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September 2004

Target by Lizzie © 2004 New Moon.

Target by Lizzie
Copyright © 2004 New Moon

01: Wednesday

Slept late and didn't practice.

Kobudo class was good. I got sent off to work on Shima Ijiri Bo Ni. Me and Dave. First Gabrielle worked with us, then Angie took over...

There's a lot of confusion about this kata in the dojo as far as where the attackers are coming from. Finally Sensei took us in hand— me and Dave, that is— and straightened everything out. Yay!

02: Thursday

A beautiful day. Cool, but there's still bite in the sunlight. The shadows are getting longer.

Practice was a very mixed bag today.

Shima ijiri bo ni. I have the "sweeps" now, but there's still a lot of work to do on details...

Chen style stepping combined with Wave Hands. I still don't understand what Jonas means by "splitting," but I exaggerated the hand movements and the coordination, tried to mimic what I think I saw him doing...

My elbows weren't staying put, so I rigged the mop handle as an elbow stabilizer by tying loop of rawhide to it. I put my elbows in the loops, and violá! my elbows stay in place. And the mop handle shows whether I'm twisting or tilting, and it works with the kicking practice, too!

First four moves of 32 Sword.

I couldn't remember the first section of 42 Form.

Three good sets of 24 Form.

My legs are tired from Chen class, kobudo, and kicking practice, but they feel good, too— "getting into shape" tired.

Silk reeling to end.

Karate Class:

Blocking drills, kibadachi keiko, bunkai.

Black and brown belts in the early class were "grappling" with each other. Tim's gi was torn all across the back, and Sam looked pretty disheveled, too. Looked like a fun class.

03: Friday

It got very cool last night, and it's cool now, but I can feel heat coming... feel humidity, I guess.

I don't feel like practicing. I feel like taking the day off. *sigh* At least we have a long weekend. Maybe some stepping while I drink my tea...

Stepping backwards and forwards I noticed that my left foot was rolling during the weight transfer, so I made sure to try to grip with my tiger toes.

Silk reeling. Horizontal tracing of the yin-yang symbol.

Chen style Wave Hands... I can't figure out the crossover stepping. Just crossing one foot over, before or behind, doesn't hack it. It's not what I saw... I may have to ask.

Last night, Ma asked me to watch her Sword Form, so we practiced together. Ma keeps forgetting that her elbows can, and should! bend.

After work, I stopped to see Peter. He had a truckload of pumpkins, so I stayed to help unload. Pumpkins. The year goes too fast.

04: Saturday

"... Were all living beings once connected? Perhaps so, but in this world, the pursuit of love and compassion is not without pain and confusion."

— Deng Ming Dao, 365 Tao #247

He was trying to help a dove to get back outside where it desperately wanted to go, but his efforts to help panicked the dove even more, and it was only after the bird had stunned itself by flying into a wall that he could help it.

Sometimes this happens when we are tying to help other people. People panic. Communication is difficult— sometimes nearly impossible. The helper tries too hard out of fear of doing more harm, out of trying to protect, to prevent injury, to prevent suffering. (Does such come within our purview?)

Can we help only those who trust us enough to let us help, and those who have stunned themselves into despair or hopelessness? But people are not animals. They may learn to trust us over time. Patience.

I think I will always feel bad about my relationship with David. Why is there nothing I can do? Is there nothing I can do? Why is it so important to me? Ego?

Do the people we try to help really need help? How do we know?

I have fixed up Kwan Yin's place. Flowers and incense and offerings. I am not assiduous, but she knows my heart.

Wave Hands up and down the porch with the elbow stabilizer, trying to figure the coordination... It's simple coordination, but I'm still puzzled about "splitting..." up and down, up and down... If you rotate your hands in opposite directions, you get a distinct "split-and-together" thing... The elbow stabilizer made my left shoulder ache at first, but then I corrected. Up and down...

Kicking left, and twist, then kick right and twist, up and down, up and down... Should I keep the foot that's going to kick on the ground flat, or let it come up on the toes? Hmmmm... I wish I had a clear picture in my mind of Jonas doing Wave Hands and stepping sideways in front and behind.

Six sets of 24 Form. Really good sets. The work on keeping my elbows in place has made a huge difference— Have I ruined my Yang style? I don't think so...

Circles, the circular movements of taiji, suddenly made a lot more sense today.

Ma called after class. She really likes Sword form. She says it suits her and she wants to work hard to get good at it. I hope she does.

The warmth has returned.

05: Sunday

Kobudo katas...

I can't remember Matayoshi No Tunfa Ni, nor the end of Chounokun. Rats.

06: Monday

Labor Day. Beautiful day. My left hip aches. I think it's aching from Chen style Wave Hands. I'm not exactly relaxed yet. I worry too much about getting it right— immediately.

So. Relaxation practice. Up and down, up and down, trying to get the coordination right— and relax. Now I remember how my lower back ached when I began learning taiji. It did ache.

The crows are calling. It's been a long time since I've heard them. I wonder where they've been all summer.

The swath of sun on the porch is widening. My toes are in the sun at midday, even though my chair is set against the house.

Two sets of 24 Form, staying high when creeping.

I kept finding myself worrying, especially about taiji, and whether I do any of this Yang style right. If I found a new Yang style teacher, would he condemn me as hopelessly screwed up in my practice? Would I have to start over?

I wish I had someone to play taiji with. (Karate and kobudo, too.)

I've been thinking about a system of notation for karate and kobudo. Is there one? I'd like to use it to record my katas so I don't forget the endings...

What if the system of notation was like music and each hand and foot was represented by a "note" that corresponded to where it should be positioned? Four lines of notes, like a sheet of music, that you could "play" with your body... and, perhaps, with an instrument, too. Interesting that.

07: Tuesday

Another excellent taiji class. Tonight we worked on "Cross Lotus Kick." Very interesting. Lots of "silk reeling" moves with the hands. I'm getting the hang of it, I think— though Jonas had to keep reminding me to relax my shoulders and keep my elbows down.

I have to practice lotus kicks. I've never had to do them before, and I can't get my knee in close enough that I can slap my toes— yet!

Before class, Bob and Lorna helped me work on one of the moves that occurs often in the form. It's called... something about fours seals, or six seals?

It's all very interesting.

After class, Jonas got to working with Bob and Lorna trying to figure out one of the moves in their San Shou routine. The move was called a lotus kick, but Lorna knew it couldn't be, and Jonas got intrigued wondering what was really supposed to be happening. They went 'round and 'round, trying this and that, until finally Lorna called it a night and ushered us out.

Jonas and Bob and I ended up out in Lorna's driveway, in the dark, me watching the two of them go 'round and 'round trying out this and that... I finally had to leave. But they could be there yet, for all I know, going 'round and 'round and 'round...

08: Wednesday

09: Thursday

Hot and humid and gray.

Last night I practiced Sword Form with Ma. I wish she would practice on her own— I wish she had lessons more than once a week. *sigh* I know how tough it is making yourself practice on your own.

I can't remember practicing Wednesday, but I think I did two sets before taking Ma to the eye guy.

Kobudo last night was bo practice, and a talk from Sensei about not getting all caught up in belts and rank. as he says, it doesn't matter what color belt you put on, you'll still only know what you know, and you'll only be as good as your technique.

Sometimes, in taiji and karate and kobudo all, I feel as if I'm so far behind that I may as well quit. I feel as if I'll never understand applications or be able to use them myself. I feel slow and stupid. I feel as if I've been wasting my time.

I was working on Cross Lotus Kick earlier. It made me feel stupid. I don't understand these moves— my body doesn't understand. And I am impatient. Last night, Ma was moaning about not being able to get her set of simple moves to be as smooth and easy as mine, and I said to her, "Well, how many times do you think I've done these moves, Ma? Thousands!"

Well, Lizzie, how many times have you done Cross Lotus Kick? Twenty? You've got a long way to go yet before you are allowed to get discouraged!

Okay. So I've got a little routine that goes from Fan Through the Back through Cross Lotus Kick. It's a short routine. If I could relax and breathe while doing it, I'm sure my heart wouldn't be pounding when I get to the end.

Where did I learn this habit of being an uptight nervous wreck? More important, how do I get rid of it?

On the wall at Lorna's where we meet for taiji lessons, Jonas (I assume Jonas), posted a very small slip of paper with four simple rules. I can't remember if the rules are Master Zhang Zhi Jun's, and I can't remember the first three rules, but I remember the last one: Make a little bit of progress every day.

Subtract six more from the thousand repetitions.


A good, hard workout. Exactly what my mind and body needed to relax. All the greens were pushed harder than the blues: Sensei is trying a new approach. In the drills, blues do one punch or block per count; greens do all three, high, middle, and low, on each count. And in kicking drills, greens must mind their blocks as well as their kicks.

10: Friday

Six sets by lantern and candle light in the cool, clear night, Kwan Yin watching over me; incense, crickets, and music...

Six good sets of 24 Form, three right, three left. I thought of practicing more, of working on the Chen moves, the karate, the kobudo, but I wanted to relax, to not have to think too hard about what I was doing.

Earlier tonight, Ma asked me to watch her Sword Form. She said she had practiced today, but when I watched her, she had it all balled up. She'd forget to step, forget all coordination, forget— everything. It was as if she'd never done it before.

It's not Alzheimer's. It's something else, something about the way she learns because of the way her mind works. She doesn't learn the way I do. Not at all. She doesn't carry images of the moves in her head as I do. She doesn't connect images to physical movements... No, Ma needs to have someone right there with her, showing her the moves, correcting things constantly until it either sinks in, or the instructor dies of frustration.

Ma was pretty good with the Yang 24 Form. She was interested in it and enjoyed it. But when David started with the TCA, Ma lost interest. The Sun Style might have been interesting to her, but it was only Ma and Gus in that class and they never got past the first moves cuz Gus had never had taiji before. At least Ma likes Sword Form.

It isn't that the TCA isn't real taiji, you know, it's just that the classes are boring because there's no talk of applications or any challenging stuff. It's... boring. Boring because the teacher made it boring, I think. But maybe it's that the students are boring and the teacher got bored, too. Hard to say. What came first, the boring or the bored?

After bullying Ma back into correct form, I got to telling her how much I wish I had someone to really practice with — to play with. Sometimes I hate practicing on my own.

In the movie "The Tango Lesson" the woman wants to learn to tango. She is fascinated by the tango. She goes to the tango clubs, but, because she's unlearned in the tango, no one will dance with her. One man does ask and after only a few moments he escorts her back to her seat. Everyone sees that she can't dance, and so no one else asks her to dance. She gets no practice; she can't learn. So she has to hire a private teacher. When she has learned to tango, the teacher takes her again to the clubs and then she doesn't lack partners.

Right now, I am not good enough at anything. No one wants to play with me. It's very frustrating. And I feel as if I'll never be good enough to be asked to play.

11: Saturday

12: Sunday


I was so tired tonight that by nine o'clock I was dozing in my chair at Ma's. I rallied by ten o'clock and played with the sword at bit, but I came home before ten-thirty and went to bed.

But I couldn't sleep. I felt guilty about not practicing. As I lay in bed, my mind began running through form number seventy-two, shi zi bai tian, cross lotus kick, and my body was trying to follow along. I got up and put on my practice clothes and headed for the back porch...

A cool, quiet night. 55 degrees, a bit cloudy— overcast. Very little traffic noise. The crickets and tree frogs were singing. I lit the candles and lanterns and, after pottering about a bit, I settled down to practice my Chen— Xinjia Yilu.

I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing— that's for starters. But what really was bugging me is this: I can't slap my foot in the kicks. Grrrrrr.

So I spent some time just kicking and trying to slap my foot... I'm much better kicking left and slapping right, but my crescent kicks or lotus kicks or whatever still suck. Practice.

After that, I decided to do something simple, so I waved hands Chen style up and down the porch in the cool candlelit night, watching my breath...

24 Form. The first set was so rough I thought I might call it a night, but, I felt physically good, relaxed, and I started a second set...

It felt really good. Balanced. Lots of qi. Coordinated. Something was very right with that set, and with the one after it...

Either all the practice is paying off, or I've begun deluding myself. If I'm not deluding myself, someday the karate and the kobudo and the Xinjia Yilu will feel this way, too. Neat. Really neat.


Beautiful day, but I feel all at sixes and sevens...

Went to Linda and Eric's dessert party this afternoon. Lots of dojo folks there, including Kim and Sensei.

I was very tired this evening and spent it watching TV with Ma. When I got home, I was tired, but didn't want to go to bed, so I sat on the back porch for a while, watching one star twinkle between the pine and the maple, while I listened to the night. Then I went in and put on the tape and learned the rest of section one of 32 Sword Form. It took a bit of figuring and back and forthing the tape, but I got it, so I went back out on the porch and practiced in the dark.

13: Monday

All at sixes and sevens.

Karate. Early class now. No time to hang about and warm up at my leisure.

Class was detail work. Punching: In naihanshi shodan, be sure the punches "across" are level, and that the upper arm is tight and to the chest. Blocking: Be sure the fist turns only as the block connects so it delivers that extra "oomph" — oh, and keep the elbows in tight or you'll lose all your leverage. Side Kicks: Remember, they're a four count: 1) leg up, knee aiming towards the opposite shoulder; 2) kick out and roll the hip as you connect (be sure the block doesn't get pulled back towards the shoulder in a wind-up!); 3) leg back, knee in and up; 4) back into ready stance. sliding Side Kicks: A four count— and be sure to bring the kicking foot back to touch the other knee before touching down. Wansu: Lizzie, be sure you bring your left hand all the way down in the "throw."

After the drills, we worked on the bags. I practiced kicking. It's getting easier.

It felt strange leaving the dojo while there was a class going on. Stranger still not to have to clean the floors!

At Ma's we practiced Sword Form. Ma's getting it.

14: Tuesday

Taiji class tonight. I feel unprepared, and yet, I know I've done as much practicing as I could, and done as best I could given my present level of understanding.


We're still on move #72, Cross Lotus Kick (Shi zi bai ling?). I thought we were done because we had actually done the kick; however, before going on to move #73, you have to go through "Sleeves Scatter the Plum Blossoms," which we did tonight.

The whole of #72 is a pip. If I hadn't been taking karate for the past two years, there's no way I'd be strong enough for #72 with all the low squatting and one-leg moves— never mind the kick!

Leading with the extremities is taking some getting used to. Try this: Pull you knee up from the toe, instead of beginning to raise it with the thigh muscles. Feel the difference? And when you push, start with your hands leading, instead of moving your body to move your hands forward. Feel the difference? Once you get the hang of it (one of these days!), you'll wonder why everyone does it the old way.

One extraordinary thing I remember about tonight is how rooted my left foot felt as I practiced the sequence from the setup of the kick through Sleeves. When "screwing" the energy down with my left hand it made my left foot feel immovable... of course it could just be it was getting flattened into the cement floor by my not inconsiderable body mass and the natural effect of gravity on same. But this felt different.

15: Wednesday

Last night after taiji, we were gathered in a group, talking, getting ready to go. Jonas was munching on one of the apples I brought to share (Galas, this time), and he started heading for the door. He was behind me when I heard a change in his step, as if he'd jumped or skipped. I turned to see what he was doing, and he was down on the floor in a perfect "creep," half eaten apple held on high. He paused for a moment, seemingly taking inventory of his position, then, deciding it was good, up he popped and continued on towards the door, munching on the apple.

I've decided: I want to do that. I want to be able to skip up and come down in a perfect "creep." That's my goal now. And when I can do it, I'm going to do it every time I eat an apple— or, perhaps, like Jonas, I'll do it for the pure joy of it, whenever the spirit moves me.

16: Thursday


I slept late today (Wednesday). I was more tired than I knew. By the time I got up, I had to really hustle to get to work...

Surprisingly, I wasn't the least bit achy from the taiji. In fact, I felt particularly fit—

Sensei remedied that, though! He was in a mood tonight. Impatient, I'd call it. Impatient for us all to do better at kobudo; for us all to be stronger, and faster, and... better. He seemed very disappointed that he couldn't make us so...

We got a speech about the need to move fast. But we also were admonished for not maintaining correct form and technique throughout. Sensei put us between a rock and a hard place with that. I wanted to say, "Okay, which do you want from me? Speed or technique? Because as yet, I can't give you both!"

Sensei must get to feeling as frustrated and discouraged as we do.

To speed us up, he had us all work on the opening moves of shima ijiri bo ni. Move one is holding the bo with the right hand near the shoulder and kicking the end of the vertical bo up from where it's resting on the ground, thereby propelling sand or whatever other schmutz is on the ground into the face of your opponent. Move two is a block: grab the flying end of the bo with your left hand as you turn sideways, squat down on your right leg, stretch your left leg out to the front, and block with the bo to protect the length of your body, head to heel, from a hit from behind. Move three is leap up into a nekko dachi (cat stance; empty step in taiji) and execute a vertical block to the right forty-five.

I've been waiting for my legs to get stronger before trying to really nail these moves. And I am getting stronger— taiji last night proved that to me. So, with Sensei egging us on, I went for it. Along about the fifth time through I managed to lose my balance during the kick (my "rooted" foot slipped in sweat) and my sweaty hands stuck to the bo (why do sweaty hands stick and sweaty feet slip?), and I torqued my left arm with my bo. Talk about your chin na! You couldn't have asked for better joint locks on an arm! Too bad it was my arm. Rats.

I tried stretching the arm gently, but I couldn't get the kink out. At Ma's I tried a little Sword Form, but that seemed to aggravate it. Then, just a little while ago, I ventured out onto the back porch to listen to the rain...

I did a set of 24 Form in the dark. The elbow only ached a little, but now I noticed I couldn't straighten it out— just like after I broke my elbow skating two years ago. Pfui. Still, it was a decent set...

After that, I got to thinking about move #72, and I thought I'd better go through it, just so I wouldn't forget it. Well, I went gently, and when I got to the kick I my left arm couldn't slap, but I just went on to the setup for Sleeves where the wrists "break" and the left arm "screws" downwards, and son of a gun if that move didn't snap everything back into place! Oh, I can still feel a sore spot if I rotate the arm out, but I've got the use of it back and I can straighten it out without pain. Phew! I was thinking I might be sidelined in karate for a while.

12:00 +

My left elbow is definitely bruised internally. No karate for me tonight. Rats. But I can do taiji, and that "breaking the wrist" twisting arm move gets the kink out when the arm stiffens up.

Practice. Fan Through the Back transitioning into Cross Lotus Kick. My left leg is feeling the burn. But I'm beginning to understand how these moves work... One of these days I might even be able to remember to breathe when I do them.


My left arm was almost back to normal by late afternoon, but any deliberate twisting set off twinges, so I decided I'd sit out karate class. I arrived early and watched the black/brown belt class working on kicks and punches. Sensei had them doing side kicks and front kicks over bos held about crotch high. They had to stand very close to the bos so that they had to pull their knees in tight both before and after the kicks.

For punching practice, he had them punch between bos held fist-width apart, centered on the body, closer than elbow length away, so that if the punch wasn't straight out, the forearm or elbow would hit a bo.

I also got to watch the class work on niseish kata. Very interesting. I think the Chen style taiji comes very close to intersecting with karate here.

My class wasn't very interesting to watch tonight, so I ended up talking with Bruce for most of it. We talked about the classes, about karate in general, and about the Over Forty class he's teaching at the dojo, and what it's like being an older student. (Bruce is few years younger than me, Jon's age, and he started karate in his early forties.) I say the most important thing is to keep older students from getting hurt by pushing them too hard. If they get hurt or develop a chronic ache that sidelines them for only a few classes, they'll drop out. It's only when they've got into shape and have achieved some skill that they'll come back from an injury.

When I got to Ma's, I practiced with her. For some reason, tonight she'd developed a trick of turning the sword in her fist. It took quite a few sets to cure her of it, but now she's doing pretty well.

After that, at Ma's, I worked on Sleeves while Ma watched TV through me. I think I'm getting the idea, though I can't quite generate the "explosive power" that "cannon fists" are supposed to have. It's a very interesting puzzle. Very.

17: Friday

+/- 11:00

I'd've liked to practice kicking, but my body takes a long time to wake up. So: han bo, for a change (and to test the state of my left arm).

It took three runs to get all the pieces of the kata to emerge from the depths of my mind. After that, it was easy.

Then, two not-so-slow sets of 24 Form. Good sets. But I'm impatient again with creeping.


Sword practice with Ma. She's nervous because she's got class tomorrow. I wish Ma hadn't lost a whole year of taiji. She's lost the flexibility she was gaining. Though she is doing okay, and she can stand on one leg.

18: Saturday

Some Chen this morning. Fan and Lotus. I am amazed that I can do this. I've been challenged, and I've met the challenge.

After Ma's class, I took her shopping because it was pouring rain and she hates driving in the rain. When I got back, I was going to run out again and do some errands on my own account, but I got to thinking about karate...

Punching and blocking practice using the kicking post. Stand so your punching arm's elbow has to clear the post to hit a centered target. Now punch straight out without whacking your elbow. Repeat many times. Now stand so the side of the post is just about in line with your shoulder. Block— middle or low— so that you get that little twist just before you connect. Repeat many times.

Wansu. Sensei noted that I wasn't bringing my left hand down in the throw. Actually, I wasn't doing any of that move well, so I spent a few minutes working it out. It's much better now, but I'll need more practice to engrain it in muscle memory.

Reading— re-reading: Tai Chi Magazine, Volume 26, Number 4, Zhang Zhi Jun's article, trying to get the names of these moves straight:

Shun chan: shun rotation leads with and turns towards the little finger.
Ni chan: ni rotation leads with and turns towards the thumb.

Also noted:

Four Grievous Errors in Push Hands

  • Diu — To lose something
  • Ding — To resist
  • Dyan — Becoming flat
  • Kang — To resist with hard force
To overcome these errors
  • Meet force with peng
  • Meet peng with spiral motion (chan)
  • Meet spiral motion with turning (zhuan) the body
  • Meet turning the body with sinking (chen) the gua
I wish I knew more about Push Hands...

And I wish he hadn't kept harping on how many years it takes to learn this Xinjia Yilu.

19: Sunday


It's three-thirty in the morning and I'm all a-fidget, unable to settle down. I'm beating myself up for not practicing enough today; and for what practice I did not being good enough! I was just out on the back porch a few minutes ago, in the dark, trying to work on Cross Lotus, Sleeves, et al., and making myself crazy and losing my balance—

I'm tired. But I feel driven to practice. I feel I'm running out of time— it was that article. I was reading it earlier and Zhang Zhi Jun was talking about how many years it takes to master New Frame. Years and years and years. That's what set me off...

Did I mention what Ma told me this morning when I took her shopping? I asked her how sword class went, and she said, "We all suck." Makes me wonder what David's assessment of his students is. But Ma's having a good time.


Spent most of the day cleaning, but took a couple of breaks to work on Sleeves. I can't figure out whether I've got it. I think my left arm position is incorrect cuz the elbow seems high when I finish.

Practiced sword with Ma. She's getting it. David only gave them one new move today. At this rate I won't have any trouble staying ahead of the class... I wonder what the applications of the sword moves are. Hmmmm....

20: Monday


A little practice.

One good set of 24 Form.

Some sleeves— why am I coming up on my left toe? I need to keep my heel down, else my knee hurts when I scatter the plum blossoms... rats.


Kicks on the standing target. Side kicks off the back leg. I kicked it over! Three times in a row, so I know it wasn't a fluke. When I kicked it over, I raised my arms and mouthed a big "Yes!" Sensei laughed.

I could feel tonight that I am getting much more limber in the hip joints. That's from Cross Lotus practice.

We did some kicking practice with the body targets (your partner holds the target against his body, bracing it so you get the feel of kicking a live person). When I kick the target, the recoil knocks me over, especially when I'm in close. I wondered if it was because I'm not strong enough to keep my balance, or if I was doing something wrong. After class, I asked Angie. She said just to try kicking through the target, and also to be sure my upper body was doing enough to counterbalance the kick.

It's too bad I don't have a target to practice on at home. But Angie said to ask her to work with me next time we've both got a few minutes.

21: Tuesday

Three sets of 24 Form. Today I did it to the taiji music to slow myself down.

It's good that "fast" seems slow to me, though. That means my body is so balanced and coordinated that the moves feel natural, and the "speed" isn't compromising the execution, making it sloppy. Yay!

"The squid must be higher than the elbow."
— Jonas Sanchez

Sounds funny, but it makes perfect sense if you've ever seen this form. Relax your hand and collapse it in on the palm, fingers extended. Now ask yourself, "What does this look like?" A squid, right? Squid hand. There you are. Keep it higher than the elbow, okay?

An excellent taiji class. We have gotten through Punch the Crotch, but, the best thing was that Joe was back with us. Yay! He's had some trials and tribulations over the past weeks: a cut wrist, a pulled hamstring, a dead car. But he's okay now, and he says the "time off" did him good.

I got corrected a lot tonight. From the first move of Cross Lotus to the last— except for the shun chan/ni chan hand thing, which everybody got right— not because it's easy, mind you; it's just a strange move that is a heckuva lot easier to do than it looks. Anyway, I was off on every other move.

But I got corrected. And, since Jonas explains very clearly what is supposed to be happening, each correction adds to my knowledge base. So, even if I can't get the execution perfect, at least I have a clear idea of what I'm shooting for, and I can tell when I haven't got something quite right, and I have enough information to make a stab at correcting myself. (This makes practicing at home ever so much easier.)

My left leg got quite a workout tonight. Jonas was taking us slowly through the moves from Lotus through Sleeves into Punch, pausing between moves, and once you "peng" over to the forty-five and haul your left leg up by the toe for Lotus, that left leg keeps on working right through Sleeves, and then you're into the sequence that leads to the Punch and both legs get a workout. I'm glad I remembered to wear my hachimaki, else the sweat would've been stinging my eyes. Phew!

The process reminds me of animation. We learn the movements, go through them all one by one, getting each piece right one frame at a time, and it seems to take forever. But set all the pieces in motion, and the whole complex movement is revealed in fluid sequence of rapidly executed perfected frames— and the work of months is over in seconds.

I love this class. It makes me want to work hard and get it right.

Notes: This list is posted on the wall:

Kinds of Energy in Taiji:

Receiving, yielding
Enticing, drawing
Issuing, attacking

I didn't have time to copy the full descriptions or the characters. I'll try to get them next time.

22: Wednesday

Any man can grin when his ship comes in and his life is a happy lot.
But the man who's worthwhile is the one who can smile
when his shorts creep up in a knot.

I tell you truly, if you're going to study Xinjia Yilu, invest in some quality underwear that stays in place. (Or give your butt a little spritz of hairspray like the pageant contestants do to keep those 'suits from riding up.)

Spent the afternoon in the lower stacks installing MSXPSP2 on the two PCs down there. I had lots of time to practice what little I know. Folks who stumbled upon me unawares got quite a kick out of the show, and seemed especially to enjoy Punch the Crotch. I suppose it's the unexpected violence of the punch that provokes the laugh. Anyway, word is spreading: Don't mess with the JCBL's DCC.

23: Thursday

Lines... there's a line in this Chen style that I didn't notice in 24 Form...

As I was practicing Cross Lotus (over and over and over....), it occurred to me... Hmmmm. In Annie Dillard's book "The Writing Life" there's a section where she talks about deeply and relentlessly probing to understand Art. She quotes a master of drawing, Rico Lebrun: "the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up it's secret to an unrelenting line." I kept thinking of that as I practiced, trying each time to "find the line." Each time through my short routine of Fan Through the Back to Cross Lotus (with Sleeves) to Punch the Crotch, the "line" came clearer...

Maybe I was thinking about this because of the talk Sensei gave last night at the end of kobudo class. He spoke about how superficial our [us students] present understanding of kobudo is, and of the long adventure before us wherein, if we persevere, we may discover ever deeper and more arcane "secrets." Secrets that aren't secrets at all, but only inherent truths to be uncovered through years of practical experience in the Art. — and you know, this was the first time I ever heard Sensei mention the pressure point techniques, the use of which, he said, as Jonas did, has been forgotten in the Japanese versions of karate and kobujutsu. It's all still there, though, held in keeping by the practitioners of Okinawan kobujutsu, waiting to be "discovered" by those who travel far enough along the Way.

So. With practice, I will find out the "secrets." Cool.

By the way, Chen style: I am serious about the underwear.


I finally figured out side kicks: do 'em fast. Yeah, you do the four count of knee up, leg out, leg back, ready, but the thing is, you do it fast. Like lightning. And that makes it ever so much easier.

Oh, sure, this is obvious. The need for speed, I mean. But, because of the constant emphasis on the four count in class, and always being told to hold each count, somehow, the idea of speed gets lost. Yeah, the black belts kick pretty fast, but I don't recall seeing anything approaching lightning quickness in their kicks. Not lately.

I still haven't figured out front kicks... Different set of muscles. I think the lotus/crescent kicks will help.

Angie and Linda decided to furbish up the chairs in the "observation area" of the dojo by repainting the metal frames. Black. Jon and I and a few others now have nice black smudges on the backsides of our gis. We haven't asked, but I'm guessing Sensei would say serves us right for sitting around watching instead of practicing. *sigh* I hope I can get the paint out. Gis are expensive.

24: Friday

One set of 24 waiting for breakfast to congeal. No time to practice during work. When I got home, I decided this was going to be a day off from practice. So I went to Cindy's to help her with her computer problem. We had some wine and talked while we waited for diagnostics to run...

Cindy says that during sword class David has told Ma more than once that she doesn't have to do the one-leg moves, she can do the modified moves and keep both feet on the ground, but that each time David tells her this, Ma ignores him and goes ahead and does the move as it's supposed to be done. Cindy says David thinks Ma is deaf. Ha! Ma is only deaf when she wants to be— or when it will drive me crazy.

Later, Ma asked me to check her Sword Form, so we did that. And Ma drove me crazy. When she thinks about what she's supposed to be doing, like turning her left foot towards nine o'clock, for instance, what she thinks is, "I can't do it," and then, of course, she can't. But when she's not thinking, she doesn't even notice that she can and does do the moves correctly. Aaaaarrrrrrgh— !!!

Without even thinking, she does them— though she's got a nasty habit of pulling her elbows in close to her waist. I've made her aware of this, but, to be fair, she'd probably do it less if she had a lighter sword. But then she wouldn't get the strength training. I told her it was up to her whether or not to get a new light weight sword, but she likes my wooden sword. Fine.

Ma is a stubborn old bat.

25: Saturday

Six sets of 24 Form. Very good sets. Interesting things are happening...

On the second set, I relaxed so much that when I sank into snake creeps, I sank so low that I almost sat on my ass! I saved myself though, and came up quick. Heart pounding, I went on the finish the set. But after that, in the sets that followed, I couldn't sneak up on the creeping snake!

Working with Jonas has made me very aware of a lot of things. Like shoulders and elbows. My shoulders have been staying down, and I've been keeping my elbows "in place," letting forearms do the circling.

I've also been more aware of the energies, and I've been paying particular attention, and that has been improving my smoothness in the forms— and improving my imagination for what's happening in the moves.

Today I paid particular attention to my Yang style Hands Unfold Like Fan, comparing it with Fan Through the Back, noting the individual mechanics of the two moves. Jonas's detailed explanation of the application of Fan Through the Back has given me improved understanding of Hands Unfold Like Fan and changed the way I approach execution of that move. Very interesting...

I think Chen lessons are doing wonders for my Yang style practice. It's no longer stagnant.

26: Sunday

I was having trouble making the jump from Sleeves into the first move leading to Punch the Crotch. You're standing on your left leg, right leg up, and you have to jump and land lightly in a low horse stance that's at a forty-five degree angle to where you were facing, weight mostly on the left leg. For some reason, I kept getting stuck at the jump, dithering on one foot, and when I finally did jump, my feet didn't come down simultaneously or in the right spots...

So I gave myself a target: two pieces of masking tape indicating where my feet should land. (I put a "w" on the left one to remind me that I should be weighted towards that side.)

I stood in the center of the target, swirled my "sleeves," and— it worked. I knew what I had to do, where my feet had to go, and it was easy. No hesitation. I jumped! Yay!

Life is kinda like that, too. If you've got a goal in mind, it makes everything a lot easier. We shape ourselves, our lives, day by day, bit by bit moving closer to becoming who and what we envision ourselves as being.

Like in the game Word Warp. You are given the beginning and ending words; then, changing only one letter at a time to form other legitimate words, you "warp" the beginning word into the ending word. For instance: LIVE > LINE > WINE > WANE > WANT > WAIT > BAIT. You know where to start (LIVE), and you know where you have to go (BAIT). One step at a time, you proceed with the process of changing. And there isn't just one correct way of proceeding— though some "warps" require fewer transformations than others to get to the desired goal. Same as life.

27: Monday

Heavy dew this morning. Beautiful day. Too bad I'm not feeling energetic.

Six sets of 24 Form. Nothing to rave about. My socks are bothering me.

I'm psyching my self out in Chen practice. I find I'm very worried that I won't keep my bakc straight when "kissing the squid." I keep looking at my reflection in the window, but... I can't see myself. All I see is a fat, middle-aged, half-assed taiji student.

I think that speech of Sensei's on Saturday at the rank test triggered this. It hit two of my buttons: guilt (not practicing enough),and fear (of being too old to "get" it)— not to mention the put-down of "...people who want it all, karate and taiji and..."

The Way is as broad as the world, and as narrow as a razor's edge. I wish that Sensei could see the broadness, not just the edge. But I wonder, too, whether he and I just don't know each other well enough to understand.

I wonder why he doesn't talk with me as he does the others. Easily, I mean, casually.... Maybe it's me.

28: Tuesday

Tired. I got plenty of sleep, but I am tired. A tiredness of spirit, perhaps?

A lot of grief piled in on me in the past few days. Fears, too. Same old tapes. I try to let it go; I remind myself those feelings aren't reality; but they hang about me like a miasma, and they seem quite real. Yuk!

Taiji Class

I didn't think I'd be much use in class tonight, but once we started, I forgot all about being tired.

We picked up from the end of Sleeves, through Punch the Crotch and on to White Ape Offers Fruit. The lead-in to Ape is the dire "creep" Joe warned me about once when I was complaining about the creeping snake in my Yang form. The Chen creep is a killer, but Jonas does it so easily that you actually think you can do it, too. (Yeah— in your dreams!)

I have lots of new stuff to remember— especially to not use hips in punching. And I have lots of stuff to practice now. Three movements— four, if you count Fan.

Tonight Jonas had us doing exercises that helped us practice and understand the moves and applications. We practiced "short jing" moves of the hands on each other's shoulders and hips. Simple moves where you just "break" your wrist and deliver a nice hit with the side or heel of whichever hand. Those moves comes when you jump out of Sleeves. Then your left fist is at shoulder height, and the right fist is at hip level, and you deliver two short jing strikes simultaneously.

The fa jing exercise had us leaning heavily on each other's fists and resisting, then pushing. You had to have a really sold root and "structural integrity" in the form, else you'd collapse and the person leaning on you would fall on the floor.

Jonas makes us work hard. I like that.

29: Wednesday

Rain again. The crows are eating apples, and there's a hawk— kestrel? small, brown...— playing games with them.

I'm still feeling mentally exhausted. I only got up an hour ago, and I want a nap.

I can feel last night's class in my knees. Nothing debilitating, just a feeling of having been worked hard—

Two hawks. Red tails, I think, now I see 'em clear. Amazing how they twist and turn and ride the wind. The crows are very ticked off.


The just-past-full moon is bright and the sky and the meadow are the same pale, milky white. If I didn't recognize the deep shadows of the trees, I'd think the meadow was water.

I feel I should still be practicing, but I'm very tired, mentally and physically. I put my taiji shoes on to practice (my moccasins are too loose and my feet slip inside), but they were driving me crazy, ruining my balance— I know it's not the shoes. Back to the moccasins.

Chen style. Working on each of a myriad points. I like the way Jonas teaches; as I practice I can hear him telling me each point to watch and how to do it. And I try.

Some things I have to figure our for myself, though. Some questions come up that weren't asked or answered in class. But practice can answer a lot of those questions, so practice, practice, practice...

I find myself walking after I go through each short set. It's as if I need a moment to assimilate what happened. Maybe it's only that I have no clear ending— and I'm beginning in the middle.

My knees are getting a good workout and I have to be careful to keep adjusting so I don't hurt them. I know my stance is wrong if my knees hurt. I'm going to have very strong knees.


Not a good night for me. At one point, as we readied for a kata, Sensei asked me, "What are you working on?" I replied, "Getting the kata right." He thought for a moment, then asked me what I meant by that. So I told him: "I've been having trouble remembering. I've been getting all mixed up. And I find other people's mistakes are distracting me. It's got me totally psyched out."

I've been trying to figure out why all this is so. It started in the summer when all the changes started coming at us, I think. I tried asking for help at first, but everyone was doing things differently; there was a different answer from each person I asked, so I stopped asking.

Another thing that's difficult for me to deal with is other people around me going at their own pace, doing their own thing, moving in completely different rhythms— making mistakes. I haven't been able to tune all of that out lately.

And then there's the thinking I do because there's so much I'm working on.

And then there's my worry that I'm doing so badly, and the feeling that Sensei has given up on me.

At least Ma is doing really well with Sword Form. She's finally disocvered how to compensate for her hips having no flexibility, and now she can turn and have her feet pointed in the right direction. She's really getting the sword moves. When we practiced tonight, she had very little trouble with the new moves. I'll have to watch the tape and refresh my memory on what come next.

30: Thursday

Cool today. Cool enough that Chen practice doesn't make me sweat.

But I must be doing something wrong. It all seems too easy.

I guess I just don't know, yet, all the stuff that's really going on in the moves. Right now, all I do is go through the motions. If every move had a real opponent— as when we practiced with each other— I'd find out pretty quick all my mistakes in form and theory!

Spent some time at the kicking post practicing "short jing" with my fists. Reminds me of "Kill Bill, Volume 2" where she's trying to punch through a board from hand's distance away— and not getting much result by a bloody, sore hand! I stopped before I hurt myself.

Copyright © 2004 New Moon

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