One tai chi form and no other work today. Yesterday’s teaching gig was heavy-hitting. Despite going relatively easily, by then end of yesterday’s teaching I was drenched in sweat and heaving hard. But feeling great. It’s an odd combination, really: all worked up and heavily invested in the work— but also clearly doing a LOT of work. I think the students didn’t understand it at all.
To them, we’re just doing these weird movements. They’re in days five and six of study of these movements; I’m somewhere around day 1500 (including all the haphazard time I spent studying it on and off between 1998 and four years ago), maybe closer to two thousand days. Who knows?
I’m also benefitting from the reintroduction, however lightly, of push-hands exercises into my routine. It’s so important to do this and I’d forgotten, being a solo practitioner for so long. At its core, tai chi is a martial art. Doing it non-martially tends to mean that you’re treating it as a dance form, not as a potentially militant sweep of movements. Yet when push-hands comes back into my practice, it’s startling to find how much I’ve learned. It’s opening a window and discovering a whole new season outside.
Watching my students try to imitate my movements is eye-opening too. I don’t want to say anything that will embarrass them. So I’ll simply say that I feel much more confident in my abilities to move — but I look at them and wonder, “is that what they see?” I don’t feel that I’m moving that strangely. But maybe I am.
Last thought. At one point I was dancing to music on Saturday night. And my girlfriend remarked, “it’s nice to see you dancing, rather than doing tai chi to music.” Achievement unlocked, I thought: I was doing tai chi the whole time. I’ve become a dancer in my form.
Teaching Tai Chi is interesting, isn’t it? Our core group of four spent a year thinking about and discussing WHAT we’d want to teach, there being so much more to TC than just the choreography. We each had something we’d want to impress, all evolving from increased body awareness. That’s why your kids are moving strangely so far. They don’t have the body awareness to really mimic you or even notice the details of your movements. We stress noticing the weight shifts, beautiful lady’s hands, balance. Identifying and moving from the tan tien. Not leaning or lunging. And being accepting of your best efforts (not be hard on yourself), and not being afraid to do less to do it well. Such as take smaller steps in the correct position until you have the balance to take a larger step.
Our group ranges in age from mid 30s to mid 70s. One of us, in his mid 70s, has a fairly good martial arts background and he can inform us of the martial application of the moves, which helps in understanding where the force should go. We’ve also learned something that you touched on a few days ago: the difficulty of explaining something three-dimensional. Your topic was different but the concept of the difficulty struck me. We all had the same teacher, and she was sometimes able to explain things and sometimes there was a clear disconnect in her choice of words to tell us what to do. Beautiful lady’s wrist: She said, relax your wrist. I made my wrist go limp. She raised my hand back up and said, no, relax it. I made my wrist go limp. She repositioned my hand again and said, relax it, like this. I said, THAT IS NOT RELAXED. I never did get beautiful lady’s hand until a Tai Chi junkie (his words) led our group one day and showed us by laying his forearm on the table.
By day you teach intellectual and artistic endeavors, and, like the four of us, don’t have any experience teaching a sport I don’t think. It’s a whole different thing, isn’t it? To figure out how to make it appealing, ask questions and ask questions and ask questions. What do they want to get out of it? Not that they know yet. It sounds like your Tai Chi class is voluntary, right? Not an alternative to P.E.?
Love your closing line. Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts.