Last Thursday night, Master Ni, quickly approaching his 88th birthday, is teaching a Wu Tang Solo Sword Form for the 7th time in 11 years. He mentions that the first time he taught Wu Tang Sword was in 1991. He reads out the names of the students on the original sign up sheet.
“Only a few of the original class have not continued - while many others have stopped - They have a hard time coming back. This is why it is important to practice to maintain the Forms.”
During the class he counts out the numbers of each new movement, stopping with each count. Interrupt. That night we learned just six postures - Hitting the Target Three times in a Row and Tree Untangling its Roots.
Two minutes to go in the class -
It was a strenuous class - multiple repetitions of a difficult sequence - including a review of the past lesson. We start up on one leg, go down to a squat. Staying low - we spin around and then up onto one leg again - and then down to squatting again. We’ve done this exhausting sequence multiple times.
There is not the time for another Form. We’re hoping that he will end here. After all he is almost 88 years old.
And then we hear - just like we’ve heard many times before - quietly with just enough energy to be heard: “Left Saber”.
Limping we struggle through one more Form.
Ni smirks as we go back to the corner - looking like the cat who has had her milk and is licking her whiskers.
“I am still the Ni, The One and Only Ni.
Bow down before my glory while you can.”
is the silent message of his body language.
I want to prostrate myself before him,
But am too tired, too much of a coward,
And have a feeling that he might feel it inappropriate.
Because he can read my mind -
My mind is his mind - He knows what I feel -
There is no need for a public demonstration -
when both of us know what is going on -
Participating in a tri weekly miracle -
An 88 year old putting us all to shame,
with his flexibility, his ram rod straight spine,
with his softness, his gentleness, his cat like grace -
feminine subtlety, and masculine strength.
The arch of his arm - the curve of his sword tip
linked to his toe tip, nose tip and waist.
What adjectives can hope to describe the reality?
In our corner, he says to me, “Counting hard. Waste much energy.” Gesturing with his hand that the energy goes up from his stomach and out his mouth. I understanding that this means it's OK to talk to him.
Me: “Counting important for students.”
Ni: “Important for Teacher, too.”
Me: “The square in the circle.”
Ni: “Square is interrupt.”
Me: “Very difficult.”
Ni: “Interrupt is hard for me, too. But important for Beginners.”
Me: “Important for advanced students too.”
Ni: “Also teacher.”
Me: “Keeps the advanced students honest.”
Ni: “Keeps teacher honest, too.”
Me: “Difficult to be honest.”
Ni, now with fire in his eyes: “Honesty is the most difficult - for the father, the student, the teacher, the politician. They take money.”
Thought you might be interested.
the truly insane, don