Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Yiquan Academy, day 13


That’s it; all over. I completed my last module this morning, and went to a quick revision this afternoon. That’s the end of it all for now; I’ve said my farewells for the time being.

Heh; sorry, even though the rain prevented this morning’s class with Sun Lao Shi, I was up just after 5am to get ready to go, and I’m dead tired right now. I almost fell asleep in Starbucks this afternoon!

Tomorrow I’m going to rest (read: sleep) and when I’m refreshed will write my review, I hope.

Practice

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It’s 6:17am, and I was due to meet Sun Lao Shi for training – but it’s raining, so that’s not going to happen. Instead, I thought I’d upload a few more pictures….

This is the park on campus where I train:

The gymnasium on campus, where the Olympic wrestling events will take place:

A couple of shots of Ritan Park, where I’ve been catching up with Dragoncache:

The dumpling joint where I’ve been eating lately:

Category: Beijing, China Life

1

I’m counting yesterday as day 11, even though I didn’t go….

I was up at 5:30am; yesterday Sun Lao Shi and I agreed to meet a little later today, so I was there at 6:30. We worked on the 8 basic palms and their applications, and then reviewed the first set of the 4 palms in more detail.

After that, we went into the Shanxi whipstaff, and the time just flew by! Before I knew it, it was time to move on. He gave me a spare staff, but in the current pre-Olympics security climate there’s no way I could take it downtown, so I had to cycle back to my university, leave it at home, then cycle back to Wudaokou. I grabbed my usual breakfast at Lush, and then headed down to the Yiquan Academy.

I forgot my copy of the curriculum again, so I can’t tell you then name of what we did; essentially, it was uppercut punches – first of all singly, and then in combinations, all in a static position.

That was all I did until lunchtime, at which point I headed down to Jianguomen, grabbed lunch at Subway, and spent the afternoon in Starbucks at the Friendship Store. It turns out that if you buy Earl Grey you get two-for-one (don’t know if the other teas are the same) which was cool. I finished off Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, which struck a number of chords – I really can identify with the protagonist in many ways! I’d seen it in Singapore but never bought it, which was the right decision – I think I needed to read it now, and not while I was still in Singapore…

When I got back to the Academy at 5, there was another westerner there, an Israeli called something like Gil. I’m not sure how long he’d been there, but he waited until 5:45, and as Master Yao still hadn’t arrived he gave up and left. He’s apparently here as an Olympic volunteer, has studied some yiquan and Shaolin styles before, and found the Academy via its website. I gave him Master Yao’s phone number, so he may be back.

After trying the Shanxi whipstaff in the morning, I was curious about Yiquan’s staff techniques, so I asked if I could do some work on that – so that was what I learned this afternoon. Nothing very exciting, just one static pose, but it did actually give me some insight into posture.

Master Yao arrived with the Japanese student about 6:15, and corrected me a few times. Apparently he’ll be there tomorrow morning.

I was chatting to Carlos last night, and he’d got the impression I’m fed up with the Academy; I can see why my recent posts may have given that idea, but it’s actually not the case! Wait for my final roundup at the end of the week!

“A Spanner in the works”

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That was the phrase I introduced to the Zhongguancun Toastmasters Club this evening, in my role as Wordsmith. It was an interesting evening, as we had a rare joint meeting with the Microsoft Toastmasters. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, I attend Toastmasters every Tuesday evening, which for the last couple of weeks has meant I can’t go to the Yiquan Academy on Tuesday afternoons.

I needed to catch up with my manager today to discuss an idea I’ve had for a prize to be awarded to students next semester, for the best group project. It involves drumming up private sponsorship, so needs a bit of thought and planning. The idea only struck me last night, and it needs to be acted on quickly if we’re going to do it. So…. I called up Master Yao and let him know I couldn’t make it at all today. Tomorrow willI be no problem, though. So no further yiquan news today!

It wasn’t a martial arts-free day, though! I got up shortly after 5am, and met Master Sun Ru Xian not long after 6. We reviewed the eight basic palms and then the first set of the 64 Palms again. After that, a surprise! He started teaching me the Shanxi whipstaff set. Yay! I’m – ahem – not exactly a natural, and rapidly became a menace to passersby, small animals and low-flying aircraft, but I will get better! Ahem, I hope. Poor Sun Lao Shi, I often think he must go home after lessons and bang his head against the wall at having such a retarded student! I’ll keep trying, though. He had a spare staff which he’s giving me. He’s a really generous guy. I think I’ve really fallen on my feet, finding him as a teacher. I do need to work hard to live up to his commitment.

As for that… look back at my post on “the narrowing of the ways”. After five years of searching, I rather think I may have found the right mix of teachers and styles to focus on. More on that in a future post, coming soon!

Another shopping expedition


Situated just outside the Physical Education University’s West Gate, this shop has a lot of obscure bagua weapons in stock!

Category: Uncategorized

The Yiquan Academy, day 10

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Decision: I’m curtailing my studies at the Yiquan Academy. I had planned to go through until the end of next week, but I now plan to make this week my last, and I’m not sure whether I’ll make it to the end of the week.

Mostly this has nothing to do with the Academy itself, only that it’s a 90-minute trip from where I live. I had planned to use the afternoons and evenings to prepare for next semester, but I’m finding that with all the travelling, plus the time it takes to find somewhere to eat after the morning and afternoon sessions, I’m not getting much work done. The fact is, my level of wushu ability right now is substantially lower than it was six months ago. The reason is, I didn’t have an opportunity to prepare my classes before the semester began, so I spent almost all of my “free” time frantically preparing lectures -and, consequently, I had no time to practice. If I want to have time to do martial arts seriously once the next semester starts, I need to be prepared. I’m going to dedicate next week to that.

So.

Today I did a bunch of very interesting stuff.

浑元桩(打乱程序摸劲) UNIVERSAL COMBAT POST (SEEKING FORCE WITH CHANGING DIRECTIONS)
浑元桩(六面力同时摸劲) UNIVERSAL COMBAT POST (SEEKING FORCE IN SIX DIRECTIONS SIMULTANEOUSLY)

These were cool. Here’s the beginning of training for full-body power. Woo! Hoo! Good stuff!

After the morning session, I headed down to Ritan Park, and practised bagua for a while. Ritan Park now has peacocks wandering around – when did that happen? Then it was dwon to Scitech, to catch up with a Serbian friend who has a lot to celebrate, and perhaps we will, soon.

Afternoon class (5:30 – 6:45):

丁八步头发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH HEAD
丁八步肩发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH SHOULDER
丁八步肘发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH ELBOW
丁八步掌发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH PALM
丁八步跨发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH HIP
丁八步膝发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH KNEE

Sorry, pardon my language, but OMFG. This is training for fa li, but what really blows me away is that the yiquan curriculum actually has exercises for headbutting. The only teacher who’s ever taught me this before was Zhou Yue Wen, and the way it’s taught here is exactly the way he did it, ie with the side of the head rather than the front (DON’T try this at home, kids!).

Taken all together, today’s lessons totally reinforce my impression that yiquan, and its structured, methodical, approach are superb*. However…

I was taught, as usual, by Li Xin. Didn’t see much of Master Yao till right at the end of the day. I was preparing to leave when they both came over to discuss payment.

When I first went to the school, Master Yao wrote down “600 RMB” next to each module. OK, that’s clear. Each module is nicely laid out, as you can see. So I was like, OK, no problem; I paid for the first two modules up front. As far as I was aware, that was OK; sure, I’ll pay more as we get to more advanced modules. Except, as you’ll note if you compare what I’ve written to the module list, what I’ve been taught is largely the first two modules, though not everything, plus lots from further ahead in the module.

Thinking about it last night, I reckoned I was surely into the third module by now, so I took cash out of the ATM before going to class, and paid Li Xin first thing this morning for a third module.

This was what the discussion today was about. Master Yao counted up the number of different moves I’ve been taught, said well these are equivalent to one module, these are equivalent to another module, these to a third, pay up more before we go on tomorrow please.

Well, OK. I kind of dislike the insinuation that I wouldn’t pay, but whatever. However, it seems that the charging is by move, not by module. This is another communication issue, let’s put it that way. I agreed to pay by module, and the modules’ content is very clearly laid out. However, what has actually been taught has been drawn from all over the curriculum. I’m not complaining about that, it’s been very useful and a great insight into what yiquan is all about. However, were I to put my MBA, cynical, hat on, I would observe that this does… ahem, encourage… me to buy all of the books ASAP.

I want to reiterate that I am finding all of the training, and the material, to be amazing. However, I do, still, feel rushed, and I do feel pressured to keep paying. This afternoon’s session was kind of a tipping point for me. The sequences where I learned the head and shoulder strikes just didn’t come naturally to me; I keep trying to generate power from the hips, which is not correct for these moves. Even so, we moved on to new moves, while I think it was clear I couldn’t properly perform the ones we’d already covered. On this topic, I am aware of Andrzej’s comment and explanation, but I’m afraid I can’t really accept it; I’ll go over why exactly in my review.

Which brings me to what next. Tomorrow I will pay for one more module, however that happens to be composed, and no more. I don’t know how long it will take me to complete but once it is, I’m done; could be Wednesday or Thursday, maybe Friday.

At the end of the week, I’ll do an overall review. Don’t confuse my feelings about yiquan as a style, the standard of the teaching, and issues about the way the Academy is run as a business; these are separate topics, and I’ll address them separately in my review.

On the way home, I was hungry and stopped again at the dumpling joint at Guloudajie zhan. Surrounded by ar-ar-ar Beijing ren, I felt totally at ease, and was yet again reminded why I love this city so much…. I read a bit more of Dharma Bums, and felt invigorated by the correspondence between passages of the book and parts of my own life that I hadn’t thought about in a long time (the bits about mountain-climbing, FWIW!).

* Superb, but not complete. More about this in my final review.

Downtime

4

I took the opportunity to not do very much today. The morning passed in sleep, and domestic tasks.

In the early afternoon, I caught up with Kong Cheng, Master Liu Jing Ru’s disciple, and we chatted for an hour or so over coffee. He’s not long back from a trip to Europe, where he taught bagua in Greece, Italy and France, and also treated patients (he’s a TCM doctor). I noted that Frank Allen and Tina Zhang are coming to see Master Liu with some students in December, and mentioned I would like to meet them; that led on to talk about Bruce Frantzis, who Kong Cheng remembers meeting when Frantzis was a student in Beijing. Various other topics, I might talk more about some of them at a later date.

Then on to the Xidan Bookstore, where I bought Mists of Avalon and Man of Aran; no idea when I’ll have time to watch them, though. Also picked up The Dharma Bums; I feel it’s time to read some Kerouac, and to recall my own hitch-hiking, mountain-climbing younger days…

Finally, on to Ritan Park and the Stone Boat, where I caught up with Dragoncache and one of his fellow bagua students, a beautiful lady with a degree, believe it or not, in spacecraft design. Way out of my league! Bah.

My shoulders and upper arms are really stiff today after yesterday’s Yiquan class – good, it shows I’m actually doing some work…

The Yiquan Academy, day 9


I was only a little bit late this morning, held up firstly because I needed to speak to my manager (who chose today to come in late to work), and secondly by the long, long queue for tickets to Olympic events – the last batch went on sale today – so I wanted to take a few pictures.

Nobody was there except Li Xin. He took me through some new moves, but I’d forgotten my syllabus so he couldn’t show me which ones they were. Looking at them now, I think they were three out of:

定步单横拳发力 FIXED STEP LEFT HORIZONTAL PUNCH
定步左右横拳发力 FIXED STEP LEFT-RIGHT HORIZONTAL PUNCHES ]
定步连续三横拳发力 FIXED STEP THREE CONTINUOUS PUNCHES
走步单横拳发力 LEFT HORIZONTAL PUNCH WITH STEPS
走步左右横拳发力 LEFT-RIGHT HORIZONTAL PUNCHES WITH STEPS
走一步三横拳发力 THREE HORIZONTAL PUNCHES WITH ONE STEP
走三步三横拳发力 THREE CONTINUOUS HORIZONTAL PUNCHES WITH STEPS

Not sure which ones exactly, and in any case these are all from Module 12, so how that happened I’m not sure, but anyway it was basically like throwing hooks from Western boxing, first in a static position, and then stepping. Very physical, very sweaty – great, if I’m going to lose weight, this kind of thing will help 😀

While I was doing repetitions of this the poor guy was obviously getting a bit bored, and started checking my phone to see what music I have on it – not much, I’m afraid, and lots of what there is, is Buddhist chanting! I showed him my iPod, and he started watching the videos I’ve got stored on that. He really liked the Parkour film of the Dvinsk clan! That took me up to 12, so my time was up for the morning.

I headed off to the Vineyard Cafe for lunch, and spent most of the afternoon there, doing basic preparation for next semester. Stopped off when I left at the new Passby Cafe shop, to buy the Lonely Planet Guide to China (banned in China! Only available in a couple of places! Apparently). I’ve got the first week of September free, and fancy travelling. Any suggestions?

Back to the Academy at 5, and there were a few more people there. At first there was just one other student, being coached by Li Xin in One Leg Post (and complaining vociferously that it was hurting his kua – I’ve got that to look forward to, yippee!). Li Xin and I agreed that this would be a revision session, nothing new. I started reviewing what I’ve learned so far, as other people arrived.

These were three – a guy who speaks poor Mandarin, and turns out to be Japanese. I asked if he’d come from taikiken (sp?) and he said no, he’s learned directly from Master Yao. His wife came with him, and sat watching without saying anything. Also came a very upright, grizzled fellow, with a gravelly voice plainly tuned by years of cigarettes… I can’t decide whether he’s Chinese who speaks good Japanese, or Japanese who speaks good Chinese. Either way, I couldn’t understand the conversation, but I caught some references to Sun Zi Bing Fa.

Master Yao arrived around this time as well. He got me reviewing what I’d learned in the morning, gave me good feedback and corrections, and worked a lot with the Japanese guy. The latter had set up a Handycam on a tripod, so I’m guessing that he’s just visiting and getting training while he can.

I left at 6:30; three hours today was enough. I definitely entered into new territory – it’s a big step from static or slow postures to boxing! But this is why yiquan is such a good complete system…

I stopped off at the dumpling restaraunt opposite Guloudajie station for dumplings and beer, and very good dumplings they are too, I highly recommend that place. Then back to Wudaokou, and home. I need to sleep now!

I actually felt totally fine today, even though the meeting last night went on much later, and involved more beer, that I’d anticipated or really wanted. (It was fun and interesting, though). However, my neck is aching again now, and that’s definitely a result of the zhan zhuang – it does tend to punish bad posture…

The Yiquan Academy, day 8

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Nothing to report. The headache that started yesterday got worse, and I felt giddy and nauseous all day, so I didn’t want to train.

I had an evening appointment in Jianguomen that I didn’t want to miss, having cancelled on a previous occasion, so I stopped at the Academy on the way to pay Master Yao for the DVDs. He wasn’t there, so I left the money with Li Xin.

The Yiquan Academy, day 7

7

Yesterday was day 7 at the Yiquan Academy. I’d spoken to Master Yao on the phone the previous day, so I knew there was no class in the morning, but he clearly said the afternoon session would be OK, at 4pm.

So, at 4pm, I arrived… to find the door shut! Aagghh! I knocked and waited, and after a short while the door was opened… by one of the resident students, wearing only his underpants! Hehehe, that gave me a shock!

As it happens, I once shared a house with a friend who had the habit of wandering about the house in his pants, and who would answer the door like that if someone chanced to call by – much to the shock of the visitor! The really funny thing was that he was such a nice guy, a natural innocent, that it never occurred to him that it might raise eyebrows… He was perfectly happy to stand on the doorstep chatting away – and that doorway faced onto a busy street… Heh.

Anyway, the Yiquan Academy’s doorway faces onto a dark basement stairwell, so it’s not quite the same. The student told me to come in; everything was dark…. He put the light on in the training room and left me there; he went back in to the dormitory, back to sleep. As I was standing there nonplussed, Li Xin appeared in the doorway of his own room. “No problem”, he said, “do some zhan zhuang”.

OK… So, I got started, but to be honest I couldn’t really concentrate; I was too pissed off. I knew that Master Yao had said to come at four.

So…. After about half an hour, things started stirring. A couple more people arrived from outside, and the in-house students started stirring.

Li Xin took me through two new techniques:

丁八步平推试力 T-EIGHT EVEN PUSHING TESTING FORCE
丁八步拨水试力 T-EIGHT STEP PLAYING WITH WATER TESTING FORCE

The first of these, I didn’t really get to grips with; I know I still wasn’t doing it properlywhen we moved on to the second.

However, the second one, the T-Eight Step Playing With Water Testing Force, is another one of the actions that’s given me a real ‘AHA’ moment. It’s really not at all complicated – and yet I found it very difficult to do properly. Li Xin had to correct me almost constantly. So why was this?

It’s actually working a lot of different elements of the body, and really working on the positioning, opening, closing, and stretching of the ankles knees, hips, lower back…. as well as posture et cetera! It’s all very, very subtle, and I really had to think carefully to identify the sources and causes of pains, and why it wasn’t working well… but having done so, I got insights into a range of postural problems that I will need to work on and correct. Cool – that’s a good thing, and without doubt good for long-term health 🙂 We all have these bad habits that develop over time, but it’s not so often we realize it….

Master Yao arrived around 4:45; it seems like the school is preparing for something, but I couldn’t work out what. Lots of boxes of new equipment had arrived – boxing gloves and shoes, I think, and some of the students were packing these away in one of the rooms. There was a lot of discussion of some of the framed calligraphy on the walls, but I don’t know why! Combining this with the TV filming they’ve been doing, I seem to have arrived at a busy time for them, which may well be contributing to the erratic timing.

In terms of the yiquan, you’ll probably gather that I think it’s great; I’ve never studied anything or anywhere else which has such a detailed approach to building an awareness of posture and strength. This really does seem to be the basis for developing in internal arts. There was another student there yesterday, more advanced than me who was being taught du li zhang ( 独立桩(前后摸劲)ONE LEG POST (SEEKING FORCE FORWARDS-BACKWARDS)) and I suddenly realized that I’ve seen something very like this before – in the picture of Grandmaster Wu Tu Nan, on the Nam Wah Pai website. (It’s not the same posture, but it reminds me of du li zhang). I mention this because yiquan didn’t come out of the blue; it was derived from Wang Xiangzhai’s studies with various internal masters – and I suspect that these practices were once pretty widely known. Sadly, many schools and teachers now don’t seem to teach them. (YMMV, of course; I can only speak of my own experience).

Anyway, I’m convinced enough that I decided to splash out and buy the DVD set. Haven’t had time to watch much yet, but I’ll let you know what I think.

I left at around 6:30 yesterday. I don’t know if it was all the people smoking, bad posture putting a strain on my neck, the ‘internal’ exercises releasing toxins, or something else but I started to develop a bad headache, which is still around today. There’s no class this morning, but I’ll be going again this afternoon – but perhaps a little later…

Just to conclude this post, I’ll pick up where the comment thread on Day 6’s post left off. I’ll develop this into a separate post at some point, but I’m actually pretty happy with the way things are going. I’m already convinced that yiquan is a superb art. Master Yao is a good teacher, as is his senior student. I do feel rushed at times, but a) as I’ve previously written, if I say I don’t want to do anything new because I want to do more practice on something, there’s never any problem with that, and b) Dacheng’s comment suggests that this is actually part of their methodology. There certainly is a problem, but I think it comes from misunderstandings on two points. Firstly, the way the course is run, in terms of timing, etc, is not the way it’s described on the website. That’s a marketing issue. Secondly, there’s a cultural issue. The way the Academy works, as a rather traditional, residential, wuguan is very different from anything most Western martial arts students will have experienced, and that, I think, leads to problems with expectations.

Anyway, more on all that in another post.