Tai Chi Y2D64: Slowing down

The last few days, I feel like I’ve written everything useful that there is to say about tai chi practice. Slow Down. Remember to breathe. Hold horse stance. And so on. I could just recycle those three or four pieces of advice, ad infinitum. And it’s getting boring for me, and apparently for my readers. The deep insights are rarer, and spaced farther apart.

And frankly, I want to give up. By chance, I was reading something about sobriety the other day, and the author said, “the thing about choosing to be sober is that it’s a constant choice. You make it once, but then you have to keep making it, again and again. You have to make it even when you don’t want to, or when the stakes are very high, in sickness and in health. You have to make the choice even when you don’t much feel like staying sober, and the choice to stay sober is more painful than the choice to break down.” that’s not the exact quotation, but it’s the sentiment: the need to keep choosing.

And so it is with tai chi, or any martial practice, or any practice at all. There was a quotation by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters floating around on Facebook a week or so ago, and here I’m not going to use quotation marks because I’m not going to get it right: All these kids show up for American Idol or the Voice, and they get judged and critiqued so hard, and the ones that get turned down think that’s it, they’ve blown their shot. But the best bands of the next decade aren’t going to come out of the American Idol auditions. They’re the ones that are practicing now, in their garages, making a mess, making music… And they suck, right now, they’re terrible. But they’ll get better, and they’ll get a few breaks, and tour a bit. But that’s where great musicians come from: practice, and sucking for a while. Again, not an exact quote, but approximate. And the right sentiment: go practice, don’t worry about the Idol and the Voice, go suck at music in a garage somewhere. I haven’t got time to look it up: find it for yourself on Facebook. It’s floating around somewhere, and if you missed it the first time, don’t worry. It’ll be back. Eventually.

And the challenge is that practice is hard. And lonely at times. And you suck. Ten years ago I was in Washington DC for ISTE’s big conference, and I saw an African-American man doing tai chi in a park on the walk between my hotel and the conference center, every morning. Slow, graceful, fully in control of himself. Amazing. As good as my teacher,I’d say, at least in presentation.

But you don’t become that overnight, nor even after a year or more of practice. Keep going. Slow down. This isn’t a marathon. It isn’t even a sprint. It’s life. It’s practice. Keep it up.

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  1. Dear Mr. Watt,

    I hope that you are the Andrew Watt who called this afternoon concerning the Chapin Family papers. (If you are not, I apologize.)

    At any rate, if you are the correct Andrew Watt I have good news.

    The Chapin Family Papers have already been completely scanned and are available here:


    I hope this proves useful to you.


    Chuck Barber
    Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library
    University of Georgia Libraries

    • Dear Mr. Barber,

      I am, and thanks so much for writing! We were quite excited that such a set of records would exist, and I’ll happily pass the link on to the student working on the project. Wonderful!

      Andrew Watt

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