Underneath my yellow skin

School versus learning

I love learning.

I hated school.

I don’t think these are contradictory statements, and  Ithink many people would agree with me. I get a frisson of electricity up my spine when I learn something new. Or am learning something new. These days, this is mostly with Taiji because that’s what I’m studying. when I taught myself the Fam Form after getting out of the hospital, it was such a triumph. I need to tidy up a few of my forms, though.

In addition, I’ve added the Taiji weight-lifing set to my daily routine, but I knew that already because I did it before. I have smoothed it out a bit more and know why it’s done the way it is, but it’s not new.

Taiji is interesting in that there is a time where there is a lot of learning–like at the beginning. My teacher taught me the Solo (Long) form, and it was so much information at one time. She believed that when she first taught the form, she didn’t go too much in details. She gave the basics behind why we do things the way we do, but she didn’t load me down on all the theories and history in the first year. She wanted to give a broad base upon which to build the rest, and it took off a lot of the pressure. Also, it was hard to focus on more than one thing at a time.

So, when you’re a complete newb, you just concentrate on the postures (now called movements). As long as you get the basic shape of it, you’re doing fine. I have a classmate who likes to correct other people and tell them how to do things–and he’s incorrect more often than not. He’s been doing it ever since he started about four years ago (right before the pandemic).

Side note: That’s sexism at work. My teacher is a woman and I, the student who has studied with her the longest, am female-presenting. Also, I would not presume to assume that I know better than my actual teacher. It’s amazing to me how confident a mediocre white man can be in our society. I know why it is, but it’s maddening, in any case.

Anyway, my teacher once explained that there were many plateaus in Taiji. It’s a steep incline at the beginning, then a plateau, then a small incline, then another plateau. Which is the case with anything new. There is so much to absorb in the beginning, and it’s nearly overwdelming. It’s difficult to remember now how bewildering everything was back then. I was fairly adept at learning the form itself, I didn’t necessarily grasp the ideas and concepts behind what i was doing, but I at least got the movements down.

Then, it was the Sword Form. Once my teacher convinced me  to hold a sword, I blazed through learning the form. i do much better when it’s something I’m interested in, which makes sense. Most people struggle to learn things that don’t interest them.

I gobbled down the Sword Form. From the minute the wooden practice sword was placed in my hand, I immediately fell in love. I wanted it, no needed it in my life. I became immediately obsessed and couldn’t stop. I pestered my teacher for more every time I saw her, and I learned the Sword Form in record time.

I thought I knew everything and you could not tell me shit. I taught myself the left side in short order, and it was all good. This was a very fertile time and I was learning every time I saw my teacher. I was so into it, and I bought a nice sword at the next demo that was made of stainless steel. It’s all I use to practice now that I’m healthy again, but it’s dull, of course. I am not going to practice with a sharpened sword since i’m clumsy enough with a dull one.

I loved the sword. It vitalized me and my Taiji practice. THen came the Saber Form, and it was a completely different story. I thought it would be the same as the Sword Form, but it most certainly wasn’t. And I hated it. I could not understand how it worked. See, the saber is considered the lowest of all the weapons. It was given to infantrymen who were cannon fodder. It’s basically meant to cleave and thwack.

The sword is considered the scholar’s weapon, and it is the second-most dififcult weapon to master. I don’t know why it’s the first weapon taught, but I’m glad it is because I would have hated weapons as much as I did the Solo Form if I had learned the saber first. It was because of my unfound assumptions that I hated it so. There are six rows and when we got to the end of the fourth, we had to put it on hold because I got in a minor car accident and my teacher wasn’t sure about two movements at the very end of that row.

When we finally picked it up again, it was two or three years later. I went in knowing that it was not the sword, and I had more experience under my belt. Plus, I knew more about the ideas behind Taiji, and I was ready to take it on again. i was bracing myself to fight against it as I had the first time, but to my surprise, I did not hate it. I did not love it as I did the sword, but I found it much easier to manipulate and move. I was able to take it as something separate from my beloved sword, and that made all the difference.

Instead of trying to move it like it was a sword, I moved it as it was meant to be moved. It’s not delicate or elegant, and I gloried in being STRONK. By the time I was finished learning it, I understood the saber. I didn’t love it, but I was comfortable with it.

It’s funny, but I think of all my weapons as different kind of lovers. The sword is the long-time spouse with whom I have an abiding and comfortable love. No, it’s not the most exciting relationship in the world, but there’s a deep-seated sense of love there that doesn’t exist with several other weapons.

The saber is the friends with benefit. I don’t necessarily want them in my daily life, but I don’t mind hooking up with them from time to time. We can have dinenr and a few hours of conversation before fucking like bunnies. The double sabers, which are my current favorite, are the new hot sexy thing that I can’t get eneough of. The sex is exicitng anf plentiful, and I want more the more I get.

I’m not going to go through the rest of the weapons, but they each have a personality as well. I love my weapons. I can’t wait to learn a new one. I feel so alive when I do. But I’ve put a moratorium on it right now because I need to polish the ones I already know. That’s an important part of learning, too.


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