Interesting morning practice.
It was overcast, a bit cool, but no breeze, so I headed to the wharf for morning practice. I got to the end of the wharf and started to loosen up when it started to pour rain – big, hard drops. So I retreated back to my car and headed to Chetzemoka Park, a five minute drive. The gazebo offered cover, and the rain turned to mist so I was comfortable.
I went through the Long Form coming up with a new idea which I will tell you about later. I finished a very slow and deep practice and was just standing, relaxing, gazing at the Straits, when a Great Blue Heron flew along the horizon. It passed to my left, then circled back, and landed in a large fir tree about 30 feet high, on the end of a branch. Just sat there. About two minutes later, another Heron did exactly the same move, and landed on the branch directly on top of the other one. Just sat there.They were there when I left.
Just like the crow remembrance stimulated by the crow in last weeks posting, the Herons triggered a thought from the past. Our house, which is near to The Studio building, is actually quite secluded, being surrounded on three sides by large trees and on the fourth by a large pasture. We built a fish pond with a waterfall so we could enjoy the calming sound of running water. We stocked it with Koi.
It wasn’t long before it was discovered by racoons who found great enjoyment in fishing and ripping up the water plants. We decided to redo the pond, and as a result, it was too deep for the racoons to reach the fish, as they retreated to the bottom at the first sign of danger. That did the trick. The racoons would stand on the edge, put their hands in the water, but to no avail.
A few years later a Heron discovered this free meal spot. We actually saw one fly onto a wall next to the pond, fly down to the edge, and try to spear the Koi. We shouted to scare it, and away it flew. Darn. The pond is too deep even for the Heron, but it is stressful for the fish and us. We tried to come up with a plan. Before we could implement one, a Heron arrived and was perched on the edge of the pond. My wife, being the daughter of a hunter, threw a shoe at the bird, and it flew off, but didn’t have enough lift and crashed into our bushes. On no! We went over to examine what happened and saw the bird just standing there, not moving.
We have a lot of big birds in our area – eagles, hawks, heron, etc. There is a woman, Francis, who runs a bird rescue service, so we called her up and she immediately came over. She said it looked like it had a concussion. She said she would take it to her place and nurse it back to health. She asked me to help her.
A heron is a large bird – standing three or four feet tall with a long, very sharp beak. Francis cautioned me to be very careful. She got a piece of material and placed it over the bird’s head. It still wasn’t moving but had its eyes open. I then lifted it out of the bushes. What was amazing to me was the size, and the weight. It was almost as large as Francis but weighed nothing. I couldn’t believe it. In any case, we placed it in a cage in her car and off she went.
She called a few days later to say the bird was fine and she was bringing it back to our house. Anytime a bird is hurt and removed from the spot of injury, one has to bring it back to the same spot so it can orient itself correctly. Many lessons to this tale.
Tai Chi Form Modification
In our small town of mostly retired people, Tai Chi has been a way of life for many hundreds of people.
As we all age, I notice more and more people with knee problems, and that is one of the reasons why they first try Tai Chi, as it provides gentle, non stressful, exercise. I have tried to modify some of the moves that are more stressful to knees, including the turn around at the end of the short form. Instead of spinning, we just step to the left and kick. I still maintain the turn around at the end in the long form for more advanced players.
There is another spin -Turn Around and Right Foot Kick with Sole at Move # 54 in the Long Form. This is especially hard when playing on the grass or at the beach or on carpet. This morning, it came to me – why not eliminate the spin and just make a step to the left like we do in the short form. Problem solved. I tried it a few times and it flows nicely. Now I have to run it by the other instructors at the Studio and get their feedback.
The thing that is important is that the form is, and should be, a living practice that can change with time and circumstance. Learn from a reliable source, practice until you can do the form without thinking (several years), then feel free to make changes as needed. There is nothing sacred about our form. There are principles and tradition which must be considered, but the most important is to practice and love what you are doing.
After I wrote this, I led the morning Tai Chi practice at the Studio, and proposed this change to the group. We discussed it and came up with this idea. When we are at the Studio, or places with smooth, flat surfaces, we do the Turn Around before the kicks, and when out on the grass or beach, we would tend to use the side step. After this discussion, the next day was our practice in the park, and when we got to the Turn Around, I spun as did several others, while quite a few chose to step to the side. So, as I said, do what you feel like, and protect yourself from injury, without worry about being a slacker.