Underneath my yellow skin

Patience is a virtue–just not mine

taiwanese tai chi sculpture!
I don’t want to be made of stone.

When I was learning Dvorak, I forgot QWERTY within days because it never felt natural to me. At the same time, I wasn’t anywhere near proficient in Dvorak yet, which meant I had to muddle alone typing roughly 30 wpm. Before that, I typed closer to 80 wpm, so it was agony to be able to do less than half of that. It took a few months for me to feel comfortable with Dvorak, but now I type roughly 100 wpm.

I think of this often now because of all the changes in taiji. My teacher, my classmate, and I had a candid talk about it yesterday in class, and it felt good to get some of the frustration off my chest. I told my teacher while I knew rationally that things were going to be better in the long run, and I trust that because I trust her, emotionally, it’s difficult not to get frustrated by all the changes. One, I don’t deal well with changes in general. It’s part of my PTSD and obsessive nature, and while I’ve gotten better at it with age, it’s still something I struggle with. Two, it’s hard not to be resentful of the newer people because they’re learning all this for the first time rather than having to unlearn an old form in order to learn a new one.

A part of me feels like all the stuff I’ve learned before is wasted now that so much of the Single Form has been changed. Intellectually, I know it’s not a waste because the core of it is still there, and the fact that I know the old way means that I can understand the newer concepts more easily. The problem is, I learned the old form fairly easily, so it doesn’t seem as if there’s much added benefit in the speed of learning the new form. That really isn’t a humblebrag, though it sounds as if it is. It just underscores the fact that I’m grumpy about all the changes. There was a time when it seemed as if the changes were happening every week, even though it was more like once a month. Still, after doing the same thing over and over for years, it can be overwhelming at time.

For example, there is a posture–movement–called Parry and Punch (well, the actual name is longer than that, but that’s the short name for it). There are four of them, and in the old form, they were all the same. In the new form, they’re all different. In the old one, they were all Parry Outward (I think) and Punch. Now, they’re Parry Inward and Punch, Parry Upward and Punch, Parry Outward and Punch, and Parry Downward and Punch. They’re all slightly different, and they’re giving me one hell of a fight. I have the first one on lock, and I’m slowly getting better at the second, but the third and fourth are kicking my ass. It’s doubly frustrating because I’m used to learning things quickly (at least the basics) so not being able to do so with the Parries and Punches is making me irritated. I will say it’s partly because I practice the first section more than the second and third, and the first Parry and Punch is in the first section. The second and third are in the second section, and the last is in the third section.

In addition, we haven’t done the Sword Form in months. Understandably, my teacher is focusing on the new Solo Form (medium form as opposed to the old one, which is a long form), so we haven’t done any sword. It’s been weird not schlepping my weapons with me, but that’s changing soon. However, and I’ve said this often, I’m not into the Solo Form. At all. I’ve come to appreciate it for the applications that aren’t immediately noticeable, but it’s still something I endure rather than enjoy. I will say I don’t actively resent it as I have in the past and that I feel better when I do a section every day, but it’s still not something I’m enthused about doing. So, in addition to having to change things at a (to me) rapid pace, I don’t get to do my favorite part–the Sword Form.

When my teacher said yesterday that we would be starting up with weapons again soon, I immediately perked up. I hadn’t brought my weapons bag because we hadn’t done weapons in so long, but both my teacher and my classmate brought their weapons. My classmate broke her left wrist, so she wants to do the sword (with a light bamboo sword) with her left hand in order to strengthen her wrist. My teacher mentioned that they were learning the left side of the Sword Form in class, which was a change from usual. Her teacher’s philosophy is to teach the right side and then have you teach yourself the left side, so I didn’t know why he was teaching the left side in class. However, one of his personality quirks was that he was meticulous about teaching the start of any form, but kind of drifted off halfway through. Therefore, many of my teacher’s classmates were frustrated with the left side because he quit teaching after the first Junior Star of the Dipper (in the first third of the form), and then expected them to teach themselves in large chunks in relatively short periods of time.

One thing I really appreciate about my teacher is that she explains things thoroughly and is extremely patient with our thickheadedness. She doesn’t mind explaining the same thing over and over (say, the Parries and Punches), and she does it cheerfully every time. If she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she’ll honestly admit in and then find out by the next class. I often think it can’t be easy for her because my classmates and I are all pigheaded in our own ways. Stubborn, loud-mouthed, outspoken, and there is the tendency for us to be a bit insular. We talked about that in class yesterday as well–how to be more welcoming if we have new people coming to our classes.

I was trying to explain to my teacher that while I knew intellectually that all this change will be beneficial in the long run, it’s hard to feel it right now. It’s like I mentioned at the beginning of the post–when I first taught myself Dvorak, I was cursing my brother for even mentioning it to me. Now, it’s so ingrained in me, I don’t even think about it unless I need to use one of the lesser-known keys like the brackets. My keyboard is still QWERTY because I touch-type, which is one reason I hate typing on my phone. My brother mentioned I could change it to Dvorak, but it wouldn’t matter because it’s not to-scale. Those two months in which I no longer knew QWERTY, but hadn’t gotten the hang of Dvorak yet were the most painful of my typing life, and I feel something similar now in taiji. I know the changes will be beneficial in the long run, but right now, I’m not feeling it.

I will say, however, I’m a big fan of all the fat being trimmed from the form. In the old form, there was a lot of repeat, and I never saw the need for it. Now, the form is lean and mean with not an ounce of fat to be seen. It’s been hard to get used to, but I approve, anyway. Especially since there are now only THREE Cloud Hands in the entire form instead of fifteen. It’s my least favorite movement, which is funny given that everyone else loves it. I’ve ranted about that before, so I’m not going to belabor the point, but three is manageable. In addition, the whole form is shorter than the third section used to be, which is really nice. It’s actually one of the goal’s of my teacher’s teacher–to make it doable every day for busy people. As a lazy person who always felt the old form was too long, I’m appreciative.

Bottom line, I just have to be patient–which is not my strong point. I also have to trust that this is going to be better in the long run–which is also not my strong point. I can grumble and bitch about it as I do it–and hey, that is my strong point! The main thing is just getting it done.

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