Training Diary

I’ll be honest with you. For a while there, I almost stopped practicing. Yes, it’s true. There are a few reasons why. One reason I suppose is that I moved, and as a consequence I lost frequent contact with Laoshi. But I am not going to make too many excuses. I woke up one morning and realized I only sometimes do the form, my Silk Reeling has dropped down to 50 or 60 reps a day, and I almost never do standing anymore. I used to practice nearly four hours a day in the morning. My old health problems returned. How did I fall so far?

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to train when you are alone with no teacher. Kelly Laoshi would explain, that the true test if you would be any good is if you could practice by yourself. Learning in a school.. from a teacher.. he called it mothering. “If you don’t practice by yourself, you’re just wasting my time,” he would say. This transmission included other things he would say, and it had a deep impact on me. Hu Laoshi and Wu Laoshi were just the same. For us Taiji players, it is like rowing on a stream. If you stop rowing, you drift back to the beginning. This is a terrible fate for anyone.

Hu Laoshi always used to tell us… In fact sometimes he got angry at us, and for a full twenty minutes he would lecture us at the beginning of class. “If you try to learn Taijiquan it will teach you what kind of of person you are. If you do not practice hard, it is only a form of exercise like sports. If you want the real taiji gongfu, you must do this, and this, and this… 1000 times a day” (or 5 times an hour, or 3 hours a day, etc. depending on the particular 基本功 (ji1 ben3 gong1) he was talking about). I remember in his Xingyi class, he told us that if we wanted to be good at Xingyi, the first step was to practice the five fists 1,000 times per day. Nobody in the class ever did this. And the next class he would talk to us about it for twenty minutes. I can still remember the day when I decided enough was enough, and resolutely began practicing silk reeling 1,000 times a day, 500 times on each side. It gave real meaning to the old sayings “He who drinks the waters of Chen Village, his legs will shake” and “grind out the strength”. After a while, Laoshi seemed to notice something different about my form, and asked me to demonstrate in front of the class. At the time this was very embarrasing for me. He did not tell the class why my form was different, but I knew why he had asked me to perform. This was a teaching without words and had a different message for me than the other students. It was a great encouragement, which I can never forget. It was the same transmission of spirit which deeply affected me as Kelly Laoshi once did. But how much practice is enough? On this there’s a somewhat interesting topic on the ChenWired forums. But no hard answers.

So, what saved me from my laziness of the past few months? A training diary! The answer came to me one day while I was watching the CSI Season 2 Finale, “The Hunger Artist”. The previous day I had read Wujimon’s Blog Two Weeks of No Taiji. While watching the show I had a sudden inspiration – make a training diary! Get a day planner and write down some easily obtainable goals. 5 minutes of Zhan Zhuang! Twenty reps of Silk Reeling! Two forms! Whatever floats your boat. Start small and go from there. Those are the goals. Then beside that write down what you actually accomplished that day.

I’ll be trying to write down my goals from now on. Weeks in advance. So that I can see in a couple months I’ll be right back up at a couple hours a day practice time. I won’t be satisfied until I’m at least back to my old habits. Because in the end, I am very sorry that I did not practice, even if it was for only a short while.

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One Response

  1. Good luck on your journey! I wrote a lot about this same topic on my post, The Test of Solitude. It’s still something I struggle with everyday! I feel it’s so easy to get sidetracked and distracted from one’s own training goals. In fact, I tried to connect taiji with GTD and lay out a roadmap and goal in wujimon:Cranking Widgets and Taiji. Me.. I focus on zhan zhuang, silk reeling and perhaps some laojia. That’s good enough for me right now 🙂

    I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

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