Blog Archives

Twelve (years between) monkeys

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I’ve just realized that twelve years have passed by since my first ever visit to Beijing, while it’s nearly six years since I left to return to Wales, not knowing at that time if I would ever come back to China. These are significant numbers: 12 years is the time to complete one full cycle of the Chinese zodiac, so six years is also a half-cycle. It’s also a year since I did, eventually, make it back to China, in April 2015, after being head-hunted out of the blue. A ┬ánumber of signs and portents are suggesting I should take these signs seriously.

 

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End-of-year review 2 of 2: yiquan

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Well, I was hoping to get this finished before the end of 2015, but it didn’t happen. Never mind.

Of the three topics that most concern this blog – meditation, martial arts, and medicine – I’ve just covered the first in another post, while the third hasn’t really been a focus during 2015. So let’s talk about martial arts, and yiquan in particular.

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Straight up


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Receiving an elbow strike to the bridge of the nose certainly focuses one’s attention, and that’s what happened to me recently.

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Strong, fit and healthy?


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As I write this, I’m supposed to be in my Sunday yiquan class. I did actually set out to attend but, before I’d gone very far, I realized that my lower back is hurting like heck, and it just wouldn’t have been a good idea.

I had a very interesting class yesterday. Yao Lao Shi had to correct me far more often than usual, and for the same things repeatedly, but it ended up being a very rewarding session.

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What lies beneath


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I’ve been thinking a great deal about filters recently. By “filters”, I mean mental filters: the means by which we exclude information, and limit our understanding of the world.

This has been a really rather fruitful process, and has led to some useful breakthroughs in the spheres I explore in this blog – namely, martial arts, and spiritual development.

A conversation I was having with a colleague recently, the topic of Buddhism, meditation, and mental filters, turned out to have a real impact… on me.

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No ‘ski jump’ at the bottom

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I saw something on Facebook recently, which went along the lines of “The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t create cures, it creates customers“. This is quite true.

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Tree and wave


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Some thoughts prompted by today’s yiquan class…

 

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China once more


Something odd happened recently during a work trip to Tianjin. I had a few spare periods, and I used them to practice my ZMQ-37 taijiquan form. Like most things that I write about in this blog, it’s been over four years (closer to five, in fact) since I did any work with this, but it came back surprisingly quickly. One set in particular went very well; I entered the flow state, with my mind quite empty of thoughts except for the feeling of my soles in contact with the floor, the movements of my joints and bones, and tendons and ligaments.

Suddenly, the room seemed to fill with the smells of a forest. There was the spicy fragrance of flowers, but also herbal undertones, and the richness of spring vegetation. It was quite inexplicable; I was on the eighth floor of a concrete monstrosity, in the middle of a dusty concrete campus on a very hot and smoggy day. There were NO plants anywhere nearby; the windows were firmly closed, and the aircon was blowing full blast. The experience only lasted for the duration of that set, and it was the only time I smelt anything natural during the two days I worked in that room.

On the other hand, although it’s not something I’ve experienced before, this is the kind of thing that is supposed to indicate a spirit presence. Even to me, that last sentence seems a bit far out but, after I heard the dragons singing in Qingbiankou a few years ago – when I was also in a deep meditative state – it’s an explanation that I’m open to.

Aaah. Yes, I’m back in China. There are different rules here….

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There really aren’t that many resources available about Yiquan, at least for non-speakers of Mandarin. I’m basically trying to acquire everything there is, to assist me as I train solo and build on what I studied with Yao Chengrong Lao Shi. So, when I saw that Bruce Frantzis had issued a new DVD set covering Xingyi and Yiquan, my thought processes were along the lines of:

  • I can’t afford it right now
  • Yes, but it’s on offer for a short while
  • I can’t afford it
  • Yes, but it’s Bruce Frantzis, dude!
  • Bruce Frantzis doesn’t know yiquan. Bagua, taiji, and xingyi yes, but he’s never indicated before that he knows yiquan.
  • But you’re trying to learn xingyi anyway, so even if the yiquan material is duff, the xingyi material should be worth it.
  • I can’t afford it, though.
  • Oh, sod it.

So, I put my order in late on Sunday night. The package arrived early Tuesday morning. Good start…. I had some technical problems downloading the free qigong mp3 files, but the customer support team sorted that out promptly and efficiently.

Now, I’m busy, so I haven’t had time to watch the DVDs properly. Instead, I’ve had them playing in a small window floating in the corner of my screen while I get on with doing other things, so I didn’t give them my full attention. Thus, these are only my very general first impressions. So far, I’ve watched all of the yiquan DVDs, and the first xingyi DVD.

The yiquan DVDs were filmed live as BKF delivered a seminar. The camera shots are almost entirely of BKF sitting in a comfy chair. Occasionally, a student is brought in to demonstrate a stance. Each segment begins with a short sequence of BKF demonstrating one of eight zhan zhuang postures, while a voiceover explains the health benefits in terms of qi and the internal organs. A few martial applications are mentioned here and there.

Overall, this covers only 8 basic static zhan zhuang postures from the yiquan syllabus. There’s no discussion of testing force, and no stepping. If you are a complete beginner, wanting to learn zhan zhuang for health, you would be much better off buying Lam Kam Chuen’s books and DVD. If you know some yiquan, and want to explore the martial side of it in more depth, there is nothing here for you. I actually am pretty happy with it; my classes with Yao Lao Shi didn’t include any kind of qigong, and BKF’s background in this adds a lot of value for me. It’s nothing immediately useful, but there are lots of pointers for where further research could be done individually. I have to say, though, much of the delivery is pretty dry and there’s a lot of what seems like filler. I still rather get the impression that BKF has not done much training in yiquan but instead is bringing his background in the other arts and applying them to a crash course in the basic health postures of yiquan. As I said, though, these are my first and imperfect impressions. Verdict: not really what most people would be looking for, but very useful for me.

The bulk of the DVDs, though, are on xingyi. As I said, I’ve only watched the first one so far, but on this limited viewing BKF is much, much better. He’s clearly far more confident in his delivery, and demonstrates far more himself; there are also more shots of the students in the seminar and what they’re doing. I really get the impression that there’s great material to come in the rest of the DVDs. Verdict: wow, cool.

Shaking power

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Wow, this is great:

Time has been too short in the last few days to do any work with the spear; even if I’d had time, it’s been raining too much (heh, so I’m wimpy – but even if I’d felt like practising in the rain, the ground is so wet that I would have trashed the lawn, so I needn’t feel bad about not going out!)

However… I’ve been getting a heck of a lot out of what I’ve been doing with the spear so far. As I mentioned in my last post, for someone without a training partner, spear-work really is a good test of whether or not the technique is generating power or not. In that video above, the key moment for me is at about 15 seconds in, when the performer starts full-body shaking, transmitting the power down the spear. Damn, I can’t do that! It really reminds me of a part of the longxing bagua form that Master Zhou Yue Wen taught, which also had a shaking move, very similar to what’s happening in the clip.

Looking at that, I think it seems to encapsulate the key element of what I’m striving to achieve; master that kind of full-body shaking power, and it can be applied in taijiquan, xingyiquan, or baguazhang… No problem. Again, and this is a purely personal observation, I have to say that the only path I’ve encountered that would lead me towards this is yiquan as taught by Master Yao Chengrong…