Moving in slow motion in public while performing fight moves seems like a sketchy thing at best to do on a crowded beach in Catalina. That might be why one of my exes pleaded with me to please NOT do any of my t’ai chi while her family, hundreds of strangers and I lounged on the tiny strip of sand that passes for a beach in Avalon, Catalina’s only city.
When the tourists crowd onto that small strip of sand highlighted in yellow above, it makes for an embarrassingly delicious spot to perform some socially-awkward slow-motion moves. That’s why my mischievous inner-self felt a bit wrangled for not being allowed to perform my moves in all of their cringeworthy splendor.
I didn’t. At least not while it was crowded. Or when my ex was around.
I did see her dad when he was taking his morning walk while I welcomed the sunrise with my slow-moving martial art meditation. In my mind’s eye, I like to remember that her jovial old father gave me a little head nod and a wink, but he may have been thinking something more like, “Oh great, I wonder how long things will last for my daughter with this nut. At least this one’s wearing clothes.”
Over the twenty plus years I’ve been doing t’ai chi, one key thing I learned is that there’s only one socially acceptable place to do t’ai chi in public.
On the Grass in a Park.
Not just anywhere in the park — the grass.
However, even when you do find a perfectly acceptable patch of grass in a place that’s considered a park, you might still get yourself into some sticky wickets. Here’s some of the laughable moments I got myself into while performing my slow-moving sweet moves in California’s parks.
There was the time I was doing my moves in Griffith Park and a naked man emerged from the bushes and ran straight at me at full speed
In the middle of meditation bliss or not, my slow motion time was over for the day at that point as I nonchalantly and casually ran like hell toward my car.
Or how ‘bout the time I found a beautiful picturesque park in Simi Valley only to realize that many of the local high school kids walk through that same park on their way to school
Once, in the middle of a particularly flourishing pose, I noticed a group of mischievous teen boys surrounding me with looks on their face that could only be translated as sheer delight to find some weirdo wearing a collared shirt doing some kind of snail dance on their way to school. Luckily for me, teen brains aren’t known to be at their most functional in the pre-afternoon sun, so their mischievous mocking amounted to pointing and laughing like a bunch of Beavis and Butthead impersonators.
The times I befriended a gopher
This one isn’t an embarrassing moment or even a drawback to doing my moves in a park. But one thing I learned about performing my slow-moving martial art meditation is that it seems to have a calming and trance-inducing effect on many animals. At the same Simi Valley park I mentioned above, there was this gopher (or some kind of ground squirrel — dammit Jim I’m a writer not a zooligist) that would always pop its cute little head out of its hole in the ground to stare at me in a glazy-eyed daze as I performed my sweet moves.
My t’ai chi form is the Yang Temple-Style Long Form and it takes about twenty minutes to do the whole thing, so this little dude popped its head out of the hole every morning for months each time it sensed the movement of my feet dragging across the nearby ground. It watched me in a fixed gaze for all twenty minutes each time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the cute little thing pulled out a tub of popcorn one of those times but for the fact that it seemed too dazed to eat it.
Or the time I saw a Maybe-Coyote in the Park
Some time around when the naked man ran at me in Griffith Park (probably before since running naked men usually lead to me formulating a permanent and rapid exit strategy) I came across a maybe-coyote while doing my moves there. I was in the middle of doing Cloud Hands (the name of one of the moves that’s particularly calming but not to be confused with jazz hands) when an extremely skinny but ferocious-looking canine showed up right next to me. The wild eyes and protruding ribs of this scrappy guy gave me pause and I was extremely relieved that the trance-inducing qualities of t’ai chi movement seemed to put this maybe-coyote into a passive state where it watched for a while and then moved along, probably to try to nibble some scraps from the naked man in the bushes.
Later on, I remember telling my sister, who frequently rescues animals in need, and she said, “Aaaaawww, why didn’t you put him in your car and bring him to me?” to which I replied “I don’t usually make it a habit of putting a maybe-coyote in my car!”
Thankfully, I now have a back yard big enough to avoid having to do the t’ai chi form in public. I do sometimes miss the fun-loving gopher and some of the zany and laughable moments but I’m happy to enjoy my slow, sweet moves in the comfort and privacy of my own backyard. each morning, I go out in my backyard, stretch a bit and then say to the wind as I start my gracefully calming moves, “Get ready for some sweet moves.”
Thanks to Roz Warren for providing the inspiration for this piece in this wonderfully funny story:
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