Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Taiji

Bagua brings out the beast in me

When I talk about Taiji, it’s really difficult to convey the feeling of flow that I get in when a weapon form is going well. I have said that holding a sword was like having an extension of my hand, but that’s a very clumsy way of phrasing it. And trite. I can talk about how it feels like dancing, but that’s incomplete, too.

Bottom line. You really do have to experience it to know what it’s like. As with anything, really. It’s a fact of life that we can’t know what anyone else feels. That doesn’t stop me from trying, though. Taiji and now Bagua are so important in my life, I want to share that with other people.

It’s interesting, though, how when I was on Twitter (yes, TWITTER), I used to tweet about my love for Taiji weapons. Inevitably, I got very different responses from people based on their gender. This was back when people identified mostly in the binary. Men would respond by saying how hot it was, either implicitly or explicitly. Some were very explicit.

Women, on the other hand, were appalled and horrified by what they saw as  me being violent. Because of course that’s the only reason someone could be interested in weapons would be because they had a violent nature. One woman even said that she didn’t think I was like that. Like what, I didn’t know, but I could guess.

Both of these responses irritated me and reeked of sexism. With the former, they just wanted to get with me and it was titillating to think of me as being good with weapons. It’s much like female cops often have a hard time dating because men were either intimidated by them or arroused by the fact that they wielded a gun.

In both cases, they weren’t seeing the policewoman as a person but as a woman with a gun. It’s the same with guys who want to fuck me because I do martial art weapons. Although, I guess, to some extent it’s similar to dudes who just looooooove Asian women. It’s not seeing a person as an individual.

I’m not necessarily saying it’s bad to think someone’s hot because of any one thing. Everyone does to a certain extent. I mean, we all objectify others (well, those of us who want to have sex with others), and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It only becomes a problem when it’s all a person can see in the other person. Or in this specific case, when a dude thinks that me doing martial arts weapons is for him somehow.


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Let it flow (and let it go)

Most of the time, I prefer to follow a schedul and am rather rigid in my way of thinking. This is fine until the routine becomes a rut. I love Taiji, but I will admit that for the last six months or so, I was less-than-enthused about it. I’m weird in that while I vastly prefer a schedule for the most part, I will get bored of it at a certain point in time. I was telling my teacher that if I’m not careful, I start doing things by rote.

She said that was easy to do if you don’t practice without intention. Let’s face it. Doing something over and over can make it easy to slip into it being a habit. Taiji is about being present in the moment and not anticiptaing what was coming up.

My beloved weapons were the exception, but even with that, I aws lagging a bit. I have put learning vew weapnos on hold, which is probably part of thereason that I’m feeling stale. But,I need to refine my current forms and not rush onto another one.

Then I saw my teacher doing the Swimming Dragon Form (Bagua), and I needed that in my life. This is how I learn new weapons sometimes. I see it; I want it; I do it. I’m excited once again, and it’s because I’m learning something new. I have added several Bagua drills to my routine, and that has freshened things up quite a bit.

My usual practice goes like this. I start with the stretches and the warmups as I’m feeding Shadow. He has become incredibly picky as he’s gotten older, and he eats v-e-r-y slowly now. It can take up to forty-five minutes for him to eat one meal. And I have to switch his food two to three times per meal. He’s old. I think his nose is failing. His appetite isn’t, though. He eats more than he used to, but he still has old cat body.

Anyawy, while he is eating, I do my stretches and warmups. I o a sectoion from the Solo (Long) Form. on Saturdays, it’s the first section of the Fast Form. Which is my favorite. I only know the first section, but I cannot wait to learn more.

Side note: I no longer remember what my side note was gonig to be. I would say, though, that one thing that frustrates me about the solo forms is that my teacher’s teacher is constantly fiddilng with them. Maybe not now, buct there was a time when it seemed like he was changing things every other week. My teacher said that with the old masters, they did the same. They never stopped tweaking and they just expected their students to roll with it.


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More about Bagua–and Taiji

After a few posts in which I went down several side paths, I finally began to talk about Bagua in the last post I wrote. I don’t know much about the history, but what I do know is that the founder, Dong Haichuan/Hai Chuan, used DeerHorn Knives (real ones, not steel ones) in his own practice. The reason for that particular weapon is because they can defeat any other kind of weapon. It’s because the ‘horns’ can hook, pull, block, deflect, etc.

They’re also really fucking cool.

When my teacher gave me her practice DeerHorn Knives, I was hooked immediately. Despite my love for weapons, I have not gelled with them all. And I have only immediately loved a few. The sword is the first and most infamous of the lot. Then, I tried the saber next, which I hated. I was expecting it to be like the sword, which it was not in the least.

It took me several years, a minor car accident, and more learning/practice to come around to the saber. I still don’t love it, but I can appreciate it–which is much better than hating it!

Next was the karambit form (I think). That’s not Taiji or Bagua. It’s a small, two-sided knife/dagger, and it’s wicked. I love this form and need to teach myself the last row (fifth, I think). My teacher knew that I liked weapons and taught this one to me just for funsy. Then, it was the Cane Form.

I have to confess that I don’t like the Cane Form. It’s…fine. But I have no affiinity with it. I am not sure why as it’s very Broadway-ish, which is my jam. I think it’s because we were learning it in class right before the pandemic hit (and that was after a long hiatus), so the world was very weird at the time. At any rate, it’s my least-favorite of the forms I know.

Next was–let me say that  my teacher taught me staff/spear drills at some point. There really isn’t a spear/staff form, per se, but there is a two-person form. Which we will get to later. I like the staff/spear well enough, but it’s not my favorite, either. It’s the highest-level weapon, though. The one that is the most difficult to learn. The second is the sword, and it’s funny that it’s the first weapon we are taught.

The beginning of the pandemic was a wild and woolly time, weapons-wise. Right before the soft lockdown, my teacher’s studio had their annual demo. They usually do it around the lunar new year. In that demo, one of her classmates did the Double Saber Form. I instantly fell in love and vowed that would be my next weapon form.


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Bagua is my bag (for real)–bait and switched again

Yesterday, I was going to write about Bagua and then went completely off the rails. Well, not completely. It was tangential to what I was talking about, but it did relate. I was writing about my mother’s ability to gaslight me about past events, but with utter sincerity on her part.

Because of this, I question everything. This is both a good and a bad thing, sometimes at the same time. There is that meme about the ‘well, actually’ guy, but that is me. I know enough not to say it out loud all the time, but it’s constantly in my mind. I recognize that it’s not a trait that other people find endearing. Hell, I find it annoying sometimes. But I also find the lack of nuance irritating. Also, I said this to an online friend, I was raised to not voice my opinion by parents who were deeply sexist. Their culture in general was sexist at the time (Taiwanese) as was American culture. My parents were reactionaries, even in their own culture.

When I started Taiji, I had a million questions for my teacher. And I was clearly skeptical about everything she had to say. She remained cheerful and would answer my questions endlessly. If she did not know the answer, she would say that she would find out for me. I really appreciated that she didn’t try to shine me on or bluff her way through an answer.

My first Taiji teacher was…terrible. I won’t get into why because I’ve talked about it before, but one thing I really disliked about him as a teacher was that he put on this ‘I am the wise master who knows everything’ attitude that he had not earned. His Taiji was solid, but he as a person was not. He was scum, quite honestly, and I should have quit a lot sooner than I did.

His personal issues aside, he was not a good teacher, either. He would never say that he did not know something or that something was beyond him. In addition, I was in the beginners class and never learned the whole form. Why? Beacause the teacher would keep starting from the beginning. He said that since it was the beginner’s class, it was for beginners. In restrospect, maybe I should have moved to a different class, but at the same time, you would think that a beginners class would actually show the whole form

That was the least of my issues, though. The biggest issue was that he wsa a sexist asshole. And his tutor was also a sexist asshole. Or rather, did not think of things from the female point of view. I have huge boobs. Like, in my way huge. Don’t get me wrong. I love my boobs. They are amazing! Who doesn’t like boobs? But if a movement calls for me to put my arm straight across my chest, well, we’re going to have to discuss some accommodations. I once asked the tutor about it, and he got all flustered and had some flippant response.


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Internal martial arts are life

I love my weapons. I will just come out an d say it. They are my life, and the one hobby I would give up the last. Writing as a very close second, but something about the weapons just sing to me. When I’m practicing the forms, I am as light as air. Or as heavy as the earth. As hot as fire? Not particularly. But floating on air? Yes! Wait. The fire one is not necessarily true. As fierce as fire? Yes, there’s that, too.

One reason I was committed to my teacher was because she was very honest about what she knew and didn’t know. I asked a million questions and was a recalcitrant student. I had been burned by my first teacher (he was terrible), and I was not someone who trusted easily in the first place. She was very patient with me. If she did not know the answer, she would say that and tell me she would find out. Either by reading or by asking her teacher.

In addition, she never took what I said about Taiji personally. The complaints I made, I mean. I said that one posture/movement was the W. (George W. Bush) of postures, which tickled my teacher. I also said at one point, “Fuck Taiji!”, which also made her laugh. She repeated it delightedly, which showed that she had a healthy attitude towards her craft. Many people can’t laugh at something they love, which is not a good way to bring people in. Being defensive, I mean.

She was so patient with me. I told her at our last private lesson that I really appreciated how she took each student as they were and knew that every student learned differently. She did not try to impose her way of teaching on any student, and she was able to keep the impatience from her voice–most of the time.

I have told her several times that I was thankful for her graciousness to my surly attitude. I fought back against everything and made things much harder than I needed to make them. I’m better at it now. If she says something about Taiji (or Bagua), I accept it. She has earned that, and it’s much easier on me.

I will say that I really enjoy learning a new martial art. As I’ve said in the past, I felt as if I was in a bit of a rut with Taiji. Here’s my last post which was about how I find the way Westerners think about exercise to be toxic. It’s one reason I chose Taiji as the martial art to study, but I do like learning new things. I had put my weapon forms on hold because my teacher cautioned about learning them too quickly.


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Aging like fine wine

I’m 52 years old. That’s incredible to me. Not just becuase I should be dead, but because as people smarter than I have said, time just flies by. It makes sense. When you’re ten, a year is a tenth of your life. When you’re fifty, it’s a fiftieth. Yes, it’s the same amount of time, discretely, but it’s relatively a different amount of time.

I died twice when I was 50. That’s two years and a bit ago. I have called it my re-birthday. The first few months crept by, but that was because my parents were here. Once they were gone, life started to fly by again.

I have decided that 2024 is going to be my year. Or rather, it’s going to be a year in which I accomplish something. The first few months, I was just adjusting to the fact that I was still alive.

I did not have to do physical thearpy or rehab, thankfully, but I had to mentally adjust to the fact that I had died (twice) and was alive again. It was a bizarre thing, something that had not happened to anyone else. I cannot find anyone who had experience anything even similar. Two cardiac arrests and a stroke? On top of walking pneumonia? I am truly one of a time. Kind! One of a kind. Though one of a time works as well.

I have two main writing projects. One is my memoir. I thought this would be easy breezy because I have a cornerstone for it–my medical crisis. I don’t know how to write about it in a way that is relatable, but I am trying not to worry about that. Let’s be honest. There is nothing about what happened to me that others can relate to–the actual events, I mean. But how I reacted to it and how my medical team dealt with it? Maybe so! I think my conclusion that it’s one of the best things to happen to me overall is something that will be difficult to understand, but I’m hoping I can explain it satisfactorily.

Here’s the part that gets me. I need to explain my family dysfunction if I’m going to talk about my medical crisis. I can’t talk about how the experience affected me if I don’t talk about just how fucked up my family made me. And how for the first thirty-five years of my life, I felt like I was completely worthless because of it.


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Day Three of the flu shot

Day Three of flu shot. Well, two-and-a-half, really. I got it around four on Thursday and as I’m writing this, it’s one in the afternoon on Saturday. My teacher has Covid and had to cancel the class today. I was glad because I’m exhausted. My arm is a bit sore, buthere is barely a welt.

It’s the level of fatigue that only happens when I’m sick. I had to curtail my morning Taiji/Bagua routine because I don’t want to push it. It’s frustrating. I had just gotten back to doing everything and now, I have to pare it back again.

Today, I did all the stretching because I had a hunch that class would be canceled. And i did the Fan Form, the Eight Palms (Bagua) with DeerHorn Knives, bot only one way (usually do it both ways), and the Double Saber…I think? Suddenly, I’m not so sure. I did the Sword Hu-li Form (dancing sword form) which is just me moving the sword as I want to. With internal music going.

Now, I just want to sleep. I’m watching the Early Access Retry Elden Ring episode and have ordered Thai. This is my Saturday Ritual. Taiji class, Thai, and Retry. No Taiji class, but the other two still stand. It’s a meaty episode at nearly two-and-a-half hours.

I’ve been doing a run loosely based on Aunty Finchy’s run. I gotta say, it’s been so fucking hard. He’s a dex man, and I am…not. Neither dex nor a man. Plus, he spreads his points all over the place, much to the constertation of a lot of fans. A lot.

I peeked at the Facebook page last night, and, boy, do people have a lot of opinions on what Rory should and should not do. A. Lot. WHich is fine in the, well, everyone has opinions sort of way. But it gets pretty depressing when it’s RORY YOU HAVE TO DO THIS YOU STUPID IDIOT sort of way, which is so many of the comments.

The big ones are the insistence that he not use spirit summons on boss fights, which is silly and honestly just wrong. The boss fights are made to have spirit summons in them and while you can do the boss fights without them, it’s adding unnecessary difficulty.


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The body will do what it will do

Day Two of the flu shot. And, yes, I am going to be doing areport on it, much as I did with the Covid booster. I’m very tired. My arm is sore, but not bad. And not a welt. I can’t stop holding my breath yet because it was the night of day two for the Covid booster when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Last night, I was pretty tired and went to bed early. I woke up really tired. I did manage to do my whole Taiji/Bagua routine, but it was a struggle. And I just want to take a nap. Which would be ok except I had a solid eight hours last night.

It’s been a while since I had a flu shot. The reason why is because of how I react to these shots. And the fact that I never had the flu. I mentioned this in yesterday’s post.

I get why I need to get the shots, at least from a theoretical point of view. It’s like insurance. Except in this case, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be the right shot. That’s the reason I stopped getting the flu shot, by the way. It made me feel so shitty and then I never got the flu.

Yes, I know that’s the best outcome. I’m not disputing that not getting the flu is a good thing. It just seems like a waste plus it’s hard on my body–and to make matters worse, it’s not as if the vax prevents you from getting the flu (or Covid).

This was what I didn’t understand for years. I thought if you got the flu shot, you would be innoculated against getting the flu. No, it’s if you get one of the six strains that the shot was prepared for that year, you would suffer the effects much less (presumably). Same with the Covid vaccination. It mitigates the effects if you get one of the strains that it’s innoculating you for.

I feel really bad for my Taiji teacher because she was trying to get her booster, but could not get in. I can empathize because I was planning for my own booster shot. I could not get into my pharmacy until the first week of December. I wanted to get it a week before Thanksgiving. Cubs had a spot open in a few days from when I was planning it, but for the Moderna rather than the Pfizer.

I was going to get the booster on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Then, the flu shot the Tuesady after. Then, my brother’s Thanksgiving feast Friday night. That WAS the plan, which failed miserably.

I think that’s one thing I’ve taken away from the experience. It’s ever-changing. I can’t rely on what happened the time before because it’s ever-changing–like the virus itself.

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Trying to manage my fears

This is the first day in two weeks I’ve been able to do a full Taiji/Bagua routine. And it feels really good! For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing portions of it because of my reaction to the booster shot. In the first few days after, I mostly did stretches and warm-ups. I was exhausted, and I did not want to make things worse.

I slowly started adding weapons back in in. One at a time. This was probably four or five days after I got the shot. I really, really, really did not want to overdo it.

Today, for the first time in two weeks, I did all the things I normally do in my daily routine. All the stretches, warm-ups, and weapons. And it felt so good! That means Sword Form (right side)–

Gotta interject. I got my flu shot. I was going to get them on the same day, but thought better of that plan. In fact, when I went in a month or so ago to get my wasp bite checked out (it was infected), they asked if I wanted to get my flu shot and my Covid booster. I said sure. My doctor told me not to because I was already fighting off an infection, and my immune system was stressed enough. I had to do the full ten days of antibiotics for that mess. And my finger didn’t really get back to normal for about a week after.

Two weeks ago, I got the Covid booster. The Moderna instead of the Pfizer. It’s supposedly good to mix them up, probably so you can catch more variants. I have no scientific backing for this, but I believe that’s why I had such a bad reaction this time.

My plan had been to get the Covid booster a week before Tthanksgiving. Then, I was going to get the flu shot the following Monday or Tuesday. My brother had his Thanksgiving feast Friday night, and I figured it would be enough time to recover.

I was so wrong. So very wrong. I had never had such a strong reaction to one of these shots. I mean, I’ve always reacted to them, but not like this. It was mostly the welt that stayed forever. Which is annoying, but not a big deal. Usually, it was me feeling like shit for three days and then it getting better by day five or six. A week of being tired was pretty much it.

This time, it was so much more. It was horrid, and it never occurred to me until Ian mentioned it that it might actually be something other than a reaction to the shot. Which, it could have been–but it wasn’t.

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Feeling like a brand new person

I had to skip my brother’s Thanksgiving Day dinner last night. I had hoped that it being a week and a day after I got the shot, I would be better in time to go. I reinstalled Lyft so I could catch a ride if I went. It was at four, but they were eating at five-ish or so. When I called my brother to let him know I wasn’t going, he was so disappointed. He sent me a picture of the GF/DF bread he was making, and it looked delicious.

The woman he’s dating is GF/DF so there was several dishes of the sort at the dinner. I know he really wants me to meet her, and I really want to meet her as well. Plus see my niblings. And actually be able to eat food. But I felt like shit and did not want to maybe spread something. I had assumed it was a reaction to the vax, but Ian had pointed out that it could be something else. He was thinking pneumonia because that was what I had back in 2021, but it could have even been a cold or something else.

In addition, because of my shitty immune system, I did not want to be around others while not at my best. I did not want to get anything else, thank you very much.

I told my brother I would go if I felt better in the next few hours (I called him around 1:30 p.m.). I did not feel better and emailed him to confirm I wasn’t going.

Then, around seven or eight ot night, I suddenly felt better. By a wide margin. If I had been roughly fifty to sixty percent earlier in the day, I was at eighty percent by that point.

Today, I had a Taiji class at noon. Last week, I stayed through the meditation, which was roughly half an hour. This time, I stayed twice as long and did the first section of the Solo Form. And the chi gong. And the my god. My brain just completely stopped before coming up with the name of the posture/movement of the single posture drill we did. It’s Repulse Monkey. I did that. At the break, I felt decent, but I did not want to overdo it. So I left the Zoom call. It was the perfect amount of Taiji.

I will say, though, it’s in a church. There was a special event this week so the class was in a different room. During meditation, I could hear shouting and yelling (by the pastor and the congregation). It seemed to be a call-and-response situation. It was not a very relaxing way to meditate, I’ll tell you that much. One of the newer students is an immigrant from Eastern Europe. She had a very negative reaction to all the shouting and yelling because it reminded her of her youth. Not from chuch, but just from being in a communist country in general. She said that church should be peaceful and loving. why did there need to be shouting?


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