01 July 2005

Morning Practice

Ah, I love practicing taiji outdoors... It's more challenging, in some respects, because the ground is uneven. In taiji, you never want to "fall" onto a foot; you want to place the foot, no weight, then transfer the weight. Why? Because you never know when there might be a hole, or a land mine, or a thorn... (There's a story about a taiji master who felt the land mine as he started to place his foot, and pulled it away without setting the land mine off. No clue if it's true) Also, there are places where you need to spin on the ball or heel of the foot, and they tend to dig into the grass and dirt.

Today I didn't have the park completely to myself. When I got there, a guy had brought his four dogs. One of them (the smallest, about knee-high) kept barking at me and rushing me. I pretty much ignored it. The guy called out that it wouldn't bite, but I could tell that much from its bark. The next larger dog (that I could swear was white, but the guy called it 'Cinnamon') was mildly interested in me. The others completely ignored me. Shortly after I got there, the guy took his pack down to the other end of the park, and they left me alone after that. I think the little one (Teddy) would have just kept barking and barking if they hadn't moved.

The past few times I've practiced, I've tried to work on focusing on the last three inches of the sword. On a real taiji sword, only the last three inches of the blade are sharpened. Why? I don't know for sure, but I do know that there is a fine line between a sword sharp enough to do damage and a sword so weak that it snaps. By having only the last three inches sharpened, the rest of the sword can be thicker and stronger, useful for blocking. I wonder how well a swordbreaker works on a taiji sword... Anyway, back to practice. It is very challenging to maintain focus on the end of the blade all through the sword form. There are places where I find it incredibly difficult to stay balanced with my attention on the sword (one-legged stances, big step-arounds...), and there are places where the tip gets out of my field of vision (which probably means I'm doing something wrong). When the focus is really there, though, I feel a difference in the form. It...flows better, feels like it could actually be effective in a fight. Maybe I'll ask Don for tips on balancing while focusing on the tip...

One more for Tales of the Sword: As I was walking back from the park, I saw a juvenile cat. It wasn't scared of me, so I knelt down to pet it. A guy came out of the nearest house and gave me kind of a funny look. I said, "Good morning!" and got a puzzled sort of hello. "This your cat?" It was. It took me a moment to figure out he was giving me weird looks because of the wooden sword strapped to my back. I'm so used to carrying it around that I forget that other people think it's odd. :-D

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