I’m finding that the business of making a poem for each movement is interesting, but takes a long time. I started this poem a couple of times, but it took a while during the course of the day to complete it. Sorry it’s taking longer and later in the day to complete these entries.
Today’s form-poem is about the movement, Press. I’m finding that as I perform this movement, which appears, I think, five times in the tai chi form I do (although it’s a slippery movement and it keeps escaping for me), that there’s a deliberateness to the movements that I’ve written about, and a consciousness, that wasn’t there before — and that I perform the given movement with considerably more care and attention than otherwise. So I think, overall, that this is going to prove good for my practice.
To the left and down, the arms fall away
from roll-back position to guard the hip:
but don’t grab the chi in the normal way;
instead, permit all received force to slip
past and behind you. Yet don’t come to rest,
but now right hand rises to block the path,
gently seeking home on opponent’s chest.
Left hand launches, strongly but without wrath
unwinding torsion from right foot to wrist—
as your hips twist, the whole body’s full weight
pushes out the palm instead of the fist.
As left palm meets right, the right arm’s whole freight
is transferred from you to your surprised foe —
right hand deceives; while the left lands the blow.
It’s hard to figure out how to encapsulate the whole movement in only fourteen lines. There’s left-side and right-side movements to consider; there’s what the lower body does and what the upper body does, and there’s quadrant concerns (upper left vs. lower right, lower right and upper right together, and so on). Not everything fits. All the same, I find that as I write these poems, it’s as though I have my teacher reminding me of all kinds of things from numerous practices, and while some of them are quite abstract others are deeply specific. It’s interesting how the story unfolds, poem by poem, and how much I’m getting reminded in the process of how the form works, and what each part of the form is supposed to do.
From the Archive: I haven’t checked the archive of earlier entries in a while. Let’s see what was up on Day 130 of year one? Oh, I was returning from my annual summer retreat, just as I did this year, two weeks ago (funny how much off my practice is, but I did have to rectify the count in there). And Lisa said something very important — that her tai chi practice broke down when she became perfectionist about it. Curiously enough, I heard this from another friend of mine over dinner last night: Ann said more or less the same thing, that she’d had a strong daily practice in tai chi for about seven years, and then one day she tried to intensify her practice, and … she just couldn’t bear it. It fell apart about three weeks into her practice, and she stopped doing tai chi entirely. Now, several years later, she’s practicing jujitsu, and having a great deal of fun, and getting back into tai chi as well. But she’s doing her best not to take it too seriously, or practice too intensively. A useful reminder for me… I don’t want to burn out too soon on this. Keep it easy, keep it simple, be unattached to results.
And what about Day 130 of year two? Oh look: I was having trouble touching my toes after a few days of sleeping in a tent during my summer retreat. And this year, even with a very-much-lightened practice, I never had that difficulty at all. Progress, and not perfection, and all that.