Yesterday, I was talking about my daily routine. How it’s gone from five minutes of stretches a day to over an hour of stretches, Taiji (solo form and weapons), and now Bagua. I was feeling a bit bored with my routine, so adding Bagua has really spiced it up. Oh, also the weight-bearing set. It’s only three lifts on each side, ten reps each, I started with an 8-pound weight and now have upped it to 10 pounds for two of the three lifts. My teacher has told me that 8 pounds is fine, but I like doing a bit more. I used to lift 20 pounds for certain exercises. I think I even made it up to 25 pounds. THis was more than a decade ago, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump to it immediately.
My teacher said that Master Choi, the man who invented this weight set, used to do it with 50 pound weights. Back in the day, he felt the need to be pumped up because there were always young guns who had something to prove. That’s one thing about being a dude–there were always other men who wanted to challenge you to a duel, so to speak.
I will say that adding the weight-bearing set and the Bagua has pumped up my energy. It really is like having another cup of coffee. I have to be careful to do the Bagua early in the routine because if I do it too late, then it can affect my sleep. It’s funny because caffeine doesn’t affect my sleep at all. I can drink coffee all night without a care in the world. But Bagua can really mess with me so I’ve been pushing it earlier and earlier.
It’s funny. My teacher taught me to walk the circle with the DeerHorn Knives the third or fourth year I was studying with her. It was to replace meditation, which I could not do without having terrible flashbacks. Walking the circle centered me and gave me energy. And I adored the deerhorn knives with all my heart.
They are probably my favorite weapon overall. If I had to do a quick ranking, it would be those and the double sabers. The sword is a sentimental favorite because it’s the one that ignited my love for all things bladed (er, and poke-y). It’s my first love, which means it’ll always have a special place in my heart. And, I appreciate the saber more than I did when I first learned it. It will never be my favorite, but it’s a powerful weapon. I like the fan a lot, and I hate the cane. I am also fond of the karambit, which is not Taiji. I like the staff/spear, but I haven’t done much with it yet. Oh, and it’s fun to do the Wu-Li (dancing) Sword Form, especially when I just put on a song and dance.
The video I have included above is incredible. I can only dream of being that competent at Taiji and Bagua. This is what a lifetime of dedication to the art will do for you. I don’t need to be that good, though, in order to get the benefits. Taiji has done so much for me without me reaching that higher plane.
When I first started Taiji, I hated my body, hated my family, and hated my life. I was depressed and anxious, and I questioned everything and everyone. Including my teacher. I have said to her many times that I had to have been the worst student because I questioned everything. She said it was fine because at least I accepted the answers when I got them. Which was true. No matter if the answer was, “I don’t know, but I’ll looki it up and get back to you” because as long as she was truthful with me, I was fine.
After five years of studying, I was in a minor car accident. When I saw the car hurtling at me, I thought, “I’m going to get hit” and instantly relaxed. That was my body doing what Taiji had taught it to do. I ended up with a giant bruise on my stomach from the seat belt, but that was it.
In addition, I became better at being in crowds. I also learned how to be better, mentally, when dealing with difficult situations. And my teacher helped me with knee pain that had started because of the practice in the first place. She watched me as I was doing the Solo Form, and she told me I was letting my knee collapse inwards. Once I corrected that, the pain disappeared.
I also had crippling back pain that started in the shoulders and moved downwards. My teacher said that me noticing the pain was a good start, even though it didn’t feel that way. It moving downwards was also progress according to her. Then, it was stuck in the small of my back, and it hurt so much. I was grimacing all the time, and I asked her in desperatiion for something to help. She told me to do the stretch we did that involves lying on the flor and allowing your knees to fall to the side naturally.
She said to do it three times to each side (with the pulling the knee/s to the chest in between each repetition). That was it. I was skeptical because it seemed way too easy After two months, the pain had eased up substantially. After a year, it was completely gone. I still do this stretch every day, and it’s kept my back free of pain. If I slouch on my couch while working on my laptop, there might be some aches, but no pain.
People talk about things hurting more as they age as if it’s inevitable. On the RKG Discord, that’s a common theme. I have mentioned Taiji as a way to ease that, but I don’t want to be preachy about it. Plus, I’m well aware that it sounds like snake oil to someone who isn’t a practitioner.
That’s the problem in general with something that is miraculous. It takes too long to explain why it isn’t a miracle and how it can be beneficial in terms that aren’t fantastical. We were talking about this in class on Satruday. I know I sound like a zealot, but it’s a fact. If I hadn’t studied Taiji for fourteen years, I would not be where I am now. I am in much better physical shape now than when I was twenty years ago. Taiji has changed my life, and I’m not hesitant to say that.