Underneath my yellow skin

A feather in my fan, er, cap

I finished the Fan Form! And by finished I mean teaching it to myself. I started it after my medical trauma–two months after at least–and taught it to myself in…six months? Five? Probably more the latter than the former. Either way, I’m super proud of myself–I just looked it up. I got the videos from my teacher on February 15th of this year so it’s not even been three months! It’s not that long, but still. I’m impressed with myself.

I’m trying to find a video of the Fan form I’ve learned, but haven’t so far. My teacher’s teacher has created several forms of his own and I think this might be one of them. The video I’m including is from him, but the form he is doing is not the one I taught myself. It’s similar and I’m sure it’s at the root of his form, but it’s much more elaborate and lengthy. It’s fascinating to watch because his form is much more concise, but still maintains the essence of this form–except the leaning forward and sticking your leg out in the back (which I’m sure is form over function). Master T.T. Liang, one of his teachers, was very much into the beauty of the forms and how they were performed to music so I am not surprised that this form is very visually pleasing. (You can hear Master Liang doing the counts in the background.) That was one of Master Liang’s big passions–dance. So he made all his forms fit to music, which is why they all have even counts. When Sifu Ray (my teacher’s teacher) started creating his own forms, he chose function over form, so the counts are uneven. I like the fact that some of the movements (postures) have been cut down and some have been expanded, depending on what makes functional sense.

Before I learned any weapons, I was drawn to the fan. Why? Because you can’t carry most other weapons around with you. A cane, yes, but not a sword, saber, or double sabers. But anyone can slip a fan into their bag or take it on a plane without any eyes being blunk. Er, blinked. Not the big fan, maybe, but definitely a small one. Which isn’t as flashy as the big one, but it functions in the same way.

I bought a big fan (black) over a decade ago when I was at a demo. It might have been the same time I bought my sword, but I don’t remember. I held onto it throughout learning other weapons first.

In addition, I just really like the fan. It’s pleasing in its shape, design, sound, and movement.

Side Note: Each weapon has a different energy. Literally, of course, but also emotionally. I feel different when I pick up a sword, for example, than I did when I picked up the double sabers. With the sword, I feel elegant and that I’m doing something finessed. The saber is muscular and brutal, more about doing as much damage at one time than pinpoint precision. The fan is feminine, almost coy in some ways, and delicate. I feel as if I’m inhabiting a different body with each weapon.

Before my medical trauma, I was working on the Cane Form with my teacher. It’s not that long as it has four rows (the Saber Form has six). I hastened to point out that my teacher started teaching us the Cane Form before the pandemic hit–which is now over two years ago. We got through two of the four rows before the pandemic hit.

What happened when the pandemic hit? We went online to Zoom classes, of course. And Zoom private lessons, too. Honestly, this time was a blur. I think she stopped teaching us the Cane Form before the pandemic hit, but I just don’t remember. I want to say that we started from the beginning in Zoom private lessons, but, again, I don’t remember.

I do know that I was frustrated with the Cane Form because it’s just so unlike the other forms. Brief primer: I fell in love with the sword from the moment my teacher placed it in my hand. (Urged me to just hold it after a year of me refusing to learn the Sword Form.) I thought I’d feel the same about the Saber Form, but I didn’t. I hated it because it was so different than the Sword Form. We got to the end of the fourth row before we quit. Partly because I got in a minor car accident and needed to deal with that and partly because my teacher wasn’t comfortable with her own form at that time. Years later, we started again and I sailed through it. Then the Cane Form, which was fine, but I just didn’t gel with it. Then the pandemic hit and we set it aside for months.

Oh, at some point, she taught me most of the Karambit Form (not Taiji. I need to teach myself the final section/row).  Oh, wait. Now I remember. My teacher was teaching us the Cane Form in class while teaching me the Double Saber Form in person. Then, once the pandemic hit, we….don’t remember. All I know is that I started teaching myself the Double Saber Form halfway through and finished it up during the pandemic. I was determined to do it and it was probably a ‘I don’t want to think about the pandemic’ move on my part. Some people started baking–I taught myself a weapons form. Now, two.

The Fan Form is special to me. I’ve written before about how incredibly lucky I was in my recovery from my medical emergency, but make no mistake, it was still incredibly hard on my body. When I left the hospital, my stamina was at roughly 10% of where it used to be. It took months before I could say it was 100%. Now, I think I’m better than before the experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not difficult at times. There are intrusive thoughts about what if it happens again? My heart doc has said my heart is sound, but what if? It happened once (twice, actually, plus the damn stroke), so it could happen again. Yes, it was triggered by walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, but who was to say that wouldn’t happen again?

That’s another frustrating thing–the stats don’t apply to me because my heart is fine. And there just isn’t that much data on what might happen next for me. That’s why I call these my bonus days because I should not be here. I should be dead, and I am very aware of this.

Three days after I got back from the hospital, I tried to do the Sword Form. I was able to do three movements before I was exhausted. That was unwise, but it did prove to me that I would be able to do it again. That’s all I cared about. Because, see, I needed something to work towards and learning a new weapons form (plus playing Elden Ring) was the one thing that pushed me in my recovery.

Now, it’s eight months later and I can say I’ve taught myself the Fan Form. It’s quite the accomplishment, for which I’m more than willing to pat myself on the back. I’m two or three movements from completing the Cane Form as well, which my teacher has been teaching me in our private lessons once every other week. I want to finish the Karambit Form (we stopped because my teacher was unsure about the last row/section), plus I have to teach myself the left side to several forms. And  I need to shore up the Long Form (Solo). Plus I need to learn the Fast Form (Solo) as well.

There is plenty for me to do before taking on another weapons form, but I can’t wait to do that as well. Weapons are my true love.

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