The Yiquan Academy, day 10

Decision: I’m curtailing my studies at the Yiquan Academy. I had planned to go through until the end of next week, but I now plan to make this week my last, and I’m not sure whether I’ll make it to the end of the week.

Mostly this has nothing to do with the Academy itself, only that it’s a 90-minute trip from where I live. I had planned to use the afternoons and evenings to prepare for next semester, but I’m finding that with all the travelling, plus the time it takes to find somewhere to eat after the morning and afternoon sessions, I’m not getting much work done. The fact is, my level of wushu ability right now is substantially lower than it was six months ago. The reason is, I didn’t have an opportunity to prepare my classes before the semester began, so I spent almost all of my “free” time frantically preparing lectures -and, consequently, I had no time to practice. If I want to have time to do martial arts seriously once the next semester starts, I need to be prepared. I’m going to dedicate next week to that.

So.

Today I did a bunch of very interesting stuff.

浑元桩(打乱程序摸劲) UNIVERSAL COMBAT POST (SEEKING FORCE WITH CHANGING DIRECTIONS)
浑元桩(六面力同时摸劲) UNIVERSAL COMBAT POST (SEEKING FORCE IN SIX DIRECTIONS SIMULTANEOUSLY)

These were cool. Here’s the beginning of training for full-body power. Woo! Hoo! Good stuff!

After the morning session, I headed down to Ritan Park, and practised bagua for a while. Ritan Park now has peacocks wandering around – when did that happen? Then it was dwon to Scitech, to catch up with a Serbian friend who has a lot to celebrate, and perhaps we will, soon.

Afternoon class (5:30 – 6:45):

丁八步头发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH HEAD
丁八步肩发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH SHOULDER
丁八步肘发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH ELBOW
丁八步掌发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH PALM
丁八步跨发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH HIP
丁八步膝发力 T-EIGHT STEP EXERTING FORCE WITH KNEE

Sorry, pardon my language, but OMFG. This is training for fa li, but what really blows me away is that the yiquan curriculum actually has exercises for headbutting. The only teacher who’s ever taught me this before was Zhou Yue Wen, and the way it’s taught here is exactly the way he did it, ie with the side of the head rather than the front (DON’T try this at home, kids!).

Taken all together, today’s lessons totally reinforce my impression that yiquan, and its structured, methodical, approach are superb*. However…

I was taught, as usual, by Li Xin. Didn’t see much of Master Yao till right at the end of the day. I was preparing to leave when they both came over to discuss payment.

When I first went to the school, Master Yao wrote down “600 RMB” next to each module. OK, that’s clear. Each module is nicely laid out, as you can see. So I was like, OK, no problem; I paid for the first two modules up front. As far as I was aware, that was OK; sure, I’ll pay more as we get to more advanced modules. Except, as you’ll note if you compare what I’ve written to the module list, what I’ve been taught is largely the first two modules, though not everything, plus lots from further ahead in the module.

Thinking about it last night, I reckoned I was surely into the third module by now, so I took cash out of the ATM before going to class, and paid Li Xin first thing this morning for a third module.

This was what the discussion today was about. Master Yao counted up the number of different moves I’ve been taught, said well these are equivalent to one module, these are equivalent to another module, these to a third, pay up more before we go on tomorrow please.

Well, OK. I kind of dislike the insinuation that I wouldn’t pay, but whatever. However, it seems that the charging is by move, not by module. This is another communication issue, let’s put it that way. I agreed to pay by module, and the modules’ content is very clearly laid out. However, what has actually been taught has been drawn from all over the curriculum. I’m not complaining about that, it’s been very useful and a great insight into what yiquan is all about. However, were I to put my MBA, cynical, hat on, I would observe that this does… ahem, encourage… me to buy all of the books ASAP.

I want to reiterate that I am finding all of the training, and the material, to be amazing. However, I do, still, feel rushed, and I do feel pressured to keep paying. This afternoon’s session was kind of a tipping point for me. The sequences where I learned the head and shoulder strikes just didn’t come naturally to me; I keep trying to generate power from the hips, which is not correct for these moves. Even so, we moved on to new moves, while I think it was clear I couldn’t properly perform the ones we’d already covered. On this topic, I am aware of Andrzej’s comment and explanation, but I’m afraid I can’t really accept it; I’ll go over why exactly in my review.

Which brings me to what next. Tomorrow I will pay for one more module, however that happens to be composed, and no more. I don’t know how long it will take me to complete but once it is, I’m done; could be Wednesday or Thursday, maybe Friday.

At the end of the week, I’ll do an overall review. Don’t confuse my feelings about yiquan as a style, the standard of the teaching, and issues about the way the Academy is run as a business; these are separate topics, and I’ll address them separately in my review.

On the way home, I was hungry and stopped again at the dumpling joint at Guloudajie zhan. Surrounded by ar-ar-ar Beijing ren, I felt totally at ease, and was yet again reminded why I love this city so much…. I read a bit more of Dharma Bums, and felt invigorated by the correspondence between passages of the book and parts of my own life that I hadn’t thought about in a long time (the bits about mountain-climbing, FWIW!).

* Superb, but not complete. More about this in my final review.

3 Comments

  1. I suppose if you had paid for all the modules up front there wouldn’t be a money issue. Which leads me to ask, if you had paid up totally are you free to go there indefinately to train? 🙂
    I personally would not like to be pushed through the modules. A firm foundation would be my priority. How can you Run if you can not yet walk? But that is personel thought only and not saying their method is wrong. Saying that I read some where on there site that “back in the day” they used to only stand for a long time before progressing…..? Basic’s first. I suppose he would not have so many students if he did that method though with the fast paced life we have these days.
    Sorry to hear your will not complete the month but it is understandable givien your situation. Good luck on the prep for next term.

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  2. Yes, I was ready to pay everything up front initially, because I had a month available, and I expected to do the 30-day, 3-module, basic course. When I got there, Master Yao said that we could finish six modules in the same time, and I felt I had better be cautious. In any case, as I mention, the moves I’ve been taught have been drawn from throughout the curriculum, not in the order the modules are structured. I’m not complaining, but it does make it a bit harder for me to work out exactly where we are and where we’re going.

    As for running before you walk, yeah, I’m with you there – but I think I see their reasoning; I’ll come to that in my review!

    Hehe – and I just found out today that my manager’s changed what I’ll be teaching next semester, so much of what preparation I’ve done so far was wasted anyway!

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  3. Presently I teach a series of intensive summer courses. The tempo is 6 modules in 2 weeks :), whole basic program in 2 months :). Actually people rather come for only 2 weeks, and learn 1/4 of the program at a time, and come next year for next portion. Anyway this is about the same as when Yao teaches. Of course I also teach normal classess, where people come 2-3 times a week, and learn only one module a month.

    First things first, developing basis, before moving further, o.k. But this is when people come regularly to class for many years. When someone can only come for short time, it is much more difficult situation. The problem is that you cannot really understand basic stuff properly without understanding it’s place in the whole. O.K. when you have regular contact with teacher for a longer time, he will correct you anytime you start developing your own wrong ideas and changing your practice according to what you imagine it should be like. But when someone comes for short time, learns a little bit, and then practicing by himself, practice shows that it just leads to developing wrong ideas, because limited knowledge, and in result to wrong way of practicing basics – which then doesn’t prepare you for next steps, but leads astray. Getting at least some vague idea about bigger whole is to some extent helping to prevent this – at least when student thinks about relation between various training methods and exercisses.

    People talk about old times when you just did zhan zhuang for years, before you started learning more. But Wang Xiangzhai wasn’t teaching like this (apart from the “health” group, when teaching complete system openly was not possible). His students learned the whole training system in something like 2 years – of course many of them did martial arts before this, but some did not. This point of learning all methods, up to free fighting he called ‘beginning of beginning’, and wrote “when you get to the beginning of beginning, start from beginning once again”. So after you learn all methods in relatively short time, you move back to basics, but now with completely different perspective.

    Master Yao charges by numbers of modules learned. If material is introduced in order different than in the program, the number of modules is counted from number of exercises learned – 14 exercises/module.

    It’s very often that when someone cannot stay longer at the first time, Yao is introducing him some exercises from higher modules, because it helps to get at least a litlle bit better idea of the whole.

    Of course at the same time beginner should know, that in his practice he should concentrate on basics mostly.

    Question about paying up totally – basically yes. You learn longer, you paid quite amount of money, of course you are treated in different way, than just some outsider, who comes, and it is not sure if he will really keep learning. If someone want’s only to take some classes and that’s all, such person cannot be taken seriously. This is about learning yiquan, moving to the level of understanding the essence. If someone comes even for short time, but with idea of keeping learning, coming back, moving on on this path, it’s completely different thing – those are real students, not those who just come for short, learn a bit and leave. Those serious students, who keep coming for years are more like members of family. There are cases of some of them not paying in periods when they were in financial difficulties – I mentioned this before. There were even cases of Yao buying some of his good and loyal but poor long-time students tickets, offering accomodation and food, so they could come to Beijing and continue training.

    But you should know, that so called complete course is not everything. First you go through it fast on basic level, then you “repeat it” on intermediate level, then on advanced level – more or less the same program, the same system, but each time more profound, because you are prepared for it thanks to taking it on more basic level.

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