The Yiquan Academy, day 7

Yesterday was day 7 at the Yiquan Academy. I’d spoken to Master Yao on the phone the previous day, so I knew there was no class in the morning, but he clearly said the afternoon session would be OK, at 4pm.

So, at 4pm, I arrived… to find the door shut! Aagghh! I knocked and waited, and after a short while the door was opened… by one of the resident students, wearing only his underpants! Hehehe, that gave me a shock!

As it happens, I once shared a house with a friend who had the habit of wandering about the house in his pants, and who would answer the door like that if someone chanced to call by – much to the shock of the visitor! The really funny thing was that he was such a nice guy, a natural innocent, that it never occurred to him that it might raise eyebrows… He was perfectly happy to stand on the doorstep chatting away – and that doorway faced onto a busy street… Heh.

Anyway, the Yiquan Academy’s doorway faces onto a dark basement stairwell, so it’s not quite the same. The student told me to come in; everything was dark…. He put the light on in the training room and left me there; he went back in to the dormitory, back to sleep. As I was standing there nonplussed, Li Xin appeared in the doorway of his own room. “No problem”, he said, “do some zhan zhuang”.

OK… So, I got started, but to be honest I couldn’t really concentrate; I was too pissed off. I knew that Master Yao had said to come at four.

So…. After about half an hour, things started stirring. A couple more people arrived from outside, and the in-house students started stirring.

Li Xin took me through two new techniques:

丁八步平推试力 T-EIGHT EVEN PUSHING TESTING FORCE
丁八步拨水试力 T-EIGHT STEP PLAYING WITH WATER TESTING FORCE

The first of these, I didn’t really get to grips with; I know I still wasn’t doing it properlywhen we moved on to the second.

However, the second one, the T-Eight Step Playing With Water Testing Force, is another one of the actions that’s given me a real ‘AHA’ moment. It’s really not at all complicated – and yet I found it very difficult to do properly. Li Xin had to correct me almost constantly. So why was this?

It’s actually working a lot of different elements of the body, and really working on the positioning, opening, closing, and stretching of the ankles knees, hips, lower back…. as well as posture et cetera! It’s all very, very subtle, and I really had to think carefully to identify the sources and causes of pains, and why it wasn’t working well… but having done so, I got insights into a range of postural problems that I will need to work on and correct. Cool – that’s a good thing, and without doubt good for long-term health 🙂 We all have these bad habits that develop over time, but it’s not so often we realize it….

Master Yao arrived around 4:45; it seems like the school is preparing for something, but I couldn’t work out what. Lots of boxes of new equipment had arrived – boxing gloves and shoes, I think, and some of the students were packing these away in one of the rooms. There was a lot of discussion of some of the framed calligraphy on the walls, but I don’t know why! Combining this with the TV filming they’ve been doing, I seem to have arrived at a busy time for them, which may well be contributing to the erratic timing.

In terms of the yiquan, you’ll probably gather that I think it’s great; I’ve never studied anything or anywhere else which has such a detailed approach to building an awareness of posture and strength. This really does seem to be the basis for developing in internal arts. There was another student there yesterday, more advanced than me who was being taught du li zhang ( 独立桩(前后摸劲)ONE LEG POST (SEEKING FORCE FORWARDS-BACKWARDS)) and I suddenly realized that I’ve seen something very like this before – in the picture of Grandmaster Wu Tu Nan, on the Nam Wah Pai website. (It’s not the same posture, but it reminds me of du li zhang). I mention this because yiquan didn’t come out of the blue; it was derived from Wang Xiangzhai’s studies with various internal masters – and I suspect that these practices were once pretty widely known. Sadly, many schools and teachers now don’t seem to teach them. (YMMV, of course; I can only speak of my own experience).

Anyway, I’m convinced enough that I decided to splash out and buy the DVD set. Haven’t had time to watch much yet, but I’ll let you know what I think.

I left at around 6:30 yesterday. I don’t know if it was all the people smoking, bad posture putting a strain on my neck, the ‘internal’ exercises releasing toxins, or something else but I started to develop a bad headache, which is still around today. There’s no class this morning, but I’ll be going again this afternoon – but perhaps a little later…

Just to conclude this post, I’ll pick up where the comment thread on Day 6’s post left off. I’ll develop this into a separate post at some point, but I’m actually pretty happy with the way things are going. I’m already convinced that yiquan is a superb art. Master Yao is a good teacher, as is his senior student. I do feel rushed at times, but a) as I’ve previously written, if I say I don’t want to do anything new because I want to do more practice on something, there’s never any problem with that, and b) Dacheng’s comment suggests that this is actually part of their methodology. There certainly is a problem, but I think it comes from misunderstandings on two points. Firstly, the way the course is run, in terms of timing, etc, is not the way it’s described on the website. That’s a marketing issue. Secondly, there’s a cultural issue. The way the Academy works, as a rather traditional, residential, wuguan is very different from anything most Western martial arts students will have experienced, and that, I think, leads to problems with expectations.

Anyway, more on all that in another post.

7 Comments

  1. Hmm – which shilu exercise is “拨水试力?” (I’ve learned a bit of yiquan, but I am not sure of the terminology.) Is it the one where you sort of raise the arms up and down (sort of like flicking water, but slowly)?

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  2. Oh, two things I forgot to include in this post:

    1. Whatever Master Yao had been doing during the day, it was pretty strenuous. He seemed to be saying to some of his friends that he was really tired. He’d hurt his arm slightly, and put on one of those ‘warming’ plasters.

    2. When I was doing the “Playing with water” exercise, I felt as if a cord was being tightened across my throat, almost choking me. This only happened when the right foot was at the back, not with the left. I checked to see whether my t-shirt was being tightened, but it wasn’t that. Odd. It must be some muscle or tendon being stretched, but I’ve yet to work out where…

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  3. Some explanation about times of classes. Actually it’s shifting a bit depending on time of year. Also what is posted on site is rather time of ‘training’ not of actual ‘lessons’. At beginning of a class students are supposed to start from some 1 hour of zhan zhuang, then some shi li and fa li, which they already know, and only then master Yao is usually appearing to give lessons.

    Andrzej

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  4. Hi Andrzej,

    Thanks for the explanation. I hope we’ll get an opportunity to meet up when you come to China in October.

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