Taiji day 32: Lead Left

At the end of the tai chi form, I tried something I’ve done before but never gotten very far with: doing the taiji form while leading with the left hand. It’s difficult. The muscle memory is all wrong — the right hand usually moves first, delivers many of the punches, the right foot takes most of the steps that matter, and the left side usually provides the shielding, feinting or covering gestures. This can be traced to the historic reality that left-handers are a tiny fraction of the population of the planet. It may have something to do with the fact that the left hand and the left side is attached to the right brain, or with the position of the heart slightly to the left side of the body’s midline — hence making attacks to the left side of the body rather more effective.

Or it could be coincidence.

In any case, I started to do the form left-handed. Instead of opening to the right, I opened to the left. Instead of warding off left and then warding off right, I reversed them. I grabbed the needle on the sea floor with my left hand, while pressing on my wrist with the right hand.

My muscles thought I was going crazy. And yet all sorts of weaknesses appeared. My left leg wasn’t strong enough to hold posture during snake creeps down, and a knee made clear that it wasn’t used to doing kicks this way.

No matter. I didn’t get very far: maybe twelve or fifteen postures in, I lost the read of what came next. Is it Buddha’s teacup or spread hands like fan? My brain remembered what the postures looked like, but couldn’t reverse them to the other side of the body. Brain freeze.

We cover for a lot of things, we silly humans. One part or one side of the body is always stronger than the other. One part of the mind is always stronger than others. But until we actually try something from another point of view, and dedicate ourselves to practicing it, we’re really just half of what we could be,

Try something left-handed today. What’s holding you back?

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