Tai Chi Y3D245: Roll Back

Projects: Adirondack chair
… and footstool! Don’t forget the footstool!

This move was hard for a couple of reasons:

  1. I left my power cord at school last night, and the laptop battery finished decharging overnight;
  2. I was up very late last night (despite my illness) finishing an Adirondack chair.
  3. I didn’t have a rough draft of the drawings for today — up until today, I created the drawing the day before, and then edited and refined it a bit in the morning.
  4. I haven’t had my coffee in four days.
  5. Discovering that the tablet on which I’m composing the pictures (in Paper by fiftythree.com) is locked out of the school’s network, which means that I can’t upload the diagram during the school day, even once the laptop is charged. Augh!

All of these resulted in a stunted practice, to say the least.  Feels like a Charlie Brown moment. Here’s the football, now it’s gone. Oh well.

But as I’ve said before, sometimes it’s about doing it right, and sometimes it’s about getting it done.  Not every practice has to be perfect, if the overall tendency is towards a minimum acceptable practice.  And it is.

About the Drawing

But, enough about the issues of trying to get the work posted.  Let’s focus on what’s really important, the tai chi form.  This one was a bit tricky to get right, and commenter Topher was quite correct — break it down deliberately into six poses or postures within the movement, and it’s easy(ier) to get the forms correct.  Read the image across — first the three images, left to right, in the top row; then the three images in the bottom row.

six-step diagram of the Tai Chi form "roll back"
six-step diagram of the Tai Chi form “roll back”

The post about this movement, in the sonnets, is here, in Day 129 — but I revisited this poem twice. I’ll have to wait to hear from commenter Quin about which one he feels matches up best with the expected movements:

  1. ending with ward-off left, with the weight shifting from right foot to left foot anchoring the body, the right arm forming a shield, and the chi cradled against the body like a pillow
  2. Then the right hand swinging up to block, the left arm beginning to swing across the body and in.
  3. The body strong (not rigid, thanks commenter Christina), balanced between left and right, with the chi held against the central lower body; the left hand touching right elbow; the right hand pointed skyward.
  4. The weight rocked back from both feet to left foot, with the left leg and arm forming a cradle for the chi;
  5. the sweep of the hands across the body and the dispersal of the chi;
  6. to be collected again at low points of gravity on the left side of the body, as right arm and left leg form the defensive line.

I think the third Roll Back poem works the best with these pictures:

From Ward-Off Right,  lift the right hand skyward:
bend arm at the elbow, keep bicep sure.
draw back the left hand, palm facing backward;
bend the left knee so that you can endure
the onrushing thrust of your opponent.
Left hand touches right elbow, blocking force
even as weight shifts, the ever-constant
flow of chi like a river in its course,
from right foot to left foot. This is the way
to make your opponents overextend —
let them press on your warded defenses
when you are forward;  they are at their end
and when you draw back your walls and fences,
their over-reach becomes your advantage;
their mass becomes a thing you can manage.

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  1. P.S. The chair looks terrific. Footstool too. Probably worth a little lost sleep in the long run, especially as it looks like a decent place to nap.

  2. Hi Andrew! Here’s my current plan for the Tai Chi practice, starting on the 22nd. As far as I can tell, with the possible exception of “stand like tree”, it looks to me as though the first sixteen of your sonnet entries match up exactly with the first sixteen moves listed here (http://www.taichido.com/chi/formlists/listsyanglong.htm) for the Yang Long Form. So as there are plenty of YouTube videos of people doing this under names like “108 Form” and “88 Form”, I’ll have some kind of reference for at least the first sixteen entries. I’ll try tackling a new form a day, but if I’m struggling for whatever reason, I’ll go slower; in which case I may even have enough video reference to last me the full thirty days. (This is, of course, assuming I can decipher where the moves begin and end in the videos. They all look like running water to me right now.)

    I’m planning for my order of operations will be:

    1. Try to follow the sonnet to the best of my comprehension.
    2. Check the diagram you’ve drawn, if there is one, and see how that changes my understanding of how to move.
    3. Check this against a video of the Yang Long Form.
    4. Go back to the poem and diagram, see if they make more sense, and use them as my spiritual inspiration, even if physically speaking I end up aping a video.

    As for commenting on today’s diagram and how it matches the sonnet and moves, honestly I don’t feel like I’m in a position to judge that yet, as I’m not planning to get up and start trying to move my body into these positions until the 22nd. (Sorry, rules are rules!) I will say that, purely on a gut level, it looks like today’s diagrams might be the easiest to understand yet. But that’s without actually trying it.

    Shall I comment on your blog each time I process a new sonnet/diagram? And the real question is, where would you like me to comment? Under the most recent blog entry, or under the most recent entry of the related sonnet?

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