Taiji is my sanctuary, and I need it more than ever right now. I’ve had the worst few weeks of my life in which my best friend has been murdered and my lover has been brutally attacked. The absolute worst part is that their attacker is someone who thought she was in love with me and wanted to eliminate the competition. I haven’t slept since she confronted me at work, and I managed to fend off her attack with the aid of taiji. I’m barely holding on, and if I didn’t have taiji and my cats, I probably would have killed myself.
“Let’s do the first section,” Lydia says, and we all move to our places on the floor. We don’t have designated spots, but we all tend to go to the same place as we are creatures of habit. I take the front left corner as is my wont and wait for Lydia to start. I’ve been studying taiji for seven years, and I attend classes three days a week in part because I’m not as diligent as I should be about practicing on a daily basis. I’m better now than when I first started, however, as I never practiced at home during the first two years. “I’ll say the names of the postures; try to stick together. Take your time, and enjoy.” We start the first section of the Solo Form, and I try to empty my mind of all thoughts. It’s not easy, however, as the Solo Form is my least favorite part of taiji. It’s a shame because it’s the basis for everything else we do, but I can’t help what I like and don’t like. The Solo Form is mostly for health and meditation, two things that I don’t care about. I mean, I’m glad taiji is beneficial to my health and my mental health, but I care more about the applications. Although right now, my mental health could do with some shoring up.
I focus on my waist, making sure to turn it correctly. In taiji, the hands rarely move on their own—if ever. We’re supposed to turn our waist to move our hands as it gives more power to every strike, block, and chop. When I do it correctly, it feels as if I’m doing nothing. Lydia says that’s how you know you’re doing it right—when it’s effortless. Taiji is the lazy person’s martial art in which you want to expend as little effort as possible for the biggest possible result. I’m satisfied with my first section, though it’s not my best. Afterwards, we have a ten minute break, during which I sip water from my iced water bottle and listen to my classmates chatter about nothing in particular. I must be giving off a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibes because no one tries to talk to me. I’m grateful as I don’t feel particularly conversational.
After the break, Lydia asks me to lead the more advanced students in the Sword Form while she works on the Solo Form with the newer students. The Sword Form is my favorite, so I relish any chance I get to practice it. I’ve taught myself the left side of the form at home because that’s the way Lydia’s teacher insists it be done. His rationale is that if you know the right side, you can teach yourself the left side. Any weaknesses you have on the right side will show up in learning the left side. I had little problem teaching myself the left side of the Sword Form, but I’m struggling with the left side of the Solo Form. How like me to prefer the hard to the easy, which is the reason the kick section is my favorite part of the Solo Form.
Once we’re done with the Sword Form, Lydia has us do the entire Solo Form to music. She’s doing it less these days since her teacher is moving away from it, but she still does it once in a while. I like it because it’s faster than we normally do the Solo Form, but many of my classmates disagree. We put the newbies in the middle of the group so they can have someone to watch no matter which way we’re facing. People think taiji is relaxing and meditative, and it is, but it’s also a real workout if you do it properly. My back always aches by the third section, and it’s something that I’m currently working on. I concentrate on making sure my back knee is over my toes, which is another bad habit of mine—overextending my knee. I’m tired by the time we’re done, but also satisfied. My back is aching, but it doesn’t hurt—I chalk that up as a win. After class, I wait for the rest of my classmates to leave so I can chat with Lydia for a few minutes.
“How’re you feeling these days, Megan?” Lydia asks as she goes behind a divider to change into her street clothes. “You’ve had a rough go of it these last few weeks.”
“I’m hanging in. I miss Julianna like hell, though, and I still feel terrible about Rembrandt’s eye.”
“I know it’s been tough on you, but you can’t blame yourself for either event. It was that crazy woman’s fault-not yours.” Lydia’s voice is muffled, and I can barely understand what she’s saying.
“I know, but it if wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have attacked either of them.” That’s my prevailing nightmare, that I’m the one who brought the misfortune to my best friend and my lover. “How’re you doing?”
“I’m OK. Roger is worried because construction is down right now, but we’re scraping by.” Lydia emerges from behind the division, her face weary. We chat for a few minutes before leaving. I hug her and climb into my car, ready to go home.