Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, December 07, 2007

What a Blast!

I had a great time at my Taiji class last night. As usual, the first 30 minutes was a group warm up, the next hour was spent on either learning the sequence of the form, or on form refinement if you had already learned the whole sequence. Finally, the ongoing class took up the last hour.

The first hour of class was spent on form refinement. One of the senior students asked me if there was a sequence I wanted to work on. Most people who have just learned the form want to go over the last several movements, because they simply haven’t been practiced as much.

I said I wanted to work on a sequence that appears many times in the form, that I was having a little trouble with. My thought was that since it appeared several times, it contains a lot of fundamental movement that has wide application throughout the form. I was right.

There is a sequence called Wave Hands Like Clouds, that ends with a movement called Single Whip. Getting from WHLC to SW seemed sort of awkward to me. Sure enough, there were some details in the footwork of which I was not aware, as well as some body parts moving and stopping at the same time.

Also, as a more advance detail I learned about how the hip folds during WHLC. This relates directly to one of the warm up exercises. I can see how this relates to many movements in the form.

I doubt that I was doing it right, but just being aware of what was going on with my hips made a difference. I’ll be working on it on my own.

Several weeks ago, the school purchased some mats to work on throwing techniques. Even the senior students have only been working on falls and rolls for a few weeks. Having only a few weeks of practice, many of them don’t look half bad.

When the mats were laid out on the floor, I had to take shot at doing rolls. I hadn’t done any rolls or breakfalls in about 15 years. This was something I was really looking forward to.

My first half dozen or so were a little creaky. I didn’t roll straight, and I was a bit like a wheel with squared off edges. After that though, I was hitting on all cylinders. Towards the end, before they took the mats up, I tried a few advanced falls from my memory, and did them just fine. It really is like learning to ride a bicycle, or maybe falling off of one. What a blast.

Finally we got into push hands practice. I worked with two different partners on the same beginning style of push hands I learned last week. Each of them were pretty senior students, so I got to work with people who knew what they were doing.

What was driven home to me again and again was how relaxed and loose each of them was in comparison to me. I consider myself to generally have a pretty relaxed body, but there are levels and then there are levels. Also, again, the hip folding that I worked on during form refinement became even more clear in this application, because it was precisely because of the hip action that made the push hands technique work.

What a good class. Man! Did I have a lot of fun, and did I ever get a lot of things to work on in my own practice.

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