A Travellerspoint blog

Tea and Tiger Fist

Will I ever be Shaolin?!?

overcast 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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I think this garden was part of a temple dedicated to Bilbo Baggins.

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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

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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

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Laters,

Robin

Posted by IRShaolin 17:47 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Misty Mornings

First month finished and STILL NOT SHAOLIN!

sunny 20 °C

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Hi guys, how are you? I'm a little sore but I'm getting used to that now. After the first week my muscles tightened up a bit and I actually ended up less flexible than when I arrived. Thanks to a rigorous program of stretching I'm actually getting more flexible now. We're working on doing the splits in Shaolin class. Really I'm nowhere near yet but Sifu helps by pushing on my legs when i try, causing pain and laughter in equal amounts.

We're continuing to work on the basic form, making steady progress. It's interesting to see moves from the drills we do being incorporated. Makes us work harder when we do the drills because you start to see an application for it. I've had to slow down on the finger pushups because my thumbs have been quite painful these last few days. I'm down to 20-30 finger pushups and make it up to 60 with knuckle pushups. We've had a new exercise introduced too; frog jumps. For this exercise you assume the pushup position, bend your arms, then push out with your hands and toes, propelling yourself forwards. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is quite hard work and we are expected to cover about 20 yards in 30 hops. I can do it in about 60 at the moment and i need to stop a few times along the way to get my breathe back. I am seeing a steady improvement though.

We're also doing a lot of work with the pads which is very interesting. I've been finding hooks difficult, aligning my wrist correctly when throwing a hook is proving tricky. Uppercuts, elbows and straight punches are good though and I can generate quite a bit of power. We're also practicing kicking with the pads, obviously the forces involved with a kick are somewhat greater than a punch so we have a *slightly* thicker pad. I've got bruises up my side at the moment from where my elbow has been driven into my ribs, despite the pad, and bruises up my arms from where people have misjudged how long their legs are and kicked past the pad. Oh well, it's all good fun :)

What else have we been practicing? We've been doing sweeps which are very funky. Looks like break dancing. We've been doing lots of conditioning work, holding your leg out straight for an extended period, stuff like that. We've even been doing a little Chi'na (joint locking). Man, this stuff is my favourite. One moment you're blocking a punch, the next your opponent's got his arm twisted up his back with your fingers driving into some sensitive spot in his neck. This is something I'd really like to get good at.

Chigong is going a little better, I can hold the stance for 30-45 minutes usually although i don't really like to. I tend to do about 20 minutes of standing Chigong and then do moving Chigong for 20 minutes. I try to switch back to the stance work for the end before the master turns round and sees what we're up to. I'm starting to get a bit more out of it but sometimes I'm just not in the correct frame of mind and the hour drags past.

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Taichi is good, learning new moves of the Yang form every couple of days. I really need to find the time to practice a bit more but it's getting to the point now where there's so much I want to practice I'm not sure what to do. It's only going to get worse when we learn more forms too.

Jamie and Shlomit have both left now, it's a lot quieter without them. We had a bit of a kareoke party to see them off. Not usually my thing but a slug of 37% rice spirits helped fuel the fun. We had cake too but that wasn't so nice. Even Qu Sifu joined in with the festivities although he took a little convincing :)

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We're really getting into Autumn now, the temperature has dropped to a more bearable level, the mornings are misty, the leaves are falling from the deciduous trees whilst the everygreens are pretending nothing has changed. Gotta say, it's pretty nice getting up and strolling down to the Taichi lesson at six and watching the sun rise over the misty mountains.

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As with all things it's not all good news though, it's much harder to get out of bed when it's chilly in the mornings. We're training outdoors at the moment because the workmen are desperately trying to finish the training hall before the real bad weather kicks in and even though we sweep the training area before we begin it doesn't take long for more leaves to fall and they can be quite treacherous underfoot.

The misty mornings also have the unpleasant side effect of making the local driving even more exciting when you have to get up early and go to the big city for a visa extension. It appears that fog lights don't come as standard on Chinese cars so everyone just puts their hazard lights on, hardly a substitute in my opinion.

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Anyway, that was really the highlight of my day, as far as excitement goes it was all down hill from there. The rest of this entry is about the visa application so if you're just here for the Kungfu you can stop reading now :). The police station in Yantai is fairly large and just about anyone in the area who wants a visa has to pass through here. With the Autumn festival just around the corner everyone was trying to get their visa sorted before the weekend so as I'm sure you can imagine the place was a hive of activity. We arrived about 15 minutes before the third floor office opened and joined the already sizeable queue waiting outside on the stairs. I'm afraid I didn't get any photos since it's not really allowed and I didn't want to annoy any police officers before my extension was granted.

At 8:30 the doors opened and everyone pushed inside, racing to the counters in an attempt to be the first in line. We were about 6 people back from the front in queue number two of eight. Not bad. Problem was all the electrics in the building were down so we were going to have to wait until the computers were back online before anything could be processed. One hour later the computer screens started flickering to life and things started to move. Unfortunately they started to move sideways. Turned out no one had arrived to process the applicants in queue number one so they pushed sideways into our line. Now we were about 10 people from the front. We stood waiting patiently for another hour and a half until we were nearly at the front, only one person stood between us and the counter, but she was a teacher at the university and I couldn't believe my eyes as she began working through a stack of about 15 passports. The office closed at 11:30 for lunch.

So that was the morning wasted. We went to a nearby restaurant to get something to eat. The office wouldn't open again until 2:00 Sky was a little vague about what we were ordering so I just pointed at a few things and hoped for the best. We ended up with some meat dumplings, a plate of grated potato and a spicey chicken that had been dismembered and served to us in its entirety.

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As it turned out the chicken wasn't particularly spicey and i managed to consume the majority of it. The potato however compensated for the chicken's lack of spice by having a few chillies hidden in its depths. Surprised? I was. Sky saw the look on my face and quickly poured me some tea to try to take away the burning. The food was actually alright, there was certainly plenty of it and Sky encouraged me to try to eat it all, a near impossible task.

Meal over we headed back to the office to try to beat the queues. To be fair we didn't do badly either. When the doors eventually opened we raced in to the front of queue number three. Really this was down to Sky, she's only small but she can be quite pushy, bless her. So we stood there, waiting patiently, watching the staff file in and begin their work. The girl who worked at position one arrived, the girl who worked at position two arrived, the guy who worked position three never turned up. We couldn't believe it. Apparantly he was due to arrive at three. The other queues were already very long with people at the front handing over multiple passports so we figured we'd be best off waiting where we were. Three o'clock came and went and I was starting to get a little nervous, if i couldn't get my extension i was going to have to do some pretty quick footwork to get myself out of the country.

At one point the girl from queue one came over to our position and brought people from her line with her and started processing them on the computer infront of us. She absolutely refused to look at anyone in our line though. Eventually though someone took pity on me. One of the boss men came over and took my application from me and handed it to the girl from position one, asked her to take a look at it next. She took her stack of passports back to desk one to finish working through them before she got to mine... just as the guy who worked position three arrived! Aaaaaaargh! So more waiting. The upside of this though was that the guy in charge authorized a two month extension for me.

We got back to the school ten hours after we had left. At least i don't have to do that again for a little while.

That's about it from me for the time being, I'll update the blog again soon. Might do a virtual tour of the school, that'd be cool :)

All the best,

Robin

Posted by IRShaolin 17:26 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Flying Kicks and Finger Pushups...

Two weeks and I R still not Shaolin :/

all seasons in one day 22 °C

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Well two weeks are done, fifty more to go and I'm still going strong :)

This last week has been easier in some respects, my muscles are burning less now than when I began but I'm going to have to start working on my flexibility which will probably be tough. I must admit, I'm feeling more deadly than when I began but that might just be the noodles talking.

At the moment we have 8 students at the school, four from the UK and 4 from other countries around the world. The school emptied out when the Olympics were on because the visa authorities refused visa extensions for the students that were there which was a bit of a shame. It's getting busier again now though. We've had two new arrivals in this last week, Harry and Mark. Harry has taken the path of the Mantis, Mark has seen the light and joined the real men on the path to Shaolin ;)

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Training has developed somewhat in the last week. There are two Shaolin classes every day, the first usually focuses on the "form;" a series of movements and stances that define a kungfu style, the second focuses on "application;" which is how you use the form to break someone's arm and jab them in the throat with your fingertips. Now that I have a training partner the application classes have really picked up since we can practice on each other. We have to practice blocking twice a week; one of us punches, the other knocks blows away with the bone at the side of the wrist. The effects are two fold, one partner gets to practice timing his blocks and one partner gets to toughen his arms up by receiving repeated blocks to his arms. I tell you, when a block connects properly the pain for an unprepared attacker can take your breathe away. My forearms are covered in massive red bruises, in fact, they all kinda merged into one huge super-bruise. Sifu thought my swollen arms were hilarious, I can't wait for the day when my arms are as tough as his. We'd probably practice more but my arms just can't take it yet.

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The form work is developing very slowly, the masters are reluctant to teach us the next move until we have mastered the preceding stance. You can see their point but it makes practicing a little monotonous at times. Training seems to slow slightly when a new member is introduced too since the master has to go back over the basics. This serves to reinforce your training and all the conditioning is good for me but I learn pretty quick anyway and I'd like to get on with things.

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I can see Peter, my training partner, feels the same and can be easily distracted at times. He likes to try whatever crazy maneuver Sifu is pulling off when we're meant to be drilling basic kicks or punches. This has had some unforeseen and not always enjoyable consequences. For instance, Sifu will often jump a couple of feet in the air and perform some kind of spinning back kick to keep himself amused. This is very cool, looks totaly awesome and I have upon occassion thought; "I wouldn't mind giving that a go." Once as we practice our sliding steps across the basketball court I turned around to see Peter doing just that... and I wasn't the only one who noticed. Next thing I know Sifu has us lined up, jumping in the air trying to lift our feet past our ears as we attempt hip wrenching 360's for 20 minutes. That was a fairly painful lesson but thankfully it's an advanced technique and has not been adopted into our training regimen.

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What has been adopted into our training though are pushups. Lots and lots of pushups. Our master, Wong Sifu, is a power house of a man and often kills time by doing pushups. He says they are excellent for making your punches harder and faster and that he can and does do 3000 in about one and a half hours. I believe him. Peter's exercise routine from home included a lot of pushups so when he saw our Master doing finger pushups he just had to give them a go. I have to say when I spotted what was happening my heart sank a little. I started waving subtly, trying to get him to stop... but too late, now at the end of every lesson we have to do 5 sets of 10 pushups on our fingertips. The surprising thing is that I'm actually pretty good at them. I've lost some weight since I've been here and coupled with the weight training I'd been doing in preparation for coming here, I can pull off some fairly cool stuff. I can do a few pushups whilst doing a hand-stand, I can do 8 fingered pushups, I can do a significant number of pushups on my knuckles, or those ones where you clap between pushes. Difference is I wait till I'm out of Sifu's sight before i try it ;)

We do a lot of hard work here but at the weekends we get to take a bit of a break and I've been doing my best to get out and about. This last weekend we went to Yantai city to visit one of Shlomit's friends and do some shopping.

Yantai is a large city with a lot of districts, its own airport, three universities, office blocks, markets, basically it's a fairly big deal. Shlomit's friend, Jackie, is a law student and an ex-translator from the Kungfu school here. He met us first thing and gave us a tour of the grounds at the university he studies at whilst our driver nipped off to complete a few tasks. Talk about an impressive campus. This place has an indoor garden at the centre of every department, there's a huge outdoor lake, a forest, about 10 dining halls, each capable of holding 2000 people, a full sized stadium and the whole thing is located right next to a beautiful, white sand beach.

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Made me a little ashamed of the campus I attended (you know who you are :P). We enjoyed some iced lollipops on the beach before heading to one of the dining halls for noodles and internets. Jackie is a top guy and it was a pleasure to meet him but time was passing and we had to move on.

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Next stop was the train station since Shlomit is unfortunately leaving us this weekend and returning to Israel. She won't be taking the train all the way but she was hoping to book a ticket on the sleeper to Beijing and from there take a plane. We were two days too early for ticket booking though so we had to leave that for another day. By coincidence the train station is virtually next door to an excellent market where you can buy almost anything you can think off. We stocked up on DVD's, tea, swords, Hillary bought a tea set... yes, I said swords :D

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Well, to be fair I didn't actually get a sword. I can't belive it myself, this place had every kind of martial arts weapon under the sun, from tiger-hooks to nunchaku, knuckle dusters to nine section whips. A sword was about $10 and I walked away empty handed! What I was really thinking was that I've got 12 months here, I'm two weeks in, I can't even punch straight yet, buying a sword might be a little premature. I've got time. But let me assure you, I will get a sword at some point, and I WILL learn how to use it! Rawr!

Consolation prize for not buying a sword was a trip to Walmart. It was such a relief to go to a shop where I could read and understand the signs. I treated myself to some jam (for our breakfast porridge), a wash basket (for my dirty clothes), an extra pillow (to help me sleep), a mirror (to help me shave), a snickers bar (cos I love chocolate) and air freshners (for our toilet). After Walmart we squeezed into the car with our phat loots and headed home.

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We're fairly isolated where we are which to be honest is kinda nice, it's pretty peaceful most of the time. The weather has been changeable lately. We're getting well into Autumn now and it's starting to cool down. Last week we had a massive thunder storm, it was very impressive but it fried the school modem and knocked out our internet for a week. It's been a bit rainy these last few days too but it's still fairly warm, particularly when you're training.

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At long last I've managed to find a card reader so I can finally lift images off my camera. I'm going to go back through my blog and put in a load of pictures over the coming week. I'll try to do more exciting stuff to tell you about, in the mean time, keep yourselves nice :)

All the best,

Robin

Posted by IRShaolin 21:19 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Weekends, watermelons, walking and washing

Still not Shaolin... :(

semi-overcast 27 °C

OK, so it's the weekend, I've had a hard week's training, been into Mu Ping town and climbed a mountain, what would you like to hear about first?

Let's start at the beginning; if you read my last blog you'll have a rough idea of what we get up to every day. Things continued in pretty much the same vein, I've been spending my Shaolin lessons kicking lots and waving my arms around until by Friday I was struggling to walk up stairs. I'd been having a hard time in some of my lessons. I don't mind if a move is painful but by the end of the week I was just physically incapable of carrying out Wong Sifu's instructions, I'd try to move my weight and my leg would give out. A couple of days rest has done me good though and I think I'll be ready to go again on Monday.

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We had a new guy arrive from Holland on Thursday bringing the total number of students up to six. He joined me in the Shaolin lesson on Friday. He is younger and fitter than me but worst of all the b@$!@&# is more flexible than I am :P. He's a nice lad and he's had quite a bit of Kungfu experience. To be honest it'll be nice to have someone else to train with so I get a little bit of a break between exercises. I've gone headlong through the first week but I may have to spread my effort a bit more evenly, push myself less in class and practice more by myself.

Friday afternoon we went for a run up the road and back. I kicked everyone's ass because I rock! and because I have spent the last few months training running and they have spent it learning Kungfu and eating pies ;). Afterwards we were looking for somewhere to do some chin ups and we saw the climbing rings over the pool;

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I managed to get to about the 8th, maybe 9th ring before my arms gave out, I was caught one-ringed and had to drop gracefully into the goldfish infested waters. Jamie managed about the same but everyone else was too chicken to have a go :P

We had been having problems with the washing machine, it stopped filling with water and just dry span your clothes with washing powder, something I only discovered after putting virtually all my clothes in the thing. We were showing Peter (the new guy) where the washing machine was and somehow he managed to get it to run a cycle so thankfully I, at least, will have clean clothes next week.

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Headed into Mu Ping, the local town, on Saturday to buy a few essentials. Mu Ping is a decent sized town with large tower blocks and some nice shops. We went to a bank first to check my bank card worked, which it did, then we headed for a supermarket. To be honest supermarket does not quite give the right impression, but then department store doesn't quite cover it either. This place sells pretty much everything. Downstairs you walk into an electronics area which sells cameras and computers, then through a turnstile into the proper food shopping supermarket. Everything is packaged in bright colours with cartoony writing, makes it very difficult to tell the sweets from the washing powder. Upstairs is everthing that does not fit into the other two areas, from stationary to bedding, electrical goods to clothing.

I treated myself to a desk light, a small fan and a few other odds and ends for my room figuring that if I'm going to be here a while I may as well make myself comfortable. Also managed to find a power adaptor that runs chinese and British plugs simultaneously which was a bonus. On the way out of the shopping centre we saw a stack of watermelons and we couldn't resist getting one to bring back to the school. We had the watermelon for lunch and it was sooooooo good. One water melon goes a long way and even between six of us we couldn't finish it. We had tried to offer it to the local staff too but the language barrier is not easily overcome.

(As a side note on the food; Whilst all of the food has been pretty good, the sweet sauce they put on the chicken occassionally is totally awesome. Kinda like mango chutney or something. It's probably made from kitttens feet and cow tails but it tastes great!)

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After lunch I spent the afternoon tidying my newly furnished room, I fully unpacked (thank you Hillary for the lovely wardrobe you weren't using) and cleaned the floor. Hopefully next week I can get some pictures or posters to put around the place.

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Sunday morning Peter, Shlomit and I thought we'd kill some time by taking a hike up one of the nearby mountains. We got permission from Tzu Sifu and headed out with backpacks and bottles of water. We hadn't really got a clue where we were going as there are no paths really and we weren't even really sure where we wanted to go.

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Two hours of walking through fairly dense undergrowth managed to get us almost to the top of one of the nearby hills. Where we could we stuck to streams but often we had to divert off through the conifers or climb over some rocks. We were stamping along to try to scare the snakes and I was at the front waving a stick around to break up as many of the spiders webs as I could. Was pretty tough going, and gotta say I wasn't too happy when we got to the top and had to do a bit of climbing but we did well.

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The view from the top was good so we stopped and took some photos. By then we were getting a little worried about the trip down since it had taken us two hours to get to the top and the day was a little overcast. If it rained then descending the rocky sections could be a bit dangerous and none of us wanted to miss lunch. I had brought my emergency Oreos with me but hoped it would not come to that, and by "that" I mean "sharing". As it was the trip down only took half an hour. Turns out when you know the route, you're going downhill and you don't have to spend so much time checking for those massive spiders webs you can move a lot quicker. Think I saw a snake on the way down, nearly trod on it, not sure though, it bolted pretty fast but it certainly made me jump. Also saw a decent sized mantis (which I angered with a stick for photos).

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And that's about it really. Hope you're enjoying the blog, if you are then please send cookies to the Yantai Traditional Kungfu School, marked FAO Robin ;)

All the best,

Robin

Posted by IRShaolin 00:17 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

First Day's Kungfu!

I R not yet Shaolin :(

semi-overcast 25 °C

Ok, well I guess this is what you guys really wanted instead of some crappy blog about airports and sleepless nights.

I got up at 5:30 to see if I could grab myself an early shower and be fresh for the day but no joy. The old Chinese lady who lives downstairs insists on locking the shower room, maybe to stop people stealing the hot water? Either that or the bicycle that she insists on keeping in there.

Anyway, first up, every morning at 6:15 is Taichi. Usually this is performed outdoors under some spreading trees to help you absorb Chi and prepare you for the day ahead. Unfortunately the wind was picking up which put us at risk of absorbing "bad Chi" so we had to do it in one of the newly refurbished halls. Kasim, Shlomit and I were the only ones attending since this is one of the optional classes. Once the master had set Shlomit going on her form-work he came to see what the two newbies could do. After looking unimpressed by our Taichi forms he started us on Taichi stepping. Didn't take long for us to grasp what it was he wanted and he actually looked fairly satisfied with our attempts, even asked us if we'd done it before. After we had done about 15 minutes of stepping he began teaching us the first few moves of the Yang style 24 form. Kasim got less attention than me but that's probably because I was screwing up more. It was that or my Sonic T-shirt, he couldn't stop staring at it!

The time flew by and before we knew it it was breakfast, 7:15, where the others assured me it wasn't just my T-shirt, the Taichi master stares at everyone's chest. A little disturbing for the girls. Breafast here consists of a very runny but surprisingly tastey porridge, some boiled eggs, fruit (usually an unripe peach), and occasionally some steamed bread or a wierd cakey-bakey thing. Nice.

After breakfast was my first Shaolin lesson, 8:30. We ran around the compound for 5-10 minutes, then we stretched for another 5-10 minutes. They taught me some good stretches but man they hurt. It's incredible how flexible I can actually be. Shaolin training is really hard and involves lots and lots of kicking exercises. I worked like a dog through my first hour and a half Shaolin lesson hoping to impress Master Wong with my committment. Not sure it really worked tho. He kept telling me to slow down and use less power but to kick faster :s. Anyway, he's really cool and I think I'm lucky to have him as a teacher.

WongSifu01.jpg

Half an hour later we have Chigong, 10:30, where you hold a posture until it hurts, relax your arms a little, then hold the stance again for about an hour. Relaxing the arms helps but it's your legs and feet that becoming burning balls of "make me stop doing this now". I've been told that if you can get through the burning pain you reach a point where it stops hurting and you start getting some benefit from it. Qu Sifu says it is the cornerstone of all Chinese Kungfu and we should really try to get good at it but one hour of standing still bores me silly.

Dinner was at twelve O'clock and not long after I took a walk to the shop with Hillary. The shop is about a fifteen minute walk down the road into a small village on the main road. The shop we go to has drinks, general foodstuffs and sundries but obviously is not geared towards supplying protein hungry European Kungfu students. We did see a snake on the walk there which was cool. Apparantly people don't see much wildlife about, very little bird life and certainly no monkeys here :\

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I had some time to kill before application class so I found somewhere quiet and practiced my Taichi. I don't want to cripple myself practicing Shaolin this week.

The next lesson is another Shaolin training session. It's meant to be an application lesson where they teach you the uses of the moves you have learnt in the form but for the first week at least it's fairly similar drills to the first lesson. In addition to the kicks some stepping exercises were added. The problem with these is that you have to keep fairly low and twist as you step so the strain on your legs is pretty tough. Think i am going to be sore by the end of the week. I was pretty glad when the lesson finished. Wong Sifu just laughed at me and told me I'd be far more tired in the future. My legs are going to be so strong by the end of this.

Mandarin lesson was cancelled because Fiona (our translator) had to take Jamie (student) to the doctor (quack). Instead we went up to the TV room and watched some of the Olympics. They've got one of those projectors so we can watch telly and DVDs super large on the wall. Pretty funky.

Anyways, that's about it for the first day, I'll stop writing such detailed blogs after this and try just to talk about the interesting stuff otherwise i'll spend more time writing these than I do actually practicing Kungfu :P. I've borrowed a camera lead of someone so pictures will follow shortly.

Next blog will follow soon, all the best,

Robin :)

Posted by IRShaolin 05:02 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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