Volume 4 Number 4
"Ni jia you jige mao?" my
friend said to me carefully and slowly, asking me how many cats I had. "Wo
you yige mao," I said, playing along with her. After only one month
of Chinese language lessons, she was making remarkable progress. Her
tones were correct, she was intelligible, she had the right words. But
most importantly, she'd had the courage to use this new language of hers.
Taijiquan offers us many similar opportunities to test our courage, by
stepping out literally and figuratively. To walk in the door that first
night of classes takes courage: confronting fears of looking foolish as
a beginner, not understanding what we're supposed to do, not performing
up to our adult expectations. To continue to practice takes courage: commitment,
struggles with technique, perseverance, and a leap of faith--that taijiquan
is the right path for us. Then there's push hands, of course, where courage
is needed to face our actual physical opponents and our egos.
We need courage to tackle the myriad of ways in which we can do taijiquan "wrong." You
can lose your balance, forget what move comes next, put your foot in an
untenable position "yet again" that will mess up the execution
of the next five moves. You can suffer a myriad of embarrassments: you lose
your balance in front of your fellow students, realize that you've got your
shirt on inside out and that your hair is a mess, and to top it off, you're
stiff as a board and your seat is sticking out.
Let yourself take this challenge: have the courage to do the best that
you can within any one moment. Do the wrong move--but do it well. Step incorrectly--make
the best out of it. Focus on what you can do well and expand from there.
Dare, like my friend, to try out new challenges. It's okay to do taijiquan
wrong. Being "wrong" shows you where to go next. Besides, if you
were perfect already, you'd be bored with taijiquan, and would have had
no reason to start it up anyway.
This week, my friend and I went to an art opening of Chinese calligraphy.
She had a question for the Chinese gallery owner, but didn't know the word
for "question." "Wenti," I whispered to her, and she
boldly marched over to the owner, and assertively said, "Wo you
yige wenti." This is the hallmark of a good student, to try something out,
to engage with it fully, to risk failure--and to risk success. Learning--and
life--is all about taking risks on all levels. In opening up to trying,
we at least have the possibility of gaining.
Barbara Davis - Editor
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Taijiquan Journal.
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