I haven’t been training much for the last week or so. Partly it’s just been pressure of work, partly it’s because the extreme cold has made my achilles tendon stiff and painful – this is the one that I trashed a few years ago in Singapore. It hasn’t bothered me much for the last year or so, but I guess something like that never really heals. Anyway, a week of rest, and it seems to be recovering; I’ll just need to be a bit careful for the rest of the winter!
Anyhow, so the upshot is that I haven’t gone to bagua class. I have been to yiquan, which continues to get better; I’ve had a couple of minor breakthroughs in my understanding of the use of body weight and redirection of force, and I feel that I’ve improved a lot. Now I just need to consolidate these so that I don’t slip backwards!
One of my regular readers, Jose from Portugal, flew in to Beijing on Tuesday evening. He’s here for a few weeks on a training course with Liu Jing Ru. The course has been organized by Frank Allen and Tina Zhang from New York, and who probably need no introduction to readers of this blog! I met Jose yesterday at his hotel, and showed him a few sights. We walked from Qianmen Gate through Tiananmen Square, and into the outer courtyards of the Forbidden City. After that we went to a very good little restaurant for lunch – my favourite, Beijing dumplings, mmmmm! Jose was introduced to the world of Sichuan mala green beans and erguotou. He seemed to like them!
After that, a visit to Wanfujing shopping street, and to the Stone Boat bar in Ritan Park…. I won’t embarrass Jose here, but I’ll just say that he’s a really nice guy, and very interesting! It’s the first time that I’ve met one of my readers this way, I think, and this was a good beginning!
At the end of the afternoon, we went back to his hotel to meet the rest of the group, who are a mixture of mostly Americans and Germans, with a couple of others. I met Frank and Tina, who are both really friendly and chatty. Tina invited me to join them all for their meal, which was at a nearby restaurant. I tagged along, and got to know some of them. It was quite an odd experience, in a way. They’re all very nice people – but as I’ve written before here, I wasn’t really into martial arts deeply before I moved to Asia, and so I’ve never been in a large group of Western martial artists before! All of the Westerners I know here who practice martial arts have lived in Asia for quite a long time, ans are pretty well immersed in Asian culture – so there were a lot of differences in attitudes, and a lot of things that I hadn’t realized I’ve taken for granted were obviously a bit new and strange to some of these guys. Not that that’s bad 🙂 It just gave me a little bit more insight into how I’ve changed over the last few years!
Soon, the meal was over, and the guys got back into their bus to return to their hotel. They needed to get an early night – their class started at 9am this morning! Not so for me – I planned to see in the New Year, and so I went on my way to the Drum Tower. Here the
evening turned sour, I’m afraid. The last time I was in Beijing for New Year, in 2006, I stumbled upon a ceremony where at midnight the drums in the Drum Tower were beaten, and the bell in the Bell Tower was struck, in a dialogue that lasted for perhaps half an hour. It was a magical experience, all the more so because I had only encountered it by chance. The crowd that had gathered to watch was small and happy, and the police presence was light and relaxed. I was really, really, looking forward to experiencing it again….
It was not to be, though! The police presence this time was oppressive – hundreds of officers and guards sealed off the square completely, and when I got there at around 9pm, they were already refusing to let people through. I managed to get past because I happened to talk in Mandarin to a sympathetic official, and was able to name the bar I was trying to get to. Once I got into the square, I realised that it had been filled with a huge scaffolding structure,, with media gabbling away, garish lights turning the towers yellow and purple, and even more police all around. The band I saw at the bar were very good, and there was a great atmosphere there, but they finished all too soon…. In the course of the evening, I had a romantic disappointment which actually hit me quite hard, so it was a rather sad blogger who saw in the New Year – with the sound of the bells and drums all but drowned out by the noise of the media circus and security apparatus…. Bah, that’s all I have to say! In the end, it’s perhaps a good thing – it was confirmation again, as if I needed any, that clinging to attachments – be it romantic hopes, dreams of repeating a happy experience, or whatever – is a cause of suffering and unhappiness. Better by far to meditate and cultivate non-attachment 🙂
And so here we are in 2009! Even if my night was mixed, I hope that all of you had a great New Year’s Eve, and that the new year will be happy and prosperous for you all 😀 I don’t usually make resolution, but this year I will:
- I will focus hard on my martial arts training
- I will resume meditation practice, and start attending dharma classes again
- I will study hard to improve my Mandarin
- I will not allow anything else to distract me from these
How about you?