Today during tai chi, I did the Half-Spin about halfway through the form, and almost fell over. Except, I didn’t. I didn’t fall over. I didn’t even almost fall over. I sort of… wobbled. Bounced. Shimmied. I’ve done this before, of course. Today was more unnerving.
I don’t really have the words to describe it. My foot was, I think, on the floor. But I unbalanced at the level of my shoulders, maybe; or maybe it was lower than that, say, my ribcage. And my body … sort of pressed the foot into the floor… and then shimmied, bounced, wobbled, back into position. Without falling over, exactly. It just found its balance and found the way to move into that position, through that position, and back to normal.
I completed the rest of the form, a little unnerved. There were some places where I felt this similar wobble. Not as dramatic, but as clearly off-balance as that first spin. Hmm. I wound up doing the form again. No wobble. No repeatable results. Argh.
My dad, who used to be a navigator with the Naval Air Service, calls this Bench Test OK., which is what would happen when the flight crew would report a radio or another piece of electronics on board the aircraft as faulty. The ground crew would pull the electronics component out of the cockpit, run a couple of tests on it, and then put it back in the cockpit; the notice on the pre-flight checklist would come back Bench Test OK. And then, at 6,000 feet or 15,000 feet or whatever, the gremlins would get the better of the electronics again, and they’d report it to another ground crew in another airport. Six or eight bench check OKs later, the component would blow a fuse or explode messily on the bench, and they’d get a new one.
I’d like to think that this is just a wobble. But at the same time, I’d like to not blow a fuse or a kneecap during a bench check. All the same, I think it highlights the genuine challenges of fighting, vs. practicing. All sorts of things can go wrong during a fight; your body can give out at the least expected time, quite apart from whether your opponent knocks you silly. It’s one of the things I think tai chi has trained me in — being wary of conflict, and suspicious of those who advocate violence. It’s very much the difference between preparedness and training on the one hand, and actual conflict-seeking on the other. Accept the company of those who practice; but be cautious of those who throw caution to the winds.
Oh, one other thing. My friend Scott Rassbach reports that his friend Tim Mansfield has proposed an intensification of practice during Advent, which begins at the end of December. It seems like a good idea. It’s marked by the hashtag #adventclosethegap I think I’ll be doing this for December. I need something that pushes my process a bit.