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May 2004

Kanji for Shoong. "Song is translated into English as relax. But this meaning is generally regarded as incomplete. It also can mean loosening, releasing tension, relaxed alertness. To my mind the state of Song is directly related to correct posture and structural alignment as described in the Ten Essential Points by Yang Chen-fu. By realigning the body to attain and maintain correct natural alignment of the skeleton several things result. Internal organs are able to locate in the body as they were designed to enabling them the opportunity to function at their optimum. Secondly, correct natural alignment enables the skeleton to assume its job of supporting the body as it was designed to do. Consequently the ligaments, tendons, tissue and muscles of the body can also assume the particular job they were designed for, namely to support the skeleton and not expend additional energy or create unnecessary tensions. If we can achieve and maintain this natural state, then we can allow the body to function naturally and optimally. In this state, we have a chance of achieving the state of Song from the inside out rather than superficially from the outside in as we all tend to do."

— Ian Etcell
How to Improve Your Tai Chi
Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi Newsletter, 2003

01: Saturday


A day of terrible disquiet. The sky is hazy and there's an angry, shifting wind...

My left knee is still bothering me. For the past week kneeling in the dojo has been painful. It feels stiff now. Perhaps I should make a point of kneeling every day to keep it limber. Perhaps scar tissue is forming from some tearing caused by that take-down practice.

The twits next door are out working in the yard. Can't they do anything that doesn't require power tools? At least today the tools they've chosen aren't so loud that I can't ignore them when they stay away from the property line.

Six— more? sets, all left. I concentrated on trying to relax— to be song, sung, shoong— and, to a great degree, it worked. My left knee feels much better. I couldn't feel the qi as strongly today— the wind and the noisy neighbors, perhaps?

02: Sunday

03: Monday

04: Tuesday


No taiji practice— nothing to speak of— Sunday and Monday: the internal weather was as bad as the external. Yuk!

Today is sunny and windy. But the porch is sheltered enough, so, while I practiced, I watched the pale green maple flowers blow like rain.

A few sets of TCA; a few sets of 24 Form. Nothing special. My mind is a bit distracted and I couldn't rein it all the way in.

My left hip is making itself felt. The kicking practice in karate has loosened it up. Excellent! If I add in some yoga exercises now, I should make some good progress.

I've been thinking: I should mention to Dr. Lam that he should add a voice track to his videos during the demonstration part. He could use the SAP feature. Then a person could learn the forms one at a time and when it came to putting it all together, one could play the demonstration section and hear the voice instructions telling which way to turn ("step out to nine o'clock...") while following along. That would make the videos actually useful!


It's turned out to be a beautiful day. Cool and perfect for practicing.

Four sets of 24 Form. Kicks with both left and right heels were working, and my left hip is most definitely loosening up.

While I practiced, I was remembering how difficult taiji was once upon a time. Then, Wave Hands Like Clouds made my lower back ache, and I wobbled so bad I couldn't keep my balance on my left foot! Coordination was a complete mystery, then, too— and I wonder at how dreadful my Repulsing the Monkey must have looked... I know it sure felt awkward!

There's still a lot to work on, and lot yet to learn... Was it only yesterday or a thousand years ago when I began?

05: Wednesday


I've had to close the back door and the window: it's only 36 degrees out there. I could see my breath in the moonlight on almost every exhale, but I didn't realize how cold it had gotten: I felt as if I was the same temperature as the air.

Some TCA, then some 24 Form in the most incredible moonlight. The sets were far from perfect, and yet, my fingers were vibrating with qi most of the time!

My hip and lower spine pop and crackle now that they've loosened up. Must be the kicking did it. I'm so glad I discovered karate.

Jon called earlier while I was at Ma's. He had kobudo tonight and was eager to tell me how much fun they had beginning to learn shima ijiri bo ni. He told me I should be sure to get warmed up before class and make sure my knees and ankles are working. He also said to remember to stay loose for this one. As we talked, I rememberd what I've seen of the kata, and it requires quite a bit of athletic ability. I'm looking forward to learning it.


I woke up practicing kobudo katas, and stayed there, in bed, doing my virtual practice for half-an-hour. I had to get up to do Matayoshi no Sai for real, though, cuz there was a step I missed and I couldn't figure it out in my head.

06: Thursday


I woke up at six o'clock this morning to find myself running through shima ijiri bo ni in my head. My head didn't want to go back to sleep, so I practiced some more with bo and sai. I finally went back to sleep, but when I woke again, I was exhausted!

Shima ijiri bo ni is a very neat kata, and other than the opening blocking sequence, there's nothing particularly diffuclt about it. Last night, we got about half the kata learned.

07: Friday

Last night I asked Ma to "lay hands on my knee and make it better." I stretched my leg out over her lap and she rubbed it a little. I closed my eyes, enjoying the feeling...

She stopped rubbing, and just held my knee between her hands— that's what I thought. But she wasn't touching my knee at all. She was just holding her hands over and under my knee, an inch or so away. But it felt as if she was holding my knee firmly in her hands. It was very warm, too...

Well. What can I say? Ma's a natural. I've been around reiki/qigong types for a while; only a very few have an real qi. Ma's one of them. Qi isn't something I "believe in," either; I know it's very real.

No, my knee has not been miraculously healed, but it does feel better.

Two sets before gobbling breakfast and going to work.

08: Saturday


A few run-throughs of shima ijiri bo ni with the mop handle. I'm still wary of my left knee, so I have yet to go "all out" on the first two moves...

It's a nice, sunny, cool day. Excellent for practice...

But my head is all in a muddled mess: I'm very bothered by my ex-teacher and all that happened. It's stupid, but I'm having trouble letting it go.

09: Sunday

10: Monday


Had two back teeth out this morning. It feels strange... but not painful.

Everything ached Satruday, so I contented my self with mop handle practice; and later kneeling practice. Ditto on Sunday.

I won't be taking a karate lesson tonight (because of the extraction), but taiji and mop handle practice this afternoon will be enjoyable. I'll probably practice with sai, too— got to strengthen my hands for tonfa.

Jon mentioned yesterday that Sensei had asked him to test for kobudo. He'll pass this time, I'm sure. Looks like about fifteen people have signed up, and Rob will be testing for shodan (black), which will probably require some time. Looks like it may be a long afternoon. But it will be interesting.


Four sets of 24 Form. Good sets, but I wasn't shoong.

11: Tuesday

I woke up today feeling I've lost every shred of sanity. What is— has gone wrong?

Sai and mop handle. It's very warm today. 80 degrees.

12: Wednesday

One set of TCA. Humid and warm today— too much so.

I haven't felt this bad mentally in a long time. Stress. How do I stop it?

13: Thursday

Last night we learned that rest of shima ijiri bo ni. This morning I awoke practicing. But I'm stuck at one move near the end and can't transition to the ending sequence... When I've finished my tea, I'll try with the mop handle.

I'm having to work on limbering my knees every day. I kneel and "work" it until I can sit on my heels. And then, there's a yoga posture, too, pigeon pose, which I'm doing in a slightly modified form. Doing this before class made kneeling painless and the kata much easier.

Pigeon Pose: Face twelve o'clock, sitting on the left hip, both legs drawn up, knees pointing to the side you're sitting on (nine o'clock), bottom leg's thigh and calf are flat on the floor. Turn your torso to that side you're sitting on (nine o'clock), put your hands on the floor, right at noon, left at six o'clock, but forward of the bent knee. Lift your hips a bit and stretch out the top leg towards three o'clock, turning over so that the knee is towards the floor. Let your hip joints roll to the noon-six orientation, trying to keep the bent leg's thigh and calf on the floor. Bend forward, letting your torso push down on the flexed leg beneath. Relax. Come up and switch sides.

14: Friday

15: Saturday

Warm today— too warm. 80 degrees.

I got some bruises on my legs Thursday night doing bunkai with Sam. Time to buy shin guards!

Yesterday, I did some TCA before work. The qi came and went. After work, I stopped at Jo's and practiced bo katas for an hour. The first time through shima ijiri bo ichi, it morphed into sueyoshi nokun ichi, and I then followed it to the end to see what else would happen. It was just the two katas, though. Very amusing. I wonder what it's come out like if all my bo katas got swizzled together...

Not only is it too warm today, but there's an annoying wind. I'm not sure why it's annoying, but it is.

16: Sunday

17: Monday


Cool (60 degrees), but himid. Lots of fair weather clouds.

Three sets of 24 Form.

Sometimes, you know/feel something ins't right, but you can't put your finger on't.

Wometimes, things are so right, they drop out of your awareness.

Sometimes both of the above happen in the same set. Today, repulsing was "invisible," but waving and all the ward-offs... just weren't right.

I wonder what creeping will feel like if I ever get it near right!

What bothers me most lately is a worry that I'll never connect my upper and lower body into one coordinated unit— heck, I think of my body as being two separate units! That can't be good! Anyway, in karate, that translates as "not using your hips." It's very frustrating, especially in kobudo. I wonder what my problem is. If I had a teacher who recognized the cause of the problem, would he know what to do? Would he tell me? Sensei only tells me I'm not using my hips. How much more must I practice to solve this problem on my own?

Tonight, I was surprised to discover that I can deliver pretty decent hammer fists, left and right, from kibachachi (horse stance)— and without a big windup, either! My hips were actually working. Excellent!

18: Tuesday

Cool and clammy: not a comfortable day to do anything. The sun slips furtively in and out in a sky that seems neither cloudy nor clear, but only an elusive shade of gray-white. The wind comes and goes as if teasing and taunting, setting the chimes to jangling: they reminded me of the music in the Harry Potter movies: the sound seemed portentious.

Found an interesting book: "Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body" by B.K. Frantzis. Interesting. (The One Way Bookstore has a link.)

19: Wednesday

A dismal start. Dull and gray and clammy.

Two sets of TCA, then a couple of 24 Form. There's something very wrong with Hands Unfold Like Fan.

Tonight, kobudo was interesting. I felt... more relaxed and was able to keep my stance lower. It was almost working. My balance was off, but sometimes I think my hips worked. It was very warm, though, and my hands were so sweaty I had a tough time hanging onto my bo. It slipped a few times, but I didn't drop it!

Sensei only corrected me on one thing: I need to keep my forearm parallel to the floor in the vertical side blocks. That was the only correction I got. Sometimes I wonder if he fugres correcting me is hopeless.

20: Thursday

Beautiful day. Sunny, cool and dry. Light breeze. Too bad the mental weather isn't as good.

A little practice with the mop handle to start. My stances do feel more comfortable.

Sensei often talks about personal style in kobudo. I wonder what mine is like... I wonder what Sensei thinks as he watches me; I wonder what he sees...

Three sets of 24 Form. Very good sets. On the second one, I could feel the qi like an elastic force between my hands... it was so strong I felt I could have grasped it and pulled...

What would have happened then? Would the qi have pulled something to me, or would I have moved? Hmmm.... Guess I'd only know if there were a limit to the elasticity of the qi and I reached that limit with my pulling. Hmmm.... is the strongest qi the least elastic? Or is all qi equally elastic? The latter, I think. Therefore, Lizzie's Rule of Qi: Manipulation of qi is limited by the "strength" of the manipulator.

21: Friday

Four sets of TCA. My energy levels feel low, and the TCA seems to help.

Is my low energy a side-effect from yesterday's experience with qi?

22: Saturday

I only got to see the last few minutes of the rank tests. Rob was sparring with Sensei when I arrived. Sensei pressed Rob very hard, but Rob wasn't thrown, figuratively or literally. Rob has a lot of poise. Good form. Good style. Good person. He'll be a very valuable shodan.

Sensei was very pleased with all fifteen of the people who tested. In an unprescedented move, he announced on the spot that that everyone had passed!

23: Sunday

Kneeling practice. Pigeon pose. Why do they seem so hard? I can do them— better each day— but they seem and feel so... difficult. Is is my mind-set?

Four sets, some TCA, a few more sets of 24. I couldn't get the feeling of reeling silk today, but, on the other hand, my hip is more flexible, my right thigh doesn't hurt, and the weight distribution to my left heel is much improved. I did notice that my sets were fast, too: six minutes or so, each.

Well, I'm off to Jo's. I'll practice weapons there.

24: Monday

Grasping practice while waiting for software to load. Stretching. Karate.

Tom, who tested for go kyu (green 5) Saturday, was awarded green 4 tonight. Skipped a grade. Yay! (Tom is very good. He took karate from Sensei many years ago, and he's been working hard since he came back.)

25: Tuesday

Another cold, damp, gray day.

One set while waiting for breakfast. My right hip was nagging me today. *sigh* But it feels as if it will stretch out...

26: Wednesday

As I was waiting for my oatmeal, I did some Opening Form practice. Both my thumbs and part of my hadns got the strangest feeling in them. It was as if there was strong static electricity surround them. Qi.

Lately, my calves and my knees feel very... strong. I understand from recent reading that this is a sign of qi blockage. I believe it may be so.

27: Thursday

Two sets of TCA.

28: Friday


Some nights my pursuit of karate do seems futile and hopeless. Sensei was trying to help me tonight, but I don't know that I'll ever be able to do anything right...

And yet, I feel that one day I will be quite excellent at kobudo. Go figure!

Last night, after kobudo, I got to talk with Sensei for a few minutes. I asked if he'd ever again test for a higher rank (he's a hachidan). He said he never expects to test again, and he never expects to have a higher rank. It seems the highest ranks are more... political than otherwise. Sensei explained quite a bit about how it all works, and it's all very complicated, which is just what I'd been thinking from the reading I've done.

Sensei and I talked about rank, and we agreed as to there being an ideal on the one hand, and reality on the other. In the ideal dojo— well. As we were talking, I mentioned to Sensei that, while I can never quite predict who will get promoted in our dojo, I do know that if you do the work, no one will hold you back. Sensei laughed at that and agreed that was a good way to put it.

So. The thing to do is just keep working and trying to do better, and if the color of your belt changes, say thank you and keep on working.

My right foot is still swollen. It's not bad in the morning, but by the end of the day the top of my foot and my ankle are very puffy. It's been doing that since the night Sam beat me up in pinan nidan bunkai. The swelling on the top of my foot makes it painful to kneel, too. Edema. I've got some elastic stockings that I'll wear. That should help.


One set. Thunderstorm. High frame. Very... sloppy.

29: Saturday

Beautiful day.

Some TCA, then five sets of 24 Form. Nothing special; the qi comes and goes.

Wearing the stockings to bed has taken the swelling in my foot down. Looks almost like my own foot now.

30: Sunday

Last night there were fireflies. Tonight, it's cold. May.

My back decided to have a spasm just as I was getting into the shower after practice this morning. I hope it calms down by tomorrow. I practiced bo at Jo's this afternoon, and though my back bothered me a bit, I could practice. (But I wonder if I'll ever "get" kobudo.)

Sai practice in the moonlight on the back porch. Sai still make my forearms ache.

31: Monday

Yesterday's practice made me feel quite discouraged. And the way I feel physically, I wonder, Will there ever again be a time I don't ache?

That story presented itself again: Master, how long will it take for me to learn this Art? Three years. And if I practice very, very hard, how long then? Ten years.

I do feel I've been driving myself. Not that I practice so very much, but I worry, constantly, that I will run out of time.

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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