Underneath my yellow skin

With a sword in my hand

We started up with the sword again in taiji a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t be happier. As longtime readers know, I love the Sword Form. It’s funny because on Saturday, my teacher was telling one of my classmates that she (my teacher) might start her (my classmate) on the sword soon. My classmate was hesitant about whether or not she wanted to do it, and I had to internally smile because I resisted with all my might when my teacher first suggested it to me. She had the same reaction when her teacher told her it was time for the Sword Form, except in her case it was because she wanted to focus on open hand forms. In my case, while I was into the martial arts side of taiji way more than the health side, the thought of weapons slightly repelled me.

Thankfully, my teacher pushed the issue by pressing a sword into my hand. The minute my fingers closed over the hilt, I was hooked. This was what I was meant to be doing. I’ve learned two-thirds of the Sabre Form, and while I like it, it’s not the same. The Sword Form sings to me in a way I can’t explain. The sword is an extension of my hand, and I feel both powerful and graceful when I’m doing the Sword Form.

I’ve written this before, but I taught myself the left side of the Sword Form in fairly short order. To put it in perspective, I still haven’t learned the whole left side of the Solo Form. I was near the end of the third (and last) section when my teacher’s teacher went nuts changing things, and I decided it was better to wait until the new Solo Form was settled before trying to teach myself the left side. Quick reminder: my teacher’s teacher’s view is that he teaches the right side, and you teach the left side as a way to see if you really understand what you’re doing. It’s a solid idea because it’s easy to fudge the movements you don’t know or do something unthinkingly. When you have to teach yourself the left side, it brings up all your shortcomings.

I have spatial issues, so teaching myself the left side of the Solo Form was–and is–hell. My brain screeched to a halt when I tried to teach to show it how to do the left side. I would do the right side, then try to copy it on the left, and my brain would grind to a halt. I literally could not make myself do the left side. It was frustrating as hell, so when I decided to teach myself the left side of the Sword Form, I approached it with much trepidation.

To my surprise, it was almost seamless. I don’t like to brag, but I had almost no problem with it. Ironically enough, the posture that gave me the most trouble was Fishing Posture, which is quite possibly the easiest posture in the whole form. That’s probably why it gave me such trouble–I didn’t have to think about it. Conversely, in the Solo Form, I have Fist Under Elbow on lock (or I did before it was tweaked) because I hated it so much when it was first taught to me that I had to put in twice the effort to learn it.

I taught myself the left side of the Sword Form in a month or so, and I can still do it whenever I check back in. I really can’t take much credit for it because it just came so naturally to me. Side note: I am a fast learner in general. It’s caused problems in my taiji class when my classmates get jealous of me. I’ve heard it several times, and I never know what to say. I heard second-hand that one of my classmates was frustrated when we were being taught the Sword Form because he was struggling with it, and I was sailing through it. I sometimes try to counter the attitude by pointing out what I have difficulties with, but that feels almost patronizing to me. Also, like, yeah, I’m a fast learner, so what?

I know it isn’t my job to manage the feelings of my classmates, but it can be uncomfortable–and a no-win situation. If I say, “Oh, it’s easy for me”, that’s going to probably make them feel shittier and like I’m dismissing their feelings. On the other hand, it’s the truth. It is easy for me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have other things I won’t have to work on and in fact it can be an impediment because I tend to quit in frustration if I don’t learn something quickly, but I am a really fast learner.

Side note to the side note: Can we please stop with the brains don’t count for anything bullshit? I’m seeing this more and more in the forums I visit. It’s the over-correction for thinking intelligence is everything, but it’s swinging too far to the other side. I saw a letter in which the LW said she struggled with feelings of superiority with her BF because she was more intelligent than he was. Now, there were other legit problems she stated, but commenters jumped on this statement, informing her that she shouldn’t think of herself as more intelligent than her BF for a plethora of reasons. Again, intelligence isn’t everything, and yes, there are different kinds of intelligence, but it’s disingenuous to me to say that raw intelligence doesn’t count for anything. I know I’m more intelligent than 95% of people, brain-wise. Me trying to talk myself out of this belief is a waste of time because it’s actually true. It doesn’t mean I’m a better person, but I am more intelligent.

This is related to this post because it just underscores my main point. I learn things quickly. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, but it’s true. I don’t take any credit for it because it’s something I was born with. But it doesn’t make it any less true. I think it’s one of the reasons I like Dark Souls so much is that I sucked hard when I first started playing it. Seriously. I was so, so, so bad. Normally, I would have quit it in a heartbeat (and I did for a long time), but for whatever reason, I had to keep playing until I finished it. It was hard. The hardest thing I’ve done (non-emotionally. I mean, I got emotional while I played, but it’s just a damn game at the end of the day), and oddly enough, the thing I’m proudest of for the same reason. I’m a scrub when it comes to Soulsborne games, and yet, I’ve soloed them all (except for three DLC bosses in BB, which I will do–one day).

Back to the Sword Form. My teacher is reteaching it to us, starting from the beginning because she has gotten some refinements and slight tweaks from her teacher. We’ve done the first four postures, and it’s been really good to brush up on my form. I’ve had to make a change to two of the four postures, so it’s been really good for me. My teacher has been a bit apologetic to me for going back to the beginning, but I’m all about the sword and will happily do anything related to it. And, as I said, I’ve had to refine my form, so it’s all good.

She’s also teaching us drills related to the sword energies, and while she taught a few of them to me earlier, she’s making it much more explicit this time. It’s quite a workout, too. I used to do the taiji weight-bearing set until my latest bout with the sickness, and I keep thinking I should get back to it because I like working on my muscles. I haven’t, however, for one reason or another, so it’s a double boon that we’re back to the Sword Form again in class, especially the drills.

They’re a workout, not just for the arms, but also for the thighs because they involve pushing off the floor with your feet in a forceful manner. It’s hard to describe, but I can definitely feel it in my thighs after doing the drills. Or rather, drill. Or rather, drill and counter drill. It’s a stab drill, and the counter-drill is how to deflect said stab, and you do it going backwards. Doing five of each on both right and left side is a nice pick-me-up to start the day.

I’m thrilled to doing the Sword Form again in class, just thrilled. While I’ve reached the point of mildly liking the Solo Form, especially the new version (medium form versus long form), I have missed the sword like a wayward lover. I usually use my steel sword to practice, but with the drills, since they are meant to be done with a partner, I’ll sometimes use my wooden one when practicing one-on-one with my teacher.

The sword is back, bay-beeeeee! It’s a high like no other.

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