When I woke up this morning, I could hardly walk, my legs were so stiff! I’ll attribute this partly to being out and about on the bike, but mostly to yesterday’s pan guan bi lesson with Master Sun Zhijun.
We worked for some time on the form, where I’m improving a lot (he says) – though there are still plenty of issues I need to work on! These are less to do with the form itself, though, and more to do with my perennial problems of left shoulder and lower back – which sometimes improve, and sometimes regress, but never seem to go away!
I showed him the video of Shao Zhong Ming performing pan guan bi, which I have on my iPod touch, and asked him how many different forms there are for this weapon – as the one in that clip is very different from what I’m learning. His answer was that because this weapon isn’t traditionally from bagua, but was borrowed from xingyiquan, there are really as many forms as there are with empty hand. The form Shao uses in the video is older, but Shao had had to learn it in something of a hurry prior to the competition. The form he’s teaching me is one that he’s developed more recently – it looks different, but the basic moves and concepts are actually all the same.
We then spent the rest of the lesson working on some applications, which was exceedingly cool. Anyone learning a form for the first time (or at least, someone like me who has no real combat or even sparring experience) will always try to work out what the movements are for – and it’s always funny when my guesses turn out to be completely wrong! Hehe, so anyway, we went through a few demonstrations, which involved strikes to the neck, back, achilles tendon and calf… et cetera, et cetera….
Master Sun reminded me that the forms really only are to train the body in movement; when it comes to fighting, the aim is to act naturally, to seek spontaneous opportunity, and he gave me a few demonstrations of what he meant. All of this, by the way, is increasing my affection -and respect – for the pan guan bi as a weapon. It’s not sharp, but even lightweight strikes like those yesterday show how effective it could be – it can really hurt! I have a book on pressure points that I’ve lent to a friend here (who dismissed it as “rubbish, because no-one who knows this stuff ever teaches it to a foreigner”!) and I’m going to have to get it back and look at it some more. Even if it’s not ‘authentic dian xue’, it’s still a useful compendium of soft spots that would make someone unhappy if you hit them hard there with a steel spike….
My main need now is for a training partner. I don’t think Mi Lao Shi has really trained in the applications – I could be wrong, but Master Sun is doing all the talking now (in fact, yesterday was the most he’s ever spoken in all the classes I’ve attended, and he certainly seems far more cheerful when he’s talking about all this!). However, this may be about to change… As a foreigner in Beijing, you soon realize there’s an insatiable desire amongst the Chinese to improve their English. I got an email this morning from another of Master Sun’s students, Li Ming. I’ve met her a few times at Master Sun’s apartment, and she’s helped translate during some lessons. She used to be a journalist and editor, until she became a professional kung fu coach. She suggests we meet up for some language exchange, and perhaps bagua practice together. Could be very interesting indeed, so I’ll try to set that up…