I enjoy taiji a lot, and most of the time I totally look forward to my classes and practice. Lately though, it’s been mostly aggravating.

I understand the reasons why, and with any luck it will be a temporary condition that I can live with it, but for the moment it’s difficult and annoying. I’ve been having problems with aching knees during and after class, and while it’s not what I consider to be serious pain at this stage, I’m taking it seriously anyway. To be very clear: taiji itself is not hard on knees. Me doing taiji badly is what’s hard on my knees. I move in ways that let my knees get twisted, which is never a good idea and which taiji does not encourage. This is a practice I want to continue for a long time, so I want to get to the bottom of these problems now.

This week my primary coach spent a large block of time watching me move and pointing out areas where I go wrong. Some of them I suspected, a few took me completely by surprise. I’ve only just started to undo my bad movement habits and grow new ones, and it’s hard work. The familiar saying has it wrong — practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Some of these motions go back to my very beginnings in taiji practice, almost two years ago. I’ve got a lot of bad practice to overcome.

It’s worth it. I’ll readily accept the frustrations of this stage, because I believe that months and years from now, my taiji as a whole will be much better for it. But the emotional response at the moment is frustration. The physical response is tension. The mental response is confusion and fatigue, trying to slot new ideas into old holes, and then digging new holes when the old ones are all wrong.

This business of change is really hard work.

I’m taking a break from practice today, to give my brain and my body both some rest. When I came downstairs today, I plugged my iPod into speakers, as usual. I skimmed one of my high-rotation playlists to find today’s opening track. Right near the top of the list was “Too Good Too Bad.” I hit play and went off to the kitchen.

Without even asking, my feet started to move. This is a song that always makes me want to dance. While making tea and washing up, I crazy-shuffled all over my kitchen, just because I could. Just because it felt good.

Today this is my taiji. Today is the yin that balances a week’s worth of yang, the moment of receptivity and letting-go that balances many moments spent in focused, purposeful action. I’ve spent all week thinking about “right” stances and “right” posture and the “right” way to shift weight and step and move and turn. Today the “right” way to move is however I darn well feel like it. Practice will keep. Today is for dancing.


3 comments so far

  1. Kim on

    It really is all perspective, isn’t it Chris? Sometimes you can spot it yourself, sometimes you can choose to flip that switch yourself & sometimes it takes someone else’s insight to shift the perspective for you. Thanks for your recognition of that yin & sharing it. Flipped the perspective of a crap run that was mostly walking & really uncomfortable & way shorter than it was supposed to be and beating myself up about it. Instead it’s now knowing how to train & knowing when to choose to cut it short in order to be able to reach the larger goal in 2 weeks. Simple shift in perspective & instead of feeling like a quitter, now I am positively brilliant! :-)

  2. stitchesandwords on

    You ARE brilliant :) part of the frustration here too is over physical limitations, because in order to fix my taiji issues I need to build strength in my legs. As soon as I get tired I need to stop for a break, or I just go back to my bad-habit coping mechanisms — and it seems like I get tired so fast. I WANT to work faster, but my body says no. Like you say, knowing there’s a bigger picture really helps. We totally get credit for today: high five on our progress!

  3. Susan Hill on

    I feel a lot of the same with singing, sometimes. A lot of what the Together 2000 choir sings, the harmony is made up, there’s no music for it, so you learn it by ear. Except, a couple of times, I’ve learned something wrong, and two practices later, the director suggests a change. But I’ve LEARNED it already, and it’s hard to make the necessary adjustment. Not completely the same, but i understand the frustration of the change not happening, or not happening nearly fast enough. Stick with it, though. It’ll all be worth it in the end :)

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