I’m in the middle of a high altitude desert. This means that access to certain things, including martial arts, can be a challenge. Case in point: I visited the [only] local aikido dojo in the area. The short of it is that the instructor had to shut down for a bit and is now in the process of rebuilding his school. The bottom line is that I’m not sure if I want to be his first and only adult student!
As I pondered what I should do I remembered the (not so) haunting words of Dojo Rat:
Back in the late 1990′s our group was fazing out of hard-style Karate and into the softer arts. This is a natural progression for seasoned martial artists, regardless of style. Of course, it takes years to achieve.
When I started learning Tai Chi Chuan, I was still looking through the prism of Karate eyes. The movements appeared martial, but confusing and I sought application in every move. That can be frustrating with the differences between Karate and Tai Chi being so extreme.
Road Kung Fu
My first thought was to see how long it would take me to drive to one of Striking Thought’s old friends. Unfortunately that part of Montana would take a day’s worth of travel. (I have not ruled out his online course as a supplemental option.)
Using the powers of Mr. Google I perused the state to see if any softer art is to be had. The good news is that I found a school that offers training in the internal softer arts–Tai Chi ch’uan in particular. The bad news is that it is a 2.5 hour drive. Luckily, however, there is a Saturday class.
My last kung fu instructor used a term he called “road kung fu”. Being in the heart of the Midwest, kung fu schools were (are) hard to find. After he quit karate he literally drove hundreds of hours over a decade to other states in search of kung fu training.
I’m considering road kung fu.
Based on my initial contact with the instructor it sounds like the above school would be open to monthly visits. They teach the full Yang form along with the 24 and 48 movement short forms. Better still, they do cover martial applications.
Much like every other “traditional” art out there, I’m also learning that there is many approaches to tai chi:
T ‘ai Chi ch’uan resembles kung fu and is properly considered a martial art. It may be used with or without weapons.
There have been many schools of T’ai Chi ch’uan, and two, the Wu and the Yang, survive. Depending on school and master, the number of prescribed exercise forms varies from 24 to 108 or more.
The latest plan is to drive south and visit the school. If I like what I see I’ll borrow a page from past sifu’s playbook: A longer monthly lesson and bring a video camera. If the instructor is agreeable, I can video parts of how he instructs the form and then review it on my own at home.
Downside? I lack a partner for my at-home practice so progress will be slow. Also, monthly access to other bodies and an instructor will slow things, too. Upside? I can dip my toe in a soft art, pick up a small dose of martial, and start developing the health benefits associated with tai chi. (unless the school sucks)
As King of Nothing® in the new job my plan is to give it 3-5 years. At that point we will either decide to stay here for good or move one last time. So it is possible that we could move to an area that has easier access to the internal arts. If so I’ll have already started to walk the path. If not, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.