I had planned to work late in the office last night, but by the time I’d finished teaching I was feeling a bit jaded and in need of exercise and fresh air. So, I got on my bike and cycled to Zhongshan Park, stopping at home to quickly change and pick up my shashkas.

I got there a little after 7pm; the gates close at 8, so I got in just under an hour of practice. I’m working out various different patterns of swinging the shashka, and I’m getting to understand how to hold it now – which is quite diffferent to the Chinese swords I’ve used in the past. Still, I need to think about this a bit more to be sure I’m doing it properly; I’ve never studied this, but I’m aware that there are many different ways of gripping sword handles. Apparently the ‘handshake’ is the best for the shashka.

There weren’t that many people in the park at that time, which was nice. On my previous visit, last Tuesday, it was a public holiday, and the place was packed; not necessarily a problem, but I had to keep stopping when people tried to photograph or film me (which I don’t want!). Last night, though, it was just me, a few elderly couples, and some security guards. The guards never give me any bother; that’s one of the nice things about China, actually, with its martial arts traditions – you can swing swords around in a public park and it’s regarded as entirely natural 🙂

Anyway, I’ve made enough progress with the shashkas that I’m now able to work with one in each hand; when I first tried this, my co-ordination wasn’t good enough. It’s interesting to note some of the sensations here. Long-time readers know that my left shoulder used to be really tensed up. Yiquan really made big improvements there, as I’ve previously noted. When I started using the shashka in my left hand, though, I could still feel that there was stiffness there; that’s going away as I use the swords more.

Using the swords is quite good exercise; I work up a sweat, and afterwards can definitely feel the effort in arms and shoulders, while ‘dancing’ as I move works the legs pretty well. I still need to improve the strength and coordination of my left hand, though – I found little nicks in my leg where the sword had caught them – good thing they aren’t sharp! One other interesting thing: the stainless steel replicas that I bought from taobao feel heavier than the carbon steel one that I bought in Panjiayuan Market; however, I notice that my hand and arm feel more tired after I use the latter. It may just be because of the grip: the replicas have resin handles, the other has a wooden handle and it may just be that I have to work harder with that because it doesn’t slip around in my hand as much as the replicas…

One thing that has amused me in the yiquan classes is that Master Yao and other students have mentioned several times that I’m very strong – which can’t be true as I don’t do any strength training beyond carrying my groceries, and haven’t done so for years. What they’re referring to, I think, is actually that I’ve gotten better at relaxing, so they’re pushing against body mass, not muscle strength. Still, I’ve been thinking that I need to get a bit more active; I’m doing a fair bit of aerobic work simply by dashing around Beijing on my bicycle, but some strength training would be good….

With that in mind, I bought Scott Sonnon’s Flowfit from Amazon. I was under the impression that it was based on his ROSS background, which it isn’t. It’s actually derived from his Prasara Yoga system. Yoga’s totally new to me; I’ve never really looked into it at all, though I have plenty of friends who practice it. Still, since I had it, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m really enjoying it. It progresses through four levels of difficulty, and I’m taking it easy – just working on the beginner’s level using a stool as a support. Very nice; perhaps I should look into Yoga a bit more.

A German friend of mine went to India last year for a month-long yoga instructor’s course at Svyasa University in Bangalore. It’s apparently very intense, with participants rising at 04:15 and training until 21:30, 7 days a week for the full month! Wow. She’s been training in yoga for several years, but her Bangladeshi husband had no yoga background, and he also passed the same course…. Hmmm 🙂 That’s something to think about for the summer holidays – add another string to my bow, and see a bit of India as well…. Hehehehe.

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