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  number 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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Further yiquan resources


I’ve mentioned J.P. Lau’s PDF guide to yiquan a few times; it’s an excellent resource that I often refer to. He’s now added images, and made available as either a downloadable PDF or print-on-demand book at Lulu.

He’s also put together a basic yiquan training routine that looks very interesting; I’ll give it a go, as it’s not too dissimilar to what I’ve been working on lately.

I got quite a bit of training in over the weekend, and had glorious weather for it. Last night’s session was just amazing, with a golden full moon shining down as bats looped around overhead….

T.K. Lam also has some really good articles on his website, which I’ve been taking a look at. In particular, the following pieces discuss some of the elements I’ve recently been focussing on in my own practice:

I’ve decided not to go for the Anatomy and Physiology course run by Maria Mercati; it’s a little too soon, and clashes with work commitments. I’ll study the basics at home, and look for a course to take a qualification at a later date, perhaps next year.

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Well, the trees have arrived, and have been planted in my parents’ garden: apple, plum, pear and cherry in one row, with a hazel tree starting a second row – which will probably be finished with a couple more apple trees, though that’s yet to be decided. I’ve got a row of potatoes dug, with a couple more to be done this weekend. Plus, I have packets of seeds to be started off: chili, four varieties of tomato, basil, and mushroom spores to be set in manure…

All very therapeutic, especially since spring is definitely here at long, long last and the weather has been wonderful lately. I can’t tell you how much it lifts my spirits to be going to work in sunlight, and coming home in sunlight too. Fantastic!

That aside, there have been some tough weeks lately. When I arrived at my new office, I was told “Welcome to the graveyard of ambition” and, in retrospect, I might have paid a bit more attention to that… Still, the change in season got me energized again and got me thinking… As someone said, if your environment stresses you, change your environment; if you can’t change your environment, change yourself. (I can’t remember who said that. Perhaps it was me). So, I’ll be leaving the fishing village in a few weeks; it’s very pretty but I’m not really getting to know anyone there. I’m moving back to my hometown, to a smaller place but at least I have a strong network there. I’ve started making changes at work too, so that should be less stressful.

When I was starting to sort my books for packing, though, I came across Bruce Frantzis’ classic book on the internal martial arts, and realized it was years since I last read it – and I’ve come a long way since then, so I took it to the pub to have a re-read. As I was looking at the section on the overlap between meditation and the internal martial arts, a lightbulb went on, and a big train of thought kicked off, the results of which are:

  • I remembered how much I enjoyed the tui na course I took in Beijing. I wanted to take it further then, but events intervened. However, having looked around, I’ve realised that there is an accredited course available in London that I could do on weekends that would qualify me to practice tui na in the UK with professional insurance. The next course begins in April; I was close to enrolling on that, but eventually decided that it was too soon, especially with the house-move still to come. Another entry point would be in October, running till January, which would be much more practical. It would also give me time to review all my videos, notes and books from the Beijing course.
  • Starting in October would also be a good idea, as it would allow me to take the anatomy & physiology course that I linked to in a previous post; it would make the tui na course far more rewarding if I started it with a good grounding in the physical structure of the body.
  • I mentioned how I have been attending meditation sessions at work, and had managed one session when the instructor was away. That got me looking for courses, and I’ve found a course in leading meditation sessions. Again, it’s accredited, so would allow me to get insurance and run classes professionally. I had a long chat on the phone last night with the trainer, and it looks like that would happen in June. It kicks off with a weekend course, followed by 6 weeks of home-based work.

This wouldn’t be cheap, but it is all certainly affordable for me, and is reasonable given the outcomes. If, by the time next spring comes around, I was able to run meditation sessions and tui na treatments, that would be a good thing to be able to do….

The week after reading Bruce Frantzis’ book, I was in a different pub – this one in my hometown, ie where I will soon be living again. I’d taken my copy of Sarah Pritchard’s tui na book to read through, and was reading through it slowly, when two girls sat down at the next table. I say girls, they were women, likely in their late 20s, early 30s maybe? Anyway, I could see them taking an interest, and eventually one came over and demanded to to know what it was all about. I explained, at which point she demanded a neck and shoulder massage. I pointed out that I wasn’t qualified, but to no avail – she pulled over a chair and sat down. What could I do, but obey? So, a neck and shoulder massage she got, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The other woman is a nurse, and was interested too. By the way, it says a lot about my local pub that although it was really busy, no-one batted an eyelid or even remarked at a massage being given in the middle of the room 🙂 I saw the nurse the following week and apparently her friend had felt much more relaxed the next day. I mention this because it was quite serendipitous, and showed me that should I get a qualification there is actually a market for the skills…

Martial arts: what with one thing and another I’ve haven’t been to classes for a couple of weeks. However, I’ve noticed lately that my back and shoulders have been getting stiffer, and realized that it’s probably because I haven’t been doing any zhan zhuang. Once I started again, and stepped up my practice, all my aches and pains went away, and I even got out of breath less on steep hills. So, I’m really making an effort again with the yiquan. After all, as I’ve often said before, yiquan rocks! I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to Beijing again this year if money allows, in order to train again with Master Yao; that would be nice…. I’m also making slow progress, in fits and starts, with the shanxi whipstaff, which is a nice form.

Spring, yeah! It feels good to have a plan. Meditation, yiquan and tui na make a nice triad, and one where I’ve already got a good base. Acting, Cossack dance, and systema are another interesting triad; I’ll need more time to develop these…