Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Repel the Monkey

One of the things I love about Tai Chi is that I don't feel any need to be the best at it, I don't need to be the fastest at picking it up, I don't even need to be one of several A students, as if there were really such a thing as an A student in the art. Kinesthetic learning comes hard to me. I have to do it slowly. And it's gratifying, after so many years of rush-rush-rush, to have to do something slowly, indefinitely.

And yet, and yet...

Repel the Monkey was one of the first Tai Chi moves I learned, back when I used to take classes through the university. Now that I'm studying with the same teacher at her own Tai Chi studio, we've backtracked to discover that, in the years when I practiced on my own and had no time to attend classes, my form drifted, and I settled Repel the Monkey solidly into my muscle memory...dead wrong. I can Grasp the Bird's Tail reasonably well, and I do a good Punch Eye, for someone who's only been a serious student for a year and a half. White Crane Spreads Wings? No problem. I haven't quite figured out Pat Horse on High, but at least when I'm Patting said Horse, the more senior students don't flinch to see my form.

I cannot Repel the Monkey.

Keep your weight on the front foot. Good. Now, while keeping your weight on the front foot, turn it. Turn it? Like this? No, not like that.

And suddenly, a golden marmoset skitters through the Tai Chi studio, steals my car keys, and brachiates away, screeching, into the forest canopy. I have failed to repel the monkey.

Try again. No, you're still turning from inside the knee joint. If you turn from inside the knee joint, you'll injure yourself. Now you're turning from the hip joint, but you need to turn from your center. Nose, navel, toe--all must move together, as one piece. Like this? No, not like that.

A baboon knuckles through the window and out the other side of the room, steals all the chocolates off the desk in the office, and opens the front door to let itself out to the parking lot, snickering all the way. I have failed to repel the monkey.

Could I watch you do it right a couple of times? Okay, when is the moment when your weight shifts. No, I've confused myself so much, I can't see it, even when I'm looking right at it. Is it now? Now? No? How about now? That's the point when you shift your weight? Wow, I had no idea how wrong I was. Okay, is it No, not like that.

An entire troop of lemurs swarms the Tai Chi studio. Of course, lemurs aren't, technically, monkeys. But that's okay, because whatever it is that I am doing, it's not, technically, Repel the Monkey.

Not surprisingly, I don't repel the lemurs, either.

So, back to Grasp the Bird's Tail. Because, dammit, when I Grasp that Bird's Tail, I mean for it to stay Grasped.
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