Proving that I'm on the edge of senility and losing my better judgment, I fired up my Flip Video camera yesterday, filmed myself doing a couple of Tai Chi forms, and then uploaded them to You Tube after adding some Tango music.
This afternoon I had a locker room conversation at the athletic club with a guy I'd never talked to before. He told me about playing five games of racquet ball in a tournament against an opponent where he won a total of three points.
"Sometimes I love getting my ass whipped," he said. I told him, "Well, if you're out to lose your ego, this shows that you don't need to go to India or enter a monastery. A racquet ball court will do just fine."
As will the deck of a house, where what whipped me wasn't another person, but the difference between how I thought my Tai Chi looked, and how the video camera recorded it.
Sort of painful. But hey, I've been meditating every morning for most of my life with no discernible effect on my ego. So I might as well start trying uploading videos of myself to You Tube for the world to watch.
Since I still have an ego, though, here's some exculpatory excuses to keep in mind if you take a few minutes (2:51 and 4:41, to be exact) to see my Tai Chi.
(1) I set up two lanterns to mark how far the camera angle went. The sword form, particularly, moves farther than that. So switch stepping was necessary to avoid disappearing and appearing from view. It took me several "takes" to get those new moves down as well as I did.
(2) I'm outside on a fairly rough wood deck. I'm used to performing (or "playing," in Tai Chi parlance) the forms inside.
(3) I don't have any Tai Chi music, but I've got lots of Tango music. In my psyche I was moving to a faster Tai Chi beat than usual, knowing that I wanted to add some Tango'ish tracks from a CD a friend recently gave me.
(4) Lastly, reducing the quality of the video for You Tube uploading obscures the flowing perfection (in my own deluded mind, at least) of my forms. Any jerks and stumbles you see -- consider them camera artifacts.
Anyway, I had fun. And I got some insights into what I need to improve on. Take a look, and help with my ego-loss.
The first video is a Tai Chi sword form. The second video is the Cheng Man Ching (37) form, expanded to 38 moves with the addition of a Needle at Bottom of Sea near the end. (If you're a Tai Chi purist, blame my instructor, not me – he teaches the form this way).
For a little comparison, here's some video of Cheng Man Ching himself, the Tai Chi master who developed the form that goes by his name. I have to say that he doesn't look as impressive as I thought he would (just watched this video for the first time). But looks can be deceiving, on camera.
Looked good to me. I'm amazed at how many variations there are on the Yang style long form. So many similarities, yet so different. Recently I've worked out with two different group whose footwork is virtually identical to what I learned. The hand and arm movements, however, are very different.
Posted by: Randy | April 04, 2008 at 10:24 PM
BTW, great looking finish on that deck.
Posted by: Randy | April 04, 2008 at 10:31 PM
Randy, Tai Chi forms are indeed wonderfully diverse in their similarities. Whereas I found that Japanese Shotokan karate was decidedly anal in the commitment to keep forms precisely the same (maybe you could do something slightly different once you became a 3rd degree black belt), Taoist Tai Chi has much more of a hang loose "whatever" attitude.
I like that. My instructor is always offering up alternative ways of performing a move in a form. As long as the timing stays roughly the same, different people in our class often are doing different things during a form.
As regards the ending, I thought it was pretty good myself. But in my effort to appear egoless (which is easier than actually being egoless) I didn't want to point it out until someone mentioned it. Thanks.
I assume you meant the Cheng Man Ching (empty hand) form, though the endings in both forms are fairly tricky. I often fall into the kick, which is easy to do. This time I felt in control coming down.
Posted by: Brian | April 05, 2008 at 10:36 AM
I was talking about the empty hand form. Re: anality. The form I learned (and practice) second hand from a student of Kai Ying Teng (http://www.tungkaiying.com/forms_slow.shtml) didn't allow us much leeway in performing the moves though I noticed that every time our teacher returned from the annual confab with the Master the form had slightly changed. So, I'm now doing my own variations as I see fit. (There's a pattern here).
Posted by: Randy | April 05, 2008 at 04:01 PM
much work you still need. Remember one of the most important parts of tai chi is your center. Imagine a pole going from the tip of your skull through your body into your pericardium. Keep this pole straight up and down you will increase your skill.
Posted by: mason | April 19, 2008 at 08:24 AM