Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: weapons

The more things change….

I gave up coffee. Again. Maybe not for good, but I switched back to green tea for my caffeine. Why? Because my sleep has been terrible since I started drinking it again. Green tea didn’t seem to have that effect and it’s delicious, especially with pomegranate. I haven’t had this bad of sleep in some time and it’s really messing with my head. Yes, my migraines have been kept at bay, but is it worth it? I don’t know. With the absence of the migraines, I would say yes. But, in the middle of a migraine, I would say no. It’s the duel of the conflicting health issues!

On the weapons front, I loaded up today. I did the beginning of the Double Sabre Form, sword drills, the whole Sabre Form, the Karambit Form, and spear drills. Oh, I forgot to do the one row of the Cane Form I know, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m still thinking about about a music/form mashup and we’ll see if I have the energy for that. One thing about going to the demo is that it fills me with possibilities–much like a kid with her nose pressed to the window of a candy shop. I want everything I can see and all at one time. My teacher likes to say that there’s a lifetime to learn things so there’s no reason to rush.

She’s right, but that doesn’t stop my brain from whispering that I’m behind and need to catch up. Not that kindly, of course, as my brain is really mean to me most of the time. Actually, I have to check that. It used to be horrid to me. I had a constant tape of negativity that looped in my brain and it just felt normal. I called him (and it was definitely a him) The Dictator and he was a cruel master. He had so many rules and regulations, it was impossible to keep them straight and not mess up.

Side note: Quick background about the Dictator. I grew up being constantly told, mostly by implication, that my feelings were not valid. They constantly got minimized and ignored, and I was not allowed to show any kind of negative emotion. Negative meaning anger, sadness, depression, etc. Only my father was allowed to show anger because he was king of the castle and allowed to do whatever he wanted. The rest of us had to tiptoe around him and catered to his every whim.

I internalized those messages to such an extent that even now I have difficulty showing human emotions in a natural manner. It’s one reason I prefer writing because it’s easier to mimic through written words than through speaking. I’m better at it, but it’s still not something I can do without thinking. In the past, I’ve been able to mimic the emotions because I’m observant and I used to do some  acting in my youth.

I want to be clear. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the emotion on some level. If a friend told me they, say, got a great new job, then I felt happy for them deep down inside. The problem was that I had wrapped my emotions in multiple layers of cotton that I could no longer feel them. Not only that, I couldn’t even access them.

I had a flat affect at the time because I was in a deep depression and I felt as if I could never get out of it. Now, I’m still not as emotive as ‘normal’ people, but I can more easily  pass. And I have access to my emotions, albeit muted versions.


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Feeding my addiction

Weapons. Let’s talk about them. Why? Because I’m obsessed with them. I mean, I’ve always loved my weapons, but in the last few months, they’ve really become deeply meaningful to me. As much as I love taiji in general, I would not have said the same for the Solo Form. I’ve really struggled with the Solo Form. I hated it from the beginning and, honestly, I didn’t know why I stuck with it especially since I had a disastrous experience the first time I tried taiji due to a terrible, manipulative, shady teacher.

With my second teacher, I fought her every step of the way. I was recalcitrant and grumpy, pushing back hard on whatever she said. I hated the Solo Form. I hated it so much that I didn’t practice it at home. In fact, I added a second class a week because I wouldn’t practice at home. Why didn’t I quit especially as it was not mandatory in any way? I’m still not entirely sure. Something inside me kept pushing me to go. I needed something to do as exercise as I hated nearly every other form of it.

In addition, I wanted to have a way to defend myself if I ever needed it. I have been in harrowing situations in the past and never want to be in one again. Or rather, I never want to feel as helpless as I have in the past. Indeed, I have already seen the fruits of my labor in other ways. Such as my minor car accident in which I saw the other car coming towards me. I thought, “I’m going to get hit,” and my body immediately relaxed. I didn’t will it to relax and I didn’t consciously think that I had to relax–it just happened.

But did I ever learn to love the Solo Form? No. I still don’t. I don’t hate it any longer, but I don’t love it. And yet, there was something in me that kept pushing to do it. I resentfully started practicing at home for five minutes a day. Just the warmups and maybe a bit of the Solo Form. Oh, I also did the weight-bearing set that is in taiji as well.

Against myself, I started incorporating more and more of taiji into my daily life. I added a third class and my home routine stretched out into ten minutes, fifteen, and now, up to forty-five minutes with the expansion being on the weapons side. I’ve had to cajole and trick myself into doing more taiji because that’s the way my brain works, but whatever it takes.


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Learning the rules before breaking them

There’s a saying in writing that you have to know the rules before you can break them. I agree. And I am at the point where I knowingly break rules I think don’t make sense. Such as using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence as I did in the last sentence. Or ending a sentence with a preposition. That is one I do a lot because I don’t see any reason not to do it. That’s pretty much my excuse for anything I do that breaks the rules in writing–it makes the flow better. I’m about communicating, not about the stiffness of rigid rules. I will not give up my semi-colon, however; that, I will not do.

There’s a similar thing in taiji. The first thing you learn is the Solo Form, which is the basis for everything else in taiji. I hated the Solo Form when I first learned it. That was over a decade ago. I got used to it, but I never liked it. With the long form (Master T.T. Liang’s form), there were just so many things I didn’t like about it. A few years ago, my teacher’s teacher modified it to be more in line with Master Choi’s teaching and suddenly, I liked it much better, especially the Fast Form. I was talking about it with my teacher during our last private lesson because I was saying how when we used to do the whole form, my lower back would start to hurt at the end of the first section. By the end of the third section, nearly twenty minutes later, my whole back would be cramped up and it would hurt. I didn’t understand how this was supposed to be good for me!

In addition, I had the habit of collapsing my back knee which gave me tendonitis around my knee. I had mentioned that to my teacher when it was the worst (about five years ago) and she gave me tips to deal with it. They helped, but it was a lot of effort to reverse the damage. Anyway, I was saying how I could do the whole current form without my lower back hurting and I couldn’t figure out why. My teacher mentioned the change in form and it clicked in my brain. I mean, of course it made sense that changing the form would ameliorate the pain, but I just didn’t think about it. My knees don’t hurt, either. The difference is that this form is focused on the martial arts applications whereas the old form was more for health benefits. It was more theoretical and difficult to get exactly what you were supposed to do.


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Love me, love my weapons

I’ve told this story several times, but it’s a defining moment in my life. One of those sliding door moments of, what if I went the other way? That’s a bit dramatic because it would have happened sooner or later unless I completely quit taiji, but still.

Let me back that train up a bit. When I first started taiji, I was looking far something to back up my swagger. I was able to carry myself with pseudo-confidence, but if anyone actually approached me, I would be screwed. I didn’t care about the health or mental health aspects (still don’t, although I am grateful that they are added benefits) and I really had no interest in weapons. I just wanted to know the martial arts aspects and how I could defend myself if need be.

The first time I tried deer-horn knives, I was intrigued and loved them, but the flash image of me killing an opponent while walking the circle shook me. When my teacher explained that it was a positive, my brain saying that I was worth fighting for. I loved the knives, but I put them down when I was ready to meditate again (or rather, gave them back to my teacher) and rarely thought about them again.

Until that fateful day. It was after I learned the Solo Form and didn’t know what was coming up next. My teacher told me that it was time to start the weapons, meaning the sword, and I literally recoiled in horror. I had no interest in weapons because I was not an aggressive person. Yes, that was my thought at the time. Who but an aggressive, angry, snarling, raging asshole would be interested in weapons?

Here’s where the story starts, the official story, I mean. My teacher told me it was time to start learning the Sword Form. I demurred. I had a million reasons why I didn’t want to do this, but the bottom line was that it weirded me out. She picked up a wooden sword and held it out to me. I refused. She literally pressed it in my hand and told me to just hold it for a few seconds.

Side note: My teacher is incredibly patient with me. She knows I’m contrary, cranky, and resistant to new things. She rolls with it, pushing me when I need to be pushed and explaining things I need explained.

The second my hands closed over the hilt of the sword, I never wanted to let go. I knew this was what I was meant to do; I have never had that kind of kinetic connection with anything in my life. It felt like an extension of my hand and I never wanted to let go.


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I am just done

One way I can tell when I’m nearly done with something is that everything gets on my last nerve. Normally, I’m good at deflecting and keeping my shit to myself. But if I’m not allowed or able to replenish my reservoir, that ability erodes until at some point it completely disappears.  for example. Talking to my parents on the phone. Normally, I just ‘uh huh’ and ‘really?’ until the phone call ends and then shake off the slight depression before going about my business. By the way. My brother and I recently compared our conversations with our parents, and they’re exactly the same except I get more bitching from my mother. Way more bitching. Most of the time, my mentality is, “Just listen to them blather, nod in agreement, and get off the phone as quickly as you can.” With an added, “Tell them you’re fine, everything is fine, yes, Covid-19 sucks, yes, this current president sucks, have a good life, goodbye.”

It doesn’t help that my parents are deeply entwined in a codependent relationship that I’m afraid will leave my mother worse for the wear. I mean, hell, it already has as most of her life revolves around my father and catering to his needs. My mother was on a kick for fifteen years to get me pregnant and then switched to getting me married after that. She would say who would take care of me when I’m old and sick if I weren’t married? It took every ounce of will I had not to snap out that her being married hadn’t helped her. Indeed, recently, she fell and hit her head, and as she felt the blood (which was pink), my father insisted it wasn’t blood. He kept asking her if she had dyed her hair recently which, first of all, she hadn’t dyed her hair in a decade or so. Second, she’s never dyed her hair pink. She said this proved she couldn’t count on him and then did a little laugh. I hate that laugh, by the way. It’s a fairly new addition and she only does it when she knows that she’s saying something unreasonable. Like having to put up with your husband being worse than useless in an emergency situation.

By the way, my mother shared that my father’s latest dementia tests show that he hasn’t deteriorated in the year. She was relieved while I was baffled. If it’s not medical, then why is he getting worse and worse with his memory, his self-absorption, and everything else? This is an age-old question with him, though. Is it medical or just his innate narcissism? I try not to get sucked into the speculation, but it’s hard not to get drawn into it because my mother is incessant about talking about my father.

Anyway. When my mom calls, it goes like this. She asks the perfunctory ‘how are you?’ question then use it to springboard into whatever she wants to talk about. Usually her many physical problems, things my father has done to irritate her but she can’t admit it, Covid-19, the election, work issues, and then insist that I talk to my father. He’ll ask about Covid-19 and express amazement that it’s not going down. A bit about this president and the totally unfounded belief that Americans are logical and rational people and how could this happen? He says in complete seriousness that America is the best country in the world! Mind, he hasn’t actually lived here in nearly 30 years, but facts don’t matter. Then he pontificates how each individual person doesn’t matter (when it comes to the coronavirus) and we can’t do anything so we should just ignore it and move on.


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Dancing with my weapons

I’m living  that weapons life. I never thought I’d love anything* as much as I love my weapons. Ian and I were talking about getting new tats, which I haven’t done in decades. Before, I always thought I’d get one more and it would be a tree of life with a woman’s figure and face on my left hip/thigh. I wanted to wait until I reached a point in my life where I felt, if not good about myself, then at least neutral. I’m not there; I may never be. I have reached the point where I no longer passionately hate myself, though, so, yay?

Anyway, in talking with Ian, I realized that I no longer wanted that tattoo. It no longer represents what I want from life or who I am. I still think fondly of it, but it’s not what I want right now. If I were to get a tattoo, it would have to reflect my passion for weapons. I tried to find an image of what I wanted, but it’s very difficult to find non-cheesy tats when it comes to Asian shit because of all that mystical Orient bullshit. I would have my tattooist draw it themselves, obviously, but it would be helpful to have concrete image to give them so they could go off it.

What I want is someone similar to me in body shape and size, maybe with the face shaded out. Then, doing a weapon posture. The one I immediately thought of was the current one I’m learning with the staff/spear. I’ll see if I can describe it. You stand in the standard bow position with one foot forward and the other back and to the side. The back foot is turned outwards 45 degrees while the front foot is pointed forward. The position I want is the figure to be weighted on the back foot with the front of the staff pointed down and the back end held up high. My initial idea was to have the rest of the weapons I love depicted around the figure in a circle. However, as I was typing this, another idea hit me. The same figure with each of the weapons doing a different posture/movement. I could have them all around my body or maybe in the same area, such as my thigh or my back.

Of course, this is all academic for now. There is no way in hell I’m getting a tattoo any time in the near future given the situation of *waves hand at world around*.


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Taiji, refinements, weapons, life

I’m roughly 90% healthy after my run-in with my nemesis, gluten. I spent all of yesterday feeling punk. I ate crackers (gluten-free!!!), chips, and chicken nuggets (with plain rice). I was still bloated and uncomfortable, and I still had to run to the bathroom more than I wanted to. I had no motivation to do anything (well, even less than normal), and I just felt gross. Today, I have, well, no motivation, but I don’t feel as miserable as I did yesterday.

With that out of the way, let’s talk taiji. One of my best traits is that I learn things quickly. It’s also one of my worst traits because it makes me lazy. I don’t practice as much as I should because of it, and I’m resistant to changes even though it usually doesn’t take me long to incorporate them. Wait. That’s a different problem. Anyway. Let’s talk about the Solo Form, long since the bane of my existence. I’ve been honest that I hated it when I first started taiji over a decade ago. I thought it was slow and boring and SO FUCKING SLOW AND BORING. I sucked it up because it would get me to where i wanted to be, which was the martial art applications. Weapons? Uh uh, no. Never in a million year, not for me, thanks, mate (watching too many British YouTubers).

Begrudgingly, I learned the Solo Form. Begrudgingly, I practiced it in class. Begrudgingly, I started doing a bit at home, but that was years later. I reached a point of neutrality with the Solo Form and I was able to see why it was beneficial. I mean, I was always able to see it, but I could tell the positive effects it’s had on my life. I was able to move through crowds by ‘seeing’ the gaps. I didn’t actually see them, but I felt them. I wasn’t as uncomfortable in a large crowd (still didn’t love it). I injure myself much less even if I’m not any less clumsy.

The problem is that once I ‘learned’ a movement, I stopped thinking about it. That doesn’t mean I perfected it, of course, which is part of the problem. Part of taiji is refinement but because I don’t love the Solo Form, I don’t put in conscious effort to refine the movements. It’s funny because Fist Under Elbow used to be my least-favorite movement (well, one of two least favorites), but it was one I knew the best because I had to take more time than usual to learn it. It’s the same with Cloud Hands which is everyone’s favorite. I hate it, so I know it well. I had a classmate who liked to recount how I taught it to him so well that he got it the first time. Again, because it’s my least-favorite movement, I’ve put a lot of thought into it.


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Knives in is better than Knives Out

I hated Knives Out as I mentioned in my two-part review. In part because it didn’t have enough bladed weapons, even though admittedly it was a tiny part of the reason. This is just a clever way for me to say that I love weapons. A lot. This is not news to anyone who knows me, but the depth of my passion might be. Except to my taiji teacher. She is well-used to me gushing about some weapon or the other. I appreciate her patience because she is not a weapons person herself. She doesn’t dislike them, I don’t think, but she’s at best neutral about them.

One consequence of my training is that I have become a ‘well, actually’ person when it comes to weaponry that I know. I mean, it’s not unusual. I hate movies with psychologists in them because they break SO MANY LAWS. Similarly, taiji in most movies is just people waving their hands in the air. I watched Truly, Madly, Deeply with Alan Rickman in it, and there’s a scene in which he is playing the cello. I love Alan Rickman immensely, and he did a decent job of mimicking a cellist, but it was obvious he didn’t really play.

So, yeah, it’s not unusual that I wince when I see weapons-play in movies or TV. I remember when Game of Thrones was a thing. There was a scene between Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth that had everyone online raving about it. Especially ‘girl power’ and that kind of thing. I finally watched the clip, and I was underwhelmed. The two actors did the best with what they were giving, but the whole thing was ludicrous. Let’s start with the constant clashing of swords. Look. If you have a pointy-stabby thing in your hand, you’re not looking to clash it against another pointy-stabby thing. You’re looking to point and stab it into a soft bit. This is not rocket science. In addition, the wild swinging and slashing is both wasted energy expended and leaving yourself open to an attack.


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Sand slipping through my fingers

I’ve been thinking about the demo for the past week because I love weapons. There I’m just going to say it. I. Love. Weapons. I love them with a passion that is probably unseemly, but I don’t care. I don’t talk about it much because I recognize that it’s not interesting to many people. Fun fact: whenever I mention weapons on Twitter, I get women freaking out and men drooling. It’s an interesting dynamic, and a commentary on societal expectations. I’d read that female cops had a problem with men when they found out that the women were cops. There were usually two reactions. One was, “Oh, hey, now, that’s too intimidating for me.” The article I was reading said that was a disheartening response, but the other was even worse. The guys who found it hot and made assumptions about how the women would be in bed.

In my case, the women who tweeted me were appalled that I was into weapons. How could I be attracted to something so violent? There was an undercurrent of me being a bad feminist, and that’s something I strongly denounce. I started learning taiji as a matter of self-defense, and now, ten years later, I feel like I could actually use what I’ve learned to defend myself. I see weapons as an extension of that, even though I probably won’t be carrying them with me on the regular. I am currently learning the Cane Form, and a cane is something I could use in my daily life. Even better, a sword within a cane!

When my teacher taught me the 8 Palms of bagua and walking the circles, I had a flash of ‘that is my opponent, and I am going to kill them’ while doing it. I t shook me because I considered myself a pacifist at the time. The idea that I would even think something like that made me question myself, and I brought it up to my teacher afterwards. She assured me it was natural and that it didn’t mean I was going to become a homicidal maniac. In fact, she believed that having a safe place to express your anger and aggression was healthy, and I’ve come to agree with her.

At some point, I also had to examine what I meant by self-defense. or rather, how far I would go to defend myself. I realized that i would go all the way, meaning if it came down to someone else or me, I would choose me. This was a big breakthrough for me because I was so used to thinking my life didn’t matter and that everyone else’s life was worth more than mine. I don’t want to get into the whys and the wherefores, but needless to say, this was a heavy mindset to grow up with. When I first thought, “I will defend myself by any means necessary,” something shifted inside me. I could no longer claim that my life was worthless because my natural instinct was to do defend myself. It should be everyone’s natural instinct, but so many people get it beat out of them–especially women. We are taught to put ourselves last in every situation and to demur that we need more than what we are given.


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It’s just a fantasy

I am mostly better from the cold I had, but I feel as if I’m on the cusp of something else. I know it’s a vicious cycle, but any time I go out, I get something that makes me feel worse than before. It’s one of the problems with not interacting with people on a regular basis. I have a shitty immune system, and it has no chance to improve because I don’t allow it to interact with bad things on the regular. On the other hand, I am allergic to everything under the sun, so my instinct is to wrap myself in a bubble so I won’t get hurt. The reason I got my cats in the first place was because I decided since I was allergic to everything and miserable all the time, I might as well get cats. Yes, I was allergic to them, but they would make me less miserable. I’m actually not that allergic to my cat now unless he decides to sit on my face, which he does from time to time when I have a pillow over my face.

I’m really frustrated right now. I’ll be real with you. Why? Well, I’m going to tell you. One, depression. It’s low grade, but persistent, and it saps much of my energy to do anything. Two, my physical health. I’ve been sick more than healthy it seems in the past year, and it’s just draining as well. Three, the intersection of the two and how it makes me not want to do anything. I’m trying to push past it and change the way I think, but it’s not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to even get me out the door, not to mention driving to the place I need to be. I haven’t even gone to the co-op since I got sick, for example, because it’s too much effort. It’s fifteen minutes away, but I can’t make myself do it.

I have a hard time not castigating myself for doing more, which is not the best motivation. The taiji demo showed me so many things I want to do, but I just don’t have the capacity to do them all. I set the goal of learning the Sabre Form this year. I am at the end of the fourth row (there are six), and this is where I stopped the last time I was learning the Sabre Form. Two years ago. The end two postures of the fourth row are insane, but in a good way. Part of the problem the first time I learned the Sabre Form was because I was fully expecting it to be like the Sword Form. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea that it wasn’t, and it made the whole experience sour for me. This time going in, I fully realized it was a very different beast, and I fell in love with it immediately. I had to have that extra experience under my belt before I could really get the Sabre Form.


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