Thoughts on leaving

Well, the best-laid plans, and all that…

The cold turned into a really nasty infection of chest and ears, and laid me up in bed for week… and kept me at half-speed for another week… and even now, after three weeks and two courses of antibiotics, I still have a dry cough and persistent ‘elevator ear’ with occasional stabbing pains. I’ve now been put on a TCM course that involves some liquorice-flavoured potion, and pills that smell just like black mould. Yuk!

As a result, I haven’t been to training at all; Yao Lao Shi probably thinks I’ve already left China. I’ll try to get there this weekend for a couple of sessions.

Other than that, well, I’m down to the last things. I’m still sorting out things at work so that my leaving doesn’t leave them high and dry. Most of my things have shipped. Sadly, I can’t take curved swords back, so I’ve had to find a temporary home for my sabres and shashkas. Once I get to Wales, I need to join a martial arts club that has insurance – after which, I CAN bring them in…

What else… the usual leaving-China kind of activities: going to the Yashow market to get suits made, buying gifts, apartment-clearing, etc etc. I’ve cycled along Chang’ An Avenue a few times recently, past the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square… beautiful… it’s driven it home that it’ll be a wrench to leave – there’s not much like that in Wales! In fact, I’m going to have to watch out for that; it’ll be a major culture shock to move from Beijing (an imperial city for a thousand years) and Singapore (cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic entrepot port) to a small, rain-drenched peninsula on the far end of Europe… Looking back, though, I won’t regret anything.

In fact, I’m ready to leave. The time is right, I think. I’ve been told it by fortune-tellers, and it also feels right in my gut. Big change is coming, I am convinced. WIth the IMF warning of mass unrest, peak oil/water/food all threatening, trade wars on the horizon…. it’s time to get back to my phyles and learning green wizardry… (I’m thinking of training in blacksmithing – and maybe swordsmithing – in my spare time once I get back….)

As for martial arts, that’s going to be interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, and especially about a really interesting conversation I had with Pern Yiau while I was in Singapore.

I’ll have to write about this more after I’m back and settled. I’ve been looking for something, and not quite found it; this isn’t surprising, since both I and the world have changed a great deal over the last eight years, and inevitably, that’s affected what’s ‘right’ for me.

In brief, I’ve had this lingering feeling that there must be something out there that boosts the full range of human potential – that develops health, and creativity, and fighting ability, and mental development, and community… Pretty ambitious, eh?

Thing is though, I keep coming back to look at systema… I’ve mentioned before that the first time I ever saw it, a YouTube clip of Vladimir Vasiliev, I immediately thought “Wow, that’s what I’ve always been looking for” – the movements, wave energy, group work… yeah, I want that. The breathing exercises, and mental/philosophical approach? Yeah… There’s the link with Cossack dancing, shown in the “Go Warrior” clips on YouTube, likewise the Siberian Cossack clips that show how it can be integrated with community dance and singing… There’s the clear overlap with theatre and the improvisation exercises of Stanislavski and Chekhov… There’s a range of human experience involved here that I really don’t see in other martial arts – by which I don’t mean in any way to denigrate any other art, but *this* really seems to tick the boxes of everything I’m looking for. In Wales, I can train systema – and thank you, Jiang, for the link to your school in London; I see that they run Saturday classes, and I can get there easily by train… so see you there? Plus, as Carlos mentioned, it’s cheap to fly to Moscow from the UK… All of this very much softens the leaving of Asia.

(I’ve found a lot of good material about systema on this Ukrainian site; some of the FAQs about the theory and philosophy of systema make a whole lot of sense).

Eight days from now, I’ll be back on Welsh soil. I already have a car sorted out. I’ve narrowed down my search for somewhere to live to three houses in a village by the sea. The wheel has turned full circle, and a new cycle begins…


  1. Most welcome Emlyn! There is also Systema in Swansea (that’s where you’re going to be, if I remember right?) – some of that group were at a weekend workshop a few of weeks ago here in London held by Martin Wheeler (really amazing fluidity The one I partnered with seemed very soft. Yes do come to London, I usually go to the Friday class so come to those if you can 🙂 But if you can only make it on Saturdays then let me know when you go, I’ll make sure I’m there then (I presume you get to see my email from these comments I leave).


    1. Yes, there’s the Celtic Systema school – I guess that’s the one you mean? They mention Swansea on their website, but only list classes in Cardiff and Carmarthen. I’ll give the guy a call after I get back, anyway – but I’m glad to get a good report of them! I don’t see my getting to London for a while; I’ll need to find my feet in the new job first, but yes, I’ll email you to let you know first when I do make it.


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