S. and I went out for dinner in Nanluoguxiang on Friday night to catch up. She’s working hard on her baguazhang and meditation, with only a few forms left to learn before she’s mastered her teacher’s full repertoire. She’s indefatigable, training for hours almost every day. Her meditation and qigong are progressing by leaps and bounds as well. It helps that’s she’s fluent in Mandarin, of course; she hangs out socially with her Chinese kungfu brothers and sisters as well as training with them. Heh. Later on, we were walking near the Drum Tower, looking for a taxi after watching some Mongolian throat singers in a small restored siheyuan, we passed a local hutong-dweller in shorts and vest, taking a swan for a walk. As you do. This is why I love living in Beijing.
I had a good yiquan class yesterday. I’ve not been for a while – mostly because work has left me feeling so drained that I’ve just been sleeping when I get free time! Anyhow, Master Yao gave me a call on Friday just to check everything was OK – he’s like that, a really considerate teacher. Yesterday, there were all new faces, so it was a basic course showing the progression of yiquan practice from health forms to force-testing to push-hands; good to review. When it came to the tui shou, it was interesting to practice with the new-comers. There was a fair spread of ages, and most of them were clearly physically quite strong, but they were really stiff – and I realized that’s how I was when I started. I actually seem to have learned something, and am much more relaxed than a year ago!
During the session, I also found that the yiquan ‘friction stepping‘ finally clicked; I could feel that I was getting the isometric tension pretty much right.
Anyway, it got me thinking. I deliberately stopped training baguazhang entirely last winter, because I could see that the yiquan was giving me insights into the neijia methodology that I’d never got from my taiji or bagua classes. I decided to focus entirely on yiquan until I knew enough to apply these techniques back into the other styles. I don’t think there’s any conflict there – I think it was Tim Cartmell who, in Jess O’Brien’s Neijiaquan, points out that once you’ve understood the principles, there’s no real difference between the styles. The more I learn, the more my own thoughts go that way. (And the more often I re-read that book, the more I realize how much wisdom it contains!)
So, talking to S. made me think that maybe it’s time to think about getting back into the bagua again. By chance, Liu Jing Ru’s disciple Kong Cheng called me the other day as well; he’s back from Europe, so we’re going to meet for lunch soon. That seems to confirm that the time is right to begin circle-walking again! I’ll talk it over with him. I think I need to attend classes where there are other foreign students. Unlike S, I don’t speak good Mandarin, so although my Chinese fellow-students (for example at Master Yao’s academy) are very friendly and supportive, I’m not able to chill out and socialize with them – and I’m beginning to really feel that lack. Hopefully he’ll be able to make some suggestions.
With that all on my mind, after yesterday’s yiquan class I headed to Ditan Park, and spent a while going through the bagua Eight Mother Palms as static qigong – just holding each position for a while on either side, and treating it as I would yiquan’s zhan zhuang. I got some interesting results, noting where my weight was, where felt stretched, where there was a strain… I missed all this subtle feedback when I simply trained by walking. Hmmm. Well, watch this space.