I returned to the Zongxun Wuguan last week for another bout of intensive yiquan training Master Yao Chengguang. We followed the same schedule as before: 10:40 – 12:15ish, and 17:00 – 19:30ish.
Once again, we covered a lot of ground. At the beginning of the week, I asked Master Yao to slow it down a bit, because we were entering new territory.
In my previous visits, we worked on standing exercises (zhan zhuang) and force-testing exercises (shi li), and I’m OK with that material so it was fine to go through them quickly. Of course, when I say I’m OK with it, I don’t mean that I can remember the names of them all, or do them particularly well, or that I don’t need to train in them ferociously for an extended period to get them down well. Not at all. However, I do get the concepts and the progression of the material. I have the books, I have the DVDs, I understand what is supposed to be happening.
Last week there was still a bit of that to go through, but we moved on quite quickly to more applied material. We worked with the bag a lot, with fists, elbows, shoulders, head, knees, and feet, in various ways. We started on work with th long staff, which was cool. We did quite a bit of work with the cotton ball, using the same techniques as with the bag.
The cotton ball is interesting. Rather than try to explain it myself, here’s Scott Meredith, who trained at the same place some years ago (and who unlike me is fluent in Chinese):
What we also did a lot of was partner work: tui shou. At a very high level, tui shou looks like this:
That’s far, far beyond what I was doing, obviously. We worked on the basics. Very, very basic. We did rather less than I had hoped for, but much more than I was able to absorb. And this is where my model of planning to attend the school for an intensive week once a month hit a road-bump, because as I progress tui shou will be an ever-more important part of what I need to work on… but, of course, I need someone to push hands against, and for many of the time slots when I was there, I was the only student. This became a bit awkward as the week went on, and led to quite a few periods of just practising zhan zhuang by myself as we waited for other students to arrive.
There was, nevertheless, quite a lot of time when I was able to practice, and I have to say, the other students are a great bunch who are really enthusiastic about the art and very willing to give feedback and corrections while we were working, which is invaluable to me.
Next time I go back, though, I will have to ask Master Yao to slow down even more, because this level is not in the books or DVDs, and the only way I’m going to absorb it is via repetition – over, and over, and over again. Forunately, towards the end of the week, I was partnered up with students of about my own level who were happy to take that approach.
What else? Ah, the current version of the course has 33 modules, but the latest set of additions to the course list hasb’t been translated into English, so I’m not entirely sure which parts of that we covered. We’ve also started to go back over the earlier material as we transition from the Basic interpretation to Intermediate. On the very last lesson, on Friday evening, a new face appeared: Jerome, a Frenchman who studied with Master Yao some years ago, and has just returned to Beijing. I hope he sticks around; it’s nice to have someone in the class I could actually have a conversation with…
It probably goes without saying, that so much of this experience is in the little details: training in the main room of the school while Master Yao’s wife is cooking their dinner in the kitchen; old friends and students of Master Yao wandering in for a chat and a smoke around the corner table while the rest of us just get on with our trainin; waiting for Master Yao to arrive to open up the school and getting chatting to an old man who’s practising taijiquan in the street while waiting for the primary school a few doors down to open its gate so he can collect his grand-daughter…
It’s probably unnecessary to add that I’m throughly enjoying myself, and that yiquan absolutely rocks…