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March 2005

The location of the star Shan Beng Di Lie USC 10203489-72, RA 15h48m14.65s,
DEC 21.5371 (21D 32M 13S), MAG 14.27 in the constellation Scorpio

There's a newly named star in the heavens.

01: Tuesday

Blizzard last night; gentle snow this morning. Picture book snow: branches outlined in white, large flakes that fall so slowly they look as if they'll stop and the scene will turn to a still life. Very pretty...

The jays have been in the winodw box again, scattering dirt all over.

Cold. Before I swept the porch, I Chen-stepped up the porch a few times so I could see how consistent the distances between my steps were— if they were. On the first pass, the first steps were only one board-width apart. That was because I wasn't warmed up and I didn't "fang" much. After that, the right kicks lengthened by half-a-board, and the left went to two widths. Obviously, it was easier to sink on my right leg. My left ankle takes a long time to limber up. But, once it did, though, my steps varied because I was worrying about tiger body. *sigh*

Taiji. Four weeks learning xie xing ao bu. It doesn't seem an unreasonable length of time, either. There was plenty to wok on in each small segment. What an extraordinary experience these classes are!

So. they very last of xie xing ao bu, and two transition moves: strike opponent on both ears and brush knee. Not quite the same as in 24 Form, but the resemblance is there— and the application was delightfully nasty.

As was the snow I encountered on the way home. It was a very long drive.

02: Wednesday

March winds arrived today. I heard the low roaring and looked to the tree line. As I watched, from west to east, tree after tree began to sway and dance. The snow in the meadow began to swirl wildly— invisible scholars whirling wildly, their long sleeves swirling the snow into the air... the fine crystals blew onto the porch and made the boards treacherously slippery.

Five sets of section one. Today, I don't know. Last night, my stances weren't very stable, but with Jonas leaning on me— the only way to test a stance, I found a better balance. Wish I had someone to lean on me today.

One set of 24 Form. It felt good.

Tonight, kobudo was... fun. Bo drills first. I tried to fang song in my stances, and it helped— some. I got a little better feel for what needs to heppen, and I was very aware of the chansijing in my hands.

After that, we did some bo katas. Sensei joined us, and we went very slowly. I was finally able to relax and get a few things right.

After that, bo/tonfa work. My partner was very enthusiastic, so I had to pay strict attention to my defense with both bo and tonfa else my fingers would have suffered greatly. I'm not very good at middle blocking with tonfa, but my need for self-preservation lent me strength, if not skill.

The class was fun. And Sensei was with us— he even helped with the mopping up after class and talked with us as we all worked. A very nice class.

03: Thursday

Cold: 25 degrees, but sunny— though the sun is just now creeping onto the porch. I wore gloves today.

Stepping with my tea. Up and down... Some karate stepping, too... it begins to make sense. Kicking a la Jonas... up and down... up and down...

Once again I am tempted to do Yang and leave the Chen "for later;" but I begin section one...

I hate the new move, lou xi (brush knee), but that's because I'm so unsure of it— and of myself. Watching Jonas, it seems so simple, and I can see the qi and the mechanics of the move clearly... It's myself I doubt.

Practice... five or six sets of section one... Section five. I was so tense on the first set the blood was pounding in my ears. I resolved to relax... much better. It's so much easier when I relax and go slowly... five sets. Going slowly, you have time to work on the moves.

Liu feng si bi— especially the one after bai yuan xian guo— is bothering me. Sink, kick... the hands...? the elbows...? I'm missing something here.

I went through pinan nidan slowly, relaxed, using the principles I know, and trying to think in a martial way. My steps covered a lot of ground, and my moves got more efficient: my arms ceased to flail and instead moved into correct and practical positions. Very insteresting.

Karate was... fun. Again. Sensei took the class— all by himself from beginning to end.

Kicking and some kata. Then Sensei set us to doing shihonuke. After a couple of runs through, he gave us an exercise to do on our own: do the kata slowly, letting gravity move the bo; use only one hand to control the bo when possible, and assist with the other hand only when necessary... It was an excellent way to teach us how not to get in our own ways, as we do when we try too hard to control the bo. I learned a lot from this exercise and I look forward to tring it with other kata.

Another interesting thing: as Sensei was explaining the transmission of power in the bo kata, he delivered a very close description of xiao jie ling jing. I wish I had a tape to show you because between his words and the physical demonstration you could see it clearly.

Sensei demonstrated hakatsura ichi tonight, too. I haven't seen him do that kata in ages, but I believe he's been learing a lot more about it. It was looking very good. I do believe Sensei is learning what fajing! is all about.

04: Friday

Some 24 Form with Jo? ... No. A day off to let my head settle.

05: Saturday

Stepping and kicking. Some sets of Chen, sections one and five. It feels... like work? I'm relaxed, but.. the qi flows, but I feel powerless.

A set or two of 24 Form.

Some bo practice: shima ijiri bo ichi. Trying to travel far in my steps, and finding the correct way to deliver the lunging jab. Feet are crossed after the jo dan (overhead strike), knee against knee, bo ready to jab. Here is where you must launch off the left foot— if you want distance. I had been pushing with my right foot, idiot that I am. What can I say? I had my weight on that foot and it felt like the best bet. But I wasn't seeing the mechanics of the move. Only the left foot can launch you forwards.

06: Sunday

Today, quite unexpectedly, I was offered a free star naming. A happy coincidence. Therefore:

On the occasion of my fifth taiji anniversary— fifth is stars and deep space objects, right?— I hereby name star USC 10203489-72, RA 15h 48m 15.65s, DEC 21º 32´13´´ (21.5371), in the constellation Scorpio— Shan Beng Di Lie!

If you don't believe me, go look. It may not be the brightest star in the sky, but then, neither am I.

Cold and windy. Raw. I missed the better weather earlier. Now the sun is pale behind gray clouds, and the wind is cutting and stinks of cheap heating oil.

Some stepping, working on keeping my weight back, and tiger body...

Some 24 Form in honor of the day...

Some Chen, sections one and five...

Some bo...

I feel... scattered today. Qi flows, but again, I feel powerless.

Chill morning, stone steps.
The path to the temple is steep.
We may stumble at times,
But we must always get up again.

— Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao, #65

07: Monday

The thaw continues... is winter on its way at last?

Stepping— Yang and Chen, forwards and backwards— with my tea...

Three sets each of Chen sections one and five, trying to relax, trying to keep tiger body, trying— trying...

If I go slowly and stay focused, I can work the energy correctly...

One set of 24 Form. An excellent set. I have come far.

Fajing! practice, left and right... shun chan ni chan practice...

Somewhere to the northwest of me there's a very dirty oil heat system. The stink is on the wind and it makes me feel ill. I hope the weather stays very warm— but only warm enough to not need heat, say 70º.

08: Tuesday

Rain and fog, but mild: 45º. Birds calling constantly... robins bathing in puddles... It's supposed to turn bitter cold again and ice up. I don't know whether I'll be able to get to taiji tonight. *sigh*

The dojo seemed... very bad last night. Basic drills in kicking, stepping, blocking and punching. Then naihanshi nidan bunkai. I do not do well in class these days. I feel I've already failed before I begin— that Sensei has already failed me; and so I get flustered and do badly because I'm trying to fix everything at once... I do ever so much better in Bruce's class. Oh, well. This will pass.

I am disappointed that Sensei hasn't spoken with me as he promised. I was hoping that talking with him would make us more comfortable with each otehr— something like that. I had hopes that he really meant to help me... perhaps he's doing what he thinks will help by correcting me. I have been getting corrections, if not praise.

Jon's accident to his knee has been a boone. The physical therapy required after the surgery is making him stronger and more flexible.

Miserable snow began falling early this afternoon. Emails from my classmates said conditions were even worse in Connecticut. Tonight's class has been cancelled.

09: Wednesday

I swept the snow from my dojo, but got no further... or did I? The past few days have felt disconnected. I'm always being interrupted. I think I practiced yesterday, but I can't remember. I think I practiced today, but again, there is nothing to distinguish any one memory as belonging to today. Hrumph. Must be the sun spots.

Kobudo. Small class. We went slowly, and it was fun. Bo katas.... I had a lapse in sueyoshi no kun ichi. I'd done it correctly in practice before class, but I think I misread a cue from someone else. I had odd glitch in Nakamura no sai, too: I couldn't get from the low right-side lifted leg strike to the left-side lifted leg strike. It was like a skip in the record that is my brain, but it cleared up the third time through. Where do these glitches come from? Or is it dust in the grooves?

Rob worked with some of us on stepping tonight. He told me somthing I didn't know: stepping forwards, the forward foot should turn straight and it should only turn to the forty-five as one reaches the "kibadachi stage" of the step.

Funny. The mechanics are the same as taiji stepping, but when I started karate, they told me it was different, and I believed them. So I've been trying to "do it the karate way" ever since— and doing it wrong.

When I'm on the mats, the stiffness in my ankles still makes it difficult to keep the rear foot pointing straight forwards when I'm moving fast or going for distance.

Shima ijiri bo ichi bunkai tonight...

I still suck at tonfa.

10: Thursday

I had to choose between karate and taiji, and I chose taiji.

John brought the lance: a nine-foot metal pipe. Joe and Tony are going to make the point for it. The darn thing weighs a— well, it's heavy for me. As soon as Jonas got hold of the thing, he started the lan, na, sha exercise: left, right, thrust; left, right, thrust... I could manage left and right, but I had to thrust and snap it back pretty quick to keep the tip from falling to the ground. How am I going to get strong enough for this?

Chou shou: first closing. I had a terrible time learning the ni-chan that follows last week's shun chan. Jonas had to work with me on it until I finally got it.

After that, the "monkey move." Quickly draw your left leg in and bring your hands up— squid hands— to cover as you close yourself in with dragon body. Pull your left leg up and fajing! with both hands. It's a skittish looking move; skittish like monkeys.

We got to talking after class about process. Jonas said that Chen Fa-ke made the decision to "open the door" to his Art in order to speed the learning process. Previously, much of the Art was only revealed to those who studied long enough and hard enough to earn the privilege of being invited to continue their learning "behind the door." Jonas says there's even a ceremony for those who get promoted "through the door." Anyway, Chen Fa-ke realized that that that practice was making the learning process an unnecessarily long one, and he made the decision to speed things up. I'm glad he made that decision. Really, really glad.

11: Friday

Fajing! practice and first closing while waiting for software installs to run. Today the fajing! seemed to be working. Van couldn't figure out what the noise in the next cubicle was. It was my shirt snapping. I need practice going to the right.

I can't quite recapture the feeling of a correctly executed ni chan. I had it exactly right last night after Jonas helped me with it. Then, my balance was perfect and the power was working. Today, I came close, but... pfui. I tried last night, too, when I got home. I almost had it.

Today, what I do have is a couple of good bruises on the tops of my forearms from last night's applications practice.

Application: opponent grips your wrists, so you fajing! forward to break the grip— but just to break it, not to lose contact— then bring your right hand up to capture his right elbow while sticking to and controlling his right hand with your left wrist. Now, point your left index finger towards his right shoulder and... off he goes.

Another application: opponent grasps your writst. Step in or step back so you force him off balance as your fajing! with your fingers towards his kwa/groin/whatever. Stick to his wrists as you split and shun-chan or ni-chan, whicever seems most appropriate.

John, you have sharp thumb joints.

12: Saturday

Strange dreams this morning... No taiji for Ma: the roads were very bad. Heavy snow, but mild temperatures. The last of the snow, I hope. It's melting.

Kicking a la Jonas... It gets easier... kicking until my heart pounds. Ideally, I suppose I should be relaxed, and then my heart wouldn't pound so.

Stepping. Yang first, keeping tiger body so I can go low, but not have my knees go past my toes... Chen, keeping tiger body, up and down, forwards and backwards...

Chen stepping, trying to combine it with hand movements... couldn't come up with anything that worked really well with alternate stepping, but I'll keep thinking on it.

Three sets of 24 Form. Good sets. Sosmetimes my yun shou turns from Yang to Chen, but both work well...

I've been remembering lately now my joints used to pop during practice. There was a time when my spine would go pop-pop-pop all the way up, one vertebra at a time when I was waving hands and grasping. It worried me a bit, but, as I suspected, it was only my body realigning itself. I don't know that I mentioned all the body adjustments when they were happening. I didn't really think about them at the time, didn't consciously connect them to my taiji practice. It didn't seem important. But now I think it was. My body had to physically change to accommodate my practice.

13: Sunday

Snow everywhere, but melting fast in the sun and mild air.

Stepping... Yang, then Chen. Today I used the hand movements from the kick that begins bai he lian chi, white crane. You're on your left leg, right leg drawn up, left hand blocking high, right blocking low. Right legs kicks osut to the right front forty-five, while the right hand shoots up to the left front firty-five and the left hand comes down onto the right forearm. Now, when you slide over onto your right leg, circle your hands so the left shoots out as you kick with your left leg, shift, and... so on. Took me a while to get my hands trained to switch.

Kicking a la Jonas... more stepping... Fajing! practice... all kinds...

My hands got full of qi, so I stopped to pick up some snow. I made a ball and threw it at the pine tree... then another... I practice my pitching until my fingers were red from cold. I have to say taiji has really helped my pitching.

Chen sets. Not enough, but I've got to take Ma shopping.

Later, at Jo's, when all was quiet after class, and the cleaning up was done, I smudged the place while Jo took a shower. Then I took my shoes and socks off and practiced on the rough wood floor, in the dusk. Chen sets. I wish I could get the feel of that last move we learned... wish I could make it work.

14: Monday

Beautiful day...

Lots of Chen stepping. First with my tea, then "with hands." I need to notice exactly how Jonas's kicks land. I kick and then my heel makes a little thump— I bet this is just like learning to put my feet down in stepping: you need to control it so contact seems to be established one molecule at a time, growing into a root that can be immediately dissolved, but only by the person "growing" it.

Chen sets... this latest move is most frustrating. I do it, but it doesn't feel right.

One set of 24 Form. Just because.


Sensei give no indication that he intends to talk with me as he said he would. I'm very disappointed by that.

Pinan shodan bunaki. We didn't have the punches and blocks for the kicking sequence right...

It's very difficult figuring these things out. I wish I had someone to work with — someone like Jonas who loves to puzzle these things out.

Tonight I minded how I punched and blocked; I kept my fists and wrists correctly positioned. But my kicks were terrible.

15: Tuesday

I do not ken the rhythm of the Chen moves... I don't know that I understand the rhythm of 24 Form, either— but I know that when you understand what the moves are doing, the underlying rhythm changes. and I'm thinking that knowing the rhythm of the thing will help with understanding—

I emailed Jonas and asked if he'd spend some time tonight on the rhythm of section one. He emailed back, "Consider it done." Yay!!!

To begin: lots of stepping— Chen style. I enjoy it, especially the ones that coordinate.

Chen sets... see above.


Jonas was a no show. But I know he had a project deadline yesterday, so he was most probably caught at work tying up odds and ends.

We practiced steadily until 10:00. Joe gave Tony and me an overview of the rest of section one... I don't quite remember it... walking obliquely and wading forward with twist steps are not so difficult, but the transitions aren't easy to remember.

I hope Jonas was at work.

16: Wednesday

Sunny, breezy, chilly. Excellent practice weather...

A little stepping with my tea. A Chen set or two...

I should probably take the day off and try to center myself. *sigh*

Two sets of 24 Form... Lots of qi between my hands— lie energy like pulling taffy. Neat. Still, they weren't the best sets I ever did: too much tension in my body and legs.

At work there was an email from Jonas apologizing for missing class last night. He was indeed at work, caught in a meeting. But there's a practice session scheduled for Saturday at Peaceful Wolf and he expects to be there. Hope I can find someone to give Ma a ride home from taiji.


Just four of us: Sensei, Rob, Janna, and me. Sensei worked with us as we went through kata. Bo, tonfa, sai— eku bo, nunte bo. We went slowly and it was fun as well as profitable.

Near the end of class, Sensei took time to address the question I raised here in the journal of why we don't always practice as a group by "following the corners," but rather are adjured to synchronize our movements with one particular designated leader. This is done to teach us to use our... intuition— though, that's misleading. It's not a sixth sense we're learning to use, but more a heightening and sensitizing of all our other physical senses combined. When we direct our attention to closely observing and trying to follow the movements of just one designated person, we have to use all our senses to do it...

Listening. It's listening. Tīng. There's a lot to listening. A lot.

Thank you, Sensei. I am glad to know this.

17: Thursday

Sunny and 50º. Beautiful practice weather. Too bad I had to drive Ma all over creation instead.

Some Chen. A few sets, slow and low...

Karate. Another very good class with Sensei. Stepping: lots more explanation. It comes closer and closer to taiji—

It always was, always has been the same, I think, but the incomplete explanations, and the ... old fashioned teaching methods used on the lower ranks had me fooled at first. Put that together with my literal-mindedness and my lack of "martial brains" and it's no wonder I was frustrated and confused by karate...

But I'm learning— Mark Twain's comments about his father keeps going through my head. He said that when he was young he was embarassed by how ignorant and stupid his father was; but, after being away from home for a few years, upon returning, he was amazed by how much the old man had learned.

I can say with confidence that the explanations I was given in the beginning of my karate training were, for me, inadequate and counterproductive...

I have changed in that I do know more, understand more. And experience is necessary to lend depth to understanding. But I still feel information was withheld deliberately, and it bugs me— was there a "closed door" policy in effect? But the real problem was this: I did not trust that the correct information was present in my teacher. I felt this way because he was not communicating clearly with me.

18: Friday

Another gorgeous day.

Some stepping... some practice.

19: Saturday

Practice at Peaceful Wolf. A small group: seven of us: David Shaver and two of his regulars; Jonas, Lorna, John, and me. Today we practiced da lu in push hands. Long lu— or "tai da lu" as Jonas remarked on seeing what happened when David and I worked the routine. "Too long lu." I had to hustle my feet some distance to get out of the way of David's long legs. "Hun da lu" if you ask me: "Very long lu." But we laughed a lot, and we learned a lot, too— though I still have an awful lot to learn about listening. Practice went by very quickly...

Jonas remembered that he "owed" me a run-through of section one so that I could catch the rhythm. I opted to follow along with him, instead of watching. What a trip! It wasn't difficult for me to follow along, but some of the moves were... surprising. So different a rhythm from what I'm used to! Nothing like anything I've ever seen in class...

I could "see" the moves better this way, though, as if I was seeing on a deeper level... It was excellent... I wish— if wishes were horses we'd be up to our necks in horse pukkies.

After push hands, everyone got involved in trying to work out one of the moves in san shou that's been puzzling Jonas and Lorna and Bob. David pulled out his notebook and everyone began trying this and that, working the moves, trying to decipher what's really supposed to be happening in the set...

I hadn't much of a clue, of course. My contribution was to provide a resisting body to be moved. But I did learn a lot about martial thinking from participating in the analysis.

I find myself wondering: Is san shou supposed to be done lightly, as with push hands? It's a two person application practice exercise, but is it bunkai? It seemed like bunkai when I took the workshop at Willimantic. Applications practice. But when I've watched Bob and Lorna practicing, it looks more like a dance. But does it only look like a dance because the practitioners are listening closely to each other, communicating by touch, the moves changing quickly in response to signals invisible to observers? I guess you could work it either way... but working it as listening practice could be quite amazing.

20: Sunday

Spring. Cloudy and mild. Chipmunks running amok, playing games in the stones walls...

Stepping. Today I have found that feeling of suction when I grip with my toes and open the bubbling well. I've felt it before, but never before has it been at my beck and call. Neat.

Three sets of 24 Form. Slow and sure, working the qi. These sets comfort me. Chen still makes me feel unsure of myself.

Yesterday, I felt a little sorry for Jonas. He was odd man out and didn't have anyone to play with. A couple of times I saw him out of the corner of my eye practicing kao jing moves in the mirror between correcting the rest of us. I often think he must get quite bored with us... maybe not. I like to watch my students learning. I like teaching— when I get the chance to teach. But I do sometimes long for someone of my own or higher level to play with, and I bet Jonas does, too. And Sensei. I remember how delighted Sensei was the night Bruce threw him. Bruce was so surprised at seeing Sensei on the floor that he froze; but Sensei was laughing, and called out, "Well? Finish me off!" Good teachers want to be surpassed by their students. A surpassing student is the reward of teaching...

Some Chen in the gloaming. First and fifth sections. I wish I could remember Jonas's rhythms... but I tried a few of my own. My fajing! was good when I stayed completely relaxed. But I am not happy with my balance between gao tan ma and shi zi bai lian in section five... Why is that shift so difficult? And I have questions again about coordination in both sealing and whip. Rats.

I wish I was better at taiji— I wish I was brilliant at taiji. But not just because I'd like to be brilliant, but because words are quite useless to tell Jonas how much I appreciate that he is teaching me. Thank you, Jonas. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

21: Monday

Spring. A gray day, but full of birds trilling and flitting about, getting their bearings, getting ready...

Chen stepping, with hands. Up and down, forwards and backwards... feet sticking nicely...

Section one...

I got fascinated watchng the birds, thinking how lucky I am...

Section five—

Damn the timer!

My back has been crackling a bit today. More adjustments.


Class was fun— it almost always is when Sensei takes the class...

Kicking (My kicks are very bad lately. Why?) and bunkai for pinan shodan, one piece at a time. Very helpful— especially comforting to find out that even the black belts get confused by this kata.

22: Tuesday

Crow feathers on the snow that lingers in the shadow of the pine boughs. Eight feathers. Each has melted down into the snow, so they must have fallen two days ago when the morning sun was strong enough to heat them and cause them to subside. I wonder who ran afoul of what.

Stepping with my tea...

My hips ached last night. Adjustments. I suppose there will always be adjustments.

Some Chen. To my own rhythm— that's all I have, after all.

Gorgeous day. Feels warmer than the 45º indicated. So it is in the spring.

I walked to work. There's still a white sheet of ice on the pond, open only at the water fall and at the very upper end where the river flows. Seagulls are walking on the ice there today. Above the falls, the water is clear as a crystal, and deep and mysterious in the shadows under the ice.

Some Chen sets on the warm flagstones at the entrance to the Assembly Theater that sits beside the pond at the falls. It faces south, just right for taiji. Again, the rhythms are my own; right or wrong, I can't say, but surely they'll change with time... a beautiful day.


Why did I feel like crying all the way home? Nothing was wrong— but everything was wrong.

I am so stupid and inept when it comes to learning applications. Poor John got stuck working with me tonight. It was awful. But he was patient with me. They all were.

I think the reason I wanted to cry is that Jonas's Wednesday class is going to be working on Yang Style applications, and that touched a nerve in me. I want so very much to learn applications, and there is so little opportunity for me to do so— and never anyone to practice with....

It feels as if I'm doomed to always be alone in my practice—

Now I am crying...

Go to bed, Lizzie.

23: Wednesday

Qian tang ao bu, wade forward and twist step— you know, I have no idea now whether this is the step we learned or not. Walking and wading all run together in this section and I was having such a terrible night I can't recall. I think we were wading, but I could be wrong.

After the fajing! you do when you're standing on your right leg in "monkey posture," lie with your hands, left coming palm up, right moving palm down. Now, shun-chan the left hand around and up to "chop" center front, while more quickly ni-channing the right hand the long way around to come to rest on top of the left, wrist on wrist. Meanwhile, your left leg— toe leading— has followed your left hand around in an arc to come down on the left heel, slightly forward and shoulder-width to your left, at the same time your wrists meet center front. Now you're facing front (nine o'clock), hips square, left and right wrists crossed in front of your chest, left heel on the ground ("door" closed), weight still on your right leg.

Now, "open the door" with your left toe as you ni-chan your hands creating a nice strong peng. (You gotta fang song and close your right kwa to do this.)

Now, press your toe down and shift your weight forwards creating a strong tui. Leave your hands where they are. When your weight is fully transferred, pull up your right leg (xiao jie ling jing!).

Fang song and look to the right as you kick to the right-forty five. "Close the door" with your right toe and let it draw you into a balanced ma bu (horse stance), while you screw your root down with a little ni-chan of your hands. (You'll feel the arc of the spiral your "closing" toe creates in the movement of your right knee, and the arc of the spiral your ni-chan creates in the arc of your elbows— a nice little jao jing there.)

Cai, open up by shun-channing both hands, and let your weight shift slightly right. Fang song. And that's— whatever the heck that is.

... Ma bu. Horse stance... I can't believe I asked Jonas what ma bu meant. Duh! Where do my wits go?

Coordinating hands and feet in this move seemed daunting at first, but once you get the knack of letting the energy of the lie (split) establish the connection and the pattern, it flows smoothly and the left hand and left foot connect and coordinate. Try it in a mirror, and work the hand-foot connection first. Lie! Imagine the left palm's lao gung point connects to the foot's bubbling well point and pulls the foot so the sole is leading and the ankle therefore cocks to the side at first, going to the right. Then, as the left hand circles up and the palm starts to turn sideways as the leg circles forwards and around to the left, the foot turns sole down, too. Then, as the arc completes and the heel and hand come to rest, the toe-up foot and palm are seen to be in a kind of vertical correspondence. After that, the rest falls into place. Cool, right?

Watching and listening last night to the continuing san shou applications discussion, long forgotten applications that David tried to teach us came floating up through the morass in my head. David really did start out trying to teach us applications...

Jonas says one needs to learn push hands to learn to listen, and then applications to learn timing. San shou is all about timing...

Jonas keeps talking about curriculum. He was saying to David Shaver last Saturday that Peaceful Wolf is developing a nice curriculum. And that's so. With Jonas's help, David's school is now offering very comprehensive taiji training—

I feel so... peripheral. As if my lot is to scramble for table scraps after a taiji banquet when the guests are gone—

What's really going on here? Why am I so upset? Why the tears?

All my buttons are getting pushed... and I'm doing the pushing. I am so... afraid. So very afraid....

I don't remember what I said here about David dismissing me from his classes two years ago (and I'm not going to go look), but, if I didn't say it hurt me, I was lying. It hurt. Deeply. And I still have the scar— and the fear of being hurt again, of being excluded, dismissed, disowned, disavowed... and for no discernable reason.

But, Why, I ask myself, when you come down to it, why would anyone want me for a student? The only reason I can think of is: For the income. I'm dojo dues and pocket money, nothing more— what else could I be? I'm too old, too inept at apps; I'll never be an excellent student, nor grow into being a competent teacher, a jewel in my teacher's crown. Why bother training me up?

Dismissal without cause or reason... a profound sense of immanent loss... fear that it could happen any time, without warning— in spite of assurances to the contrary.

Those Zen guys, they warn you not to become too attached to anyone or anything.

I feel like a cipher. I feel I have no place in martial arts, taiji or kobudo. I feel I'm just a paying student, tolerated for the fees, scrambling around, pushing myself in where I'm not wanted— humiliating myself by traveling ridiculous distances, squandering hours that probably should be more profitably spent, to accost and pester teachers into giving up crumbs of knowledge to me—

Perhaps they have classes I don't know about where they teach— secretly and by invitation only—

If I let them, these thoughts could cripple me.

But I don't think I'm going to let that happen.

Does it occur to you, as it does to me, that taiji is a helluva lot easier than life? Rats...

Shoyoku... Chisoku... Gyo... Shojin... Fumonen... Shu Zenjo... Jo Riki... Fukero... It's never easy— Practice!


A very nice class. We went slowly in the katas. Sensei had us working on bo handling, making sure our hand positions were correct, allowing the bo move easily...

I'm doing better in my stances, I think. My feet are sliding now...

I did notice in the tonfa katas that I'm having a much easier time controlling the tonfa. Perhaps there is hope for me yet.

24: Thursday

The storms, snow and other, seem to have passed without doing any significant damage. What snow did fall is melting fast; my mental balance is returning and the fear of being dismissed again seems more foolish and remote by the minute... I can laugh at that fear now, but I don't yet dare turn my back on it.

Bo practice to begin. Last night, Dan asked about the swinging strikes in shimi ijiri bo ni, and Sensei demonstrated, showing how the bo is being pushed in the direction of the swing to knock the opponent's bo out of the way, the extended arm assisting. I didn't have a chance to check on my own execution of those strikes last night, but today I discovered that I basically am doing them as Sensei demonstrated. But I do need to clean up the mechanics a bit.

After that, I messed with my bo, trying all sorts of blocking turns. Then I did katas. One set of han bo, then I practiced spinning the han bo like a baton to strengthen and loosen my wrists.

I threw some snowballs at the pine tree.

A set of 24 Form felt unusual in its ease... Another set was seriously odd because of the stuff we worked on in taiji the other night— Jonas said at the time that he had a waiver he wanted me to sign! LOL!

Why do taiji and kobudo matter to me? Why continue to try to master these arts? I haven't a clue.

Karate. Sensei talked to the class again tonight...

Sensei's Pop Quiz on Dojo Etiquette:

Question: Angie is studying with Sensei's Sensei's son in Okinawa. He tells her to do a particular technique in a way that's at odds with the technique as she learned it from Sensei. What should she do?
  • Perform the technique as she's told.
  • Respectfully tell Master Odo's son that he is mistaken, and continue to do the technique as she learned it.
  • Learn the new way and when she gets back show Sensei that he's been doing it wrong.
  • Learn the new way, but on returning home revert to the old way and never mention having seen or heard of an alternative.
  • Learn the new way and on returning home, show Sensei the new technique and discuss both methods with him.
Pretty easy quiz, right? If you're Angie, of course the answer is E. Too bad all the questions raised at the dojo aren't as easy to answer.

25: Friday

Stepping with my tea...

Han bo... spinning the han bo like a baton...


The odd bit of practice coordinating hand and foot motion in— wading, is it?

26: Saturday

Gorgeous day. Sunny and the temperature is up to 40º now...

Stepping with my tea...

Kicking a la Jonas...

Some of Jon's Physical Therapy stepping...

Some of Jonas's bagi stepping: squat down, tilt one knee towards the boards—don't touch!— step with the other leg, tilt that knee towards the boards... and hold your arms out to your sides as you go (if you go). I was surprised to discover that I can do this— that not only am I strong enough, but my toes now bend. Soon, I will be able to "rise like smoke" from kneeling in the dojo.

Some Sword Form... I really must finish figuring this form out.

Some Chen. Very slowly... I can't find the line at the end of pounding when both hands are in front of the left hip, and you fajing! down then circle up and around ready for the lie of the neck strike... maybe I'm thinking about it too much.

Time to fetch Ma from class...

27: Sunday

Gorgeous day.

I've been practicing TCA, thinking. Nan asked if I'd do a taiji demonstration for staff development day, and I said I wold. So, I was thinking about how I'd present taiji. I want everyone to know it's a martial art, even the TCA; so, I've been considering applications...

I'm wondering if I could get Jo to help me at the demonstration...

I wonder if I could get everyone else to help me work out how to demonstrate the apps...

28: Monday

Rain, but snow lingers in the cold shadows.

Stepping with my tea... my left foot doesn't feel quite stable today...

Chen stepping, trying to deeply fang and song so the kicks go some distance (not that this is correct for, only that it builds my strength)...

"Knee walking..." (I put one hand on the railing for balance.)

Chen sets... very slowly... it's difficult to concentrate when going slowly in this form... my mind wanders and I speed up... but learning to do this slowly is necessary...

One set of 24 Form. Slowly, with some of the Chen slopping over into it...

My knees feel... weakened by the workout.

29: Tuesday

Gray, but with a promise of clearing.

Stepping with my tea... I can still feel the effects of yesterday's "knee walking." I'll practice that every other day.

One set of 24 Form; half a set of TCA. I'm still thinking about that demonstration Nan asked me to do...

Karate last night...

... was fun. We worked again on pinan shodan bunkai— the punch-block-kick sequence. Almost, we have it down.

Diane wanted to talk with me before class. She was feeling discouraged. The other night she was sidelined for what seemed a long time in Bruce's class because she didn't know the kata they were doing and it made her feel terribly inadequate. I told her that it wasn't unusual to get sidelined some nights, and it certainly wasn't an indication that she is being left behind. I told her that Sensei's got his book and he keeps strict track of who knows which kata, and when they ought to learn the next one.

She also said part of her frustration comes from not having time to practice at home. We all feel that way. We want to excel, and we want to make progress quickly, but life and its obligations have a way of intervening, delaying us, distracting us. All we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and try to stay on the path...

She seemed to feel better after we talked. I hope she did. I told her something of my own frustrations, of wondering whether I'll ever be asked to test again.

While Jonas was teaching us the application for the move... that precedes yan shou hong quan (I have to ask him exactly where we are at this point), I was reminded of a vignette in the book The Alhambra (Washington Irving) about "arial angling," that is, people using poles baited with flies, "fishing" for birds from the turrets of the Alhambra, the Moorish palace in Spain...

After closing, and wading, and walking, and closing again, one finds ones self again in ma bu, on the forty-five, one's hands again shun-channing apart. This time, the hands will fajing! outwards, the right closing one finger at a time into a fist and "drilling" (zuān) spirally out and slightly up, the left hand open, spiraling outwards, the middle finger leading, to end palm upwards. Now your feet are still at the firty-five, but your arms are pointing to three and nine o'clock...

Now pull downwards with your fingertips, right hand still in a fist, left closing to a squid shape, wrists down, fingers up, "loading the spring" as you fang song, spiraling down, so your hips are now aligned on that three-nine axis...

Now, a short upward fajing! of both hands, then allow them to complete a circle around your pinned elbows, bringing them over and down to your center, using the upward energy to bring both feet high off the ground and power your jump and turn ninety degrees to land— lightly!— at the opposite forty-five.

Neat. But what is it that put me in mind of the Alhambra's arial fishermen? In the pull down. If someone grabs your wrist, a slight downwards tug of your hand will elicit a response from the grabber. If he reacts by pulling back, and you are quick to follow up delivering a push, you can uproot him. If the tug pulls him towards you, uprooted, you can pull him farther and send him on his way. But, to do either, you've got to know immediately what effect your tug had, and that means you had to be listening. Tīng. Listening. Through that one small point of contact, that grasp on your wrist, you can "hear" the other person's physical body and know how it is (or isn't) balanced...

Mostly, I'm stone deaf in these exercises, but when I was working with Jonas tonight, he made his whole body speak clearly, articulating each "syllable" and there was no misunderstanding for me as to how he was balanced... and so, "hearing" his balance, I was able to respond correctly to it. Cool.

Tīng. Listening. Fishing. To "catch" your "fish," be it in water or air, you must detect the verriest "nibble" on your "line" and react quickly and appropriately, else you can't "set the hook" and "reel him in."

Fishermen of all kinds learn this subtlety of Art, each in his peculiar medium. Water, air, taiji, karate. Life. You've got to learn to "listen" if you don't want to go hungry.

When Jonas chooses, I bet he can make his body as "silent" as he wishes... with me tonight, though, he must have had to set his whole body to "shouting." *sigh* And I have the gall to yell at Ma about being deaf. LOL! Payback is a bitch.

30: Wednesday

Gorgeous day. sun and 50º.

Some Chen. Today, I felt heavy as a stone statue when I first tried my jump. But I lightened up considerably after that...

I try to emulate Jonas's fluid motions, but....



Kobudo tonight was excellent.

To begin, Kim had us doing sai katas. She corrected my double kibadachi strike in Nakamura no sai (I wasn't keeping the trailing sai flat and the punch wasn't going far enough); and then Sensei showed me the right wasy to deliver punches. I was losing power in the punches by letting my shoulders go forward, following the punch, letting my arms extend a little too far. We had a little discussion about the muscle control needed to deliver good, strong, short punches. I don't have as much control of my lats as I'd like, so... I'm pretty sure I understood what Sensei was telling me about how to control and power the punches... but I'll have to do some work on it to explain it here.

After that, we worked on chounokun. Kim took us through a few times and showed all of us some refinements. Then Sensei joined us and sharpened those things up even more...

The twist step was especially interesting. I never realized before that the twist is chansijin that "screws you down" and "loads you up" same as in taiji. Excellent!

And the backward "levering" steps where the bo comes up to block are very like the lance exercises Jonas taught us. The energy of the bo brings the tip around in a crescent motion generated by the ni chan of the active hand. It's not exactly the same as taiji lance, but the same principles obtain.

Tonight we got to see Rob's new bo kata. It's very interesting. Lots of new variations on the moves I know, plus a cool crouching manouvre. I look forward to seeing the kata again — and to learning its name.

After a night like tonight, I feel I'm on my way to really learning something. I've got lots to work on now, lots of things I can improve— and will do so.

It's coming up three years this July. About time I begin to get the hand of karate and kobudo.

31: Thursday

Another beautiful day. Cool, but I have the back door open... Hey, it's spring, right?

Stepping with my second cup of tea. (The first was spent on getting the truck over to the autobody shop so they can weld the door back on— again.) I stepped for a long while, Yang only, concentrating on my left foot and trying to remain in a relaxed tiger body...

Bo practice. I have a lot to work on today.

Lan, na, sha. Those are the exercises for taiji lance, but they help with the bo, too. It took me a while to work out optimum parameters for the "lever steps" in chounokun. Use the left hand as a fulcrum, and ni-chan with the right hand: the tip of the bo makes a nice arc to block with...

The twist: I haven't got this under control yet— but I'm working on it.

Punching. Lie energy. That's what controls the movement and keeps your shoulders correctly positioned. Today I could feel the splitting.

Karate. Sensei set me to punching the bag. He said he wanted me to use my hips practicing reverse punches, but, in trying to do this, I was "winding up," thereby telegraphing my punches, so Sensei showed me exactly what I was supposed to do: xiao jie ling jing! Send that fist through the target with no forewarning, heel and fist energy meeting in the middle. I was surprised to learn this is what he wanted all along, but at last I know what I'm supposed to do.

I'm not very good at the technique, of course, in taiji or karate, but at least tonight I had my fists correct and contact points correct so I haven't got any bruised knuckles— in spite of having hit that bag very, very hard and having moved it every time. Amazing. I got something right. Yay!

Copyright © 2005 New Moon

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