Baby steps

I was back in Zhongshan Park this morning, and oh my, but it was cold.

There’s something I want to get off my chest… I was checking one of the martial arts blogs in my RSS reader, I honestly forget which, and caught a reference to “keyboard martial artists”. I don’t know who the author was referring to; I’ve got no reason to suppose it would be me, but it still got me thinking. I’d hate to be considered one such, if only because if I ever considered this to be a martial arts blog, I certainly don’t now. In fact, I’m pretty sure I never did; as the ‘Jianghu’ name was intended to convey, what I’m writing about is the experience of being one of those following “a different drummer”. For me, that means martial arts, yes, but also (and perhaps, more so) meditation, and acting… In the zen sense, I’m trying to discover my ‘original purpose’. Martial arts is a way of doing that, but I could choose others. So… I appreciate everybody’s contribution – genuinely – and I’ve been lucky in finding that most of the people I’ve encountered in the ‘world of wushu’ to be very genuine, nice people. I’m aware though, that there are those who are snarky, who want to know whose style, whose teacher, whose skill is ‘best’…. I’m not interested. I’m doing this for myself and my own reasons, and if my slow progress bothers you, then too bad – my progress or lack of it doesn’t affect anyone else’s.

OK, so that’s said. Now, back to normal programming!

So, this morning it was back to bagua. I’m definitely still back to the beginning, but with a bit more practice and thought, it was interesting to reflect on why.

I haven’t practiced bagua in over a year, as I mentioned. Thinking about it, I suspect one reason was watching the clips of my training when that TV unit filmed me in the summer of 2008; I could see that my posture was all wrong, that my tailbone wasn’t tucked in, etc etc, and I realised then that all my training hadn’t sorted my posture out.

That’s when I switched over to yiquan and, as I’ve posted since then, I’ve found that the zhan zhuang and other yiquan practices have made significant and lasting improvements in a number ways, including:

  • relaxing my shoulders
  • dropping the scapulae and rounding the back
  • getting my tailbone relaxed and tucking under
  • opening the kua and relaxing the ankles

That’s not to say that these are perfect, but I’ve made far more significant progress than ever before. As mentioned previously, it was noticing these changes that made me think I was ready to come back to bagua. What I realised today is that my muscle memory is trying to get me to stand and walk the way I always did before – so my shoulders were bunching up, my tailbone was arching the wrong way, etc etc, and that’s why I found the tang ni bu so difficult last week! I’m having to start again with a whole new posture…. Hmmm.

Of course, there are other things, like simply being out of practice, there being some small differences between the way Liu Jing Ru’s style steps and the way Sun Zhi Jun’s style does it, but those are minor. The main thing for me to be focussing on is awareness of body tension and posture at this point. I’m fairly certain that I’ll manage to get the tang ni bu right soon, and then I’ll be able to progress a bit further, and on to other things.

As for the tension…. I was very, very cold while we were training. Kong Cheng told me that this is because of my internal tensions, which aren’t allowing my qi to flow freely; that would fit in with what I was writing about recently. I’m aware that due to all of the issues of 2009 my triple burner’s energy is weak; getting that stoked up again is one of 2010’s tasks!

What else? Oh, we did a bit of bagua tui shou, which was interesting since I’ve hardly ever done it before – only once or twice with Master Zhou Yue Wen, IIRC.

All of the packed snow is giving me lots of tang ni bu practice, by the way!

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