Today I did the tai chi form three times on the right-hand, and twice on the left. On the left I only got to Throat Strike, which is not very good. I’ve spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and I’ve got it finally. You have to grab the needle at the sea bottom with right hand on left, and then Spread Hands like Fan on the right, but then step to Throat Strike on the left. Then you’re in the right position for False Close moving to Retreat for Rematch. I’m confident I can get this all, eventually, and do it as easily on the left side as on the right. The trouble is that one needs to think about it to do it; but one also needs to NOT think about it, in order to do it right.
On the right-hand, though, I did pretty well. The first time through felt very half-assed, and knowing that I probably wouldn’t get to run today, I decided to do it again. My kicks, in particular, were awkward, and I forgot to send my hands out for balance. The hands do need to support the kick, because otherwise you’ll fall over.
The second time my nasal passages opened up, which felt good, but my breathing patterns sucked. Physically, the motions were all right, but they lacked a certain style. Stands Like Tree was lame. It had no feeling in it, and usually by that point in the form the chi is welling up, or it’s not. If it’s not, you’re doing the form half-assed. So I kept going, because one should always complete the form, once begun; but I also committed to doing another one right away. I didn’t allow much of a break between the second and third, but kept going. The third time the breath started really working and I could feel the 氣 welling up inside, which felt good. It was much easier, that time, to do 氣 and really feel the pulse, breathing in on the expansion and out on the contraction. It changes your center of gravity to breathe in tune with the form, which means it changes your balance. You can also feel yourself exerting pressure on your imaginary opponent when you breathe properly — and when you breathe improperly, that imaginary opponent usually knocks you off balance. Such is the artistry of the form.
I’ll probably do the form again sometime later this afternoon, when I need some extra energy. I’m finding that when I’m run down or tired, that’s the time to do the form, because it wakes my body up and energizes me for whatever comes next.
It’s kind of fun to watch the tai chi entries pile up in my “exercise” journal, and know that it represents real work in my life. I feel better as a result of these labors, and they’ve enabled me to ratchet up my fencing practice and my running, as well.
It’s one of the great secrets. Exercise, once you reach a certain point of practice, starts to feel good.