On “GETTING IT ALL BACKWARDS”

folkcirc4Boy, every one of us has been there at one time or other, eh? Well, maybe if we look at “GIAB” in another way, it can be a powerful training tool.

Tai Chi is full of stories about how lessons have been learned from “nature”, particularly animals. Having worked with horses a lot, I have brought a lot of “lessons” from them over into my Tai Chi.

A couple of these important lessons are: 1. I have to ride the horse as he is at this moment — not “prejudiced” by what he was yesterday or what I hope he will be tomorrow. In other words, you’ve got to work with what you “have”, not what you “don’t have”; 2. Sometimes the “best way” is to put things in a different order than you would usually do, almost to the point of seeming to be “working backwards” toward your goal. Animals have minds of their own, and require you to be very “creative” at times while not violating the basic “principles” in which you believe. Sometimes. Our bodies seem to have “a mind of their own”.

Let’s apply the above to something which I’m positive has happened to everyone: you’re going thru your “Form“, and suddenly you “space it“. Doesn’t matter whether it’s some postures that are relatively new, or a “Form” you could almost do in your sleep — it happens. Most of you would stand there angry/confused/whatever about what you “don’t have”, i.e. you “don’t have” the next move. Let’s look instead at what you DO “have”: you “have” the last posture you completed plus you “have” the next thing you can remember to do.

Go to the next posture you can remember, even if maybe you only remember part of it (“Darn! I can remember that I turn 45-degrees to the right, but I can’t remember the arm configuration…” — just go with what you “have”, forget about what you “don’t have”.) Stand quietly, breathe, “turn loose” — can you feel what happened just a split second before you got to where you are now? Maybe you still can’t remember the arm configuration, but the footwork & “orientation” are clear — fine, go with them, quit beating yourself up over the arms (maybe just keep them in a small “holding the ball” configuration near the dan tian, so they stay out of your way). Now, how about a split second before that? Keep working your way backward by “increments”, physically as well as mentally. Each time you have worked backward an “increment”, “go forward again” to that starting point of what you remembered after that part you “spaced”. Keep this up until you have gotten back to your last “complete” posture. Then, try going forward again & continue your “Form”.

If you still can’t “feel” that #@%$!!* arm configuration “offer itself”, but you have all the footwork & orientation up to the point where you again have “the whole enchilada”, SO WHAT!!! Aren’t you still further ahead than if you had just stood there stuck, getting angrier/more frustrated/etc.? Next time you go thru the “Form”, maybe the arms will “suggest themselves” for part of the time at least. If not, continue “holding the ball” so that you’re at least not getting in your own way. Continue this way until next class, you maybe call a classmate, etc.

This approach can be a very valuable “learning how to learn” experience, as it will teach you to work things out yourself on the basis of what you “have” to work with — even if it is what others would consider an “unconventional” way. I’m sure we all re-wind parts of videos when studying them: “Lemme see how he gets into that”. And, you’re actually watching the movement “backwards” while getting to the point you want to see, even if you hadn’t thought of it that way before. Where is it written that you yourself cannot go into “re-wind” when you want to study your own “Form”? “Lemme see how I get into that…” Maybe you’ll find a whole new meaning to “GETTING IT ALL — BACKWARDS”.


Kris Kovach

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