Hay-foot, Straw-foot

I don't have dyslexia, nor do I have left-right confusion, but you'd never know it if you watched me practice Tai Chi.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman
Bill Mehlman blogs about treating adult ADHD for ADDitudeMag.com

I hadn't heard or thought of the expression, "Hay-foot, Straw-foot" for years, but it floated to the surface as I was trying to learn the 108 moves that constitute the Taoist Tai Chi. From what I've read, contemporary tai chi is more frequently taught using the 24-move or 48-move forms developed in China in the several decades ago.

I've been told, although I can't cite a source, that ADHD is in some ways related to other learning disabilities, the best-known probably being dyslexia. I don't have dyslexia, nor do I have left-right confusion, but you'd never know it if you watched me doing White Stork Spreads Wings or Push Needle to Sea Bottom or Strum the Pi-Pa. Left-foot forward, right foot raised? Shift weight from left foot to right foot (at least this is an absolute; in Eternal Spring classes, Master Chu, a retired physics professor, would say "OK, 30–70, weight on left foot, now move right arm, weight 65–35 on right foot, now raise left foot" at which point I'd usually fall, gracelessly, to the floor).

So, disregarding any possible as-yet-undiagnosed LD that I may have, I can tell you that this is tricky. My teachers at Taoist Tai Chi are as patient as the monks who developed the original system, and keep telling us not to think so much, but rather to let the body learn the moves. The body, not the mind. I've been at it for a couple of weeks now, and slowly it's sinking in. As for the young sylph who started at the same time I did, and now glides through the form effortlessly and confidently, all I can tell you is that she let it slip that she'd been a dancer for most of her life. Her body is not only strong and flexible, but used to taking orders from her brain. I may have to put some WD-40 on the soles of her sneakers.

This is a rambly post, even for me, so let me get to the point before you're all snoring. Here you go, in two parts. Everyone has problems learning stuff; some just have more than others. And, although you must imagine that the rest of the class is watching you and snickering, you insufferable narcissist you, they're probably much more concerned with not falling on their own faces. So relax, empty your mind, let the eyes teach the body. You can do it, you know. It just takes time.

What? Oh, right. During the Civil War, many of the recruits on both sides were farmboys. Although they might have been brave men and keen shots, education wasn't a strong point, to the extent that they didn't have a good grasp of left and right, and therefore couldn't march in an orderly manner. So in desperation, their sergeants tied little wisps of hay to their left boots and straw to their right boots, and off they went, left/right/left/right.

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