You all get two moves today. Because Shoulder Strike is so simple — just stand there with one foot on the ground and the other off the ground, supported by your chi — that I didn’t know what else to do.
I hope readers note from yesterday that we were facing mostly northeast at the end of the Single Whip, but then for Stand Like Tree we’re facing mostly north, and then the Shoulder Strike is performed mostly northwest. That’s what the color changes mean in the backgrounds of these two drawings. Is this helpful? Is this the right way to go about it?
Stand Like Tree was first described in this poem, several months ago, like this:
Shift your weight to the now-forward left sole,
so all of it flows through toe, ball and heel:
Attend these “three nails”: it should be your goal
to be joined to earth yet springy, like steel.
In this effort now imitate a tree:
your left leg a trunk digging into ground,
your other three limbs all open and free.
Keep your eyes open and look all around.
Lower your arms and show the sky each palm;
right heel on the earth shows mere illusion.
Drape yourself in clothes of resourceful calm
and cast aside your doubt and confusion.
Trees take their nourishment from dark and light:
be thus rooted, and unafraid of night.
And I wrote about Shoulder Strike the following day, (which was Day 134 of this year) in this way:
Bring feet together, close hands to the chest
or not quite there —and flex the wrists as well.
Left hand guards head, to swat away a pest,
as right hand defends the left armpit well.
Retain all weight in the left foot for now,
but step to the side with the right foot lightly.
Then level the hips and, like a ship’s bow,
shift your weight from left to right so slightly
that your shoulder arrives after your hip
and left leg follows, with just a touched toe—
Sweep the right arm down, as fist forms from grip;
push left hand to right armpit strong and slow.
Balance with bent knees, all weight on the right,
and lengthen spine with the abdomen’s might.
Today’s practice was pretty good. I did Five Golden Coins again, and found myself quite prepared for tai chi — so I did that, instead of doing the second qi gong form. I then did Single Whip to Stand Like Tree to Shoulder Strike to White Crane Spreads Wings a dozen or so times, to see if I could fit four movements on a page. I don’t think I can. But I do think my drawing skills are getting a little better. The making of the drawings has been beneficial to my skills, even if my commenters and readers have to work for hours to interpret them. Oops.
I think back to my own learning process in the late ’90s, though, and to the challenges my current students have on the playground in following the movements. And there’s a lot to keep in order: left-right positions of legs and arms, front-to-back orientation, attention to where the weight is… this is a lot to keep in mind. I was decoding this information from a living human who was able to explain, to grab my arm and move it, to cock my hand at an angle just so, and so on. Trying to do it with words and pictures alone is a massive challenge.