Shadows at Play II © 2005 New Moon
Sunny and 52º. I'm sweating just sitting here writing of course, I am a wearing a thermal shirt and black pants.
At the end of class Tuesday, I did ask about dan bian, and, yes, I did have it wrong. I had completely forgotten that the purpose of shifting the weight to the middle is to deliver a stirke with the left elbow. It's only after that that the left arm shun chans up to block and strike left. Jonas also reminded me that when we fang song, elbows and knees are drawn in towards the center like one of those jointed elastic toys figures. Consequently, today my dan bian is much improved.
Class was excellent. I don't know what Jonas had in mind to teach when he arrived, but Scott asked about yan shou hong quan and how it connected to liu feng si bi, so we began there; and when I mentioned that we had "officially" stopped after the "red fist" strike, Jonas took us on from there, and thence all the way through liu feng si bi.
the move following the strike of the red fist nearly gave me a fit. It's a drawing in that requires shun chan of the right fist, and then a circling shun chan to break a grip on the right wrist. I had the very devil of a time trying to imagine that imaginary opponent's grip. Thank goodness Jonas stepped in and gave me something real to work with! I finally got that move. But I still can't get it coordinated with the simple circling movement my left hand has to make at the center of my chest. (I hate to say this, but sometimes, lately, my breasts seem to be very much in the way.)
Stepping with my tea...
We learned a valuable lesson Tuesday night. Jonas set me and Joe to spear work. Ni-chan and shun-chan practice with our "lance," a ten foot piece of pipe John "recruited" for us. In this exercise, one person was to hold the tip while the other practiced shun-chan or ni-chan energy.
You stand in ma bu, right hand gripping the butt end of the "lance," holding it against your right hip. The left is hand extended forward along the shaft, elbow bent comfortably. (According to Jonas, all lancers work left handed.) The person holding the tip of the lance stands on the side of the lance towards which the lancer's energy will be turning, e.g., same side as the lancer for shun chan, opposite side for ni chan.
If you shun chan correctly, the person holding the lance will feel his toes being pried up from the floor as the energy spirals down the lance and overbalance backwards as the energy circles the tip up and around. On a correct ni chan, the person holding will feel a downwards push that breaks his root and, again, tips him over backwards.
Now the trick in this exercise is to use your yi correctly, your mind intent...
As Joe and I discovered, if you look at the lance while you try to shun chan or ni chan, you can't move the tip worth a darn. And the person holding the lance can "hear" that. And you can both feel the energy going to exactly where the lancer's mind is focused. So you've got to learn to focus your yi on the right spot.
Now you'd think that since you want to move the tip of the lance, you'd focus on the tip. Well, yes, but... but that won't quite do it because there's a heavy weight holding the tip.
That being so, you then might think you'd focus on the weight holding the lance. But that won't do it, either. Focusing on a heavy weight won't move it unless you possess some telekinetic power...
No, to move the tip of the lance you have to focus on a target beyond the tip of the lance, and you have to imagine that target rotating the way your fist on the shaft is turning it. When you do that, the tip of the lance and the weight holding it will move despite efforts to the contrary.
When Joe was doing the turning, at first he focused on the center of the shaft, and I I could easily keep the lance tip from moving. I told him what I felt and he shifted his focus further up the shaft. Then with great effort he could budge me, and I felt my toe nearest him pry up from the floor as the lance pressed me backwards. He did this a few times, and then I got curious, so I said to him, "Try to pry my far toe up first. Use the tip of the lance." He protested that that was a crazy thought to try to pry up a particular toe, but he tried it, and by gum, this time it was my furthest toe that came up first! Now he was moving the tip of the lance.
When it was my turn, I used what we'd learned and demonstrated some success by moving Joe and he said he wasn't just letting me do it...
Well and good. We both thought we were doing well at the exercise. Until Jonas stepped in and we got the rest of the lesson.
First he made us each repeat the exercise, but with him standing well beyond the tip of the lance, his hand held out as a target. "Make my hand move. Turn it," he said. And we did.
Now we really thought we understood. But then he held the tip of the lance.
Where I had been able to move Joe (who weighs almost twice as much as Jonas), I couldn't budge Jonas. I thought I had learned about focus. I thought I knew what I was doing. Joe was stationed beyond the tip of the lance providing a target, and I thought I was focusing on his hand and trying to turn it with the tip of the lance. But as I kept making attempts to budge Jonas, I realized that what I thought was my focus wasn't a focus at all. I knew where my "focus," my mind, ought to be (on Joe's hand), but it was really bounding around from the lance shaft, to Jonas, to the tip, to Joe's hand even to my own hand trying to turn the lance! I was really not focusing at all. My mind was all over the place, and what I was really doing was trying to budge Jonas. And I couldn't do it.
Jonas didn't say anything to me. He just held on and let me keep trying...
And finally I got all the disctractions out of my mind. I stopped thinking about the lance, and about Jonas, and about myself trying to move the lance. I finally focused my mind and, to the exclusion of all else, imagined Joe's hand turning, turning...
And then Jonas budged! Not a lot, but the tip of the lance moved and he moved with it. Success!
You think you know where your yi is focused, but the truth is it takes a lot of mental discipline to focus your yi. A lot. You have to forget about everything but the target, and that isn't an easy thing to do. In fact, it's a lot harder than I thought. It takes practice. Lots of practice.
A good lesson. And I wasn't the only one who had to learn, or relearn it. The others in their turns had just as little success budging Jonas as I did until they learned the same lesson.
Practice. Stepping with my tea... Part of my balance problems come from being unfocused. My body is moving in one direction, but my yi isn't there with it. Focus!
Silk reeling... lots of qi in my fingers...
Bits and pieces... working on puzzles...
It will be January before I get the coordination of the "winding in" of my right fist that follows this second yan shou hong quan. Fortunately other moves are yielding more readily to practice...
After class, as we were heading for our cars, Jonas told me that I was doing very well with my taiji. I should have said, "I have a good teacher," but all I did say was, "Thank you. I am so looking forward to the maio dao class" Jonas said he was, too. I'm glad.
I dreamed last night that I could squat down on my haunches easy as you please and that I was perfectly rooted when I did so. I probably dreamed that because I completely forgot to stretch yesterday again!
Perhaps I'll dream of practicing tonight. This morning I turned off the alarm and closed my eyes
No time to practice! Rats.
Cold. Windy. Not much time for practice today, and I didn't press myself to find time because of the cold and the qi-sucking wind. But I did practice that "winding" move while I listened to the apprentice class at Jo's, and I practiced the move that precedes that red fist punch, too. That move can be done as fajing! Jonas was showing Joe the finer points of doing that a couple of weeks ago, while I was watched and took mental notes. As Jonas says, if you can get it right at slow speed, relax and it will come. I'm working on it.
Snow. The world is white, and the thermometer is steady at a shade below freezing. It's quiet. A little traffic noise, a crow or two calling once or twice not the ususal racket. A squirrel here and there rustling across snow covered leaves...
Stepping with my tea... much improved balance on the left. That hip can open up now to allow my weight to distribute evenly across the bottom of my foot because the muscles that compenstate for the atrophied inner calf muscle are now strong enough. Yay! If you want leg strength, do your Chen stepping!
Rats. I just realized I forgot to stretch the hunkering stretch. Ugh! Rats...
Okay, I stretched. I hate that stretch. I hate now stiff my ankles feel and how I tip over backwards and can't keep my heels on the ground. I hate it. But there's only one way to conquer it.
Some Chen no. I began today with breathing and silk reeling becaues my left shoulder is still bugging me. Every exhale was white dragon breath...
The other night in class, Bob asked if there was any significance to the colors in the names of our moves, particularly the color white. We have white crane, white ape, white snake white lotus... blue dragon, red fist. Jonas didn't know, but he said he'd research it...
It was very cold, but as soon as I began stepping I forgot all about the cold...
My concentration was bad. I kept repeating moves to correct things. Finally, I decided to do a set of 24 Form to settle my mind...
I did two sets. They... became very interesting. The silk reeling and pinned elbows of Chen took over and reinvented the 24 Form moves for me. My improved left leg balance emerged, too, and... the sets were very interesting. I can't imagine what a Yang stylist would think of my form today, but I'm sure they'd notice it was very different...
At the end of the sets my heart was beating hard. I guess that was because I was busy actively observing myself, worrying what others would think.
Back to Chen. Bits and pieces this time. Yan shou hong quan, very slowly, keeping the coordination, staying soft...
After the strike, this move is different from the first yan shou hong quan. This time we move into six sealing four closing but first we have another unnamed move or tow, the coordination of which nearly confounds me.
After the red fist strike, the striking fist (the right) needs to be "reeled in," while the left hand circles to facilitate a neat elbow move that brings the hands together at the chest...
Your opponent has grabbed your extended wrist. Shun chan the right fist make your pinky finger lead the spiral pulling your opponent towards you, overbalancing him, as you let your right wrist bend up as it pulls so that your elbow can stay pinned in place. Now shun chan your right fist down and up and around to break his hold. Then draw his arm towards you...
You capture his hand between both of yours, and your left elbow moves over his arm, controlling it...
Now fajing! both your hands outwards pushing him away...
Now separate your hands as you fang song, the left hand becoming a squid swimming to the left pulling an arm, the right hand opening to to guide an elbow....
The right hand's shun chan pivots from the elbow, down and out and around and up, the "squid hand" staying level with it the while, as your left toe opens to the left taking you around to face twelve o'clock and you come up on your left leg, your right knee also coming up for a groin strike at the right forty-five. Now you're ready to go into liu feng si bi.
Butterfly Effect: Sensitive Dependence on Initial Condition, or Chaos Theory: A brief Introduction.
Just a few thoughts on my signature quote: "Somewhere a butterfly dreaming it is Chuang Chou flaps its wings and creates a distant hurricane." Does everything I do matter? Or doesn't it?
Pale sun and cold. 33º. Wind a little. (In summer it would be a pleasant breeze.)
Today I awoke thinking about the syntax, et al., of literary (classical) Chinese. I'd been reading about it in bed last night. But I was also thinking about one of my taiji moves: the one after xie xing ao bu that connects to shan tong bei, where yo're in a ma bu on a left forty-five facing nine o'clock and you rotate backwards on your right heel (leading with your right-hand fingers and left toes) to face six o'clock I wish I knew a name for this move! Anyway, these things were on my mind when I awoke...
And I wondered if there would be an app that would change the move from a retreating pivot on the right heel to an advancing pivot on the left that would carry the right foot forward just a thought. I know the balances would be different, but it's all about being able to change balance successfully at need, so yes, I can imagine this might happen... How would this app work? Now I wish I had someone to play with! Aaaargh!
Two sets of 24 form and my fingers stayed cold. Red! That hasn't happened in a long time. Where is this tension coming from?
Sunny, windy & freezing.
Last night's lesson was... excellent, but I was having a hard time. Jonas seems to want to move along at a very accelerated pace. And since I've never learned these moves before, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage Jonas made sure I got most of what I needed, but I think the mental "weather" last night was very unsettled.
Dan bian and yun shou...
I'm deuced if I can figure out the transition between dan bian and yun shou. I have a blank there that even working the moves won't fill in. So. Yun shou...
Wave hands is this form is the same only very, very different. Very. The coordination is easy to understand, but the move is difficult to execute without lots of practice. What I mean by that is that finding the balance and keeping it so the moves are coordinated and balanced and fluid will take me some time to achieve.
Last night Jonas took us through the form up to dan bian before class. As he went, he put in all the fali moves he could find. It was excellent to follow along and see how things ought to be done.
Joe observed that even though Jonas's fali moves were lightning quick, they didn't change the pace of the form. That was interesting. Obviously, Jonas has been practicing.
I was "talking" wiht Joe via email today and I mentioned my memory glitch SQUID!!! It was the Two Squid I was forgetting! How could I have forgotten that?!
I got in some yun shou practice at Jo's tonight it will be along while before I can do this without paying close attention! But I've got the basics now. I'm glad of that...
Squid! How could I forget "Two Squid Four Counts?"
I alos was having great success with my fali as I stood by the wood stove practicing. The red fist was working particularly well: the split was tearing energy. Neat.
Here's an odd thing: last night someone mentioned "resting pose" I can't remember the context and I remembered a wushu posture from that book Kung Fu Elements. And as I said I knew what it was, I sank down into it, legs all intertwined one foot flat on the floor, butt touching, as if I'd actually practiced it. And then I got up just stood up quite easily; then, a minute later I demonstrated again, just as easily. But tonight, I tried to show Jo the pose, and I couldn't do it! I tried various ways, but I have no idea what happened, just another blank. That's odd.
Today I woke remembering details from Jonas's form. The fali, and also the very balanced stance of jin gang dao zhui no leaning or obvious weighting to the left! the high steps when stepping through... lots of refinements. Very pretty and I mean by that the beauty was in the efficiency and precision of the moves.
Sun and cold to begin; it got warmer as I went; so did I. The low sun was bright on the white clapboards; today I faced north to practice yan shou.
Now I know what my shadow does while I practice: it makes fun of me, apes me as I try to mimic Jonas. It's a harsh jester, showing me my faults. But then, that's what jesters are meant to do, and I am grateful.
So. One set of Chen after stepping with my tea, and then yan shou...
Up and down, up and down... side stepping mostly, working on getting the coordination right... some stepping in front; some stepping behind... always watchin my hands for coordination and checking my posture for balance...
Sometimes, to compensate for my left leg, my hips shift. I can cure that though: it's only a bad habit now that I am stronger, not a necessity.
My left hand wasn't describing a full circle the circle was a bit flat at the outer edge. Another bad habit left over from old injuries. The arm can stretch there now, and must be taught to do so.
For some reason, Two Squid Four Counts seems to work well for me at speed. Perhaps I have it wrong?
Such a beautiful day... as I practiced, I could see the shasows of thermal currents rising from my dark hair. It's so nice out here on the porch. I don't want to fo in and don't want to quit practicing, either, though my legs are tired from the the work I've done.
My hands were relaxed today, for the most part. When I just stood reeling silk to check the coordination of my hadns, the qi was strong... I felt the lie splitting energy on each circle, the ans pushing down, and the gatherings up, and the press at the outside edge of each circle
Time to go. Ma needs to do some shopping.
Snow. Cold. Nasty until four o'clock when the sky cleared and the world became a fantasy land in the twilight. I wish I'd had my camera with me. There were bicycles in a rack over in front of RISD, and the snow gathered on them made the most wonderful... Art.
No practice today. I think I practiced myself out yesterday.
Bitter cold. White snow, blinding under the sun. Ma's class was cancelled.
I didn't practice. I had have a lot of work hanging over my head... I feel very unsettled today.
Mild and sunny. A perfect practice day. The breeze blowing acorss the melting snow (eight inches of it!) is refreshing. The sun is very warm.
Stepping with my tea, minding my yi... deep steps, forwards and backwards, up and down, and up and down...
I wish I could clearly call to mind the set Jonas did on Tuesday night...
Today I got hung up trying to figure out the simple shun chan of the right hand in White Crane. Jonas fali'd it, and now I'm thinking of it, it's got me puzzled.
Shadow play yun shou. Up and down, and up and down...
It's really quite an easy move... The coordination is simple and obvious. Why does it feel as if it will be a life's work to get it?
Sun and mild. 40º plus.
Stepping wiht my tea deep steps that strengthen my lower back...
Yun shou, playing with my shadow... a little better.
I'd have time to practice if I hadn't been up 'til three working and overslept this morning. (Rats.)
Cold and clear. Very cold, as it was yesterday. But tolerable in Shangri-La.
Class last night. A lot to think about. A lot to absorb. Again.
Last night we bagan discussing the differences and similarities between Yang and Chen styles as we have experienced them. Our experiences vary widely, and I find my Yang experience with David continues to seem to be both unique and wonderfully what is the word? Hmmm....
David taught me real martial, powerful, taiji, complete with spiral energy. And that is something the others have only encountered recently with Jonas. I am awed by my luck in having stumbled across not one, but two talented and inspired teachers. How did I rate that?
Bob showed us his Yang 48 Form, which was very interesting. Then Joe and I demonstrated our Yang 24 Form, which is a little different. Then Jonas demonstrated the form teacher Chen gave him. I don't know if it was Yang or Chen lineage, but it had fajing! and it was very interesting.
We talked a lot about energy and how it expresses. About large moves and small. About lots of stuff...
Then Jonas took us through our form from the beginning, stopping from time to time to correct and refine...
It was excellent. And at the end, there was even time for a "preview" of gao tan ma.
I have much to work on. Much to think on.
Zero this morning maybe colder. Clear. But here in Shangri-La I'm warm too warm.
I've really been feeling my outer thigh muscles this week. Yun shou? Yes.
I went through the form up to there, but I can't remember the transition into gao tan ma... Oh, well. I still have plenty of details to correct before I go into another new move.
It feel like the pace of class has picked up. Masters level lessons. If I don't practice faithfully, I'll get left behind!
Shadow play. Up and down, and up and down...
It's very warm in the sun.
Last night I scored 16 yards of silk at $1.99 per yard for our costumes. Yay!
Rain. 40º. I hope it stays above freezing....
Stepping with my tea... Yang steps, Chen steps, shallow and deep....
I can't remember how to transition from yun shou to gao tan ma lots of unnamed moves in there!
I feel as if my practice is falling apart. My form is terrible, I've no jing... and yet, I can call up the qi with no trouble at all. I just move a hand... and it's there. Go figure.
Sunny and mild. 48º here in Shangri-La, with a breeze to stir the chimes and add a wild, mysterious sound.
I want to keep practicing I've been out here a couple of hours but I know I'm mentally exhausted. Practice lately is hard work...
Stepping and stretching to start: better and better each day...
Shadow play... yun shou...
I had to get out the elbow stabilizer: my left hand wasn't making a circle and both elbows tended to get left behind when I stepped out opposite...
My left shoulder binds and tenses when the hand is at 6 to 9 o'clock in the sweep. Got to get that fixed!
Two sets of 24 Form to settle me. Good sets...
I feel my form is very crude lacking detail and nuance. But then, I have a lot more to think about now Jonas has raised the bar!
I should practice my kobudo katas today... later. I need a rest.
Did I practice yesterday? I can't recall.
No time today and I didn't even try to make time. What's wrong with me?
Miao Dao workshop is scheduled for Saturday, 14 January, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yay!
Sunny and cold. Windy.
Stepping with my tea... xiao jie ling jing! Going backwards I turn my toe in, then use it to sweep my opponent's foot...
I feel very discouraged overwhelmed, I think. I haven't had time to abosrb the lessons and I'm aware of that when I practice. Rats.
No lesson tonight: Thursday.
I bought a book for Jonas: Introduction to Literary Chinese by J. Brandt. I ran across the book a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. It's just wonderful in the way it teaches it teaches the way Jonas teaches. The way we both learn. I think he'll love it, too. It's an old book, so I got a nice, clean, used, copy from abebooks. Someday, when I have more of a vocabulary and can make use of this treasure of a book, I'll have to find a copy for myself.
As I was looking through the book, I found the right inscription for Jonas, and wrote it in in pencil characters (I can't be trusted to do characters with a pen yet). The translation is "Of such a person it may be said he loves learning indeed."
Winter Solstice. Cold and clear. Above freezing now.
Today I feel particularly stupid. I don't understand the small double fajing! moves we do coming out of the dan bians. I've been trying to work them slowly, but... I feel stupid.
Yun shou is still very difficult...
There's so much I don't understand about what we do. The forms are not the applications; I understand that. But, sometimes the form isn't event he form, and...
And then all I have is the principles. But I'm beginning to wonder if I still have those correct do I even remember what they are?
- Shun chan, ni chan. Spirals. Circles.
- Keep the elbows out and pinned.
- Observe the six harmonies. Hands and feet. Knees and elbows. Hips and shoulders.
- Tiger body is that a principle?
- Stay balanced such that you can move no matter what happens.
I guess that sums it up: stay balanced. Mentally, spiritually, physically. That's the way to go.
Milder today. I left work early and went for a long walk. My spirit feels unsettled.
Taiji class party tonight. Then class.
I gave Jonas the book informally not a Christmas present, I told him, just something too cool to pass up. He loved it. When the others saw him perusing the pages he told them what it was and Lorna said it was like learning to read Shakespeare. Just like that! Yes.
We gave Jonas a wine box and two bottles of wine in it. He said he wanted to drink it with us, so we're to plan on having a pot luck night, probably at Lorna's, with spouses, et al.
Joe wasn't at the party, and we missed him. and John wasn't feeling too well, so he left before class. With only Bob, Scott, Lorna, Jonas, and me, the room seemed very empty. I kept looking around for people.
In class we worked on gao tan ma, high pat on horse actually, we worked on all the moves from the end of yan shou up to high pat. It's a neat sequence which I had completely balled up since our "preview" last week.
No class next week as Lorna will be away for three weeks. We'll have to see whether we can meet elsewhere in the meantime. For myself, I'd be happy to meet in a parking lot or a draughty old barn. No problem.
Mild again. Clouds to begin, then clearing...
I've completely lost my balance. emotionally and mentally I'm a basket case. My fears are surfacing and tormenting me, the world looks very bleak and futureless...
And yet our taiji project progresses. Mr. Selby sent a picture of what the spring leaves are supposed to look like, and Tom is working on making the working crossbow. KT wrote to say that translation of the pages looks like it will be difficult, but will give it a try.
I went down to Jo's for coffee this afternoon. We sat and talked by the wood stove, and then we did some taiji, too. I practiced yun shou and gao tan ma, and I practiced the fajing! that comes between dan bian and yun shou slowly, over and over...
During class, Scott asked us what we do about practice in the winter. Jonas and I practice outside all year long. The other go inside and practice bits and pieces, whatever the space allows.
Scott also asked Jonas if he practiced single moves over and over, and Jonas affirmed that he does practice this way. I don't know how anyone who has ever watched Jonas demonstrate a move can think otherwise. He can show you each move as if he's a clockwork mechanism, finely coordinated, gears meshing and moving exactly. And yet, when he does the moves, the mechanics disappear and you see the fine coordination and fluidity of movement that can only come from such precise, mechinical practice where each repetition of a move refines it and brings it closer to the [ultimately unattainable] ideal of perfection.
Me? Yeah, I practice the same way. Each move, over and over... I almost have my left hand cooperating with my right in that fajing!
My mental balance is shot to heck. Rats.
I worked with Jo on 24 Form before I left. She's trying to fit a set in every day.
It's sunny and nearly 60º out here. Gorgeous but maybe a little warm for practice.
Some of my balance is returning....
Today, bits and pieces. Dan bian, yun shou, gao tan ma... yan shou is still difficult and I don't now when I should start heading into gao tan, except that my hands need to be over to my right side and my left leg out, so when I get to that point...
Getting the coordination of the moves is important. For instance, hands must come together when the heel touches down. Coordination. Timing that's another thing.
Fajing! practice. Different ones. Slowly, then at speed... My hands are relaxed, but not the rest of me. Still, I improve.
Fog and cold. Today demons chase me, taunting, saying never mind what they say. They're just trying to freak me out, make me lose heart. But I opened the book "Introduction to Literary Chinese" (same one I gave Jonas, but this one belongs to Brown), and the story to translate was about facing demons and trusting yourself. About courage, faith. I'll hang onto that. (Excellent book. I really should get a copy for myself.)
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. (I'm not, but I like this arrangement.)
Of note: The Madwoman's Journal: Death
Mild and breezy. Pale sun comes and goes...
Some stepping with my tea... up and down... up and down...
Thinking about disappointment. The kind people who love each other can get to feeling... the kind that leads, finally, to a melancholy dissolution...
Deep stepping... xiao jie ling jing! Up and down...
Lotus kicks, up and down, inside and out... kicking a la Jonas... up and down...
One set of 24 Form, thinking about going to see my old teacher David...
Some Chen. I blanked for a moment when I got to the transition from yun shou to gao tan ma, but it came to me. I still can't get the splitting energy over the knee to feel right; nor can I get zhong pan and the moves before it... and I'm not sure why, except that the moves are complex or do I mean complicated? No, complex, I think. The moves haven't been made difficult, merely they are comprised of many interrelated moves. Whatever. They're difficult to "get."
I've been doing a lot of "house cleaning," and I've let practice slide because of it. But everything will be better for that cleaning...
Happy new year to you.
[Click the night sky with your mouse to send up fireworks.]
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