Musings

In yesterday’s yiquan class, I was talking to Karula, the German girl who’s been staying in Beijing for a month. She studied taijiquan in Germany, and came to China specifically to study yiquan. She’s been training every day, and has the bruises on her forearm to prove it. She speaks better Mandarin that I do, and mentioned that I’d misunderstood what Master Yao said last week: it seems he said I can use his brother’s book to help me understand what is going on, I just need to be careful of some differences. That’ll be useful.

We practised a couple of the more unusual yiquan postures: ban fu shi chengbao zhuang (bending over expanding-embracing post) and xiang long zhuang (landing dragon combat post). The first is standing, but bent forward with the arms and forehead resting on a support, and is apparently good for the intestines. The second is a long stance, with 70% of the weight on the forward leg (it’s usually 70% on the back), arms raised, and the torso twisted so that you’re looking backwards… It needs reasonably good balance, and is developing waist power, I think!

Karula and I tried some tui shou, as the the German guy who’s usually with her wasn’t at class. I thought they’d come together from Germany, but it seems he actually lives in Beijing, is a long-term student of Master Yao’s, and was just helping to translate. Anyway, something interesting occurred, as I was pretty tired: as Karula tried to press me, I deflected her force and – in that slightly dreamy state you get when you’re tired – I found my hands “sticking” to her arm and going almost automatically into taiji’s “cloud hands”, which demonstrated that it is an effective joint-breaker. Hmm. Of course, I didn’t break her elbow, but it became clear that it could be done! It made me think about my views that sparring practice is necessary in training: yesterday, that application of cloud hands emerged spontaneously – but I’m not sure it would have been so clear, or at all useful, if that had been a real fight rather than a training session….

Speaking of training and sparring, a Serbian girl lives downstairs from me. She started attending wushu classes for the first time shortly after I moved into my apartment, and showed me some of what she’s learned. Even though she and her fellow-students are all novices, her teacher has already got them started on the short staff (bian gan), similar to what I studied for a short while with Sun Lao Shi. She’s already way better than me! There’s many possible reasons for that of course ๐Ÿ™‚ but one is certainly that they train the form in class, but then also do free-form sparring, learning to apply what they’ve just studied – so learning to improvise, improve reflexes, and so on! Of course, it helps that she’s fluent in Mandarin!

I was planning to go out with friends to have dinner last night, but it got cancelled at the last minute. That left me at an unexpected loose end, so I headed down to Houhai to see what was up. I’ve noticed that since the Olympics there are many more touts – in some sections, almost every bar has a young guy or two outside trying to lure in passers-by, plus lots of “lady bar” pimps. They’re getting a lot more aggressive as well; I think a lot of people invested heavily in bars for the Olympics and, when the visitors didn’t arrive in the numbers that were expected, found that they are not recouping their money. That’s just my theory, but it’s a fact that these guys are barely stopping short of physically dragging people off the road and into their bar! One of these lads got particularly in my face last night, well beyond what I thought was acceptable, and it led to a bit of a scuffle and name-calling. Nothing more serious! I should, of course, have let it pass but I notice that since I started training yiquan I’ve got a bit more of a temper. I expected this – those of you who knew me in Singapore may recall that I said for quite some time that I didn’t want to study xingyi, because I was worried that xingyi is by nature pretty brutal, and I was concerned about the effect it would have on my temperament. Well, yiquan is derived from xingyi and, yes, I’m finding that its directness and ferocity are having an effect. I’m going to need to start balancing my training with meditation – which would be a good thing to do anyway.

Heh, on the topic of aggression on the streets, this is of course one reason why I want to develop my ability to protect myself if need be! Dragoncache thinks I’m being over-stressed about this, and he’s probably right but… on the other hand…. there’s a recession coming, and hard times with it. China’s a pretty safe place, of course, but on the other hand, you know, there are a lot of people here who have got used to an ever-improving economy, and may not be prepared for the money drying up. At the back of my mind, I recall the TV scenes of the riots in Indonesia in ’97….

So on that note, a couple of links:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not walking the streets in fear! China is very safe ๐Ÿ™‚

And as for that scuffle with the tout… I felt bad afterwards that I’d let myself be provoked. When I sat down later, though, I started reading my copy of The Compass of Zen, which I had in my bag, and it opened to the page about the Avatamsaka Sutra, and I read:

The Avatamsaka Sutra teaches that everything is truth. In Hinayana Buddhism, for example, getting angry and then acting on that anger is not such a good state. But the Avatamsaka Sutra displays Mahayana Buddhism’s extremely wide view: like everything else in this universe, anger is also truth. For example, a child misbehaves and plays in a dangerous street. The parent sees this and becomes very angry. The parent scolds or even spanks the child. “How many times have I told you not to do that?”. The child’s behaviour is the truth: it is not good or bad. The spanking and the scolding are also neither good nor bad, and they are also the truth. Whereas the Hinayana view is to try not to act on anger, in this view – the view of the Avatamsaka – the anger and the scolding and the spanking are meant to prevent the child from causing harm to himself and others. They are simply truth.

I’m going to think about this.

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