I’d arranged to meet Sun Lao Shi at 6am for bagua practice, with the intention of going from that to the Yiquan Academy downtown. However, when I got up at 5am, it was raining heavily, meaning the class would be cancelled – so I was able to get an extra hour or so in bed…
I got my timing pretty much right, and got to the station at Dongzhimen at 10. I couldn’t remember the way to the school, so I called Master Yao… and found that I had remembered everything incorrectly, and the school is at Chaoyangmen, a couple of stops further along the line! Oops.
So a short while later, I got to Chaoyangmen, and was met by one of his students… a slouching, tough-looking character, wearing a basketball vest and a chunky gold necklace, livid scars along his forearms… who turned out to be a really nice guy; later on, he pointed out some mistakes I was making, and corrected me. We chatted a bit as we walked to the school, which is only 5 minutes away. He’s been studying yiquan for a couple of years, before which he’d been into sanda and taolu [sic].
Master Yao welcomed me warmly, and we had a short chat in his office to establish what we would be doing. I explained that I’ve got a month, and that I can train Monday to Friday, but not weekends. He thought for a while, and decided that we should be able to do the first six modules of the curriculum, at 600RMB/module. He suggested I buy the accompanying books and DVDs; I said I would take the first book at this point, and since the DVD drive on my computer isn’t working properly at the moment, I can’t use the DVDs. Even if that weren’t the case, I think that the books and classes should be enough right now.
Then it was straight into practice. We worked on the first three elements of Module 1:
1. 平步撑抱桩 EVEN-STEP EXPANDING-EMBRACING POST
2. 平步托抱桩 EVEN-STEP LIFTING-EMBRACING POST
3. 平步开合试力 EVEN-STEP OPENING-CLOSING TESTING FORCE
I found his explanations fairly easy to follow, and when I struggled a bit with the Chinese, he showed me the relevant parts of the book, which made everything clear. The book, by the way, is actually very good indeed; it explains the postures and mental imaging extremely well, whilst putting each new element into the overall course structure. It’s very readable; Andrzej Kalisz, who translated the book into English, has done an extremely good job.
Apart from the student who met me, there were two other students, both Chinese. One was, I think, the guy I sparred with previously; he was friendly enough today. The other was an older man, who speaks some English, and helped Master Yao with his explanations from time to time. There’s apparently also an American training there at the moment, but it seems he was sick today. The two younger guys were working on punching a small cotton ball dangling on a string from the ceiling – one of the more advanced exercises, it seems. The olser student was working on some stepping exercises. There was none of the aggression I seemed to sense on my last visit – perhaps I’d read too much into the situation? – and it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere today.
So, I did zhan zhuang etc for an hour and a half, until noon. The Academy’s hours are 9:30am – 12 noon, and then 4pm – 7pm, so at that point we finished. I’ve got something on in Wudaokou on Tuesday evenings (Toastmasters), so I’m not going to the evening session today, but I will do so most days from now on.
As for the practice…. it was good. I got some insight into how my left leg is still weak after busting my Achilles tendon a couple of years ago – the tendon’s healed, but it seems that the habit of putting my weight on my right leg is more ingrained than I’d realised. My left shoulder opened up a bit, and I realised how important the angle of the wrist is… various other bits and pieces… pretty good going for an hour and a half! I’m pretty impressed. Master Yao kept on emphasising: slowly, slowly, don’t use force… relax… At one point he said: this is real Chinese gongfu!
Heh. Excellent. I’m looking forward to moving on with this now. I like yiquan!