told was wrong. So I showed him the "correction" and he was as puzzled by it as I was. It ain't me.

If it weren't for the kobudo, I think I'd probably quit the dojo.

28: Tuesday

Tonight was our taiji class Christmas party. We gave Jonas— and ourselves— school teeshirts: "Jonas Sanchez Martial Arts School of Indiscriminate Grappling/Shan Beng Di Lei." (Shan beng di lie: mountain explodes, ground splits open.) When Jonas opened the box and saw the shirts he was... almost stunned. He was delighted, but it took him a while to realize what he had been given. He loved that we had used "shan beng di lie."

Class afterwards was interesting. Jonas started us off with some kicking/balance exercises. Stand relaxed with your arms out to your sides at shoulder level, palms turned out and up, then:

  • Step forward and bring the other leg up in a kick, leading with the toe. Keep your body upright. Let the kicking leg come back to the floor next to the other foot, then step out with the foot that just kicked and bring the other leg up in a kick, leading with the toe...
  • Step and bring the other leg up in an outside crescent kick, slapping the opposite hand to the foot (keep the other arm extended out, relaxed)...
  • Step and bring the other leg up in an inside crescent kick, slapping the opposite hand to the foot (keep the other arm extended out, relaxed)...
Repeat until you can't do it any more. It's good practice.

After that, we continued with Joe Folds Toast, the moves between Single Whip (Dan Bian) and the second occurance of Pounding (Jin Gang Dao Zhui). Once we'd gone through the details of the moves, Jonas took us through the application... in detail...

I love this class.

29: Wednesday

At breakfast, I watched the DVD Joe gave me (all of us) for Christmas. It's of Zhang Zhi Jun demonstrating chin-na applications. Excellent! And at the beginning as introduction he's shown demonstrating Chen New Frame. It was wonderful to see the forms as a Master does them and be able to see the qi flow. Jonas is very good, but after seeing this, I understand what Jonas is shooting for.

And the chin-na applications are so... neatly done. Zhang Zhijun makes them look so easy that you figure you can do them without even having to practice much. (Ha!) 'Round and 'round and 'round he and his partner went in the push hands routine, ever so gently, and then— violá! (What's the Chinese for that?) his partner was kissing the ground or up on tippytoe looking very pained. And it looked ever so simple when he slowly demonstrated exactly what he'd done to achieve the effect. He couldn't've spelled it our more clearly. Master Z would start the routine, then he'd stop at exactly the point where he invoked the application, and he'd show how he'd "gotten in" and what he'd done after that. Simple.

That DVD is the best Christmas present I've gotten in year— maybe ever. But, boy oh boy! does it ever make me ache for someone to play taiji with! I should've remembered to tell Santa about that, too. But, you know, Joe says he'll come to class early whenever he can and work with me. That's a very nice present, too. Guess Santa knew what I wanted after all.

30: Thursday

Kicking first. Straight kicks, inside crescents, outside crescents... up and down... up and down... I need lots of practice...

Some Chen. I keep questioning the rightness of my moves: if I'm doing it, can it be right? Thirty-six degrees and I've worked up a sweat...

What happened to my self-confidence? It's not as if I haven't been getting positive feedback from my teacher. quite the contrary. In class I seem to be doing well; when I'm under observation, I often hear, "Good." Must be the old sabotage circuit kicking in.

Kobudo last night was under Angie's direction. A lot of drills, some of her own invention, I think. The class was okay.

31: Friday

Reading today in T'ai Chi Magazine: "Theory and Practice of Taijiquan" by Wu Ziyu, a dialogue with Professor Huang Zhenhuan, creator of Dadao Taijiquan. Very interesting. I'll have to reread it to understand, though.

I didn't make time to practice today. I don't know why. I hate not practicing, but today— I don't know.

For our New Year's Eve celebration, Ma and I went over to Jo's and watched "The Electric Horseman" and talked for a while afterwards. It was around eleven by then, and Ma and I bid Jo a happy new year and headed for home. At Ma's we sat and talked and let the new year overtake us quietly.

Happy New Year!

The Madwoman's Journal: Treasure

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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