I have been shifting and refining how I practice quite a bit since the start of 2017 - and I have a backlog of learnings to post in upcoming weeks. Some of the topics will veer away slightly from the actual taiji techniques because I am realizing that in order to make a practice central to one's life, the surrounding lifestyle also impacts the results, for better or worse. Like planets orbiting a sun, or as my teacher puts it, total integration.
First, I have decided to stop offering my weekly class. I really struggled with this one. Teaching has been an amazing way to learn and cement many taiji breakthroughs of my own. I'm proud of setting up my own class - from finding a venue, working with committed students who complete the form, to making form corrections. However, I am aiming for depth and intensity of my own practice, so that I can make clear and cleaner explanations of each posture for my "future" students.
This past month, quite spontaneously, I decided to do a Month of a Thousand Kicks. It was inspired by the film title, Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, which I have yet to see. There is a particular section of the form that contains six kicks - and is easily glossed over. It's easy to just move through that section "not really trying" and half-asked because of the level of balance, control, and precision it requires. Furthermore, the generation of momentum and power is an aspect of taiji that is often "excused" due to the prevailing image of taiji as gentle, low-impact movements for "old people in the park." All this, of course, depends on the practitioner and their reasons for taking up the sport (relaxation, fitness, mindfulness) as well as one's physical condition.
So what did I learn after doing 1,000 kicks? I don't want to stop! These kicks have been an enigma to me, so allowing myself to focus solely on their execution felt luxurious. With each session, the slaps to my kicks were getting louder and louder. The unwanted side effect was the self-inflicted bruising on my feet and ankles, but they were fine with follow-up icing and honestly made me feel pretty bad-ass. I learned a lot about the lead-in and out to kicking: I don't need to exaggerate my transitions or circular movements. These create too much vulnerability (too big a target) and cost me the timing of a precise hand slap to my kick (big circles take too long).