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March 2004

01: Monday


One good set in the 60 degree sunshine... I will be late for work.

02: Tuesday


One good set in the breezy warm... and I will be late for work.

03: Wednesday

04: Thursday


I poked my nose out to say hello to Kwan Yin and found myself doing a set... and I will be late for work. I need a teacher as much as I want one: a lot.

Last night in kobudo Sensei made a point of telling me I had a good kick in shima ijiri bo ichi, and that when I was going fast in the katas, I was much more relaxed and smooth. It was nice to hear that, but the cynic in me says my name came to the top of the "Due Praise" list.

We did katas alone and I had a chance to watch Angie. I noticed how much she has improved. Her stances were low and relaxed and balanced. I'll keep her example in mind as I practice.

05: Friday

06: Saturday


My fourth taiji anniversary.

Ten sets in the chancy afternoon sun. It's very humid; but the rain is moving off, helped on its way by the restless wind... It's mild for all of that.

Eight sets with the 2– and 3– pound weights. I put the music on— the 6 minute 20 second piece— to check my timing. With the weights, I tended to go faster, even when I tried to slow down. Those sets were about 5 minutes and 40 seconds each.

My kicks are getting easier, but I had to rest after the first four sets. I was sweating quite a bit because of the humidity, but the breeze made it bearable.

The weights created quite a lot of swing coming up into Golden Rooster and I had to work to control it.

During my break, I had some cold tea and practiced side kicks on the kicing post. Not too many; just a few. (After all, I still had on the weights!) I'm improving.

I took the weights off for the last two sets and my arms and feet felt light as feathers. Kicks were easy, and so was slowing down! I'm glad I decided to try the weights.

Four years. It hardly seems possible... Most of the time I feel I've learned next to nothing, but I'm glad I've sutck with it. I know I have learned a lot— about myself, if not taiji!

The other night, I got to talk with Sensei for a few minutes before my class. I had been watching the previous class of black and brown belts getting run ragged with bo katas. Sensei was playing, too, setting the devil's own pace. It was wonderful to watch. But I had noticed something about Sensei's katas, and when I spoke with him later, I told him he needed to keep the bo low in the blocks. He took my comment in good part and said he was working on it.

Anyway, Sensei wasn't trying to get away from me, so I tried to keep the conversation going. I mentioned that they had been going very fast in class. He said he had to keep them on their toes. I said that I really enjoyed kobudo. He said that he could see that I did... Then I told him how, as awful as my tonfa kata was in that last test, I had still felt the joy bubbling up inside me— especially when I nailed that first jump. I told him that I almost always feel the joy in karate and kobudo. He agreed that I had nailed that one jump. And he told me not to lose the joy, and not to rush my "timetable." I wasn't surprised that he thought that I might be "rushing" myself. And I think I surprised him when I told him that I know I'm still only just learning the basics. I'm glad we talked.

07: Sunday

Three sets by candle light. The brilliance of the just-past full moon was dimmed by clouds.

No weights tonight. I could feel my calf muscles today, and my knees. Not pain, just a reminder of hard work. Better not to use the weights until tomorrow.

In Opening Form, I couldn't feel my arms, just qi. No weight. The kicks were better, easier, but my legs still need more strength.

I concentrated tonight on making snake better. Sink down and slide, let the snake creep across and lead the body upwards... *sigh* I have so much work still to do on the one move.

My left leg still doesn't work right; my left foot still doesn't root. After the sets, I worked on grasping, left and right, trying to get the hip to loosen up. Will I never get this move either?!

08: Monday


Snow today. Every branch and twig is outlined in white...

Last night I was reading T'ai Chi Magazine. The February issue. It's strange to learn that 30 years ago when I lived in Boston, T. T. Liang lived only a few blocks from me. How could I not have known about taiji then?

09: Tuesday


I feel "cricky." My arm aches. My hip aches. Growing pains. I'm getting stronger, using my body differently.

When I got home tonight I spent quite a bit of time working on low shuto blocks combined with nekko dachi (empty stance). Up and down, up and down— or do I mean forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards? Anyway, I was trying to get my hips to work in driving the shuto, trying to get my hands to stay low and not get in each other's ways, trying to relax my arms, trying... trying. Sometimes I feel I am quite hopeless at karate.

I worry that I never will get my whole body, upper and lower, to work together.

10: Wednesday


I sat at Ma's tonight and read a book: "Sensei" by John Donohue. A martial arts murder mystery. It was very good. (Mr. Donohue is an Editor of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.)

After Monday's class I've been thinking again that I may never "get it." Oh, I can understand a lot, but my body may not be capable— and I don't seem to have the discipline or drive. I work, but I don't push myself.

Tonight I put the 2– and 5– pound weights on and practiced. Grasping, stepping, blocking, shutos... I do doubt my body will ever "get it."

11: Thursday

12: Friday


I feel quite hopless about karate. I don't seem to improve. And I ache. My knees ache from practicing taiji with the weights. My hands and forearms ache from bo practice— I spin the bo while holding tight, to improve both flexibility and hand strength. My toes ache— they're past improvement and will never be right— no matter how many years I practice.

I seem to remember that there was a time of general achiness in taiji when my body was adjusting. I remember lower back pain and knee aches most...When was that?

Last night's kobudo was also frustrating. A lot of fast drilling in moves I am not good at when going slowly. But I did pick up a trick or two that helps in manipulating the bo.

I feel as if I'll never go any further in karate. Or kobudo. Or taiji. I feel as if I've gone as far as I am capable of going.

13: Saturday

Friday night Angie held a practice session, ostensibly for orange and blue belts, but there were some yellows as well as greens, and she had Linda and Kate and Eric and Dan there to help out. I was signed up, too, but as I began to get changed I realized I didn't feel well at all. So I changed back into mufti, and went out to watch...

It was a migraine coming on. Visual. All nice sparkly colored lights... I felt terrible. I went home.

I continue to feel discouraged about karate. It feels as if Sensei keeps moving the bar up whenever I come along the path— and I don't mean skill-wise, exactly...

I feel he's... withholding himself from the lower level belts now. It's as if we're being farmed out to teaching assistants. I don't like that feeling. I came to learn karate from him, not from TA's. They don't have the depth of experience in karate or life to make them worth paying for lessons yet.


Six sets in the windy sun. I hadn't intended to practice, but I went out to see Kwan Yin, and I guess habit is strong because I did six sets.

My left hip and leg seem stiff again, though they improved as I went. Snake is a mess, of course. But I'm still trying to learn it, and I don't have a teacher to help me...

Some things are working. Repulsing for one. I can feel a good low of qi in that move now I've learned about letting the elbow drop to bring the hand up.

I still have a few "hitches" to overcome. Getting everything to flow smoothly is a lot tougher than it seems.

14: Sunday

No practice.

15: Monday

Three sets in the pale sunlight.

16: Tuesday

No practice. But snow. Beautiful snow.

17: Wednesday


18: Thursday

No taiji practice.

19: Friday

Snow... the world is all gray and white again... five gray days of snow flurries is enough!

Started reading "Living the Martial Way" by Forrest E. Morgan. It was recommended to me by a former karate classmate.

20: Saturday


Six or seven sets. My thigh muscles ache sharply on kicking and creeping. I've been tense all over for days. At least the sun has come out.

I'm very discouraged about both taiji and karate.

21: Sunday


Six sets. The sun came out just as I put on my wool shirt to go outside. It's windy today, but the porch is sheltered and it's not a qi-sucking wind...

I took a hot shower before practice. It seems to have helped some, but the pain in my right thigh when I kick... it seems to have something to do with not using the right muscles. I noticed the difference between kicking with right and left legs, but I can't pinpoint the problem yet. Still, it felt better today, both kicking and creeping.

I've been wondering about "Press" for a few days. I step out before turning, the turn takes my hand around, and I "press" as I move into forward bow stance; however, I'm wondering, How should I be coordinating the shift of weight? I could be doing it right, but I'm checking. Should the weight shift with the press itself? At what point should I "root" the foot that's under the pressing hand?

22: Monday

Cold. 30 degrees. No time for taiji practice.

I feel discouraged about karate. I feel as if I'm never going to be any good at it...

I feel very alone in my journey. As if I have no teachers, just myself to rely on. There's no one to advise me, to let me know how I'm doing or tell me what I should work on next...

It's dark here in the forest.
I can't see where I'm going.
Maybe I'm stumbling in circles.
The only sound is the wind in the pines.

— Lizzie

23: Tuesday

Three sets.

24: Wednesday

One set. A good set.

25: Thursday

No practice. But we did "pushing" in karate... just like taiji.

26: Friday

No practice... not really.

27: Saturday


Mild today; humid, with heavy dark clouds promising rain. The breeze is out of the southeast: we will have rain.

Six solid sets.

Opening stances all felt very... solid— rooted. Other stances were very solid-feeling, too, but I really noticed it in my horse stances. My feet were almost part of the boards beneath them.

Thursday night in karate we practice rooting. Partners face each other in forward bow stance— seisan dachi— and palms on palms we pushed as hard as possible. I could feel the energy going into my back heel. I stayed upright and relaxed and let myself sink. And I wasn't budged, even though I had a very strong partner.

Next, one person assumed horse stance and the other pushed as hard as possible from the side. Not to lift and intentionally uproot, but just to provide a lateral force to practice against. Again, I did well— I've improved!— though, the weakness of my left leg and ankle were made apparent, as they were today in taiji practice.

28: Sunday


Three sets in the cold gray. I went for a long walk earlier to try to get the kinks out of my legs. It seems to have worked.

Something today reminded me of the workshop in New London last June. When I remember that workshop, it still bothers me that David would wouldn't speak to me. And he never would say why.

29: Monday


Some Nakamura no Sai and a little Matayoshi no Tunfa Ichi. I used the new tonfa, but... I was pretty bad. I need lots of drills. Lots.

In the taiji I've been working hard to keep my balance from going over— past my toes. I've been working on this for a while. When I don't keep my weight back, my knees really ache. But I'm getting the trick of it— my legs are strong enough now for that much.

30: Tuesday

31: Wednesday

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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