Workshop today at Peacful Wolf for all of Jonas's students. We pushed hands for more than an hour, then Jonas taught us the two person exercise for taiji lance. Everyone took a turn at that, and we stayed at the dojo playing for over two-and-a-half hours! If the outside world hadn't had claims on most of us, we'd be there yet, playing taiji. As it was, the last four of us, me, Jonas, Joe, and Lorna, stood around in the parking lot, in the cold, talking, reluctant to let the session end.
Jonas thought the "article" on "Don Tien" was great. Today he was telling everyone about it. I'm glad he enjoyed it, but...
This means that my journal is completely discovered. My teachers know about it now I know they know about it, and that they have read it recently. And I'm not sure how I feel about that; nor am I sure yet whether or how it will change things.
This journal has never been secret; merely, I didn't tell all and sundry about it. A link to it appears, unobtrusively, in my email signature at the very foot of my emails, but I don't tell anyone about the site.
I've always written here with the awareness that anyone I write about may read what I've written. And I don't believe that awareness has made me dishonest; quite to the contrary I have had to acknowledge that my perceptions may be at fault, and that only my personal feelings about any given situation are unchallengable. I believe I've been honest about those.
Sometimes, I have felt wronged; but, the awareness that others are listening no, that they may be "overhearing" what I say, has helped me to see situations from other angles. In trying not to make a public ass of myself, I've learned to step back and consider deeply what's really going on outside of myself hasn't it?
Have I been honest with myself? I don't know. I hope so, but how do I know? The usual ways , I suppose: demons of doubts arising to whisper incessantly until you listen; friends who tell you to your face you're being an ass and, if you're lucky in your friends, keep telling you until you hear.
What an interesting place I find myself in today. I don't yet know how to feel about it.
If you want to figure as a hero in life, you've got to play the part; but, even then, only history will judge whether you were a hero and who's to say history will judge rightly?
We can only know our own hearts, and then only imperfectly. No matter how honest we try to be, how honest we think we are, we can not know what we may be hiding from ourselves. Others may be able to help us in discovering these things, but we have to be willing to listen and brave enough to hear.
I'm not really a coward, you know. I'm just a bit deaf.
26 September 2004
I still haven't got all my early entries up, but that's only because lots has been happening. I have a new teacher and I'm studying Xinjia Yilu, that's Chen New Frame, First Path, along with continuing to study karate and kobjutsu. And Ma began studying 32 Sword Form just a few weeks ago. It's been an interesting year, lots of learning, lots of new friends. It's an excellent adventure.
19 January 2003
Lots of things have changed this year. For one thing, in July I began also learning traditional Okinawan karate and kobudo (weapons). I never would have dreamed that would happen! It has amazed me from the beginning how the two disciplines (taiji & karate) complement each other. They are like yin and yang.
One thing that hasn't changed, I'm still trying to get my early journal entries up!
21 January 2002
Well, I said it would take me a while!
6 March 2001
Hi! I'm Lizzie. It's nearly two years ago that I began learning taijiquan, or t'ai chi. I didn't know what I was getting into when I began, but I soon discovered that I had stumbled upon something valuable. This journal is going to be the story of my learning.
It's going to take me a while to get all the journal entries up. Please be patient why not practice your taijiquan?
Pine Tree Dojo. This is where I practice:
Lizzie's Taijiquan Studio © 2002 New Moon
It's my back porch. It faces south. "Begin practicing taijiquan by facing south," I read somewhere. I practice every day well, almost every day. But when I don't practice, it isn't because of the weather.
In winter the sun is low and it shines full on the porch. (See the long shadows? It's January in the picture.) Then I have to wear my T'ai Chi cap to keep the sun out of my eyes. But the sun is warm, and the house protects me from the north wind.
In summer, the porch shades all but my lower legs and feet, and sometimes the sun "bites" hard, especially when I practice in bare feet. But the pines to the southeast give shade in the early morning, and the maple tree to the southwest gives shade from noon on, and the wind is almost always in the west, cool and refreshing, even on the hottest days. Even so, some days are too hot for comfort, and then I practice at night.
The porch at night is a magical place in any season. The moon shining through the pines is a beautiful sight. Sometimes, when it's very dark, I light the candles in the lanterns. Practicing in the twilight, or in the dark is very difficult at first, but it does wonders for your balance if you persist.
Whip Hand © 2002 New Moon
See? It's winter now, and I'm wearing a sweater. A heavy sweater. Some days I have to wear gloves, and my toes get to feeling quite frosted through my Chucks. But, no matter how cold it gets, the taijiquan warms me up.
And see the mala bracelet? My teacher David gave them to all his students for Christmas 2001. I wear mine to remind me to keep my left shoulder down and relaxed. Sometimes it works.
In August 2004 I started taking taiji lessons from Jonas Sanchez. He teaches Xinjia Yilu, Chen New Frame, First Path, that is. I met Jonas through another of his students, my friend Joe.
I don't have a picture of Jonas yet, but, let's see... he's a young man, a bit taller than my five-foot-six, he wears glasses, and... he looks Chinese. He wears his black hair in a fashionable "weed-whacker" cut, and his eyes are so dark you can't discern the pupils. As far as I know, he's from Connecticut and went to school at Yukon (UConn). He's very articulate and has a delightful voice. He speaks Chinese but he says he's only understood in context. I expect it's his Hartford accent that's to blame. He laughs and jokes with the best of them, and he loves taiji (which he's been studying for 25 years), and delights in all the myriad nasty things one can do to an opponent with a well executed application. He's a thorough, patient teacher. By day, he's a producer for a local film company, a job he seems to enjoy immensely.
What else... he eats apples down to the core, has a sweet tooth, and he'll happily play taiji till the cows come home or until somebody makes him go home. His pet saying these days is, "The dantien is dead," which has to do with the teachings of his teacher, Master Zhang Zhi Jun, whom I met in Willimantic a couple of years ago. The new thinking is "xiao jie ling jing," which means "the extremeties lead the power." Once you get the hang of it, you wonder why you ever thought it worked any other way.
David A. Tymecki
David was my first taiji teacher. He taught me (and Ma) Yang 24 Form and gave me a solid grounding in the principles of taiji. Here he is:
Teacher © 2002 New Moon
He doesn't like having his picture taken. Whenever I pointed the camera at him, he'd make a goofy face. But, even though the self-conscious look is there, I like this picture. For one thing, he's wearing red, his favorite color. (He had lots of red stuff when this picture was taken: a big, red Ford pickup truck and a big, red retriever named Buck, for instance. (Buck is still around, and he's an excellent dog.)) And for another, you can see his kindness and his humor in his eyes. (See how dark David's eyes are? His eyes are always the same color as the sky; and this picture was taken at night. It's really quite amazing. I'll see if I can capture him outside in daylight one of these days.)
David has his own website Dalant Studios. He's been learning taijiquan for about twenty years, and teaching for the last ten or so. His teacher is Pin Pin Su; I have yet to meet her, though I understand from those who have that she "has strong chi." David says she's a little bit of a thing, and she can kick his butt. I'm looking forward to meeting her someday.
This is my mom:
Ma © 2002 New Moon
She's the reason I started taking taijiquan. In January 2000 she came down with pneumonia and it scared the heck out of me. She was 79 years old then, and even though she was still working full time, she didn't get much exercise and she insisted on continuing to smoke! So when she got over the pneumonia, I told her she was going to get some exercise, or else! and I signed us both up for evening classes in yoga and taijiquan. We both absolutely hated the yoga, but we both loved the taiji. We've been learning ever since.
And perhaps reading this journal will give you some idea of why.
I'm not sure what to say about myself. Some folks call me Lizzie.
I don't much like pictures of myself, but here I am at Halloween. (I'm not really blonde.)
My love of Taijiquan was a very unexpected discovery. Going in, I didn't know what it was, except that is was a kind of gentle exercise Ma might be able to handle. I certainly didn't know it was a Martial Art!
I guess I ought to tell you a bit more about myself. I was 48 years old when Ma and I began lessons. I was very out of shape, very stressed. I felt semi-lousy most of the time. I had forgotten how to laugh and the joy had gone out of everything.
After a couple of months, though, things began to change. I felt better. I was happier. I was more relaxed. I was less stressed. I kept practicing, and things just kept getting better for me.
And the only thing that had changed for me was that I was now practicing taijiquan.
Did taijiquan change my life completely? Yes. Absolutely. There is no other explanation.
Try it yourself. See what happens, that's my recommendation.
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 New Moon