Underneath my yellow skin

Progress, not perfection

One thing I really appreciate about Taiji–oh, let me say this. I had a class today. It really anchors my week, and  I need to add another class. Probably the Tuesday night one. My teacher is great in that she’s very casual about people making mistakes. She’ll point them out, but in a way that isn’t shaming or blaming. It really is a talent. She’s a very positive person, but not in a forced way.

We were talking about how long we’d been taking classes from my teacher. I said I was her first official student (she had been teaching a friend before that) and it had been something like fourteen years. I still remember like it was yesterday how she was so affirming as to focusing on one thing. I can’t stress enough how much of a perfectionist I was before I started taking Taiji classes. I had the typical Type A Asian mother who insisted that I do a million activities and that I had to be great at them. One of the memories I had that stayed burned in my mind was when I graduated from college, magna cum laude. After the graduation, my mother commented that I would have graduated summa cum laude if I hadn’t gotten the B in Intro Psych. I was very proud of myself for achieving magna cum laude until she said that.

Years later, I mentioned that moment to her. She denied that she had ever said that. That’s her style, by the way, to forget anything that put her in a negative light. That was the moment I realized that she was an inreliable narrator and not to trust anything she said. Like a fool, I pressed her on it. She finally said that if she had said that, she only meant it te be comforting in case I was upset about it.

I dismissed that as bullshit at first. But later, I realized that she truly forgot those situations. My brother did as well, but in his case, it wasn’t just times when he was saying or doing something negative. He helped me set up my new modem and a week later, he completely forgot he had done that. In my mother’s case, it’s anything she didn’t want to remember–especially when it’s something that was negative about her.

I put so much pressure on ymself to be perfect. Then, my junior or senior year in high school, I had enough. My mother was giving my brother money for his good grades. He had undiagnosed learning disabilities including dyslexia (and probably autism) so school was very difficult for him. I was upset that she did not give me money for my grades. Now, as an adult, I understand why she did it the way she did, but back then it just seemed unfair that I was punished for being better at school.

I know that’s now what it was, really. And it was much harder for my brother because he had such a difficult time with school. I had a hard time with the social asspect because I was so weird. I hadn’t quite honed my ability to talk to people so I mostly just looked around feeling like a weirdo.

I can’t emphasize enough how fish-out-of-water I felt as a kid. I honestly felt as if I were in a different country and did not speak the languagee. Plus, I was severely depressed and anxious, and I did not want to live. This started when I was seven, and my teen years were the worst. I was so miserable in school. That year, I gave up on trying to get good grades. I got criticized for getting an A- while my brother got praised to high heavens for getting a C.

I still tend to get mad if I don’t do something perfectly–except for things that I’m terrible at–like FromSoft games. That was a revelation to me. I can actually enjoy something that I sucked at. That had never happened before in my life, and it’s a tribute to the From games that I’m a apassionate fan a decade leatter.

However. I still get frustrated because I am that bad at the games. Taiji is diffrenet. I’m pretty good at it, even out of the gate. Not just learning the forms, but also in ‘getting’ it. There are aspects of it that I did not get (such as the Saber Form), and there were aspects that I did not like (hello Solo Form), but within five years, it was one of the most important things in my life.

I love the weapons forms with a passion that some may deem unseemly. More to the point, I don’t beat myself up when I make a mistake. I want to get it as good as possible, but more from an application point of view. I want each form to be the best it can be so I can use it if i ever need it. It has nothing to do with an abstract ideal or someone else’s notion of what it should be.

I mean, I can watch my teacher’s teacher do a weapon form and hope that one day I can be that good, but I don’t feel inferior because I’m not there yet. I don’t berate myself when I make mistakes, either. I get impatient sometimes when I keep making the same mistakes, but it’s not in a ‘you’re so stupid’ way.

I have been busting through and making a lot of progress in the last month or so. That’s because I am now learning Bagua, which is a whole different martial art. That means that there is a steep learning curve at the beginning which will probably plateau out later on.

The thing is, though, that because I’ve been studying Taiji for fourteen years, I have a good base for learning other internal martial arts. There are similarities that make it easier to learn a new one. It can be an obstacle, too, though, when the familiarity gets in the way of seeing the differences.

For example. In the Swimming Dragon Form, the very first posture/movement is a back-weighted step. We don’t do that in Taiji–at least not very often. When I did it, it felt so strange. My teacher told me to do the horse stance and just turn out one foot or the other to get that 60% weight on the back foot feeling. Now that I’ve practiced it for three days, it’s getting more comfortable.

That’s another thing. Yes, there are new things to learn, but when I think back to how long it took for me to truly get certain basics of Taiji, I feel optimistic that it’s not going to take me as long with Bagua.

I’ve been making enough progress for me to be quite pleased with myself. I also feel like eating meat all the time–which is normal when doing lots of weight-bearing exercise. Oh, to mention, I have added the DeerHorn Knives 8-palms form, front and back, to my rotation. I’m both more energetic and more exhausted since beefing up my Bagua. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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