We won our debate club’s moot court qualifying round on Thursday evening. Did I tell you all that already?  It felt like a tai chi moment — a number of things that we did caused our opponents to overreact; a number of things that they did, we let slip by us and not affect us.  In the end, we were standing, and they were not.  All in all, I’m not sure it was anything we did that brought our victory; so much as what they didn’t do, that brought us our victory.

Although as I told my debate team last night, “Now that the qualifying round are done, all of the weakest competitors are out of the game.  The ones who didn’t commit any obvious fouls, The ones who didn’t stumble over their words, the ones who knew how to introduce a piece of evidence correctly (as we didn’t, on at least one occasion but we weren’t called on it), the ones who didn’t need notes to remember who they were and what they needed to say.  All of those competitors are gone. And we will be too in the next round if we don’t step up our game.” And so we discussed what that looked like — introducing a new piece of evidence, calling out objectionable questions or answers, recognizing hearsay, and most importantly, using up all the time you have available.

Using up the available time. Topher will know what I’m talking about: I went to see a clown, Jeff Johnson, who was talking about improvisation. He pointed out that if you draw a line on the stage, real or imaginary, you can walk from one end of that line to another, and it won’t take very long. Maybe a minute. But then, as an improviser, he showed us how he could spend a total of 45 minutes walking from one end of the line to the other, never quite reaching the end of the line.  By the time the show was done, we’d forgotten entirely about the exercise he’d initially proposed — walking from one end of the line to the other.  And then he sat down in the chair on the end of the line, and it was a revelation.

And it occurs to me that I can do this. I can set an arbitrary time limit, like twenty minutes or thirty minutes, and just start the movements of my form.  I can do the form… and if I haven’t run out of time, I can keep going.  I can continue past the ending of the form, and continue to move, and continue to discover the boundaries and limits of the movements that are possible within tai chi.  I can flirt with putting the movements together in a different order than they are in the form.  And I don’t have to reach the end of the line when I’ve reached the Closing posture. I can open it up like an improv session, and play the tai chi equivalent of jazz riffs.

I didn’t do that today. But I think I will tomorrow.  It’ll be awesome. (I should add… I DID do tai chi today, but this thought didn’t occur to me until I sat down to write.)