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October 2006

01: Sunday

Rain. Cool and rainy.

Matt II came over to practice. It was excellent! We whacked away with sticks— getting closer to reality, Matt said. Push hands with sticks, I guess. We go at it, not gently, but... controlled, but with followthrough. I've got a light bruise on my right thumb. I just now noticed it because I can see it as I write. No big deal. But if we go at this much more seriously, I think I'd like to have gloves and eye and head protection.

We played push hands, too. We are both getting better at reading our opponent. And we're getting better at staying rooted— better all the way 'round. It's so much fun. And the best part is that Matt doesn't mind that I laugh. That's such a relief!

I've learned so much playing like this. I can see dangers and openings. I get to make mistakes and learn from them. And I am learning. A lot. All the books and all the teachers in the world can't teach me what I'm learning from playing with Matt.

I wonder how all this goes together with my taiji forms...

Fern and I went to see Jet Li's Fearless last night. It was good. The fight scenes were worthwhile. But the story and the characters were too sketchy— it was more an essay on the topic of Huo Tien Jia than a story. I prefer a good story.

02: Monday

Happy birthday, Melody!

Woke up thinking about push hands. It occured to me I've been using mǎ bù as a stance and I should probably be using a bow stance weighted towards the rear— with tiger body. It's harder for me to sink deeply from this stance, but that's the point, I think.

Yesterday, I gave Matt II the instructions for da lu from Master Jou's book. We'll see what we can make of them.

Only Vicky for class tonight, but that gave us time to get her settled in the basics. She has both parting and brushing and strumming, so going on to repulsing will not be too much for her.

Tango tonight was pretty good. A mixed class, with lots of folks I hadn't met, but who've been dancing for a while. A couple of the guys were easy to dance with. It's getting interesting...

Interesting, too, to watch the new moves they were working on in the practica after class. Thuy and Ben and Ramonas had just come back from a tango workshop weekend. Very neat stuff— and they were sharing with the newer students. I'm going to have to make arrangements to stay for the practicas, I think.

03: Tuesday

Beautiful day. It got warmer and more humid towards sunset, and clouds were coming in...

Some Chen in the twilight by the water with the gravid moon watching...

I got lost a couple of times. I was hurrying, they's why. I'm not sure if the hurry was from work stress being carried over, or if it was just too hard to keep my focus for the whole form. Six of one, half dozen of the other, maybe.

It was very humid, very uncomfortable. But the sky and the moon were beautiful, and the evening enjoyable.

I've done something to the last joint of my right pinky finger. Bet it's a stress injury from whacking with sticks. I'm going to have to be careful until I've built up my hand strength.

04: Wednesday

Another beautiful day. Sunny and cool, though the sky is white and the air is hazy with humidity...

I woke semmingly remembering a dream in which I discovered I'd been forgetting one of the moves in xinjia yilu. I remember the moment of realization clearly: an adrenalin rush and a clear certainty of mind— but I don't remember what move I had forgotten. Now I'm wondering. I'll read over the list of movements while I drink my tea...

I have left nothing out. Yet, strangely, the list seems incomplete to me. Truly dreams are mysterious.

05: Thursday

A clean, fresh day. I fell asleep last night listening to the steady rain...


Lily stopped by the green last night. She straightened me out on the sequence after the turn up to the thrust, and then we went on— but not too far because, as I told her, I'd very likely forget most of it, and I'd rather work on the first part and get it set in my mind.

While Lily showed me all that, I had my three sutdents practice on their own. They said they learned a lot practicing together, and I and sure they did. When I rejoined them, we went over arm movements and then got them up to speed on repulsing. They're all getting it. Excellent!

Sword. Today I discovered and corrected my problem with the beginning of the form where the sword is changed from the left to the right hand. It's an awkward move at best, but I rendered it even more so by having my left palm facing forwards instead of to the rear!

The coordination between hands and feet seems different in sword. Perhaps because the coordination of the sword has to be figured in. I don't know. I've never really read anything of anything about sword form— not paying attention to jian technique, anyway— nor have I ever heard it discussed. All I know now is that when I watch the video, it looks different...

Practice. Maybe practice will answer my questions.

A fine night, but the clouds are hiding the near-full moon...

After work, a set of 24 Form in the twilight...

Another set of 24 just now...

My knees feel the effort of sword practice— and the Chen; but my left hip isn't bothering me now.

It's been an unsettled and unsettling day...

All day the coordination of sword form has been tickling at the back of my mind. What is the difference? Will I ever be able to figure it out?

06: Friday

07: Saturday

A very nice October day. The trees are turning brilliant colors, the air is cool, and the light seems farther away...

I woke practicing stick. Lots of followthrough on the strokes. Neat. Of course, that's only possible in the form... It's interesting finding out how form translates into practical application. Funny that I never noticed the translation with my other weapons— maybe because I never got so much practical practice...

No, I had lots of bo practice with partners at the dojo.. it was different.

My pinky finger still aches a bit if I bend it wrong. I hope the cure is only a matter of building strength.

Tonight the moon is bright and high overhead. The air is cold and there seems to be a mist everywhere...

A little Chen...

What magic is there in moonlight that makes my hands more adept in the fali moves? Tonight I discovered a big difference in the first few moves— a fresh approach, I could say. Interesting.

I was thinking today that I should spend some time concentrating on each of the fifty named moves in xinjia yilu. An hour or a week to explore each move— or part of a move, and really try to understand it.

Friday was an unsettled and unsetting day. It got quite windy in the afternoon, with leaden clouds moving in.

I practiced sword on the green until Dan arrived. He was late, so I got in some good practice. I am beginning to get the feel of this form, but... I need to watch the tape a few more times. I need to have the visual in my head.

I showed Dan tiger body; demonstrated how it worked by pushing on him and letting him feel how the energy gets redirected...

We worked on repulsing, and we did the form about a dozen times. He's getting it.

It was windy and chill on the green. Dan felt it much more than I did. I told him that if he keeps practicing, he won't feel the chill so much either.

08: Sunday

A high blue day. It started out cool, then got delightfully warm, the sky a deep celestial blue, not a cloud to be seen— the perfect backdrop for the brillant colors of the changing leaves.

Stick practice today was excellent. An hour in, I said something about a bo technique and Matt suddenly went off to the shed and found a long mop handle. I got the "bo" and he got the two sticks and we had at it. What fun! (I knew I should've brought my bo today!) I was so much fun that I was forgetting to breathe. I got quite red and winded.

Playing like this I really learn a lot. Matt says he does, too.

After that, we played push hands. We continue to improve. Excellent!

Neither of us has deciphered Master Jou's da lu instructions, yet. Soon. And I think it's almost time for us to try moving push hands.

As far as weapons, I'm still learning how to think about fighting. I don't think in terms of causing damage, nor do I think in terms of winning; and I must learn to do both. To me, it's all still a game, and when I "attack" I don't try to connect, just show that I could have.

Sensei said you had to engage— if engage you must— with the intention of ending the fight as quickly as possible. He's right. It's the only way to fight.

But it's so much more fun playing at fighting.

09: Monday

Another warm, high blue day.

I've patched the house's foundation as best I can, and stored away the leftover concrete mix— after having pulverized it with one of the 15-pound dumb bells. (The darn stuff had gotten a bit damp and compacted having sat quite a while between purchase and use.) And there's still way too much to do around the house, inside and out...

Last night before bed, I put on the sword tape. I watched the performance part about a dozen times, then I just let the instructions run through to the end, listening and watching. There were two more performances at the end, plus one of 48 Form. I watched that, too, puzzling a bit over it; then I went to bed, hoping some of it would stick.

I suspect I understand sword form better than I think I do. The moves I know make a kind of sense to me even with differences— seemingly— in coordination. It's the tip of the sword that dictates the coordination after all— Isn't it?

The neighbors are noisy. I'll go to Jo's and work on the sign.

10: Tuesday

Another beautiful day— softer, though. Warm.

Sword. Sword intriges me...

I feel qi, but a feeling of coordination eludes me.

11: Wednesday

Yintien and cooler. There's a smudge of blue along the tree line at the far edge of the meadow. I noticed it a few days ago, and thought it might be a piece of tarp. Today I can see it's a stand of Michaelmas daisies.

Sword. I think it makes more sense today, but I could be fooling myself.


The threatening sky made me leave my weapons in the Jeep. Only Lynsey showed up, so I taught her about tiger body and reviewed and refined what moves she knows, then went on to introduce her to Grasp Peacock's Tail. It was raining lightly by then, so when we'd grasped both sides enough for her to remember the move, we called it a lesson.

12: Thursday

Heavy rain last night, all night. It cleared by late morning. Too humid.

TCA, 24 Form, and xinjia yilu by the pond after work...

Not enough practice, but it's too humid.

13: Friday

Clear and very cool (45º). Last night's winds blew all the humidity away.

Sword... after the first set, I got intrigued by the idea of practicing the left-hand version, so I did...

I didn't have much trouble reversing the sword, but my right hand wasn't always sure of where to go... and my left— no, right shoe, kept slipping off my heel during the squat before the exchange...

Left hand is different, but easier in some ways.

As I was drinking my tea, I got to contemplating the kicking post. I haven't spent any time at all on karate kicks, not in a long while. I tried some today...

At first, I had trouble bringing mysefl back into ready stance. I got the rhythm of it, though...

I noticed that my blocks were improved, but not my chin kicks. However, I could consistently kick at a height between ribs and chin without leaning back.

The trees are brillian red, orange, and yellow, but the leaves seem to be falling fast. I'm afraid this season will pass too quickly.

Cool on the green. I practiced sword until Lynsey arrived. The air is so dry and cool that the tassle on my sword was splayed out with static electricity.

While we were practicing, a group of Chinese women stopped by to watch us and take pictures. One lady aped the stepping exercise we were doing. "Ni hao," she said when I noticed her. "Ni hao." Her friend was taking pictures. We had a limited conversation. She is from Taiwan. "... No" I told them, "I didn't study in China, but my teacher studied in Taiwan... yes, it's good to practice outside in the fresh air. Healthy, yes."

I took Dan and Lynsey up through single whip to press.

The Yang forms all seem so easy now that I know about pinning my elbows— and it's easy to teach using that principle, too. Still, I have to keep reminding my students that all the movements they seem to see in the arms is really, mostly, illusion created by turning the waist...

I remember thinking the arms moved a lot when I was first learning. It was quite a while before I discovered the illusion.

Anteas, Gaia's son, was defeated by Hercules because he was uprooted from the earth that gave him his strength. In taiji we must learn to be constatnly rooting and uprooting ourselves, quickly and deftly, in a constant dance of seeking dynamic equilibrium.

After the kids left, I practiced more sword, a set of 24 Form, and xin jia yi lu.

14: Saturday

Frost last night and only 32º when I got up. But the temperature is rising fast and the grass in the meadow has changed from white to green.

Qi gong today. It felt appropriate...

Splitting Heaven and Earth... Shooting and Arrow... Push the Sky... Panther in the Grass... Pushing the Mountain Aside... Crane Greets the Day...

I took a few minutes to puzzle over my notes on Five Elements Qi Gong and did that short sequence, too.

I went looking for instruction for Eight Pieces of Brocade and found that the correct name may be "pull and break tendons," a homonym for eight pieces of brocade (ba1 duan2 jin3; eight sections brocade; pull (ba2*) break tendon) in Chinese. (I have the characters, but can't reproduce them here.)

Also, there are the "scholar" sections and the "warrior" sections, the one performed while seated, the other while standing. And they can also be done lying down.

* ba2 is pull. ba1 written differently than in the explanation I found can mean "crack!" as in the sound made. Perhaps that's more correct. Snap! Break tendons?

15: Sunday

Cold last night, and cool today. Sunny and colorful with a capricious wind chasing clouds all over the sky...

The teaching has been good for me. Once again, the qi comes at my bidding— in Yang —

But why not in Chen? I'm sure there must be places where I can stir the qi in xin jia yi lu, and I just don't notice because it comes and goes.

Lynsey was telling me that her knees hurt from the taiji. I told her to keep her stances high. Truth to tell, my knees have been bothering me constantly over the last few weeks. Sword is part of the reason. But mostly I think I'm reaching a new physical level, perhpas due to practice with Matt.

The sun is westering now and the light behind the maple leaves is dazzling red, orange, and gold, all in motion. Unless I look east to the pines and the meadow where it shows between the trees, summer's green is just a memory.


A set of 24 Form in the warmth of the late afternoon sun. How easy! How strong the qi...!

A set of Chen. The qi is there, but the moves are... they lack the depth of my 24 Form. I think that's because I haven't polished them with thousands of repetitions. It takes time for them to seep into the bones. Time.

16: Monday

Happy birthday, Sensei.

A beautiful day. Frost again last night. Glorious color in the maples...

I lit some incense (Kyoto Autumn) and worked on sword, left and right. This form is good for my left hip...

I'm up to bai yuan xian guo (white ape presents fruit). Feels like I've got it mostly correct.

Some lotus kicks... left kicks still aren't good...

"Rubbing..." I can't quite get the "snap" here...

Fan shen er qi jiao... both sides... better.

I'll probably be alone on the green tonight. Dan & Lynsey have chemistry.


Dan showed upfor practice. I was late becauser of a computer problem and hadn't even got a set of my own in when he showed up. We worked on repulsing and grasping and did the form half a dozen times. Then he went off to tang soo do class.

Tango tonight was... okay. But not... satisfying. In fact, it seems a stupid endeavour. Why am I learning something I can't do on my own? I'll never have a partner, so why do I bother?

At one point, Thuy told me I was listening to the music, not my partner. She was wrong, and she found that out when she stepped into my place and found out what my partner was "saying."

17: Tuesday

Yintien. Chilly.

Spent some time trying to figure out "10-Form Exercises for Longevity" (T'ai Chi Magazine, Vol. 27, No. 4.). According to the article, it's "A Secret Legacy of the Huashan Mountain All-True Daoist School." I suppose. (Doesn't "huashan" mean "tiger mountain"?) Whatever. It's all qigong and good for you...

Today my legs feel very heavy. It takes effort to go up and down stairs. I wonder why.

18: Wednesday

Rain and warmer— warmer outside than in!

When I stepped onto the porch, the lacquer on the sword immediately misted up. It's 60º outside and on 52º inside. I did notice the condensation on the outside of the windows when I got up.

The latest T'ai Chi Magazine arrived yesterday. Wish I could just sit and read.

Sword... you have to work past the ache, and just concentrate on the form— as long as you're sure you're not doing damage to youself. (I'm not.) But what is this ache from? Blocked qi?

Today I couldn't decide what to do about the coordination in Three Rings where the sword blocks left...

Blocking with the sword... I suddenly noticed that I had drawn my left leg in and blocked to the left before I stepped out to slide into bow stance. As a technique, that makes perfect sense: clear a path for the step. But then I couldn't decide if I was supposed to be protecting the knee as I shifted into forward bow stance— also a sensible technique...

I believe that the video shows the sword "brushing" the knee, but...

There's the form and then there's the practical technique. Guess it all depends on what you intend to effect.

Is this happening because I'm learning more about "real" fighting? Or am I merely losing my mind?


Only Dan for tonight's lesson. I took him into yun shou and up to snake spits.

It was difficult teaching un shou in Yang style. Perhaps the reason was my own confusion because of Chen and TCA (Sun) styles being so much on my mind...

Studying both Sun and Chen stlyes very much helped me to refine yun shou, though. They gave me a much clearer view of the mechanics, and made excecution much easier for me. But I never had to teach Yang style yun shou before, so I didn't have the decisions made that would help me convey the essence clearly... But we got through it!

After class, Dan and I stayed and talked about this and that and the other for a long while. Good converstaion. I enjoyed that.

19: Thursday


20: Friday

21: Saturday

22: Sunday

23: Monday

24: Tuesday

25: Wednesday

26: Thursday

27: Friday

28: Saturday

29: Sunday

30: Monday

31: Tuesday

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