Tai Chi Y3D243: Warding the Left

Ward off Left
Ward off Left

Here we go.

So here’s the bizarro-land truth about this “draw the tai chi form” project or process I’ve embarked upon. It’s making me feel like I have no idea what I’m doing at all.  Today’s movement is Ward-off Left, which I wrote the sonnet for here, on Day 127 this year.

Shift body weight to flow down through right sole,
and move hands and arms to carry the ball
so left hand cradles and right rests on whole,
the right knee bent so the leg supports all
yet remains strong to spring into action.
Step out with the left foot, easy and slow;
plant it heel to toe, to test the traction,
so that the foot has time to check and know
the ground’s condition. Brush the sparrow’s tail,
and bring up the left hand into a guard,
with shoulder to wrist curving without fail.
Push the right hand back and down, for it’s hard
to defend backside from knee strike or kick;
from left wrist to right foot, make one strong stick.

One of my commenters asked me to divide the drawings into lines of the sonnet; and although I’m reading the sonnet and trying to structure the drawing to match, I’m not sure I have the skill of matching words to pictures, or pictures to words. It’s like, I’m asking my brain to do and think about the world in completely different ways all of a sudden.  Nonetheless, let me try.

Picture 1, carrying the ball, happens in lines 1-5.  Picture 2, showing the step with the left foot, begins at line 6, “Step out wit the left foot”, but covers the form through to line 11.  The side diagram, labeled “left side” in the upper right corner of the picture, represents the position of the body in lines 12-14. Picture 3, in the lower left hand corner, is really the first step of the next movement, Ward Off Right.

Also, it’s important to note the presence of the Chi ball in this posture. It starts out being carried on the left hip, about the size of a softball or a bit larger, and then it’s lifted up and expanded into a sphere between the body and the outstretched left hand, when it’s huge; and then it ends up being carried on the hip again, somewhere between the size of a softball and a volleyball.

Doing tai chi today was… difficult.  Yesterday I was incredibly sick — vomit, diarrhea, fever — and today I’m doing much better but still quite physically weak.  But the quality of my tai chi form? Pathetic.  I’m glad I bowed out of work for another day — it’s not even noon, and I’m exhausted from sitting on the couch.

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    1. (a) Shift your body weight to flow down through the right side, right knee bent, supporting your entire weight with strength and readiness to move.

    (b) As you do this, move your hands to your left hip [Please check this, the picture shows the right hip but the Summary about chi balls says the left hip… I decided to guess left hip because the picture also shows a bent left knee, not a bent right knee as in the sonnet—I’m guessing that you got the orientation mixed up in the Sketch, but that the chi ball goes on the hip opposite the bent knee] to hold a ball of chi about the size of a softball or a bit larger, cradled in your left hand with the right resting on top. [please check this too—again, the Sketch is different]

    2. Step out with the left foot, bending the left knee to land on the full left foot from toe to heel, straightening the rear right leg in the process.

    3. (a) Right brush the left hand along the right forearm (“brush the swallow’s tail”) to bring it to a guarding position at about shoulder height, a nice long curve of the arm from shoulder to hand; the ball of chi should move with the left hand, an expanding sphere filling the space between hand and chest.
    (b) At the same time, push the right hand back and down, defending behind.
    (c) This should result in a feeling of there being a solid stick running from left wrist to right foot.

    Today the preceding write-up took me a full forty minutes. Not two hours, but still twice as long as I budgeted, and almost nothing in the way of actual physical practice.

    Explicitly listing the sonnet lines was indeed helpful, thank you.

    I *think* (though I’m not 100% sure) that your first Sketch was mirror reversed. It took me some extra time and energy to sort out what I understood to be incongruencies and try to deduce what the right version must be.

    If it turns out that there wasn’t actually a mistake in the Sketch, then I am very confused, and I definitely need more in the way of sketches and description in order to understand what’s going on.

    Either way, please don’t feel the need to rush these Sketches and Summaries! I’ll gladly wait longer for each new entry if it positively affects their accessibility.

    • I’m turning Japanese. “Right brush the left hand along the right…” should read “Lightly brush the left hand…”

    • I’ve looked at the Ward-Off Left sketch, and I think you’re right. It’s confusing, and it’s wrong. Sorry about that.

      Looking at the poem here for Ward Off Left, I’d have to say:

      1.(a) shift the weight to the right side, yes;
      1.(b) carry the chi ball on the right hip (left hip is wrong, not sure where I said that), with left hand cradling and right hand on top.
      2. Stepping out wit the left foot.
      3.(a) Brush the Swallow’s Tail — left hand comes forward, right hand goes back, and sort of rolls the chi ball, like you were petting a bird that was taking off in the direction behind you.
      3.(b) and (c) Yes, push the right hand back into a defensive posture for the buttock and tailbone, and a strong defensive line from the left wrist down through the body to the right foot.

      The big change here seems to be that by 3(b), your weight is equally balanced between left and right feet, maybe a little more on the left.

  2. Andrew, perhaps is just a coincidence that you’re getting so sick just after making the commitment to make all of these diagrams, but I’m worried that you worries about the challenge you’ve set yourself might have knocked you out of balance.

    The way I see it, neither of us have committed firmly to any kind of deal yet. Let’s make sure the terms we’re agreeing to seem realistic before beginning in earnest. I get that this can help give you the impetus to get started on a new project, but if you’re going to do that, let’s make sure it’s one that’s both realistic and satisfying for you.

    • I think it is coincidence that I’m sick just after the commitment to making the diagrams; more specifically, I think that something else has made me ill, and the message to “slow down” was received loud and clear. But I don’t think the drawings had anything to do with it.

      That said, I think that trying to do a drawing a day is unrealistic, and I can see these drawings and diagrams coming out at a much, much slower pace than the sonnets did. Which means that you should feel free to alter your commitment to learning the form this way, as well…?

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