I had no idea, when I committed to remaking my Yang-style taiji form in the manner of the Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association, that it would be so very, very hard.
This morning in class I was attempting to learn two moves, moves ostensibly the same as ones I’ve done for 15 years but different in all sorts of particulars. It did not go well.
I am not a rapid motor skills learner to begin with, and in this remaking process, I can do something half a dozen times and still not have a cognitive map for what’s happening—only brain fog. If I relax and let body memory take over, my body will do what it’s done thousands of times before, and my brain knows that that will be wrong. Periodically my neurons get so tied up in knots that my brain goes into white-out. When this happens, I am paralyzed, and I experience a moment of panic that my brain may not kick back in in time for me to continue with the teacher and the rest of the students.
I began remaking my form in June, and I really thought I’d be done by the end of the year and back to actually enjoying doing taiji. But it’s January, and I’m maybe a third of the way through the form, and the process isn’t getting any easier.
I thought this morning of a boy who was in my daughter’s first grade class many years ago. I helped out in her classroom a few times, and I remember watching him work with the teacher on his reading. She was an older teacher, much loved by many parents and students, including, I think, my daughter, but she was clearly frustrated with this boy and said, more than once, “You’re just not really trying.”
Well, I could see the boy was trying. I could see he was sweating bullets. This was before dyslexia was a household word, but it was obvious to me that he simply couldn’t do what the teacher wanted no matter how much he wanted to or how hard he tried.
I considered calling his father—I knew this boy somehow didn’t have a mother around—to urge him to take his son out of that teacher’s class, but I didn’t do it. I’ve wondered from time to time over the years how the boy’s life was going, and whether it would be going better if I had called his father.
I thought of that boy today, and what I thought was, “I think I know how his brain felt.”