New Hampshire Four
It seems today that almost immediately after John’s death a group of my older students each left training. They all had been with me 12 to 20 years, but had reached life events that made karate less of a priority in their lives. This was also the time one of the seniors in Isshinryu I had trained with as much as possible, Sherman Harrill, also passed on. It makes all of these events more poignant.
The part time nature of the other students meant for a year my senior student, Mike Cassidy and I were training in karate almost alone. It was a very good year for we could focus on the most advanced level or training we never had enough time to practice with the other students.
In Tai Chi I was now alone. Except for my students nobody anywhere knew the program existed. For over a year I continued my Sunday practice of Yang, Wu and Sword alone.
I also was able to work on my Yang form at full speed, which Laoshi had been suggesting I do for years. When done at full speed it is recognizible as a system of 'kung fu' which it really is. I tried to introduce that to my students but they were too accustomed to the slower pace to change. In the end I would work it both ways performing much of the form at slower speed and then several sections faster.
The passage of the years and reoccurring arthritis bouts as winter began finally ended regular outside practice. I was no longer able to drop down in the deep stances and had to modify my form. My ability to perform the slow motion kicks without pain ended so I modified them to become stepping to crane stances. I couldn’t do tai chi as I had but I couldn’t set tai chi aside.
There finally was a year I had reoccurring leg muscle pulls and finally made a decision to set my Wu practice aside. I realized I could accomplish more by keeping to my Yang form, but had gotten a lot of value with my time in the Wu practice. Foe one thing I came to understand how the slow Wu teaching form was a foundation basis for the Wu fast form Laoshi performs.
A very different experience came from finding “Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan” by Fu Zhongwen. The book contained a small section of detail about where to focus the energy in a bit of the technique, it somewhat ties to Laoshi’s alignment principles but in incredible detail. IMO the most advanced book I’ve found on Tai Chi. Not that I understand it. I’ve read the best books on tai chi compress 50 years of experience into one book, BUT it takes 50 years of work to understand what is written. This was written in China during a time martial uses for tai chi were strongly discouraged. He left an extremely interesting pointing finger, perhaps because the other Chinese might not know what he was showing. Perhaps in 35 more years I’ll figure it out too.
Two years ago I came to another step in my road. The Yang Sword from, a true nemesis to me, finally found it’s place. I came to realize how the form should work within my alignment study of Yang. Suddenly it made sense to make my moving center focus on the sword hand. Another way to state it was that the sword work was a stronger tool in centering and alignment of all my practice. I now was finding a semblance of balance with the sword.
No doubt continuing training under Laoshi may have taken me to the same understanding earlier, but we do the best we can.
Last year I had to make a major change in my karate practice. I chose to begin using tjimande drills for warm up, those and Yang Chi. I found I needed a softer, more gradual way to warm up my body for karate. Of course doing so I’m finding stronger correlation from those arts to karate too, though with my students they only experience the tjimande drills.
So the journey continues.
After all these years I can’t describe chi but believe I understand when I experience it in part.
I have a greater understanding of how my body must work together, the parts in harmony delivering greater power than the parts alone.
I’ve seen friends come and go and pass beyond.
I age and try to learn to go where my age takes me.
Throughout it all I do my best to enter the flow and then leave it.
It’s not about being the best, or about sharing it with others or gaining recognition.
It’s being able to wake Laoshi up at 3am and exclaim “Eureka, I have found it!” more than a few times.
It is not a step apart from my other arts, it is a step within the all.
It’s my tai chi, the grand ultimate
And of course it’s the chaun