Will I ever be Shaolin?!?
13.09.2008 - 29.09.2008 12 °C
Hey hey! How are you all? It's been a while I know and I have much to tell you.
Kungfu is still going well. We've finally finished learning our first Shaolin form, now it's down to us to practice. I can get most of the movements reasonably well but the finer points of some of the kicks and stances still elude me. I really ought to upload a video of it, I'll see what I can do.
With the conclusion of the Shaolin Long Range Fist comes the introduction of a new form; Tiger. One of my Shaolin brothers was very keen to learn the maiming art of Tiger fist and Wong Sifu was kind enough to comply. Despite my early reservations about learning this form I'm actually quite enjoying it. It's fairly aggressive in it's approach and I find running through the form something of a release. It's a little too easy to get caught up in it though and you find yourself stood there, snarling, totally unable to remember what the next move is and feeling like a bit of a lemon.
Taichi is also progressing nicely, we have nearly completed the Yang style 24 form. The last few moves of the form are proving a little tricky with some low stances and unintuitive moves (that are similar enough to early moves to be confusing but different enough that it's obvious if you screw it up). Our Taichi master mentioned something about an exam soon as well, not sure I'm really ready for that, feel like I need a few more years practice.
I've not really gone into detail about Qigong (pronounced Chi gung) class before... Qigong is a type of meditation that promotes health and helps manage Chi and blood flow in your body. There are many different methods of performing Qigong: stationary postures; standing, sitting, reclining and there are moving exercises, which can be as simple as moving your weight backwards and forwards or consist of more complex sets of exercises, much like Tai Chi. Qu Sifu (pronounced Chew Shifu), the headmaster here is very keen on Qigong, he says it is the cornerstone of all Chinese martial arts and as a result we have an hour of compulsory Qigong every day.
Qu Sifu prefers standing Qigong, says that at our level there's no point us trying anything else really. Now, I'm not one to doing something half-assed, particularly if I'm paying good money, but standing still for an hour, holding your arms out in front of you; not fun. Some days I really haven't been in the frame of mind for it and my commitment has wavered but I figure I've got around 220 more hours of it ahead so I may aswell try to get something out of it.
And I have improved since we began, I can now hold a stance for a full hour if I have to, I can even feel some of the things that are meant to indicate you are practicing correctly; warmth moving around your body, tingling sensations etc. but I can only really keep a meditative state of mind for about 30-45 minutes. It's hard with distractions around you, builders working, dogs barking, Qu Sifu cracking his spine or making his intestines gurgle. In fact those last two are the hardest to deal with. As he gets deeper into his meditation the master demonstrates his impressive control of his own body by massaging his internal organs with "Chi," causing strange noises to emanate from his abdomen. Takes quite a lot of getting used to.
Anyway, had a bit of a break through this last Friday as I was meditating in Qigong when my tummy decided to answer the call of Sifu's with some impressive gurgling of its own! Unfortunately I was so pleased with myself I totally lost my concentration and was unable to continue meditating. I almost can't wait for my next Qigong class so I can discover if I have finally progressed to the next level or whether it was just a little trapped wind. I'll be sure to let you know.
But it's not all work here, we've had a few little weekend outings to various places too. We had a trip to Yantai a couple of weeks ago to pick up a few essentials; honey, jam, snickers, swords, bleach, toothpicks. Yes, I finally caved in and bought myself a couple of swords :D. I know I'm not going to be learning any weapon forms for a while but I figured I'm going to buy them sooner or later anyway and this way I don't have to go back to Yantai again and face the terrible temptation of Walmart. Crazy place Walmart, in America it sells cheap ammo, here I managed to buy a set of nunchucks for a couple of pounds. Cultural differences, eh?
We also popped into the Tea shop in Yantai. I say "the," but it is by no means the only tea shop in the city, it's just one of the nicest (plus I think the boss is mates with our headmaster). Anyway, good tea, reasonable prices. I had picked up some Jasmine tea last time I passed through which I must say isn't really my cup of... um, that is to say, didn't really like it but we had a sit down with the owner this time and he plied us with a variety of teas. Don't know if it was a traditional tea ceremony but he certainly took his time warming the tea cups and pouring the first brew over a small stone toad, before filling our tiny, thimble cups with piping hot Oolong. Long story short, Oolong is great and I got a load of that. I'm nearly out now, need to get some more soon.
The following weekend I popped over to Muping with Hilary to see the doctor, who is trained in both Chinese traditional medicine as well as more conventional scientific methods. Hilary is a regular there since they sell cold Pepsi just over the road but it was my first time. I was aware that a few of the students had popped in with nothing wrong with them and only left after a variety of interesting treatments had been applied, from Tui Na massage to cupping (you know with the glass bulbs and hot air suction). Unfortunately for me the doctor had a cold and he did not have enough spare Chi to give me a massage, so instead he inquired whether I had any specific problems I needed dealing with.
Well apart from my sore back and aching legs the only thing that's really been "wrong," with me is that my thumbs have been fairly painful. Don't know if I mentioned it but I'd had to switch to knuckle pushups in my lessons, since my thumbs had become to painful for me to continue on my fingers. Well once he'd got Hilary set up with her Pepsi he set to massaging my thumbs. Twenty minutes of thumb rubbing later he decided that I might need more than just a simple massage and started poking through his many drawers until he found a tub full of a thick, black, gooey, sticky, poultice that he applied liberally to my thumbs with a spatula. He finished by encasing them both in bandages and telling me that I should keep them dry for two days.
At this point two things occurred to me;
a) this would make washing very difficult
b) I should have got my wallet out before he applied the goo to both my hands.
For anyone interested to know, it costs about twenty five yuan for a man with gold teeth, dressed in an anorak to massage your thumbs for about half an hour. Nice. That afternoon everyone went for a swim in the lake up the way. Me and my dry thumbs sat it out and took pictures from the safety of the bank.
China is building up to National Day this Wednesday so to celebrate we were given a few options of places to visit and then allowed to organize a trip for ourselves. Initially we were thinking of perhaps going to the local wildlife park or maybe the giant buddah nearby but we eventually settled on Penglai, where the Eight Immortals began their crossing of the sea. This site has a thousand year old pavilion, a number of temples and looked fairly impressive from the pictures we saw on the interweb. The weather wasn't great but it got us out and about for a day which was nice.
I think this garden was part of a temple dedicated to Bilbo Baggins.
The incredibly fun descent from the Pagoda at the top of the cliffs to Eight Immortals rock down at the bottom. Climbing back up is even more fun :P
And that's about it for now. I hope you have enjoyed this, the latest installment in my blog. Look after yourselves back in sunny England and take comfort in the fact that not only is it starting to get cold here but with the recent power cuts it has been dark and boring too. You know you're desperate when you have to make conversation with a Canadian :P