Tai Chi Y3D123: Nightingale Floor

Still at my parents’ house. The guest bedroom has a creaky floor. I was awakened by an unexpected text message a little before 5am, and was so thoroughly awake that I simply got up, did my push-ups (15 today), my two qi gong forms, the druidry exercises, and tai chi.

I tried to be sensitive to the nightingale floor in the bedroom, though.  There was a book called Across the Nightingale Floor, which was about assassins in a Japan-like fantasy world trying to sneak across the floor in the room adjacent to the Emperor’s bedroom. The floor had been deliberately designed to creak and sing when crossed, so that no one could sneak up on the Emperor without him being aware.  It was an OK book, as I recall, but I remember being fascinated by the idea of moving without making sound when crossing a noisy floor.

The floor in my parents’ guest room is noisy.

And I am not a small guy who can stand on a floor without it creaking.  Nonetheless, I tried.  I failed, but I tried. How does one try to move on a floor without it creaking? Well, first of all, it involves shifting the weight much more slowly from one foot to another, so that the floor has a chance to adjust before taking the full weight. This is the first possibility. The second is to understand that weight has to go somewhere — it doesn’t just hang in space, but it’s attached to the earth via gravity, and so the connection has to be made — first to the floor and then to the load-bearing timbers under them, and then to the wall, and then to the ground below the wall’s foundation.   Third, if one knows the room very well (much better than I know my parents’ room!) one can have a sense of where the floorboards are likely to creak, and move away from those spots.

I am only a beginner at this.  But it seems to me that part of tai chi is learning to ‘read the room’ with new eyes, and have a sense of the floor — whether it will creak or no, whether some parts of it are sturdier or more capable, whether the furniture or furnishings are fixed or moveable.  I regularly move the bed to one side when doing tai chi in this room, for example; but today I did it in the narrow space with the bed in its usual place.  Had I moved the bed, my tai chi should have been more expansive. But there is sometimes advantage in limitation.

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