Get(ting back) into the groove…

Yeah, sorry, bad pop lyrics, that’s more Dragoncache’s field than mine (man, that guy is a compendium of cheesy lyrics from years gone by!) – but enough of such trivia!

I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend’s yiquan classes. Not many people there on either Saturday or Sunday, only myself and two or three other students. That’s cool; on the rare occasions when it’s been just me and Master Yao there, it’s been kind of embarrassing since I often haven’t a clue what he’s saying (due solely to my lousy Mandarin, of course). When there’s a couple of others there, they can all chat and ask questions, and I just sort of do my thing and follow along and observe, and I actually feel like I learn quite a bit. Every now and then I have a question myself; more often, I just try something out with Master Yao or another student to see whether I’ve understood a principle, and that gets me along. However, I’ve been told off for not practicing enough outside class. I had actually been working on the standing zhan zhuang, but Master Yao wants me to do more of the moving shi li exercises. Well OK then, as they put it in one of Nicholas Cage’s better films (see, I can do obscure cultural references too).

Master Yao records a lot of his larger classes, with the aim of putting material onto his website (see my blogroll on the right). He also films other events. He puts these on play during class (there’s a TV on one wall, and it’s just there as background). On Sunday, he put on a video of an event from the day before – the ceremony when he accepted a new indoor disciple. It was really interesting to watch: lots of tipping libations, koutou-ing (sp?) and so on. I assumed that the new disciple must have been studying with Master Yao for some time, but apparently not, according to one of the other students. I’m not sure exactly how Master Yao accepts/chooses disciples, but it seems that one needn’t have been one of his students for a particularly long period.

Moving on.. this evening I went for the second time to the new bagua school, and I’m totally enthused again. I went in, the teacher said hi, and then he ignored me and carried on working with a xingyi student. I changed, went into the ‘bagua room’, and carried on with what I was doing last week (the first move of the 64-linear form). Taichibum and another student were already there, doing circular forms. We had a chat, then got on with our respective practice. It was really cool, just going back and forth, back and forth, with those two guys circling away… This is what I’ve been looking for: a community of learners, each going at their own pace rather than all doing the same thing at the same pace. Taichibum gave me some really useful advice, which improved what I was doing a lot.

After about three quarters of an hour or so, the teacher came by to take a look. He took me out into the main ‘factory’ area and took me through some more sections of the linear form. He’s really patient – as soon as I get lost, I ask to go back and start again, and he’s got no problem with that. Every new move is accompanied by a demonstration of what it’s for – which again, I can practice again and again until I’m clear about it. This is just great ๐Ÿ™‚ The ambience helps a bit as well: like I said, it’s a big old post-industrial space, lit only by a couple of camping lamps; this means I’m training on my own thing, breath steaming in the cold air, and I can see maybe the teacher and another student or two, and the rest are just shadows moving in the darkness…

Basically, as far as coming to Beijing to work on my martial arts is concerned, this is it. This is the situation I’ve been looking for. It didn’t happen the way I expected, but… things worked out for the best. The crucial thing for me now is to practice, practice, practice…


  1. Yeah, no more excuses for us both! It’s cooler now, here in Taiwan, too, so it’s really time to get into the daily grind again, and I want to be in top shape till next spring, before the heat arrives.
    Let’s keep going!


  2. Sounds like you are having a great time!

    Regarding discipleship – note that as a general rule, discipleship is like marriage (you can only do it once!). (Of course, masters can take as many disciples as they want, so the analogy doesn’t work in that way.)

    The bagua room sounds pretty cold! ๐Ÿ˜€ Are you guys all bundled up, or what?


  3. @Yiming Yay, keep leaving comments like that, and shame me into practising more regularly!

    @Ed Oh, I found it interesting but I’m not tempted to try it any time soon. Having said that, if I /did/ want to be a disciple of any of my teachers so far, it would be Master Yao Chengrong.

    As for the school where I’m learning bagua, yeah, it’s cold ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s just a big old warehouse/factory space /whatever with no insulation whatsoever, and Beijing’s not warm right now, y’know ๐Ÿ˜‰ As for this teacher, I rather get the feeling he’s not the type to be too worried about disciples etc (though who knows, perhaps I’m wrong…). And yes, the bagua room is not huge. There’s room for two people circle-walking, and one perhaps two people doing linear sets. But then, there’s no especial need to use that room – as I mentioned before, one guy goes outside and practices his xingyi out there in the dark….


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