Underneath my yellow skin

Getting over the hump

I have been studying Taiji for fourteen or fifteen years. I have come so far, and I am proud of the progress I have made. I was a terrible student in the beginning because I was so resistant to everything my teacher was telling me. I apologized to her later, but she laughingly brushed it off. That’s part of what makes her a good teacher–she’s able to take people as they were and not demand that they learn in any certain way.

For me, I am skeptical of everything. Esepcially as my first Taiji teacher was a manipulative, skeevy, slimy fraud. Even without that, though, I take everything with a grain of salt. I must have been so irritating because I was constantly questioning what she told me. She was patient with me, though, and answered all the questions I had. If she did not know the answer, she would tell me so. Or she would look it up and come back with the answer.

She was never abrupt with me or showed any impatience. She was upbeat and positive, and I appreciated that she did not pooh-pooh my skepticism. I was used to people telling me that I should just accept what was told to me (raised fundie Christian), and as a resault, I did not trust anything told to me. I’m not saying that’s a good way to be, but it’s understandable given my history.

The first two or three years, I was fighting against the practice. I hated it. I will be frank. The Solo (Long) Form was the first thing she taught to me, and it was painful. Physically, it hurt my knees, and mentally, I just did not want to do it. And yet. There was something deep inside me that knew it was what I needed. That kernel was planted, and the trtee took root–to mix my metaphors.

By the time I learend the Solo (Long) Form (learned as in taught all the postures. Not learned as in knew it by heart), I still disliked it, but I did not hate it the way I once did. I could see why it was a good thing, even if I did not feel it yet. However, I could not make myself practice at home, so I added a second class as a way to make myself pracitce more. This was in a different place and a few years later. I added a third class, too, and that was where I was at when the pandemic hit.

There were a few markers during that time that moved me along in my practice. One was when my teacher pushed me to hold a wooden sword, which I had written about several times, and that changed my life. The minute I reluctantly held the pracitce sword, I knew that was what I was meant to be doing with my life. I know it’s easy to retcon what happened, but my teacher can affirm that I glommed onto the sword at the time.

I pestered her to teach me the Sword Form as quickly as possible because I could not get enough. I loved it. I hungered for it. I needed it in my life. She taught me the rest of the form in record time, and then I taught myself the left side (which was the norm. The teacher teaches you the right side, and then you teach yourself the left side. It’s a way to reinforce what you’ve learned), and it was easy. The only difficulty I had was with the easiest posture in the form. It showed me that I had thought it simple when I learned it and did not bother to truly commit it to memory.

That’s another good reason to teach yourself the left side–it shows where you’re fudging it on the right side. It’s easy to think you got it until you have to teach it to yourself–backwards. You really have to break it down and understand what you are doing to teach yourself the left side.

This started me down a path that made me what I am now. The path of Taiji weapons. Which I adore. It took me several more years to really embrace them because the Saber Form followed the Sword Form, and I hated the Saber Form. I expectetd it to be the Sword Form, and it wasn’t. Several years later, I came at it with a much different attitude and came to appreciate the Saber Form for what it was, not what I thougtht it should be.

When I saw my teacher’s classmate demonstrate the Double Saber Form at a school demo, I knew I needed that in my life. That was right before the pandemic hit so we had to put it temporarily on hold during the beginning of the pandemic. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but my teacher came over and taught me the first half of the form. Then we put it on hold for some reason….was that when the pandemic hit? I don’t think so. Maybe it was? At any rate, she sent me two videos of her teacher doing the Double Saber Form, one from the front and one from the back, and I taught myself the rest of the form.

My teacher later confessed that she wasn’t as sureof her Double Saber Form, which was one reason she put off teaching it to me. The same had happened with the Saber Form. There were two movements at the end of the fourth row that she was unsure of so that’s where we had stopped.

At some point, she made an offhand comment about not liking the weapons as much as she liked the solo stuff, which made a click in my brain. She had hidden it well, but it was apparent in hindsight. I am low-key thinking I need to find a weapons master because I’m moving past where she is with the weapons.

I got in a rut, though. My morning routine was the same thing, and i wanted to jumpstart it. On the one hand, I was  refining my forms, which is always a good thing. But on the other hand, I felt a bit stagnant. I had added a few new things like one-finger push-ups against the wall. My teacher had mentioned that one of the masters did them on the floor, and I wanted to do that as well. I asked her how I could increase my upper body strength, and she had a few suggestions.

One was the Taiji weight-lifting set that I was doing years ago. It’s a unified body movement, and I had worked my way up to fifteen and twenty pound weights. My teacher said to use my eight pounders, which I’ve just started to feel are a tad light. She told me to do ten of each movement with each hand (there are three in total) twice a week. We really believe in doing as little as possible for the most results. That has invigorated my practice, and I’m pleased to stay with this for now. Then, next up on the weapons tip is the Guandao–which I’ll have to teach myself. I cannot wait.


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