Monthly Archives: September 2008

Out of the slough of despond


Over-dramatic, I know. All the same, off-topic events across the last couple of months stopped me from training and, having stopped, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to start again. I was supposed to meet Master Sun Ru Xian for bagua last Sunday and Wednesday, but both classes had to be cancelled due to work and weather.

Today I decided to force the issue, and went to visit Master Yao Cheng Rong at his school just down the road from my new apartment.

I was warmly received. At first I just spoke to Master Yao, but because my Mandarin is so lousy, he called his students in to help – I feel bad for disrupting their class! One of them, Jack, acted as translator, but they all (3 of them) spoke English.

Master Yao welcomed me to come and study with him. There are three options:

  1. Public classes 3 times a week – Mon, Wed, Fri, 7-9pm. RMB900 for 2 months
  2. Public classes 2 times a week – Sat & Sun 9-11am. RMB900 for 3 months
  3. Private lessons, 2-4pm weekdays. Minimum 10 lessons. I didn’t catch the price here, maybe 150 RMB/lesson? Not sure. That was a reduced price for students from Greater China – including Singapore, so I technically qualify. I would feel guilty accepting that though – it’s more expensive (not by very much, though) for students from western countries, which (to be honest) I feel would be more appropriate for me.

    First impressions…. hmmmm. Master Yao Chengrong seems older and more careworn than his brother, even though they’re twins. He was extremely friendly and welcoming. His students were more mature, and better educated (I would say mid-30s to early 40s) than the students at his brother’s school. Having said that, the students I met today were all taking private lessons; apparently, though, there are often Westerners in the public lessons. The school is much bigger that the Zongxun Wuguan where I studied earlier this summer; they have one entire floor of a hotel, plus roof space which they use for sparring and heavy bag work.

    My personal feeling is that I got a very good vibe from them. I’ll start classes soon; probably I will choose the M/W/F option to begin with, though I need to check this with the gf. Next week is a public holiday in China, so I’m looking to start in the second week of October. This, I hope,will kickstart my practice again!

    Updated: oops, got my Pilgrim’s Progress reference wrong – fixed that.

As I walked out one evening…


I went for a stroll last weekend, down the quieter side of the Shichahai lakes – not an area I’d explored until I moved to Jishuitan. And what a discovery! It’s an area teeming with life and activity – not the Houhai tourists and bar-hoppers, but the true Beijing working class living life in the open.

And look what I saw! Very interesting. This is in a public exercise park; the ‘bricks’ this guy is stepping on and around are metal discs, embedded in the concrete.

Category: Baguazhang, Beijing

Happy mooncake day


Well, the new semester has started, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy. It’s nice to be working again, after the long break, to be honest.

I was really impressed by an article in the Times, Be prepared – take evening classes in facing ruin. It starts off by discussing a recent murder-suicide case in the UK, but gets more philosophical. I’ve certainly faced a few ups and downs over the years, and I have to agree with the writer’s conclusions. In fact, they’re very compatible with Buddhist philosophy; success and misfortune are all transient. Remain equanimous either way; they are not you.

I’ve had a few swings of fortune even over the last week or so – reminders that great opportunities can appear unlooked-for, and that disaster can strike from nowhere. The disaster was narrowly averted; the opportunities are being explored… life goes on.

Most topical for this blog: I’ve come to a complete stop recently when it comes to martial arts. As I’ve often said, I’ve considered the last few years to be research, looking to find the right styles and the right teacher. About halfway through the summer break, I had finally decided that I’d found them. So, with the research over, it was time to get started… And at that point, I had a massive attack of nerves over the task ahead, and a complete failure of belief in my ability to ever progress. Gah! Well, after a couple of weeks, I’m kind of back on track, ready to get started, step by step.

I’ll be recommencing bagua lessons with Master Sun Ru Xian next weekend; I need a bit of time to review first. I don’t think I’ll be re-starting the bagua pan guan bi with Mi Lao Shi, and Master Sun Zhijun; fun though it is, if I’m not going to train all-round with them, I think I’d better concentrate on studying bagua with just one teacher, Sun Ru Xian.

I do also want to get into the yiquan. I knew that the lineage holder, Master Yao Chengrong has his school near my new apartment, and last week I went to see where it was. It was a wet, rainy evening, and the map on the website was only partially helpful. I spent quite a long time wandering around various hutongs, which was pretty interesting in itself. Lots of the siheuyuan near the school are much larger and grander than those near my apartment, with lots of moon gates leading to the street. Perhaps they used to belong to a higher social class, or – I suspect – they were military buildings. The west of Beijing, where I now live, was traditionally the base for the army, whereas the east was for the civil administration; even to this day, the east is a much more fashionable place to live!

Eventually, I found the school, tucked away inside a courtyard. There wasn’t any activity, but that suited me; I hadn’t gone to talk to anybody, just to get my bearings, and establish how close it really was – about 10 minutes’ walk at most, it turned out. Once I’ve got my classes settled down, ie in a couple of weeks most likely, I’ll get in touch and see if I can join a class; looking at the schedule on the website, I would perhaps want to do one evening class and Saturday afternoon, but we’ll see.

So, there we are; I’m gradually coming back up to speed. I caught up with Dragoncache last night; he’s training really hard, as always, with Master Sun Zhijun, and really putting me to shame with his dedication. Oh, I didn’t mention before that Master Sun Zhijun recently got married, to his third wife, I think (the first two having passed away).

Well, this is the Autumn Festival, so I’m going to eat some mooncakes. Have a good weekend, if you’re celebrating the festival (or even if you’re not!).