I’m visiting my parents today, and for a variety of reasons I decided to do my daily practice in the small room that used to be my bedroom. My parents’ name for this room is really, “the room that used to be Andrew’s” but really it’s the tv room: the living room is much more formal these days, and this room is for watching movies or whatever. It’s also the room where Mom gives in to her insomnia, reading or writing until she’s tired enough to go back to bed.
This means that the room that used to hold a twin bed and a dresser and a shelf of toys and books now has a couple of large comfortable chairs and a tv rack in it instead. I did the windmill kick perilously close to the tv screen, and I had to back up to do one of the snakes creeping down, or else run into the big blue chair.
If you can’t generate the power of tai chi in a small space, you’ll never be able to do it in a large space. And if you can generate it in a small space, you can learn to generate it in no space, when there’s no maneuvering room at all. My taiji teacher Laddie said that the most powerful martial arts maneuver of all was a proffered handshake and the words, “how do you do? I’m _________,” and he’s right. If you don’t even have that much room, sometimes a smile that comes from your tan tien will have to be enough.