Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ranking Season, Part 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and as you can guess, I haven’t been idle. I spent this year getting ready for my next ranking level, Copper Tiger, and even though I’d already been through the process, I was more nervous than ever before. Why, you ask? In the Yang Family Tai Chi ranking system, the Copper Tiger rank (level 4) is the first level where you must pass the written theory test and 103 hand form as well as both weapons (sword and saber) and push hands (practicing tai chi with an opponent). No pressure!

I felt reasonably good about my hand form and saber form, but I was most worried about sword and push hands. The first time I took push hands in 2011, it was daunting and overwhelming, so I took a break from it until last year when I started learning it in earnest (but only under protest - it was required for level 4 ranking). To my surprise, I actually started to enjoy practicing with another opponent. However, because I hadn't been practicing it for very long, my form was still pretty rough.

(Bruce Lee and his teacher, Yip Man. Photo from 

In October, we had to prepare for a performance at the Great Lakes Taiji Festival at the University of Michigan in Dearborn. And because my teacher wanted us to perform saber, we spent most of the fall working on our saber form while the sword form pretty much got neglected.

Throughout the summer and fall, I added some private lessons with my teacher to prepare for ranking. We spent so much time on push hands that there wasn’t much time for sword practice. When we finally got around to looking at my sword form a few weeks before the ranking, she made so many corrections that I wanted to cry. (Okay, I actually did cry, but it helped to release the build up of stress I'd been feeling!)

Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe it was a mistake to try to rank this year. But always the nurturing (and brutally honest) tiger mom that my teacher was, she told me that I was ready. She just wanted me to be the best that I could be. I hoped when the day came, I would be able to deliver my best performance.