Whenever I see my son about to scream or cry out of frustration and/or anger, I tell him “Do your breathing”. Immediately, my two year old will raise and lower his arms while “sinking” (a Qigong exercise that my Taiji sifu taught me during my first day at his Taiji school). My son, Mason, gets caught up in his breathing and actually forgets why he is angry in the first place.
Anger and frustration is not permanent, but learning can be permanent. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned from studying the martial arts. This afternoon, my son and I attended a private Taiji lesson. In this lesson, I am learning Chen style, but have been quite stymied by it. The “movement” of the form has been quite frustrating. The body must ripple outward. My legs may move in the appropriate direction, however, the rest of the body must move, also. “You are too stiff…you need to relax.”
Most of the hour lesson was spent moving through the same four movements over and again. Much of the time was spent working on transitioning from one stance to another (which, to me seems to be a majority of the form). I have been working on this form for several months and I still feel like I need to start from the beginning. Then, I remember something my sifu used to say to me a lot: “If Taiji isn’t frustrating to you, then you aren’t doing it right”. Of course, going through my training, it would anger me to no end to hear this (which is probably why he continued to say it). Now, I must confess that those words still anger me, but I also see the wisdom behind them.
My sifu excused himself and left me to my training. My son stood in the corner watching me move like a drunk elephant. The frustration must have been plain to see, since my son grabbed me by the finger and said “Do your breathing, Dada.” And, just like that, I had two teachers.
While I am still relatively new to the form (only four to five months), I am working on being fluid from within. My transitions are still rather clunky (perhaps even “robotic”), however, I am still working on this. Out of all of the martial arts that I have studied, I have found Taiji to be the most challenging. This is probably why I have developed an obsession of the art. I am not ashamed to say that today was one of the more frustrating days of training.
However, everything begins and ends with the single breath. So, each time I start a form, I take a deep breath and begin again. For me, each breath acts as a “reset”. And, just like with my son, my breathing allows me to shed myself of the anger, frustration, and fear that I had the moment before. Anger is not permanent. This is a lesson that I have learned from my son. The simple action of breathing can allow one to focus on the form. The emotion that one may feel previously will melt away. All that is left is the form and the artist expressing it.
To all of my fellow Taiji practitioners out there: do your breathing.