Sinking Your Teeth Into Training
By Sara Aoyama
Sometimes I wonder what the right conditions are for me to really sink
my teeth into my training.
Last winter (a particularly cold, bitter and
busy one here), I figured the right time would most likely be during
the warm and lazy days of
summer. Now that summer has arrived, I figure that it’s sort of
hot, and that those crisp autumn days will be ideal for training. I don’t
like to consider what I might be thinking when autumn arrives, and if
anyone notices that I didn¹t mention spring here, it’s because
there isn’t any spring in Vermont, or if there was one this year
I probably slept through it.
Reminiscent of Allen Ginsberg’s wonderful
poem on kitchen tai chi, I, too, out of necessity use my kitchen for
tai chi practice early each
morning. It’s almost big enough--or at least I am of the firm belief
that if I could just find the correct place to start, I could avoid warding
off the dishwasher, repulsing the refrigerator and the seemingly classic
Step Left Into Cat Food move, and do a perfect form. At least it’s
quiet in the kitchen at 5:30 AM, I console myself. After all, quiet is
good, isn’t it? I’ve always thought that a quiet kitchen
is very peaceful and that a peaceful training atmosphere must be very
relaxing and conducive to proper focus.
I had to rethink the "quiet
is good" concept this week, though.
This summer I’ve been training
outside at the Town Common with a tai chi buddy from class. I loved it
from the first-the feel of the
fresh outside air, gentle swirling wind, the smell of the grass and trees
around us. And the pure fun and challenge of doing tai chi inside of
a multi-sided gazebo! It’s all been very peaceful there in the
gazebo until last week when we found ourselves sharing our space with
a clamorous band of four year old ninja-pirates setting off imaginary
cannons and playing with what their guardians believed to be musical
instruments, but what the wise ninja-pirates recognized immediately actually
to be weapons in disguise. A couple of slow moving tai chi practitioners
were hardly worth a glance as they went about fighting their battles.
oh, I thought. Not a good training atmosphere. And indeed, I couldn’t
help snickering to myself at what must seem an odd juxtaposition of our
tai chi form with the boisterous energy of ninja pirates.
my surprise, I realized that after I’d finished snickering
and got over feeling self-conscious, I felt more relaxed than I did during
my quiet early morning kitchen practice. Relaxation is one of the crucial
keys to good tai chi. Thinking about that later on, I realized that distraction
could take two forms-internal and external. If my kitchen was quiet and
peaceful it didn’t mean that my mind was. In fact, being alone
and with everything quiet around me is almost an irresistible invitation
to let my mind run wild with every minute concern or trivial thought
that crosses it. And plenty do!
Come to think of it, give me weapon-wielding
ninja pirates any day. They are a lot less cumbersome to deal with
than my own thoughts.
Perhaps, just as with karate, there’s something to be learned
from practicing my tai chi form in a variety of ways and places as well.
About The Author:
Sara Aoyama is a 1974 graduate of the University of Kansas, where she
majored in Japanese Language and Literature. She spent over twelve years
living in Japan where she dabbled in a number of other arts such as Ikebana
(flower arranging), cooking, and Shamisen. While living in Kyoto, she
was able to see many hidden aspects of Japanese society. Currently she
lives in Brattleboro, Vermont where she trains in Shorin-ryu Karate and
tai chi. Currently she continues her studies in Kishaba Juku karate under
Sensei George Donahue. She is a freelance Japanese-English translator.
Most recently, she translated "The Art of Lying" by Kazuo Sakai,
MD., and “Karate Kyohan” by Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura. Aoyama
is a regular contributor to FightingArts.com.