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The challenge has become a life goal

Dear Shifu,

I believe I owe you an explanation. I read in your website that one should tell his master if he has a condition. I often see you "frustrated" looking how "stiff" I am although I look like I am fit...

I was born with clubbed feet. After waiting for 2 years, the Doctors decided i was ready for surgery and they started to work on my 2 ankles to put them straight and normalise them. These surgeries gave me back only a reduced mobility in my ankles. Doctors say I have around 30% mobility compared to normal ankles.

As a child my parents never stopped from running, playing and I enjoyed playing a lot of different sports and particularly intensively Football until 17yo. Few years later, after complaining of pain after running, doctors told me I played too much Football and it was not the right sport for my ankles, i should have probably biked or swam. At 20 yo, XRay found out I had collected arthritis (calk formation) between the medial malleolus & the tarsals (due to over stimulation: too much kicks, run, ...). The results in my Everyday life was a difficulty to walk, extra sensitivity in all ankle tendons except Achille tendon (which I feel I never really used to his full capacity), often causing tendinites. At 24yo, i decided I had to stop running and reduce the Long walk. At30 yo, a eminent Podiatry’s professor told me, while I was living in Shanghai: "your every day pain will probably not stop until around 50yo where we might seriously consider locking your ankles and permanently prevent you from moving your ankles". I was really scared and further decided not to run, not to over stimulate my ankles...

For whatever reasons good or bad, this lack of mobility was a comfortable, and a rationally acceptable source of excuse, until life lead me to TaiJi. I think this statement is crucial to understand my life until now. I took that condition as a show stopper, I took the message from the western medicine as it was: "dont exert yourself, your body is wrong, you are not good for movement, for sport". I have great hope towards taiji and from the teaching of Master Chong. From the very first lesson, I liked it. 1 Long hour or squatting. How beautiful it was. The movement I never managed to execute. The movement which was questioning my inner soul. The movement which was questioning my body, it was questioning my condition itself: "why cant I squat?". Until i was 37yo, i let you Guess what was my answer... "my limited mobility in my ankles", here it is! Yes I was always peaching to others " i cant do it, because I was born with clubbed foot". No matter who I was telling this, nobody would contradict and argue with this. This poor gentleman cant do it because he has a good reason. All these reactions would always confort me in my condition, that would always confort me in not looking for more mobility, for a different perspective.

And here I am, my first hour of TaiJi, one man named Bernard keep on repeating "relax your Kua", "keep your back straight" "dont bring your knees forward" "stay rooted", 90% of what he said was totally foreign to me and in my mind I keep thinking "I cant do it, i cant do it, i have a condition", but Bernard keeps going. He takes me to the bench and tell me to pretend to sit, after 20 minutes, my legs are already checking although I am still standing, my knees are barely folded. In that position, I realised the lower parts of my legs hurt in front of the cavs muscles, I am thinking in my head "are there muscles here?". I found out that I never exercised these muscles, I never tried to balance my feets standing on my "yong Quan". No! I never. I always stand on my heels, that’s how i learnt during the past 37 years. This man continues "doesn’t he know, sees, I have a condition?", he bring me to the pole, asked me to hold it and go down to squat/ he repeats: "your knees touches the poles", I can’t, i have a condition, i can’t. But Bernard continues to ask me and I dont tell him, I cant, I keep trying. At the end of that session, I felt my Achille tendon. I finally used it after 37 years. I stretched it during this 1 hour with Bernard. For my first lesson, bernard told me some sentences that were totally true: "it is not about the results, it is not about going down fast and pretend it is right without any benefit, it is about doing the right movement, no matter how Long it will take to make the movement right".

In 37 years using my body through different sport, through the daily walks, I only started to realise that I could make more use of my legs muscles and my legs tendons. TaiJi helps me to stretch the front tendons of my ankle (the one painful with multiple tendinite) as well as the back Achille tendon, today it is the first time of my life that I consciously look at extending my tendons while walking, while practising taiji.

I also start to realise that I never used the muscle in my lower legs to stabilise my body while balancing. Hopefully stretching my ankles tendons, practising Taiji and strengthening my legs muscles will help me release more force in my movements, it feels like it is also relieving the pain caused by the over stimulation made on my ankles bones (fingers crossed it will last).

One day Shijie said something like "all articulations are all related to each other, when one moves, the other moves accordingly"... at that time, one of my first taiji lesson, i was not capable of understanding the meaning of it and I am still not, but it makes me think about it. For example, If they are all connected and knowing that my ankle, the first articulation starting from the bottom of my body, is not much moving, how would the other following articulation be moving...?

My ankles were always an identified problem since the very beginning of my life, but all the other articulations were not a known problem to me. I mean, several physio I visited in the past commented that I had no flexibility in my hips, nor in my pelvis but I could never understand what they meant and I still cannot exactly. Well, the obvious cause was always my ankles, but why the ankle problem would impact the pelvis? I still have not an exact explanation to that. ShiJie tells me that my muscles are not strong enough, but I am not sure which muscles... I should continue practise and this understanding will come one day, that’s what I say to myself.

For those who cannot picture a not moving pelvis, just look at me trying to squat. When I go down towards the floor while doing a proper squat movement, my back goes to the front almost parallel to the floor, my shoulder are also going forward to balance me and avoid me from falling down. The proper movement is for the pelvis to move in synchronisation with the ankles, this movement still hold on tight to the big femur bone but the slight pelvis movement enables the back to stay straight with a perpendicular angle with the floor.

I dont know if I will be one day able to make a proper squat, i still doubt that my condition will let me move. However, the challenge has become a life goal. Making a squat would mean the world to me and would have a positive effect on my health. I believe it will relieve some unknown energy within me. It is not only a good movement to do, it is a real re-education for my body to become healthier.

No matter if I succeed or not to make a perfect squat or to one day move my pelvis, the effort trying after 6 months is fruitful. My legs are stronger. My squat is a bit better than 6 months back, my tendons are alive to me and I introduced better walking habits in my life trying to get my yong Quan connected as much as possible to the ground.

I have no intention to have rapid results, I was sleeping 37 years, in a way TaiJi gave me a second chance, if feels like I was born again in my first taiji lesson. I have a life time in front of me. May this life be Long enough for me to squat properly :)

For what you did so far, thank you ShiFu, thank you Shijie. Respect.

September 2018


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