The Tai Chi Poem and Drawings

In July through September of 2014, I wrote a series of sonnets that formed a sort of instruction manual to my tai chi practice. In November 2014 through sometime in early 2015, I created a series of illustrations of my tai chi practice, too.  In this page, I collect and collate the individual poems as a single item poem that can be read from beginning to end (along with footnotes, digressions and further explanations).

If you would like to read this poem on Kindle from Amazon.com, or to thank me for writing it, you can purchase it here.  

The poem is published as of Christmas Day 2014 (December 25, 2014), with some but not all of the images in place, and without editing or revision into a finalized whole — but it’s progress. There are approximately seven, maybe eight more panels of diagramming to complete; and I’m sure that I’m going to have to completely re-do all of the images once the poem is revised and edited.  At roughly 7400 words, it’s one of the longer poems I’ve ever composed — although not the longest.

Without further ado, the poem dedicated to my teacher, Laddie Sacharko of Star Farm.

The Tai Chi Poem

1) OpeningOpening

At the opening, breathe in deep three times,
and soften the eyes to see land and sky —
Begin at once, at the day’s dawning chimes,
before the pigeons have a chance to cry
or the wren has chittered in the branches.
Begin with bent knees, but so your toes show;
tuck your buttocks in and tense your haunches;
begin to move, and turn from the waist slow.
Lift the left foot, and widen out your stance—
lift both hands, and then push down and away.
Move, as in syrup, in water, or trance,
with muscles in tension and mind at play.
Be all curves, and relaxed in this rebirth,
suspended from heaven, anchored in earth.

2) Circling HandsPage 2

Both hands rise up to the height of the shoulders,
while feet, planted firm, stand shoulder-width wide.
The hands retreat, like a pair of soldiers
on guard, overrun by opposing side.
Ere they retreat all the way to the chest,
they stop and resist; and the knees sink low.
The hands remain just a moment at rest,
then they, too, press downward, following flow
of chi — that eternally-living flame.
The knees unbend and the body ascends,
though hands still press opponent down in shame,
’til fingers impress with their last extends,
how direct forward motion does not land,
but tumbles down by the circling hand.

3) Ward Off Left

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.

4) Ward Off Right

With feet spread apart and left foot in front,
shift most of your weight from right foot to left,
to close up the gap where you bore the brunt
of the last attack. Let the right foot drift
alongside the left — and hands carry ball,
this time so left lifts, and right pushes down.
Swallow-tail the right hand to make a wall,
as right foot strides out on the way to town.
Let right wrist to left foot be a steel bow,
a tense curve of line that holds open space
between right hand and sternum;  let all know,
how dynamic and flexible this space
for the hands block whatever approaches,
and push back against all that encroaches.

5) Roll Back

corrected image: roll back to Single Whip

corrected image: roll back to Single Whip

From this braced posture, the right hand retreats,
but right elbow remains just in its place
The left hand rises too, and it entreats
the opponent as it travels through space
until fingertips graze the bent right arm.
Thus a right angle is ordered — and stands
between the forearms on the right and left:
This is a posture of defensive hands,
for the arms can shift with movement so deft
to deflect the strike.  Once the hands are firm,
weight can shift away from the front right foot;
the left leg can carry the weight a term —
but neither leg should move from where it’s put
Sweep both hands down and sideways to the left,
to guard the flank that in this move’s bereft.

6) Press

To the left and down, the arms fall away
from roll-back position to guard the hip:
but don’t grab the chi in the normal way;
instead, permit all received force to slip
past and behind you. Yet don’t come to rest,
but now right hand rises to block the path,
gently seeking home on opponent’s chest.
Left hand launches, strongly but without wrath
unwinding torsion from right foot to wrist—
as your hips twist, the whole body’s full weight
pushes out the palm instead of the fist.
As left palm meets right, the right arm’s whole freight
is transferred from you to your surprised foe —
right hand deceives; while the left lands the blow.

7) Push

When press ends, the front right foot holds the weight,
but now at the start of push roll it back,
for if you continue forward, your fate
is to be pulled off-balance.  Give up slack —
separate your joined hands as you withdraw
and orient them so the palms face out.

Single Whip to White Crane Spreads Wings

Single Whip to White Crane Spreads Wings

The left foot moves not, so you let the law
of gravity help you. Act with no doubt,
pushing your mass from your left foot, to front
(make right hand stronger, since diagonal force
from left foot to right hand will push the brunt
of your mass on your foe). But stop — of course —
when your open hands are above your knee
for this disciplined balance keeps you free.

8) Single Whip

Hands stay still. All weight shifts from front to back,
and when the right foot’s light, inward it turns,
pointing to the left. Arms are somewhat slack,
as hips start to twist.  Upper trunk returns
in line with lower. Arms follow where led,
but with left arm straightened and right arm bent.
Shift weight to right foot, and lighten your tread
with the left. Spike right fingers to what’s meant
by “Buddha’s teacup” — and put a saucer,
the left hand, under.  Then explode both hands,
open the whole body: slow, but fiercer
as right fist balances and left arm lands
striking with shoulder, then elbow, then wrist,
last the hand’s grip —  all pure movement, not list.

9) Stand Like Tree

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.

10) Shoulder Strike

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.

11) White Crane /Heron Spreads Wings

Left hand sinks downward, but right hand rises,
the first past left hip, the second up high.
White Heron hunts with shadowed disguises —
“my legs are sticks” is its first tiny lie,
and the second is how it hides its head
behind a curtain of feathers and shade.
Circle your arms, so neither is led
by the other; and stand as though you wade
in the shallows. Right hand comes curving down,
while left hand goes curving to the top,
left palm pressing upward, above the crown;
right hand seeks earth as though to never stop.
Then sudden reverse: both hands turn and close,
to hold chi at navel, fragile as rose.

12) Brush Knee With a Twist Step

Brush knee to step-block-punch

Brush knee to step-block-punch

Draw right hand back, as though drawing a bow,
and shift all weight to the foot on the right.
Step with left foot, and be prepared to go
forward the moment things are even slight-
ly to your advantage. Thrust the right hand,
and sweep left hand and arm across, and down.
Sink the left foot, as though it were in sand;
right foot lightens as the movement makes known
the force from left foot to right hand expressed.
Left hand sweeps attacks to the knee and thigh,
and when all defenses are thus addressed,
the body is almost ready to fly!
But check the attack: re-plant the right heel;
your forward thrust, it will anchor and steal.

13) Playing Pipah

Rock back on right foot. Then set the left heel
firmly on the floor so the knee is bent,
and the thigh is flexed, and springy as steel.
Yet carry no weight there; for the intent
is for the left leg to kick if it must.
Set hands to hold the pose, right under left:
each hand is open, not closed in a fist,
and muscles stay soft, so both hands can drift.
Double-check your posture from neck to tail,
and flex the core and thighs to lengthen spine,
for the body becomes a mace, or flail,
when the obliques can twist your center line
either left or right. For now, remain still —
gather in chi for the movements you will.

14) Brush Knee With a Twist Step (2)

Now, with your right foot anchored to the floor,
pull left and right hands away to the right.
Imagine, if you can, there is a door
just in front of you, and you must now fight
through that narrow gate.  Let your left hand sweep
across the left thigh to defend the knee
as your left foot steps. Your right hand will keep
pushing forward — and though the hand is free,
the right arm transmits the left foot’s pressure.
Shift all your weight from right foot to left sole,
fit through the narrow door: golden treasure
lies beyond! Balance your weight, become whole
with left and right heels equally grounded
and your trunk on left and right defended.

15) Step, Block Punch

(found that I was missing a stanza, and later wrote it.)

With the left hand alongside the left hip,
and left foot weighted — the right foot eases
forward, a boat gliding into its slip,
avoiding a crash. The right hand teases,
curling to a fist, but lacking all force,
as forearm becomes a defensive wall.
Right foot planted? Left hand strikes up, of course,
as waist rotates from left to right, with all
the body’s weight. Then left foot advances,
and left forearm slides upward in defense.
Waist twists right to left, and thus dances
the right fist forward — and the proper sense
is that the body delivers this blow;
from left foot and hips, this jab’s powers flow.

16) Grab Needle At Sea Bottom

grab the needle to false close

grab the needle to false close

Circle left hand clockwise until it rests
lightly on the wrist of the right hand; then
extend that force and diligently press
your weight through that channel. Be surprised when
your right knee buckles: but let it convey
your thumb and forefinger down to the floor.
Don’t make mistakes: first listen, then obey
how far your mass sinks; go that far, no more
nor drive your body farther than it goes.
Pick up the needle and then smoothly rise:
Allow each muscle to do what it knows,
and a little more.  As dozens of tries
you collect, your muscles will learn this move —
and in time its perfection you will prove.

17) Spread Hands Like Fan

End Brush Knee with left palm face out to block
and right hand punching; force comes from the twist,
joining right hand to left foot like a rock —
transfer the chi from the earth to the fist.
Then unbind the hand, and loosen fingers.
Step with the left foot, sideways to the left,
as left elbow swings. The movement lingers;
Let the widened stance be both smooth and deft.
And swing right elbow to the right as much,
(x) for leftward step demands a shift in weight.
(x) Tilt the pelvis to lengthen spine, for such
(x) maneuvers help the abdomen keep tight:
(x) for when you take the time to build the core,
(x) you build your body up to do much more.

18) Throat Strike

Let the right foot carry all of your mass,
and turn the right toes inward. Then shift back—
Now left side bears weight. Both hands pass
from inside to outside; both arms bend slack
as right toes traverse forty-five degrees.
Feet then hold their ground while the waist’s turning
sweeps left arm toward right. Retain the bent knees!
You need both springiness and discerning
centeredness to move.  Turn the left hand down
and block with forearm. Turn right hand supine
and combine your fingers into a blade.
right hand over left, push up the incline
into throat where human voice is made.
Left arm thus blocks and twists their forward fight
to jab them in throat — their might, in your right.

19) Retreat to the Mountain Camp for a Rematch

retreat to the mountain camp, to snake creeps down

retreat to the mountain camp, to snake creeps down

When the strike is delivered to the throat,
Step back with the left foot, withdraw the hands,
And cross your wrists to block. Don’t act by rote,
but mind your foe’s fists! Your safety demands
that your hands sweep down your front and your groin,
as your mass rests in your right leg alone.
Uncross your arms: and be sure they adjoin
empty spaces, and not your center zone.
Step with your left foot, but push with your right!
and plant your hands on your foe as seems best,
for though you should be reluctant to fight,
it’s good that any attack is addressed.
Push body forward, transferring through hand
Springing force coil’d where right foot touches land.

20) False Close

Withdraw the left foot and pull back both hands.
For now, keep your weight latent on the right.
Hands protect the face; beware shifting sands
underfoot, for now. Keep open a slight
distance between arms and line of the chest.
Fill this ‘balloon’ with chi for your defense.
Yet remember that left foot! Stand light, lest
you brace too heavily: be as a fence,
able to let the windy words blow by,
but strong and sure to keep the bulls away.
Yet stand softly, for your hands must deny
any strike that comes. For now, this is play —
imagine the foe coming from behind,
step back left and twist: defeat what you find.

21) Roll Back

From this braced posture, the right hand swings high,
but right elbow remains just in its place
The left hand moves also, and it cuts by
the opponent as it side-swipes through space
until fingertips graze the bent right arm.
Thus a right angle is ordered — and stands
between the forearms on the right and left:
This is a posture of defensive hands,
for the arms can shift with movement so deft
to deflect the strike.  Once the hands are firm,
weight can shift away from the front right foot;
the left leg can carry the weight a term —
but neither leg should move from where it’s put
Sweep both hands down and sideways to the left,
to guard the flank that in this move’s bereft.

22) Press

To the left and down, the arms fall away
from roll-back position to guard the hip:
but don’t grab the chi in the normal way;
instead, permit all received force to slip
past and behind you. Yet don’t come to rest,
but now right hand rises to block the path,
gently seeking home on opponent’s chest.
Left hand launches, strongly but without wrath
unwinding torsion from right foot to wrist—
as your hips twist, the whole body’s full weight
pushes out the palm instead of the fist.
As left palm meets right, the right arm’s whole freight
is transferred from you to your surprised foe —
right hand deceives; while the left lands the blow.

Fold in your arms to the center of chest,
and shift your weight backwards from right to left.
Turn right toes inward from where it steps at rest,
then shift your weight back there in a slow drift.
Right hand forms hook, with all fingers pressed tight,
with left hand open — a saucer below.
Left toes turn out, as if to form a sight
indicating direction you will go.
Now everything is coiled like a spring:
Push off right foot, committing to the strike.
Right arm straightens, like the scorpion’s sting,
while left arm flails: shoulder, elbow and wrist,
ending with hand’s edge, far harder than fist.

Draw the left hand back, and coil the right,
and sink your weight down into bending knees.
As much as you can, drop to half your height:
avoid being in space your foe will seize.
Your weight’s in the right foot, but shift to left
even as you squat closer to the ground.
Left arm inside bent-right, acquires heft,
and swings upward, outward in clockwise round.
Or sweep can go sideways like Hebrew script,
or hand can grab an ankle or a calf.
Unbalance whatever is swept or gripped,
or pushed, or bent. But when you’re down by half,
other risks appear.  Stand up again with force,
so you’re not kept down — and finish the course.

Golden Pheasants all the way to the half-spin

Golden Pheasants all the way to the half-spin

With all your weight planted in the right foot,
lift the left leg until the toes point down,
and thigh runs parallel to floor.  Your butt
gets tucked under; the spine (as should be known)
should be lengthened.  As the left knee rises,
left arm also lifts, parallel to thigh.
Left hand points to sky, the form advises,
fingers and palm flattened — I know not why.
The movement protects the left side from blows,
defending the line of the abs and crotch;
and the hand sweep can block the cheek and nose.
The knee can strike, though, and take down a notch
any who stand near.  Or the leg can kick —
but keep the leg high so the move can stick.

28) Kick Right

Begin by lifting right leg off the floor:
you can’t kick if your foot is on the ground.
The knee should come up easy, and what’s more,
hands should be crossed, right over left, around
the face. Kick from the knee with the foot’s ball;
remember to keep toes out of the way.
Spread hands — left up, right down — to stop a fall;
it’s easy to maintain balance that way.
When kick is finished, retreat with the knee,
and then put the foot back down on the earth.
This movement teaches balance, as you’ll see:
at first the posture will have little worth,
your body spread wide in all directions:
in time your core will praise these projections.

29) Kick Left

Now the same movements on the other side:
begin by shifting weight to the right sole,
and try to do so in a gentle glide.
Moving without notice should be your goal.
Hands rise up to shield face, left before right;
Swing left hip to lift knee so calf dangles,
and the left ankle is both loose and light.
Kick the left foot —keep to acute angles,
and spread out both arms: right hand up, left down
so your balance expands to fill your space.
Move slowly, so when your balance is blown
You know it for sure; accept loss as grace
which tutors you in what practice is sought
by your body: listen to what you’re taught.

30) Half-Spin

Tuck the left ankle behind the right knee,
even as you lift the right heel and press
your weight to the ball. The ball, you will see,
serves as the pivot. Draw hands in; address
yourself as a column, efficiently tucked
and balanced on one foot. Kick left leg out,
to generate clockwise spin: if you’ve lucked
out, you’ll make a half-turn, without a doubt.
The trick is stopping. Your hip is your brake;
a shift of your weight will stop you for sure.
Not quite half? A bit passed? What you can take,
without falling down — that’s fine, and it’s pure.
End with your left knee hanging in the air,
hands before chest, and a dangerous stare.

31) Heel Kick

heel kick to single whip

heel kick to single whip

Lift left knee in line with joint of hip,
while both hands are folded before the face.
Point your elbows out. Prevent any slip
by weighting down your right foot as your brace.
Shift toward expansion from compactness:
The hands spread widely, and left heel kicks out.
Hold to balance instead of exactness;
keep the kick low, to avoid your own rout.
And then, please remember to end the kick;
Don’t be quick to move on, but find the stop.
Draw the heel back below the knee: this trick
will land your left foot. Put foot down, don’t flop
forward, but rebalance your weight and bring
both your arms inward, from their outward fling.

32) Bounce the Baby

Plant the left foot firmly upon the floor,
and gradually move your mass to that sole.
Shift the weight fully, press down even more;
lift both hands to the right, and make them whole
fists, each of them ready, and apt to strike.
As weight shifts, swing both hands downward, and left:
hands aligned, and both fists firmly alike;
Swing both from the waist, lending extra heft.
As both fists reach the nadir of their course,
let them bounce. And next bring the right knee up.
The chi between your hands, bring down with force
atop the knee. Your thumbs are out and up,
or maybe with palms grasping empty air,
or seizing a foe’s ears, fingers, or hair.

33) Box Ears With Fists

From bouncing baby, put down down the right toes,
and then the whole foot from the toe to heel.
Plant your foot softly, for everyone knows
not all ground is smooth; and you had best feel
whatever’s underfoot ere you commit.
Turn the thumbs over, and extend the arms,
And shift weight forward as muscles permit;
Fists rise to head-height; their pressure disarms
the haphazard foe. Balance sits enthroned
in the high-curving chambers of the ears;
and few can stand when both ears are so crowned
with such buffetings. Wooziness and tears
are common. Take care not to break the head—
rare is the foe we truly wish were dead.

34) Roll Back

From this braced posture, the right hand swings high
but right elbow remains just in its place
The left hand moves also, and it cuts by
the opponent as it side-swipes through space
until fingertips graze the bent right arm.
Thus a right angle is ordered — and stands
between the forearms on the right and left:
This is a posture of defensive hands,
for the arms can shift with movement so deft
to deflect the strike.  Once the hands are firm,
weight can shift away from the front right foot;
the left leg can carry the weight a term —
but neither leg should move from where it’s put
Sweep both hands down and sideways to the left,
to guard the flank that in this move’s bereft.

35) Press (next three all on the same entry)

To the left and down, the arms fall away
from roll-back position to guard the hip:
but don’t grab the chi in the normal way;
instead, permit all received force to slip
past and behind you. Yet don’t come to rest,
but now right hand rises to block the path,
gently seeking home on opponent’s chest.
Left hand launches, strongly but without wrath
unwinding torsion from right foot to wrist—
as your hips twist, the whole body’s full weight
pushes out the palm instead of the fist.
As left palm meets right, the right arm’s whole freight
is transferred from you to your surprised foe —
right hand deceives; while the left lands the blow.

36) Push

Press completed, right forearm rides the line
defined by the right knee above the toes.
Before me is a space I might call “mine”,
but recognize what any master knows,
that both advance and retreat have their place.
Release the block, withdraw from right to left,
then wait on the left. Now relax your face
and glance around — was last action so deft
the fight is done? Align fore-arms with thighs,
and spread hands to prep for what happens next.
Shift weight left to right evenly: don’t rise
up to heaven — but sinister to dext’,
keep Tan Tien at same height off the ground:
force moves forward, not “up”, “down” or “around”.

37) Single Whip

Fold in your arms to the center of chest,
and shift your weight backwards from right to left.
Turn right toes inward from where it steps at rest,
then shift your weight back there in a slow drift.
Right hand forms hook, with all fingers pressed tight,
with left hand open — a saucer below.
Left toes turn out, as if to form a sight
indicating direction you will go.
Now everything is coiled like a spring:
Push off right foot, committing to the strike.
Right arm straightens, like the scorpion’s sting,
while left arm flails: shoulder, elbow and wrist,
ending with hand’s edge, far harder than fist.

38) Buddha’s Palm/Twist

As single whip ends, your weight’s on the left,
and your left arm’s out in front, swift to strike,
thumb and first finger open like a cleft —
but bent at the elbow, to block as you like.
Lift the right foot, and swing it to the front:
your right arm’s straight, with your fingers all hooked.
The thumb-side of the hand will bear the brunt
of the blow you’ll land: it goes where you looked,
somewhere in front of your outstretched left hand.
Your whole body swings in this single step.
to commit a blow of surprising strength.
Do you need to stop short? Let the foot drop
and seek your balance at a shorter length.
Recall that bent knees will strengthen your stance,
and keep your spine tuned to gravity’s dance.

39) Double Punch

Leave the hand in the air, that flung the hook
against the side of the enemy’s face;
for many turn to the side where they took
the blow. Twist at the waist with easy grace
and let the left hand curve into a fist
closer to the ground than the right hand’s high.
Send it forward, so your foe gets the gist
of your intention. When you let it fly,
step into the opening created,
so the left foot is forward of the right.
The punch may land, or not, as is fated;
let the left hand rise as you punch with right.
As each hand punches, draw the other out,
so your weight and force are balanced with slack.

40) Step Back to Drive the Monkey Away

The waist winds up, and tenses on the right,
and flinging both arms right, open-handed.
The risk upon your left is real, but slight —
your time with left foot forward is ended.
Shift your left-side weight to the other side,
and step back, to reduce flank exposure.
As soon as you’re firm, at once, start to glide
your weight to left foot, with calm composure—
and as you shift shape, swing both arms around
both open-fisted, and flat to the foe.
Do not attack forward nor stand your ground,
But once again rightward, your weight must go,
followed with flailing arms, pulled from the waist
the post on which this movement’s hinge is placed.

41) Cloud Hands

Right hand ascendant and pointing to sky
As right foot impresses all weight to ground.
Left arm hangs parallel to ground. For why
would you bother to defend all around
(Though you should) when most attacks come face-first?
Left hand rises while right hand sinks inside;
At once with hands open and not closed fist,
Hands turn widdershins and right foot steps wide,
Both drawn across the body’s central line.
Right leg steps behind left, as left sinks in;
hands change places, inverting the incline.
arms spread outward, all open to within.
Right foot steps more, trunk coiling like springs —
the body tightens, as though bound by strings.

42) Diagonal Single Whip

End your Cloud Hands with right palm down and out,
and gazing in the mirror of your left.
Shift weight to the left; the pattern you’ll flout,
while right foot swings in a movement so deft —
Right foot traces a circle’s circumference,
while left ankle serves as center pivot.
Wind up to form the movement’s next nascence:
draw the hands in to the Buddha’s divot.
While weight is on the right foot, shift left heel
so left toes point where you want; what is more,
left toes form center of your aiming wheel.
From right to left, the weight shifts to the fore.
Left arm extends, a heron plucking fish poem
out of the rushes for a tasty dish.

43) Elbow Release

Pull your left arm back as you shift your weight
from front to back, sinister to dexter.
With bent arm, right hand open, block the gate
of the solar plexus. Be the trickster
as left hand passes down between the chest
and the right arm with all due force and speed.
Left hand passes underneath the right wrist,
and then pops up again, outside, as need
may dictate. In this way a foe who grabs
may find their grip is gently prized away;
and the left elbow can deliver jabs
even as left forearm pushes away.
Few fingers have the strength to hold the wrist
against the whole arm: their strength turns to dust.

44) Fair Lady Works the Shuttles 1

Let both arms unfold from the elbow twist,
while the weight is on the back foot.  And now
push forward, with hands flat. You get the gist:
the right hand pressing outward and down low
left hand out too, but high before the face;
stop when both hands are just above the knees,
and extend beyond the toes just a trace.
Shift weight back, then front, through these secret keys:
Weight goes back, and left toes turn right angle;
Weight goes front, hands carry chi on left hip;
Right foot steps steps behind left, on diagonal;
and the whole body starts to twist and flip —
So right foot — behind —becomes right-in-front,
and left foot front gets left behind in shunt.

45) Fair Lady Works the Shuttles 2

You have flipped front to back; now bring the hands
all the way around.  Right palm pushes out
and up, while left palm makes it own demands,
pushing outwards just below. None can flout
the fair lady, as she retreats once more
to carry chi on her hip between palms.
Left foot slides left, in contact with the floor;
weight shifts from right to left. Now your breath calms
and focuses chi in gravity’s heart:
bend the knees and sink into this strength;
turn left toes while the right foot stands apart —
when mass shifts right to left, through that whole length,
let your hands carry that chi from your hip
and push out:  don’t hold it, but let it slip.

46) Fair Lady Works the Shuttles 3

As you shift your weight, make both hands align
as though you were knocking a pillar down:
right hand pointed up, your thumb a strong tine
pointing at the thumb of the left hand’s crown.
Push off with your back foot, don’t just shift weight—
use the front/left foot to resist the thrust.
Bend knees to keep your head at the same height.
Be wary: don’t over-extend or bust
the wall that rises straight up from your toes.
That is ever the edge of your power
in this form, and any foe overthrows
you when you extend beyond this tower.
Beyond this border, your chi can extend
but your flesh should not: this edge is your end.

47) Fair Lady Works the Shuttles 4

Shift your weight back to the right toes and heel,
as hands shift to carry chi on the hip.
and swivel your left toes clockwise from heel.
Slide your weight once more, and then give the slip
to your right foot crossing the diagonal.
As this heel finds a spot two shoulder widths out
turn right toes out. By twist intentional,
push your weight left to right, and with your clout
move the whole upper body from the waist.
Hands push out, with a triangle of void
open between them. When correctly placed,
right hand is on top. With force thus deployed,
return mass to left side, and carry ball —
chi on left hip, knees bent, and standing tall.

48) Ward Off Left

Turn right toes clockwise, with weight on the left
and then shift the weight to that right front sole.
Step through with the left foot, without much lift:
and press out with the left hand, to keep whole
the opening where your chi will expand:
that sphere of space that floats before your core
between the sternum and your outstretched hand.
Right hand guards too, parallel to the floor:
Find a balance point between back and front,
with your right hand blocking the tailbone’s tip.
Remember: this is a block, and not blunt
force applied to your foe, nor should you grip;
instead stop the force of the rushing charge—
make space for yourself, and your ground enlarge.

49) Ward Off Right

Fold the hands inward to carry the ball
before the navel, and then bear with grace
ball of power, for this is where all
of your chi circulates, from this one place.
Center your weight on your left foot, and step
forward with right foot, so toes dangle down
just beside the left — end with a small flip
clockwise of the toes. Recall what is known:
the pointing toe determines direction.
Lift the right backhand to block approaches;
left hand defends the body’s mid-section,
and both hands ward off any encroaches.
Let chi fill the frame of the right arm’s curve:
This is your kingdom, your realm and preserve.

50) Roll Back

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.

51) Press

With weight on back foot, swing arms right to left
across the body at the waist’s level.
Remember that your limbs are not adrift,
but instead, you rule them, and may meddle
in their natural movements, slowing them much.
when both of your forearms have traveled as far
as they can — but your biceps, not as such —
let them tarry, a moment, where they are.
Then push out the right hand, palm in, to land
just as it should, on your opponent’s trunk.
Left hand then delivers force. Do not stand
still, but shift weight forward: the secret skunk
is the left-hand thrust: you can make it feint,
while your weight coils right without restraint.

52) Push

The right foot holds the weight, but now shift back
all of that mass to the left sole and leg.
Remember that it’s not courage you lack,
when you shift your mass to the rearward peg
but know the game is one of push-and-pull:
Fall back, or press on, as the moment needs.
Spread your hands to make a defensive wall
and shift weight forward.  Your opponent reads
your body language; you read his as well,
so be careful not to over-extend.
Thus do not swing your body like a bell;
move your navel on the course you intend
to follow from the start to conclusion.
Keep your focus to prevent confusion.

53) Single Whip

From Push withdraw: the hands draw a broad arc
at shoulder level; weight slides right to left.
Right foot turns, against the clock, in the dark;
Spike right fingers, in a movement so deft
the foe does not see as the right arm bends.
Fold left arm so its and saucers the right–
a teacup of chi. Where your arm intends
to go, now point your left foot: it’s your sight
for the next movement. Press your weight forward
from right foot to left; old back’s now the front.
Unfold the arms. All approach is countered
by your swinging limbs, which fling the full brunt
of your shifting weight: shoulder, elbow, wrist
each in turn can strike, ending with flat fist.

54) Snake Creeps Down

Draw the left hand inside the elbow’s crook,
and sink your weight by bending both your knees.
When standing, your moves are an open book;
Yet when you crouch, you have a chance to seize
initiative — or an ill-placed ankle.
Swing the left arm out from its sheltered place
and begin to stand — Sure, it will rankle
at first, because your knees will lack the grace
to move so easily down and then up,
but you’ll get there — practice makes you better.
The left arm swings with pinky side up,
for this makes the strike faster and fitter:
a cobra hissing from atop its stone
where it soaks up power and reigns alone.

55) Step to the Seven Stars of the Dipper

 When snake ceases creeping, and climbs to sky
strongly criss-cross the wrists before the face.
You may not know at all the reason why
you do this movement; its peculiar grace
is not yet unveiled. Step forward with right,
and plant that foot firm. Balance mass across
both feet as your foundation, and in might
join heaven and earth in you. For no loss
accrues to one so rooted, when you pull
your hands downward to the right, and shift back.
Find the dancing between empty and full—
deflect the hard strikes while you take in slack.
Gravity commands both you and your foe;
when he’s unsure, help him go with the flow.

56) Ride the Tiger

Sink your weight where the right foot is planted,
and make sure your foundation is quite deep.
This move is simple, that much is granted;
but there’s a twist in this move with a steep
learning curve: kick your left foot out a bit,
and point the thumb of your open right hand
straight at your heart.  As though about to sit,
bend the right knee, but continue to stand.
Left foot kicks sideways/right; right hand pushes—
is it just a shove, or some kind of trip?
Do both together, like lightning flashes;
bad balance will cause the right foot to slip
when left foot and right arm twitch together;
be alert to shifts in stormy weather.

57) Full Spin

Tuck the left ankle behind the right knee,
and draw the arms in almost to the chest.
This will assist the movement to be free;
to turn full-circle is sort of a test
you may not pass at first. Flex your right foot,
and stand on the ball and toes; Kick out left,
make tenuous the link between your root
and the earth, and turn as your limbs all lift
Half is not enough; keep going around,
’til your toes face again where you started.
Then stamp your right heel down, and go to ground,
and follow with the left. When you’re rooted
nothing at all can shift you from your stance
but you — yet you must move, to end the dance.

58) Windmill Kick

Weight goes on the left; extend both your arms
out from your shoulders, and somewhat wider—
and thus drive away all potential harms.
Don’t fly: you’re neither a plane nor a glider
but instead rooted firmly on the earth.
All the same, kick up your right leg to touch
the left hand’s open palm. At first, wry mirth
will greet this decree —few can, without much
practice, so kick their legs. Carry right heel
across open space, so toes touch right hand;
At first, the leg resists like hardened steel,
but with time and trial, this move can stand
unmodified. Land the right leg behind,
and swing arms down-right, hips and feet aligned.

59) Bend the Bow

Form hands into fists, as if you had hold
of a long stick, or a reed.  Hollow hands
remind you to keep them aligned; be bold
as you swing, right following left. What stands
in your way will meet with two glancing blows—
and a twist of your hips from right can lift
and weight your punches. This, everyone knows,
that the push-off from the right, builds the left.
Let both hands arc high, but then swing them down,
so they strike double, reversing the first.
The first strike hits ribs; the second, the crown
but only if the move is well-rehearsed.
Practice is the key to performing well,
for no strike may land; few foes just stand still.

60) Double Punch

Step with the right foot, and punch with both hands —
across the body, neither up nor down.
Balance your weight across feet. Shifting sands
lie under them, even when ‘safe’ in town.
Step with the left, and raise left hand to block.
This defending hand should rise from your ribs
to over your head; thus you’ll sweep and lock
a quarter of your core from your foe’s digs.
Balance between feet— and twist at the waist
even as you push off from the right foot.
The ball of the fist must land where it’s faced;
don’t try to shift it much, but from the root
stance, extend as far as your knee and toes—
that’s how far the base strength of your chi goes.

61) Left-Hand Push

Draw back from double punch, but keep both feet
planted on the floor where you left them last.
You’re shifting your weight, preparing to meet
a foe one more time; but you cannot blast
one more strike in the same way as before.
Press forward from right foot and raise your palms.
Keep balanced as you shift across the floor,
Straighten your elbows without fears or qualms
and push outward from right foot to left hand.
In this way, the final movements transmit
the weight of your body. As your command
over flesh and bone increases, commit
to moving slower, and with greater grace:
thus do you master your own time and space.

62) Closing

Step back your left foot to match with your right,
one next to other as they were before —
at the start, when you made your left foot light
and carried chi on your hip. The great store
of chi you sheltered within your center,
is now released, and regathered again,
even as farmers prepare for winter
or generals go about training new men.
Hands retreat almost to the chest, then pause
before they push all residuals low
into the earth-dragon’s slumbering jaws.
Body comes to rest, attuned to the flow
of life within, joining heaven and earth:
at peace in conflict, a type of rebirth.

28 Comments (+add yours?)

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