Days in the sun

The weather was beautiful this weekend. The road from Wudaokou station to Master Sun Ru Xian’s apartment at the gate of the Old Summer Palace is lined with trees whose vibrant red flowers are in full bloom, standing out against the darker pines, and occasionally punctuated by paler flowers of other trees.

Yesterday, I was the only student, so I got his full attention. We revised the single and double palm changes to correct some details; I have these pretty much memorised now. They’re different variations from what I’ve previously learned. We worked on the “Follow Posture Palm” that he introduced to me last week; I think I can remember this, though I need to practice. Finally, we started on the “Back Body Palm” which, again, I think I now have memorized, but will need to practice.

Since I arrived in Beijing, I haven’t practiced much, due to a combination of the initially cold weather, and my workload. There’s a small park area on campus, and I did manage to go out there early on Saturday morning. It was already busy with students, each taking a small patch of ground, and walking around reading aloud from their English textbooks, but I found an area to work in. Worrying! I’m getting very rusty. It should be OK if I start getting out there from now on, but after a couple of weeks of insomnia, it’s difficult to get up early.

Master Sun’s a very interesting character. Rene, the Dutch student, told me the other day that his main interest isn’t really martial arts but music, and the erhu in particular. Did I mention that he works as a TCM doctor? Anyway, he does sometimes give the impression of being a slightly fussy aesthete – he’s so nice, and always so enthusiastic to give cups of tea, cook food, and so on! But all that falls away when he’s demonstrating applications – there’s suddenly a much different focus, and he becomes quite intimidating… We worked quite a bit on applications yesterday, as he showed me what the new moves are for.

We always chat quite a bit before and after class. He gave me a cake of pu’er tea, and invited me to come along with him for lunch with his daughters, which I reluctantly had to decline…

On Saturday, I was meant to go on a trip to a distant temple with people from work. A mix-up and some new developments meant that I didn’t go in the end, but I had already cancelled my class with Master Sun Zhi Jun and Mi Lao Shi. Oh, I didn’t mention that the other woman who watches the class, and who speaks better English than Mi Lao Shi, is called Li Ming; she used to be an editor and journalist for a newspaper (or a magazine? Not sure), but she’s now a professional bagua coach.

Instead of class, I went down to the Xidan bookstore, and spent a while browsing the martial arts VCDs and DVDs. I picked up five
– Liu Jing Ru demonstrating the Ba Da Zhang;
– a 64 linked form bagua set which turns out to look very ‘performance’ and ‘”dancey” (but comes with an accompnying book in Chinese; amongst the pictures and introductions at the front is Yang Jwing-Ming. The book contains a lot of training techniques such as practising strikes against a tree, that look much more practical than anything in the DVD);
– a VCD about Yiquan’s “Trial Force” – watched some of it, looks interesting;
– a Taoist health meditation and qigong set (not watched it yet);
– a DVD on dian xue pressure-point fighting (not watched it yet).

I’ve also been making an effort to catch up with other bagua people. I noticed someone on YouTube left a comment on one movie mentioning he was a student of Sun Zhijun, so I sent a message. We’ve made contact over the phone, and may meet up next weekend.

I also noticed that someone had left an advert on “That’s Beijing” about bagua classes at Beijing Language and Culture University, which is just around the corner from me. By the time I saw it, I’d already arranged classes with Master Sun, but I made contact and arranged a meeting yesterday. This teacher is a 26-year-old lecturer at the university; he teaches bagua, bajiquan, and xingyuquan. It was an awkward meeting, since his English is no better than my Mandarin, but we tried. His background is interesting; he’s the fifth-generation student of bagua and xingyi in his family. His great-great grandfather was taught bagua by a student of Cheng Ting Hua, and it’s been passed down in the family ever since. Modern, “performance” styles is strictly forbidden! He’s apparently won a lot of competitions in all three of his styles. The family is from Tianjin, and was quite prosperous until 1949; after that, the fact that his grandfather had many students made him suspicious in the eyes of the new government, and the grandfather was sent to prison for 20 years. One of his students, a Swedish girl studying Chinese at the university, arrived for class and helped translate; apparently there’s a British guy as well, but he didn’t show up. After a while I felt I was getting in the way of the class, and took my leave, but I’d like to catch up with him again.

There we are, some progress but not much. I’m getting more interested in learning some yiquan, for a number of reasons. Tabbycat’s feedback on that is much appreciated (thanks, Tabby!) but I suspect that an intensive introduction would work better for me – as it did with meditation – my first classes in that were when I went on a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Thailand, and it was great to just work on it all day, every day, and really get it ingrained; I think that with something like yquan I would want to do the same, rather than have a drip, drip of short, once-a-week sessions… As my plans for the future firm up, I’ll be able to see if that’s possible; too much uncertainty at the moment…

Anyway, I should do some work, it’s already passed 7:30am!

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