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November 2004

First Snow

Kobudo Snow: Shihonuke © 2004 New Moon.
Kobudo Snow: Shimi Ijiri Bo Ichi © 2004 New Moon.
Shima Ijiri Bo Ichi
Kobudo Snow: Sueyoshi Nokun Ichi © 2004 New Moon.
Sueyoshi Nokun Ichi
  Kobudo Snow: Shima Ijiri Bo Ni © 2004 New Moon.
Shima Ijiri Bo Ni
Kobudo Snow: Chounokun © 2004 New Moon.

Mostly, I don't like to see the snow arrive, but it can be fun. Kobudo katas in the snow. You can't see whether I ended where I began in these, but I can tell you I came very close in every one. And I kept the bo near the ground, too. Notice the perfect clover leaf of Shihonuke with the attendant blocking tracks. Excellent! Too bad I can't erase them and try for even better patterns... next time.

01: Monday

Beautiful. A little Chen while waiting for breakfast... gently, trying to get the feel of it...


Sensei is determined to whip us into shape. Class was nonstop from the warmup. I had to stop for a breather from time to time, but being out of breath was more from having to think too hard about what combinations of kicks and punches I could use than from actual exertion. My mind goes blanks when they call out, "Combinations. Your choice!" It's a real struggle for me to find kicks and punches on my own. Supposedly, your "landing" should naturally suggest your next move, but I just seem to come down the same old way... It was a good class, anyway; and an excellent workout.

02: Tuesday

I'm a little disappointed that we didn't do Push Hands tonight, but, as ever, the lesson was excellent.

Opening Form. Not something to be taken lightly. We do not begin in a state of wuji— or perhaps we do, but it so quickly transitions into a state of balanced readiness you might miss the coalesence if you aren't paying attention. And after that, it's all shun-chan-ni-chan in motion, always seeking and findling equilibrium... very neat— and you should see all the apps! You would never dream that so much use could be packed into a few simples moves. Wow.

I was noticing: when Jonas does the moves, I can see the qi, the power, just as I did in David. Joe has a lot of qi going, too, but... I think he allows himself to get a bit sloppy from time to time. (Are you listening, Joe?) I haven't really had a chance to keep a close eye on the others in class. Anyway, being in class, being able to see other people moving again, seeing how the qi moves, being able to see what I'm s'posed to be doing, really helps.

We were talking about spiral energy (shun chan, ni chan) and Lorna asked, as I did a while ago in this journal, if there is shun chan and ni chan energy in the feet. Jonas said he thought there was, but hadn't figured it out yet. So I guess I don't have to feel stupid... you know, I remember David mentioning this years ago. He told us there was a subtle "twisting" to the stepping... and there were some exercises, too... I wish I could remember...

I copied some of the notes off the wall:

Xiao Jie Ling Jing: The extremeties lead the power

Fang Song: Sink and Relax

Chang Si Jing: Rotating Circular Force (spiral)

Kai: Open, expand
He: Close, contract
Kua: Waist/crease
Song Kua: Relax kua

Lou Xi Bao Tou Tui Shan: Brush Knee Embrace Head Push Mountain

Bao Hu Hui Shan: Embrace Tiger Return Mountain

Yun Shou: Move Hand(s)/Cloud Hand(s)

I have a lot of practicing to do...

Bob asked what "my" Opening form was, so I demonstrated. When I finished, Jonas commented that there were "lots of possibilities there, too." This would have been the moment for me to say, "Show me, please;" but I got flustered and said something inane about having learned a lot about my Yang form since coming to these classes. I'm such a twit. *sigh*

Ah, well. Practice tomorrow will be interesting.

03: Wednesday


Some ways I was much better. Still confused about kata ending, but I refrained from asking. If Sensei wants my endings fixed, he'll tell me, I suppose.

I did okay showing Janna the bunkai for Shima Ijiri Bo Ichi.

04: Thursday

'Jays everywhere today. So blue. So noisy. The leaves of the dogwood trees are falling at last. Deep russett colors, falling... falling.... They don't go quietly; they clatter as they fall through their still-clinging fellows, and they clatter when they land on their already fallen comrades. Each time the wind blows, more are swept from the branches and it sounds like rain.

Practice. It's very difficult to keep my waist from leading. Opening form is so simple and so complex...

At "rest," feet comfortably apart, hands on the front of the thighs, one roots and feels for the the qi in the fingertips...

The attack comes! The attacker grabs your wrists. Your fingers rise towards the left forty-five (to unbalance the attacker), like squid ascending rapidly, naturally, powerfully from the ocean's depths, pushing wrists and forearms upwards, level, on a wave of power...

Fang song. Tiger body. Ready for the counter move, the weight slightly on the right leg. Shun-chan-ni-chan! You have your attacker now. Elbows pinned in place— xiao jie ling jing! The hands take the opponent's energy to the right, then press it downwards and away as your body centers its weight perfectly again to continue smoothly pushing upwards and away...

Grab the attacker by the arm. Pull him towards the right— xiao jie ling jing! "Open the door" with the right foot, and, still pulling, turn to the right, taking your attacker with you. Then, your whole body a single coordinated unit, pressing your right toe downwards as if squashing a rock into wet sand, both hands lending a subtle shun chan energy— Tui! sending your attacker out the door and on his way!

Some work on section five. I put on the elbow stabilizer to check myself. Joe kids me about my elbow stabilizer, but I only used it that very few times. And now I find I don't really need it.


My kicks are still out to lunch. I hope they come back soon.

I'm very tired.

05: Friday

The wind is fierce today outside my Shangri-la. But the sun is warm, so practice is very pleasant— if you can ignore the roaring.

Opening Form. I might spend years getting this one. It seems much more complex than Yang Opening Form... but that's probably because I'm ignorant of the subtleties of Yang.

The most difficult thing to master is the simplicity. Let the body move and it will balance itself.

I forgot to mention: Lorna has begun teaching us Lohan. It's very interesting. I believe it's called the 18 Hands of Lohan. Supposedly, it the exercises that the Bodhisattva taught the Shaolin monks. She knows only the first section— she and John took a workshop once upon a time. It seems to be a very effective workout, too. Heck, John worked up a sweat just reading over the instructions and trying to figure out whether they were remembering the routine correctly! Now that's an effective exercise program!

06: Saturday

Sunny, cool and breezy. Warm in the sun. A littel Chen. Mindfully...

Today Jonas is teaching a Push Hands workshop at Peaceful Wolf T'ai Chi. We'll be picking up where we left off in July. Then we learned the energies peng and liu. Today it will be ji and ahn. (Can you tell I haven't a clue as to the spellings? I have to look them up.)

07: Sunday

It's late, near midnight. I have a visual migraine...

It was an excellent workshop. David Shaver has his new dojo, and it's very nice. We had ten people in the class. Me, Lorna, Joe, Bob, and Jeff from our class; then Chris, Peter, Dave... another Jeff, and Joanne... then David and Jonas, of course, make us an even dozen.

Ji: crowding, pressing, closing energy. An: pressing downwards. When ji crowds you, you counter with an. Simple.

We worked on the push hands routine that cycles through peng, lu, ji and an. Peng is countered with lu (pulling). Lu is countered with ji; counter ji with an... let it go, and you come back up into starting position and go 'round again. It's supposed to be done very smoothly and gently. You're supposed to be listening to your partner, feeling the subtle movement of the energies... tīng is listening energy... Jonas told us that when he was learning, if anyone got too energetic his teacher would come over and ask, "Why are you shouting?"

I'm not very good at Push Hands, and neither were some of the other people I worked with, but we all had a very good time. And we did learn a lot.

It's very mild tonight. I was out on the back porch a few minutes ago, practicing Opening Form. It's... very different. But I think I'm getting it. I've finally got the Yang out of it.

At the workshop yesterday, Jonas demonstrated again how to deliver a powerful push in the "new way." Old taiji theory says that the qi for the push has to travel all the way from the root to the push point. The new theory says the "circuit" that connects the energy from the "push point" to the "root" starts at the tantien and travels outwards towards both the push point and the root simultaneously, thereby completing the "circuit" in half the time because the energy has to travel only half as far from the tantien— I don't think you should quote my explanation, but I'm pretty sure I've got the right idea... I picture energy shooting out from the tantien in both directions, like a rope going rigid from the center... am I right in picturing it like this...?

You want to deliver a push. Energy comes up to your hand from the tantien, like a wave moving through your body. But, if your tantien wasn't "fixed" in position, you'd recoil from the hit. Like trying to punch something when you're in freefall, you'd just send yourself in the opposite direction. Physics. So to make the push work, simultaneously, energy has to go out from the tantien to your root, bracing against the ground, completing the circuit, to stop the recoil from the push at the tantien. Physics, right? And this means your push is only as good as your root.

I've certainly felt this push work when Jonas demonstrated on me. And I've been able to reproduce the effect to some degree and feel the difference... very interesting.

08: Monday

Breezy, but a beautiful day to practice.

Yu Bei Shi, Opening Form. Sometimes I think I'm onto something, the rest of the times... well.

Peng in the stance, I'm used to that. Cocyx tucked under? Easy! But now... this isn't a neutral stance. "Feel the power in the fingertips." Xiao jie ling jing. The extremeties lead the power... yes. I feel the weight shift to the right as the "squid" ascend to the left forty-five; and I feel it center itself as my hands shun-chan-ni-chan to the right... I think I have correct Tiger Body, and I'm not using my waist to move my hands. I guess I'm on the right track. I hope so.

Chen, section 5. Jonas straightened out my Canon Fists on Saturday— literally. I wasn't punching with my wrist straight. I was keeping my wrists cocked. I felt a fool when he pointed that out. It's so obvious, after all! And yet, I missed it. Duh!

The thing is, I'm no longer in a class of mindless sheep. In this class, you've got to think, and take resonsibility for your own learning process. So. I'm going to have to learn to think like a martial artist; and that's a thing I don't know much about, even having been studying karate for over two years...

I think I've known this for a while, known this is what has been missing from my learning. Applications. Thinking, defense and attack.

Studying alone sucks. And at the dojo, nobody talks about this stuff. They just expect you to figure it out by doing. But that doesn't seem to work in my case. Or maybe I'm just particularly slow on the uptake.

Some more Chen. Some Sword Form. Some Han Bo, just for fun— and a little stretching— got to be able to skip a step and land in a creep!

09: Tuesday

Aurora. Textbook "curtains" of green light; rays shotting up from the northren horizon... Wish I could've stopped, but I was on a bad section of Route 6 heading home from taiji.

Jin Gang Dao Zhui, Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar. Another deceptively simple move, but so rich— and you should've seen the applications! So many ways to work the moves!

What struck me as I watched Jonas and Joe work the apps was that all the moves were drills we do in karate, but without the shun-chan-ni-chan— unless I just can't see it— but add that in and you couldn't tell the difference.

Before class, Lorna taught us the second of the Lohan "hands."

For the last part of class we worked on push hands. I worked with Joe. Jonas came over to us after a while and asked, "Is it very soft?" Joe said, "Not very." Hmmmm... Then Jonas worked with me a bit, showing me how softly the exercise could be done.

Later Jonas talked with us about learning to listen, and about learning to work with another person. He likened it to dressage, where the rider gives very subtle signals to the horse, and the two are in constant communication on a phusical level.

It's true. I learned dressage years ago. (Why? How else could I control my war pony/horse and still be able to wield my bow/lance/rifle/sword/whatever?) It was truly amazing to be able to signal the horse with the slightest of touches or even a tiny shift in my weight... Fang song in the saddle, and the dressage trained horse will stop.

There's an interesting book "Horse Follow Closely," written by Gawani Pony Boy. It's about Native American horse training practices. He has this to say:

"Relationship Training is more than a collection of methods or techniques for training your horse. It is an attitude or belief system that can be applied to all methods and techniques of horsemanship. It embodies two basic understandings. One is knowing that the boundaries and behaviors inherent in the horse's life as a herd animal facilitates our communication and actions with our horse. The other basic understanding is knowing that it is more important and more productive to concerntrate on the relationship between human and animal than it is to concentrate on the results that we hope to achieve."

"... in truth, training is nothing other than attunement. Attunement of rider to horse and attunement of horse to rider."

And all of this is true of push hands. Listening. Listening to each other. We have to learn to really listen with our whole beings, body, mind, and spirit.

Oh, and one other thing that's true for all of us, warrior riders, horses, and taiji players, alike: we have to be in a trusting relationship to be able to learn to listen and communicate. Horse and rider or push hands partners, we have to be able to trust the learning situation, not feel threatened or unsure of what's going to happen. Jonas made a point of this in class— as did his teacher when teaching him. Gawani Pony Boy said it in his book. It's important to be able to trust when you're learning.

I'm glad I've fallen among people I can trust.

10: Wednesday

It dawned on me today that the reason I found Joe and Jonas and the others is that my next lesson to be learned is how to really listen to people. On all levels. To do that, I needed a safe place, and they're providing that. And I'm also learning trust, and I'm getting a chance to heal some old wounds, too. I'm really quite lucky. I hope I don't screw up.

11: Thursday

I probably should have gone to visit Dad's grave today, but it didn't occur to me until now. It's been thirty-five years since he died. I should show him my taiji and a bo kata.

No practice today. I'm exhausted from schlepping stuff from room to room so the installer guy could install the windows. And worse than that, now I have to move everything back! Not to mention paint the interiors. But, on the other hand, all the windows are clean.

I did work on the journal today, and that helped me to get some of my thoughts about taiji and push hands in order.

Today I woke up dreaming I had sunk down into a creep easily, and that the position felt so comfortable I surprised myself. I remember the feeling clearly. And when I wanted to get up, up I came with no effort at all. It felt wonderful. My ankle was flexible, my body upright; I was perfectly balanced and relaxed...

One of these days that dream is going to be a reality.

12: Friday

Gray and cold. Invisible hail crackles on the somber fallen leaves...

Two sets of 24 Form to warm up. (I don't remember I can do the Lohan. It's not part of my routine yet.)

Opening and Pounding... so much to work on. I have a jillion questions— even a few I may need to ask.

Later. Chen Opening Form in the stacks. The Maps Curator is out today and the light in the Maps Room is out so I can watch myself in the big windows over the computer stations...

Shoulders relaxed, elbows pinned... shun chan, ni chan...

13: Saturday

First snow. I had to sweep the porch.

I feel all at sixes and sevens today. Ma had me drive her to class and pick her up. I did practice a little in between, but I couldn't concentrate.

The sun is out. It's comfortable on the porch... bright.

Sometimes I almost— almost wish I'd never discovered this Xinjia Yilu. 24 Form is so much easier (after four-and-a-half years of practice!).

Sword Form with Ma.

14: Sunday

Sunny and cold; comfortable on the porch.

Chen. I want to retreat into 24 Form becuase it seems easier, but I remember wanting to quit taiji completely in the beginning. So... Chen.

Opening Form. I watch myself in the kitchen window, wondering how I'm doing. It looks mostly right to me— but what do I know?

Still watching, I prepart to pound the mortar... shun-chan-ni-chan seems very difficult. Am I short-changing the left hand's ni chan? Maybe not. But I am leaning too much to the left. Concentrate on staying more upright and the strength will come...

Section Five. I'm still a little paranoid about my position in "kiss the squid." I hope my back is straight...

I wish the porch was deeper and I didin't have to relocate at the spin for the lead-in to double lotus kick. *sigh*

If I eliminate the duplicate moves from the list of 83, I'm left with 50. Of those, I know 14. That means I have only 36 more to learn.

Bo katas in the snow at Jo's. Neat. Shihonuke made a perfect clover leaf.

15: Monday

Happy birthday, David. It's a beautiful day. Sunny and nearly 60 degrees on the porch... snow is melting.

One set of 24 Form to get moving.

Chen. Yu Bei Shi (Opening) and Jin Gang Dao Zhui (Pounding). I keep thinking (my real mistake, no doubt!) that the shun-chan-ni-chan that brings my hands into position for Pounding from the kai (open: arms spread wide) open-hand blocks isn't happening correctly. And yet, when I watch in the glass, I don't see that it could happen differently... I don't know.

Section Five. I think I'm beginning to understand some things better.

I've been thinking that if I could find someone who likes to play enough to make the effort to get together with me, I could teach him all the kobudo katas and the bunkai and then I'd have someone to play with— dream on, Lizzie.

Karate. Kevin took the class tonight. He's got most of his Texas drawl out of the Japanese words. He hasn't done much teaching, and he was a bit nervous before class. I heard him ask Angie what the word for "Line up!" was. (Sensei uses "Shugo!" but I always thought that translated as "Train!" not "Line up!")

We did some work on Shihonuke. Angie had us change the coordination a bit, and Sensei had us thinking about the rhythm of the moves, telling us not to fall into the habit of doing every move to the same boring beat. That's why I like practicing on my own. I can do it my way— and I've got room to move.

16: Tuesday

Two sets of 24 Form.

How can I give up 24 Form? It's what keeps me relaxed— and warm! I don't relax practicing Chen; I don't even know yet what Chen is supposed to feel like.

Taiji Class. Lan Zha Yi, Lazily Tying Coat. I'm so tired I can't think. Another very rich move. Lots to practice....

Two of my questions got answered tonight without my having to ask. Joe asked about the splitting energy (lie) in the move. There's a place where the hands separate, the right remaining almost in place, the left moving away at greater speed; what you're doing is pulling your opponent into the right hand for a throat strike. Joe was having trouble wrapping his head around the energy because the hands were moving at different speeds. The thing is, though, the energy, lie, is drawn— split between the hands, and it is consistent throughout the move, but the center moves along the energy line towards the left to keep the balance. I could see that.

Lorna asked Jonas how to keep the hands relaxed. He said the only remedy was to practice, as he had done. A lot. I had been wondering, too, about whether I'm supposed to practice this Chen style as I do the Yang style, in a very relaxed, slow way, imagining and working the qi, letting it flow. Heaven knows why I would think Chen different in this regard, but I did. Not so, however. Chen is the same in this: relax and let the qi flow.

17: Wednesday

A very bad day.

No time to practice this morning. Two tries at Lazyily Tying Coat in the Emergency Room at UMass Medical in Worcester, waiting, watching over Ma... A car accident. The other guy jumped the red light and Ma's car flipped. She's badly bruised, and has some nasty cuts and fifty stitches in her head, but she's lucid and there are no obvious broken bones. They're worried about an injury to her back, a little concerned about possible internal injuries, but... She was resting and almost comfortable when Jon and I left her. I hope she'll be okay. We have reason to hope so.

18: Thursday

Ma is better. She's being allowed to eat, but she's still got to stay flat on her back, and they may give her a brace to wear for a while. So far, so good.

19: Friday

A beautiful day. November sun pale sky. 65 degrees.

Chen. Slowly, like my Yang style, trying to geel the balance and the energy... song...

I've been very frightened about losing taiji again. But, somehow, when I "poke" that uncertain spot inside, testing it for stability, it feels... almost solid. The taiji is there. I am surprised to discover this. But it feels as if the connection I've made to these people in Connecticut will remain.

Ma is better. I called David today to tell him about Ma. She won't be in class tomorrow. But we hope she'll be coming back soon.

20: Saturday

21: Sunday

I did get to see the rank test yesterday. Fern got her brown belt; Eric is ni kyu now. Dave is go kyu.

No time to practice Saturday. Today I taiji walked and did various silk reeling exercises with my hands— like the exercises Master Zhang Zhijun taught us at the workshop. Up and down... up and down... It was very calming, and I could really feel the qi.

Ma is doing excellently. I went to visit. While she watched golf and dozed I practiced my chen. The other patient had been discharged, so I had lots of room once I pushed the bed aside...

A little 24 Form, a little TCA... feeling the qi.

When I think how long I've been studying, I think I ought to be better, know more. But, really, I'm still only a beginner.

Ma has a back brace now. She was sitting in the chair when I arrived. She sat up to eat dinner, then got back into bed for a while, then got into the chair again. At this rate, she'll be back to taiji lessons by Christmas.

22: Monday

Ma is on the mend, and I can practice more mindfully today.

Stepping and silk reeling. Probably it just looked like reeling, but I think it's doing me some good. I can feel the qi. At one point the whirling energy was nigh to making me dizzy.

Chen. Opening to Pounding to Tying, paying attention to the energies: peng, lu, ji, an... and the coordination.

Section Five. Kiss the squid, kick the lotus, flap your sleeves, punch the crotch, present the fruit, seal and close, crack the whip, throw the dragon on the ground, step up to the stars, step back and mount the tiger, turn and kick two lotuses, fire the canons overhead, pound the mortar, close the form.

It's a nice, mild, pale November day. I'll go in to work, then leave early and go see Ma.

23: Tuesday

Stepping and silk reeling, up and down... up and down... up and down...

A beautiful day. Ma's doing okay, mending, but she needs sleep. Tomorrow they'll take her to Pine Grove in Pascoag. I hope it's quieter there for her.

Class... excellent! (I had Ma's leave to go. She understands what's important.) I suppose there are some who would be disappointed to get only half way through Six Sealing Four Closing, but I'm not one of them. Each move — each part of each move has so much to offer...

The six harmonies: hands and feet, shoulders and hips, elbows and knees. Whatever the stance, these six must be in harmony.

What I like about our classes is that we talk about everything. The form, the applications, the energies. Jonas demonstrates everything, so we get to see the workings. Tonight he demonstrated one small piece of the move and you could clearly see how the spiraling energy of the six harmonies worked together, like gears moving.

And after class, we talked some more in the driveway. Laughing and talking taijiquan. If I can get them to play with me, my dreams will have come true.

24: Wednesday

Cool and gray.

Some Chen. Opening, pounding, tying, sealing and closing... last night it seemed so much clearer— but then I had Joans to watch and it was easy to see the energy moving and ape it.

Last night, Jonas reminded us to use the new way of pushing, to be sure to make the energy travel out from the center. One never pushes in only one direction: it's always splitting energy— lie.

In the driveway last night, Bob asked Jonas something about Sword Form, and suddenly Jonas had fetched an umbrella out of the trunk of his car and was showing Bob how to "keep the point of the sword active." I had been wondering about the sword energy and this bit of information helps.

I told Ma tonight that when she's better and can stand the ride, I want her to come to taiji class and meet the others. If Ma were ten years younger, I know she'd like this Xinjia Yilu— and Jonas, as much as I do.

25: Thursday

Thanksgiving Day. There is much to be thankful for. I know it was Kwan Yin watching over Ma.

A little reading about energy in the T'ai Chi Classics, a tiny bit of Chen, and I'm off to visit Ma.

26: Friday

Cold, but sunny. At last! (Why did I write that? The weather has been pretty good. But perhaps the internal weather has been overwhelmingly dismal? I have been worried about Ma, even though she is mending quickly.)

No formal practice. Silk reeling, though... I could feel the qi in my fingertips... sometimes the coordination eludes me.

Ma's doing better each day. Now she's getting bored because she feels well, but can't do anything because of the back brace.

27: Saturday

Cold and sunny. It was 36 degrees, and frost was in the long shadows when I came out to practice.

Two exquisitely slow sets of 24 Form. I felt... together. Incredible feeling.

Reading... T'ai Chi Magazine, Volume 28, Number 4.

One thing I've noticed in practice lately is that the "glitches" in my moves, the little "hangups" in flow, have become very obvious, and therefore, corrections are easier to work on.

Bo practice at Jo's. Drills, up and down, up and down... When I relax enough, my stance deepens and stabilizes.

I'm going to have to find someone to train so I have a partner for bunkai and drills. Who in heck can I get? Where do I look?

28: Sunday

Rain. Pouring rain and the wind is in the south blowing it onto the back porch.

Chen. Slowly, feeling for the power... I have some...

I am remembering that on the "tui's" [pushes], I need to make the energy go both ways... On lu [pulling], xiao jie ling jing... a very short move is lu...

An is pushing downwards...

Shun chan and ni chan in the hands is mirrored in the feet...

Why is it so easy to get discouraged? I know I'm capable of learning. I guess it's my ego saying I ought to be quicker to learn— after all, I've got 24 Form down; I should be able to pick up Chen all the more easily, right? (Yeah. Maybe when I've got twenty-five years of practice behind me!)

I stopped at Jo's tonight to drop off the editorial notes on her story. She said she'd been trying to remember 24 Form, but couldn't get the transitions between the moves, so we went through the sequence a few times and I wrote it down for her. Afterwards, we got to talking about energy. Qi. Jo isn't drawn to taiji as I am, but she studied Long Form years ago, and 24 Form for a while when I convinced her to join David's class. Lately we talk about energy a lot. What we both seem to be seeking is a sensitivity to the energy around us, a deeper awareness of ourselves and the world and how it all flows together.

29: Monday

30: Tuesday

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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