I began my martial arts training when I was 18 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at a Tae Kwon Do Dojang in a steamy basement of an old warehouse soon to be demolished. I was a slothful youth in a community where those who had “athletic talent’ were encouraged and given resources. Resources came from the blood sports-hockey mostly but football too. With small size and zero movement capacity I was soon weeded out.
So I arrived at the martial arts school with a view to make up for lost ground-at least I was over 100# by now. Sa Bum Nim was trained in the Korean military (north I have come to suspect) and was as cliché as they come. Rigid protocol was required and warm-up made boot camp look like water ballet. Sa Bum Nim would execute an astonishing full side split with his chin on the floor. After the demonstration, with his feet spreading my ankles in splits direction and pulling me forward by my wrists he wrecked me like on a wrack. After a few weeks of abuse, I retired.
Still movement impaired with Ichabod Crane shoulders, permanent wings for shoulder blades and a body fused from knees to lats, I began my academic career and then business career, hoping that a good tailor would make up for what I was convinced were natures cruel deficiencies and allow me to mate and reproduce.
I may not have liked the look of my own image, but when Sensei Michelle came into my life I had a model for what I wanted. Then as now she had a perfection of posture and proportion, a multidimensional symmetry of line and a dynamic that was sleek and powerful.
We started martial arts training together when I was in my late 30’s. Still unable to face my own reflection, I had hers to gaze at so at least my attention was diverted. Over 10 years I got bigger and stronger and meaner but I did not get better. My image was still a disappointment and once again I was blaming fate, genes and natures cruelty.
Tai Chi has helped me to understand the idea of lower body strength and upper body relaxation. I have used my shoulders to support the world for a long time and it has taken a long time to coax them down. I feel that I have more to go. The payoff is a tremendous sense of freedom as I strengthen my lower body with slow extended powerful movement and encourage by overworked shoulders to float along for the ride. I find that the new strength in my legs and hips helps support me erect, improve my posture and relax the weight of my shoulders over my rib cage. I’m even getting the odd satisfying glimpse of myself in the mirror .