Sometimes, not necessarily today, the voice of my teacher comes back to me as I’m doing tai chi in the morning. I hear him talking across the miles, and listen to him explaining the martial origins of each move. Some of them are a little disturbing.

This move is called “box ears with fists”. First you slam the sides of your hands into the ears. You’re not using your fists, but the sides of them, so you don’t break your fingers on the hard bones of the skull. Instead you want to crack them squarely on the ears, at that point you can let go and move into “roll back”, or you can keep going against the same opponent, into “bounce the baby”. The purpose of this is to convert your side-hitting fists back into hands, like so. Grab the opponent’s ears, and than ram their face into your upward-rising knee, as though you were bouncing a head on your knee instead of a baby…

Aiee,,,

And they’re all like this. We shouldn’t forget that this didn’t start out as casual exercise for people who don’t like to move much. It started out as a way for the unarmed to win advantage over the armed and unarmed alike. And all of these powers are at work in me, as I do my morning practice. I’m aware of the martial work, even though I’ve never had to use it, and I hope I won’t have to.

During today’s practice, my teacher’s voice came back to me, though. “your greatest opponent is the self. To do tai chi, you must defeat that, the ultimate opponent, every day,”

I’m trying, teacher, I’m trying.