Copyright © 2004 New Moon
Two sets of 24 Form. Nothing special. Some qi, but no unbroken silk strand.
Mop handle practice. I don't understand it yet. Kobudo, I mean. Right now, understanding seems impossible. It all seems quite hopeless. Taiji, kobujutsu: quite hopeless.
The fan belt on the Jeep disintegrated tonight just as I reached Jo's. Bill installed a new one for me, but the bearing on the water pump was shot by then. I went to kobudo class, but afterwards, I only made it as far as Clough's service station when the water pump quit entirely and all the dash lights lit up like a pinball machine. I pulled into the lot, parked, and locked the Jeep. I hiked over to my cousin's house and begged a ride home.
Kobudo this month is all bo katas. Sensei is allowing me to learn I can't think of the chonokun! I had the very devil of a time with it: it's a difficult sequence and there's a move a series of moves done while down on one knee. The group learning chonokun was sent to practice in the area between the dojos where there's just a thin layer of carpet on the cement floor, and it was tough on the knee and toes! Ouch! I never thought the day would come when I'd appreciate the squishy mats!
At the beginning of class while we were reviewing bo katas, I was near the corner post. I wasn't thinking too clearly and I chose my starting position badly and I ended up sparring with the post throughout. I was quite flustered by it, too, which surprised me because I thought I was better at working around obstacles. *sigh*
Sensei has removed Master Toma's calligraphy of the dojo kun to his home dojo. I missed it, and when I asked where it had gone, Sensei said most people thought of it as wall decoration anyway. Hmmm... Maybe so, but, if he removes it instead of continuing to point out that is is more than a pretty bunch of squiggles, how will people learn?
Perhaps I should do some calligraphy of my own.
Three sets of 24 Form in the bright full moonlight listening to the tree frogs and crickets and the rain in the downspout.
Not a lot of qi, but some. I pulled the back of my left knee trying to stretch out my ankle before karate class tonight. It was that kind of stretching that made my knee hurt before, too. The pigeon pose stretching has made my thigh muscles stop aching and improved flexibility in my hips. Guess I'll have to find another stretch to do for that ankle.
Tonight I feel I really suck at karate. I flubbed pinan shodan completely. And I'm lousy at bunkai. I suppose there must be some things I do right, but tonight I can't think what they may be.
I wish I could get the magic back in my taiji... or maybe it's still there and I've lost the ability to perceive it.
I'm tired. And I wish I knew what I was doing...
Two sets of TCA... There's a bullfrog singing down by the river... I can't quite relax.
I stayed up to watch the transit of Venus webcast from an observatory in Greece. Got to see the first phase ingress. It's pretty neat to think how I've been able to see live broadcasts from around the world and from other planets because of the Internet.
Tonight, Monday, Sensei had us working the bags. I was doing front kicks and Bruce came over to help. I need to get my knee up and then kick out, but I haven't the strength for that yet. *sigh*
Sensei had me working on the pinan katas, one, two, and three. Even though they are supposed to be beginner katas designed to teach the basics to kids, some ways I find them more difficult than the naihanshis. The moves are more... complex, and much harder to remember. For me. These katas make me feel stupid.
Bruce loaned me a book: "Karate Masters" by Jose M. Fraguas...
Master Hirokazu Kanazawa has studied karate and also Yang style taiji. He says he doesn't study taiji for taiji, but for karate, to help develop and keep a healthy body, mind, & spirit. He said it took him years to learn to move softly. During his first year of training, he said, his stomach made weird noises. His teacher told him the reason was that he had no internal power and his body was protesting.
Master Kanazawa also said there's a point in every karate practitioner's life where the punch's unifying force must no longer be rooted in the muscles, but in the internal organs.
Master Kanazawa keeps the two arts separate, he says, but the study of both brings a more balanced view, a chance to "step outside" and see from a different perspective.
Bruce also gave me a web site to look up: www.wonder-okinawa.jp. It's an interesting site, but best viewed with a very high speed connection. There's a section about karate with video clips of katas. I did manage to view a few of the smaller clips. In one, I saw a lot of qi being generated. I haven't seen that in a long time and I'm glad to be reassured that qi is supposed to be present in kata.
So. Qi. Ki. In those short karate videos I saw the same qi and I've seen in the best taiji. Internal power. I wonder if I'll ever "get it."
And, by the way, in the book, quite a few of the masters interviewed mentioned that getting discouraged is normal and to be expected. You just keep practicing.
Very warm today, but the humidity isn't high so the breeze is cooling and practice is quite comfortable; and I don't have to go to work, so I can practice as long as I like.
24 Form. Four or five sets to begin...
My body "settled in" easily, though I noticed a littel stiffness in my left ankle and hip that took a while to subside. I noticed my sets were "fast," some under six minutes, and I wonder if it's a matter of having to slow down my mind because I perceive that I'm going slowly.
Qi was flowing, balance was good. I felt relaxed for the most part. Snake and the anticipation of it tensed me up noticeably on the second set; but I managed to get that under control ignore it, actually, after that. Snake was really creeping quite nicely, if not as low as I'd like. Still, it's correctness of the form, not the height that counts. (Isn't it?)
I spent quite a while trying to get the opening moves of pinan shodan. Two blocks. One a high block protecting the head, the other a high-ish middle block (that could also be a strike). The key is not having to think about where my arms go... I improved, on one side anyway. I found it easy enough to high block with the right and middle block with the left; but trying to turn that around is a dyslectic nightmare.
After that, I worked on bo katas, paying particular attention to jabs, making sure to keep my "punching" elbow in close.
Gorgeous day. Cool and clear.
Two sets of TCA while listening to the birds argue, waiting for my oatmeal to congeal. Good sets... But I keep asking myself, Do I have any of this right?
Wednesday night I was taught the remainder of chonokun. It was me, Tom, and Istvan at first, but they were catching on much faster than me, so they were sent to work with the others while Kim spent time working with me alone. That kata makes me feel as if I've lost all ability to remember but I do remember this: it took Jon a long while to learn it, too.
Two sets in the cool dark, the stars of Saggitarius twinkling between the pine and the maple.
My balance was dreadfully bad, of course. Why is it so difficult to balance without sight? Whatever the reason, I think it's time I commit to some serious practice using a blindfold.
I can't remember chonokun. I do know all the moves, but the sequence and some of the transitions elude me.
Before noon, four sets of 24 Form interrupted by breakfast. Left and right. Good sets.
Repulsing comes and goes; but during Parry and Punch the blocking hand didnt'come to a halt. That's something.
I got to wondering about how taiji would work with sai, so I played around with that for a while. I couldn't work out analagous applications for all the tiaji forms, but iw was very interesting as an exercise.
After that, I practiced sai katas.
I like the way the sai work with the taiji. It makes me think I will rally enjoy taiji sword.
Three or four sets in the clear cool dark.
Another gorgeous day.
Three sets of 24 Form, and then I decided to troture myself with trying to learn sword form from the video. Surely there is a circle of Hell where the Powers of Darkness force the damned to try to learn taiji from video tapes!
I think I will never figure out kobudo. Nothing seems to work. I have no coordination maybe I'm trying too hard and thinking too much. (I hope that's it.)
Three sets of TCA in the cool dark with my eyes closed. I began well, felt balanced, but... I opened my eyes to check my position and idscovered I was way off. Evidently I wave hands at the diagonal when I can't see. But I kept trying to do better, to "feel" for the correct line. But it's very difficult... my balance was... sometimes it was good, but I don't know why. What was I doing right?
I didn't feel well Monday night. I had a bad headache that felt as if it would get worse with exercise, so I excused myself from katate class. It was a good decision.
Tuesday and Wednesday I got in the odd taiji sets, but I didn't press myself to practice.
Tonight's kobudo class was quite good. I almost have chonokun almost. Another fifty repetitions and I'll be ready to try to figure out what all the moves are about.
I'm having a little trouble with all my bo katas lately. Similar moves can send me off into the wong kata. I have to really pay attention to what I'm doing and not go too fast.
We had a guest at the dojo tonight. Doug, a Tang Soo Do student. He was in the seven o'clock class, and he demonstrated one of his katas. He seemed to have good control and power. It was a pleasure to watch. Afterwards, I spoke with him for a few minutes. He thinks he is acquainted with Kristen, a lady I work with.
Rain... mist in the meadow. I thought at first there were no fireflies, but then I saw one spark of light... then another... then another. The meadow grass is short, so they stay in the trees. Tonight Sweet's Meadow was alight with fireflies, when I drove by on the way home, but I couldn't stop to watch.
Last night at Jo's there were so many fireflies it looked as if the field and trees were decked out with Christmas lights. And once in a while a group of fireflies wold suddenly blink like fireworks going off. Who says there's no magic?
Three sets today while the kid next door mowed. The sets felt good enought and were engaging enough that I could ignore the noise of the mower. I'm finding my balance, which surprises me a git because I thought I had it already. But practice lately is teaching me that I didn't. Excellent! I thought I was stuck.
In katate tonight we practiced bunaki for naihanshi shodan. I'm getting better at figuring out my stances and moving in and out. I had to keep readjusting so I'd be ready for the next stance, but that is helping me to remember. I am getting better, and now I don't always feel I've got two left feet.
Watching the brown and black belts doing kobudo tonight I got to wondering what my katas lookt like. Do I stay upright? Do I look clumsy? I don't know.
Sensei talke to the class tonight about karate do and what it's really all about. How practicing is really about right thinking, and how it's a 24/7 thing, not just a few hours a week in the dojo. After class, I told Sensei I'd been listening and wondered if he'd come across the books by Pema Chodron. He said he hadn't. I told him I thought he'd appreicate the books becuse there was very little dogma in them, and because, I told him, from the conversations we've had, I believe he has a practical mind like mine. He laughed at that and said he'd like to read the book.
Two sets. Warm and muggy and overcast. Not too bad for practicing... but I have to schlepp Ma to shopping.
Today I worried that I'm stepping wrong in repulsing. Should the steps be ona wide diagonal?
Some TCA and one set of 24 Form in the cool dark. Nothing special but the night. Dark and quiet, Saggitarious twinkling along with a few fireflies...
When I left Jo's tonight around 9:30, the fields were a-sparkle with fireflies. We caught a couple and they didn't mind walking around on our hands, blinking for a while. On the way home, the new mooon was low on the western horizon looking incredible.
I keep wondering, Do I really know anything about taiji?
(I don't wonder about karate because I know I don't know anything about it.)
Summer. One bad set in the cool dark.
How do I keep the sets from being bad? How do I crank the energy up from nothing to make each set the best? Is it possible to do such a thing? Will there come a day whe I'll have such mastery of the Art that even my worst set will have balance and flow and power? Is it a matter of practice? Or is it a matter of mind?
Two sets. On the second one, I tried to "maintain the thread." It's very difficult, especially when there's a change of direction...
And here's a question: Are the movements of my feet also spinning out "silk."? I don't know. Maybe I'll ask Joe.
I know my feet move very differently from when I began taiji. Then, it was just picking 'em up and putting 'em down. Now it's more like applying and removing sticky labels.
It makes quite a difference just trying to "spin the silk out." Feels like work, too.
Three sets. I didn't really feel anything... I felt a little stiff when I began; my energy level felt low. I noticed an ache in my right shoulder while "waving." The one good thing was discovering how stable my left leg has become.
Last night I was very tired and low on energy when I arrived for karate class; but after an hour of punching and blocking and kicking and throwing practice, I felt fine.
Maybe my problem is merely that I need more vigorous exercise and a mental rest!
So much emotional turmoil! Where does it all come from? (As if I didn't know!)
I've been wondering if I should sign up for a QiGong class at the YMAA. I think I'll ask Joe if he knows anything about the YMAA.
Three sets, paying particular attention to using or not using! my knees. Keeping the stain off the knees makes a big difference throughout the form. Beforehand, I did the kwa stretching exercise from the book "Opening the Energy Gates of the Body."
I also tried to slow down repulsing, and to move less while doing it. Economy of motion.
I'm feeling very discouraged. Wednesday night in kobudo I couldn't remember my bo katas. Not just chonokun, the newest one, either: I went blank on shima ijiri bo ichi! I didn't let it get to me at the time and no one ragged me about it I just grinned and did my best because I've seen others have just as bad a night as I did. But it irks me now, and I worry that I'll never really be any good at anything.
Tonight I was sitting on the front steps at Ma's tying my shoe when David went by on his way up to the lake for class. He has a new blue Chevy pickup truck. He saw me, but he didn't return my wave.
Tonight's karate class... I am improving, getting better at moving. We did bunkai for anihanshis shodan and nidan. I tried my best to do better with my stances.
As I say, I'm feeling very discouraged. I've been reading about taiji in Frantzis' book "The Power of the Internal Martial Arts." There are eight energies: peng, lu, ji, an, tsai, lieh, jou, and kao. These are what Jonas was teaching about in the workshops in New London on World Tai Chi and QiGong Day. I was in the workshop on the first four energies.
There's just so much to learn. Jonas is doing a workshop on the energy again in July. I'm going to try to be there for it.
I asked Joe the other day if there's silk reeling going on with the feet... He sent an answer, but I haven't had time to read it carefully.
Some TCA; three sets of 24 Form; some grasping work on my left hip.
In the third set of 24 I finally felt my legs or rather, I finally didn't feel my legs. Of course, shortly after I noticed that my legs were relaxed and not impeding me, they tensed up. But, for a little while, I felt effortless effort. That's something.
I can really feel my interior hip muscles now. Have I found the kwa? Maybe one of these days the qi will flow easily between my upper and lower bodies.
I took my bo with me to the library picnic and practiced on sonia's lawn. The grass was coarse and the ground lumpy beneath and it made my feet feel heavy and clumsy. It seemed to... I was going to say "it sucked the qi out of me," but it was more a matter of no qi coming up into me. Perhaps, the failing was in me. Perhaps I'm not good enough to raise the qi.
Everything makes me feel tired today.
Three sets and I can't stand myself. I can't seemto feel anything. I isn't that my form is bad, it's that nothing is working.
It's such a beautiful day... Maybe I need to practice more.
Some days turn out a lot better than you expect.
Today I started out feeling completely discouraged about everything. Taiji. Karate. I felt tired and achey when I got up; and even though it was a nice day, I didn't want to practice.
At work I found an answer to my email to Joe. I had asked him about whether my feet are supposed to be "reeling silk" like my hands do... Joe's email made me feel better. He took my question seriously and gave me his best thoughts on the matter or coordination. And he said he's just starting to figure out coordination and flow, too. And that reminded me that everyone at every level almost always feels they don't know enough yet, and they wonder if they'll ever "get" it.
I always enjoy reading from Joe. He listens, and then he says intelligent things in response. It really helps me to feel less lonely.
Kicking practice tonight at karate. By the end, I was warmed up enough to figure out and get my body to do front kicks right. Of course, by then, I was pretty much too worn out to do much kicking, but my body had learned how to balance, to keep my center low, to tilt my hips up so that the right muscles can drive the kicks.
And just now, I finally got my grasping to the right correct. The left hip is finally open.
Mop handle katas. Sensei has reengineered the spinning block-strike in shihonuke into two overhead strikes. It makes a lot of sense, but after two years of doing it the old way, it'll take some reprogramming for me to get it right.
I had some trouble remembering the ending sequence of shima ijiri bo ni, too. I think I figured it out, but I will have to ask. And I'm still not sure of chonokun. It's a tough one!
One set of 24 Form, trying not to try har, trying to just flow... I was a little better. Whenever I felt muscles tensing, I backed off.
After last night's kicking practice, I got to thinking about my taiji kicks, and wondering, Are these kicks supposed to be the same as karate kicks? I think so, but I don't know for sure.
In the taiji, when learning the kicks, we bring the knee up level, and then just kinda swing the lower leg up, toes back. Not much power there. More of a ballet move. But, as a karate kick, you bring the knee up and in close, tilting the pelvis upwards, then deliver the kick straight out through the heel. Lots of power there.
Right now, my taiji heel kicks seem to be somewhere in between... I'm going to have to ask Joe about this, too.
Two awkward and wobbly sets in the cool dark. There's a waxing moon, but it's hiding in the maple tree.
Whenever the sets are this bad, I head myself vowing to practice blindfolded. If all of time was at my disposal, would I find enought time to practice blindfolded?
I revisted the YMAA web site. Joe said it's a good school. Looking at the curriculum now I can see that they intend a thorough education. Taiji and QiGong, push hands. But there's more,, too, from applications to theory. Reading about it, I realized there's more to learn that I ever dreamed... Much more...
Maybe David was telling the truth when he said there was no more he could teach me. Maybe he was trying to do his best for me by sending me out to find a teacher who could really teach me all about taiji.