Yesterday I noticed that I wasn’t putting my feet properly on the floor on several exercises. Today I tried to fix that. What a dumb idea that was. I wound up focusing on my feet, and stumbled through all three forms without getting my feet right, or getting anything else right. I was fast, I was clumsy, and I was dumb.
Just because I notice that I’m not stepping correctly, or not bending at just the right angle, or not applying pressure and mass from my body to the floor correctly — doesn’t mean that I can do it correctly just because I want to. Want and will are two different things. The will gets me up and out of bed every day, the will does the tai chi. What it doesn’t do is make me perfect at it today. The want is the desire to be good at this thing I’ve chosen to do with my time; the will is the thing that keeps me doing it… But neither is good enough to make me achieve success alone.
That third element is practice.
Man, it sucks.
And Practice said to me this morning, “wow. You’re trying to be Mister Tai Chi man, and you barely know how to walk. You’re trying to eat solid food, and your body hasn’t even adjusted to processing milk yet. Focus, please: from now on, no more experiments to get the feet or the elbow or the hip placement right. From now on, you focus on speed and breath. You know how to handle those two things. Once you have mastery of those two things — once those two are rock-solid, you can do more advanced things like fix your foot placement.”
I must admit, Practice is right. I rushed through the tai chi form to get to the place where I could “fix” my foot position, and “prove” I could do Grab The Needle or Snake Creeps Down properly. And in doing so I rushed through the form, and failed to keep to my desired pace and program. I banged my ankle during this fiasco, too. So: not proper speed, not proper breath work, and I can’t even do what I was trying to do: I flailed and lost my balance during every one of the tai chi moments I’d explicitly said I’d correct.
I’m not even as good as my imagination pretends I am.