Nothing happens "to spec"

I continue to be floored by the depth and intricacies of taiji. What I walked away with after Sunday's workshop was the idea that there are more directions to maneuver than you think, or expect. From my default perspective, I often assume there are only one or two ways I can go (block or run!), and I don't think too far beyond that. But with every move demonstrated, there is always another direction that I would never think to go. The excitement is in all the possibilities we didn't believe were available that are now within reach. Because who doesn't love having more

This next round of applications included hand twists, pushes, and FINALLY, the application behind the "shake" posture to release yourself from your opponent's grip!!! For the longest time I wondered if it was a block or strike, and its neither. What I learned from the previous workshop was that each application creates an opening to strike. During this workshop, I learned that a well-designed and executed application also creates a pretty severe jam in your opponent's mobility, and furthermore, most of their attempts to "escape" will intensify the jam you've created in them.

I am also learning to separate the form from the applications. By that I mean that nothing happens "to spec" in applications as it does when we repeat the form in a predicted, choreographed sequence. Tony reminded us these postures are not a script or "storyboard" that we should follow from A to B to C when doing applications. That kind of adherence costs you the adaptability that is required in a real-life, unpredictable conflict. Rather, referring to postures becomes a bank or buffet of options that can be called upon at any given time, but not in sequence.

To be honest, I still get nervous working in pairs - it's really an introvert's nightmare. When I first started taiji and was introduced to push hands, I cringed. I saw taiji practice as a relaxing place to be solitary in my own form - not engage with more people! The idea of working with someone else can be draining when I am already using up my energy correcting my own moves, let alone trying read another person's. These workshops have been a huge turning point. There simply isn't any other way to practice these moves without a partner. And since these applications are just too cool to pass up, I am overcoming my fear and welcoming each new partner I work with. It becomes a fun game. What will the next person be like? What will they teach me about my form? It's somehow poetic that the most combative exercise we do in taiji becomes the most communal and supportive. Whether in words or in felt movement, the practice pairs have allowed for some of the best insights into my own blind spots and improvements in my practice.

Much gratitude to everyone! Until next time!