“What is it you want from taiji?”
I was asked this question from a taiji buddy of mine a couple of weeks ago and this question still lingers in my mind. Ultimately, I practice taiji because of it’s effects in my life. My wife has often noted that I am much calmer and more at ease after a session of taiji. Additionally, she can pick up when I haven’t practiced for a couple of days. Is it that obvious?
Over the weekend, I was watching the Chen Village DVD by Empty Mind Films. The film had an interview with Derryl Willis, founder and Chief Instructor of Seattle School of Chen Style Taijiquan. Derryl was talking about the role of taiji in his life and in summary he noted the practice of taiji has essentially made him a better person. Derryl spoke about how he has incorporated principles of taiji into both his personal and professional life. His interview really resonated with me as I feel that taiji makes me a better person.
Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.
Carol Connelly: …That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.
I had written a post called Cranking Widgets and Taiji almost 3 years ago where I address my goals for practicing taiji. At the time, I had listed the following as my main goals:
- Physical Well-Being and Health
- Mind and Meditation Training
Right now, more than ever, I would have to say my main goal is physical health and well-being. I have always had bad knees, which is one of the reasons why I began training in taiji. Over the weekend, my left knee buckled under me as I was carrying my son up the stairs. In fact, my knees often hurt when I try and climb some stairs, or even when am just walking around. I turn 31 this year and having this much knee pain at a relatively young age worries me.
I am planning on seeing a doctor to get some X-Rays on my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) just in case. I want to be able to play with my grandchildren without worries and/or pains. While I do not plan on getting knee surgery if I can truly avoid it, I just want to know what’s going on.
So, what’s a taiji guy to do when he has knee pains? Many moons ago, I was in a class going through the Yang Long Form. After the set, I went to the instructor and said that my knees hurt when I do X. His response was, don’t do X.
Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.
— Fortune Cookie
Even after all of these years, I have not heeded that simple advice. I push and I push, because taiji is supposed to be about eating bitter, right? Maybe not. Not all bitter is good bitter. I need to be more clear in discerning soreness from pain. Additionally, I know that my knees hurt a lot more when I do things in a low stance. But the signature of some styles is a low stance … I am afraid there may be a disconnect between the path of my mind and the path of my body.
I want to be able to practice things that I can do well into my old age. I want to be able to play a form of taiji without modification when I get older. I want, I want, I want…
To be continued …