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My Home has One Cat

Volume 4 Number 4
Fall 2003

"Ni jia you jige mao?" my friend said to me carefully and slowly, asking me how many cats I had. "Wo you yige mao," I said, playing along with her. After only one month of Chinese language lessons, she was making remarkable progress. Her tones were correct, she was intelligible, she had the right words. But most importantly, she'd had the courage to use this new language of hers.

Taijiquan offers us many similar opportunities to test our courage, by stepping out literally and figuratively. To walk in the door that first night of classes takes courage: confronting fears of looking foolish as a beginner, not understanding what we're supposed to do, not performing up to our adult expectations. To continue to practice takes courage: commitment, struggles with technique, perseverance, and a leap of faith--that taijiquan is the right path for us. Then there's push hands, of course, where courage is needed to face our actual physical opponents and our egos.

We need courage to tackle the myriad of ways in which we can do taijiquan "wrong." You can lose your balance, forget what move comes next, put your foot in an untenable position "yet again" that will mess up the execution of the next five moves. You can suffer a myriad of embarrassments: you lose your balance in front of your fellow students, realize that you've got your shirt on inside out and that your hair is a mess, and to top it off, you're stiff as a board and your seat is sticking out.

Let yourself take this challenge: have the courage to do the best that you can within any one moment. Do the wrong move--but do it well. Step incorrectly--make the best out of it. Focus on what you can do well and expand from there. Dare, like my friend, to try out new challenges. It's okay to do taijiquan wrong. Being "wrong" shows you where to go next. Besides, if you were perfect already, you'd be bored with taijiquan, and would have had no reason to start it up anyway.

This week, my friend and I went to an art opening of Chinese calligraphy. She had a question for the Chinese gallery owner, but didn't know the word for "question." "Wenti," I whispered to her, and she boldly marched over to the owner, and assertively said, "Wo you yige wenti." This is the hallmark of a good student, to try something out, to engage with it fully, to risk failure--and to risk success. Learning--and life--is all about taking risks on all levels. In opening up to trying, we at least have the possibility of gaining.

Barbara Davis - Editor

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Taijiquan Journal (T'ai Chi Ch'uan Journal)