Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stage Combat

As some of you know, I am an actor. Most of us have had physical movement training of some kind so we can be more aware of our bodies while in front of the camera or on stage. Yesterday, while in acting class, something particularly interesting happened. I was doing a scene with a fellow actor in which we were in a argument. Nothing was rehearsed so neither of us knew if the fight would get physical. He is about 6'2" and probably 170 lbs., so in terms of size of weight, he was much bigger than I am. Towards the end of the scene on the first take, the actor lunged at me and put a bear hug around me. Instinctively, I immediately went into a 弓步 (Gōngbù) and did a 推掌 (Tūizhăng). And he was pushed backwards, powerless, like a rag doll. A look of shock spread across his face. He wasn't expecting me to be able to push him off so easily. He tried again and ended up with a similar result. I didn't realize what I had done until the teacher mentioned after our scene that my Shaolin training is really paying off. She saw that I had complete balance and control of the situation because, physically, I was immovable. That physicality completely described the relationship between the characters beyond what mere words can be said. It was utterly instinctual. She loved it. The class loved it. I loved it.

It's not very often that we get to use what we practice at the Shaolin Temple. It's not 1200 A.D. where there are still warring tribes and we must fight to defend ourselves every day. These days, the guy/girl with the bigger gun usually wins the fight. It was really nice to know, that other than being a pretty art form, the training is based on real applicable uses. For me, oh lucky me! I get to use it on stage or in front of the camera every day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If at first you succeed, try try again

Yesterday I decided that today was the day I was going to do the head flip. I just decided, ok I am going to land the head flip tomorrow. The crazy thing is - I did!

The sad thing is - no one saw me land it but Heng Xu.

I actually got it pretty fast into my attempts. And then did it several times in succession. Then missed it. My head started to hurt; I took a break. I tried to do it for Richu. I missed it. Then when he wasn't paying attention I did it again a couple times. Then Mo arrived. I tried to do it for her. I failed several times. Mo went to change; I did it a couple more times. She came back out. I failed. My head was really starting to hurt. I decided to take a break. I didn't get it again the rest of the night. My neck is going to be pretty stiff tomorrow, methinks.

It reminds me of the whole, if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound, kind of thing. If you do a head flip and no one sees it does it count? Not that Xu is no one mind you, I just wish there had been other witnesses. I'm deciding yes. Besides, I'm going to have to do it a million more times to make it look clean. So everyone will have proof at some point. Anyway hooray for the power of positive thinking!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You can dance if you want to...

Instead of training tonight I went with a friend to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company at NY City Center. As you may or may not know my background is performing arts so I always enjoy the chance to see some, even if it means missing some KF. :D We had a lot of fun, but I must admit, I spent a lot of the performance, (which was very good), thinking about the dancing in terms of kung fu. In the various pieces I saw elements of one handed ceshoufans, the staff form sacrifice, modified versions of tengkong fanyaos, head flips, mabus and a multitude of other moves. I have always respected dancers, and even more since I started training because they combine all the strength, flexibility and power of kung fu with the added necessity of making it look graceful and effortless. No panting, no unconscious sound effects, no pained faces. Everything perfectly controlled. I don't think I will ever be a dancer, but kung fu is still, as Sifu says, a way to "express yourself." Tonight definitely left me inspired to train harder and strive for more control, elegance and expression. But not forgoing the fun of some explosive chi sound effects...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Air Up There

Lately, I've been noticing that my jumps on 雙腿屈膝跳 (Shūangtŭi Qūxītìao) and 騰空後撩腿 (Téngkōng Hòlíaotŭi) are getting higher and higher. For some reason, without specifically training for it, my vertical leap has increased. After doing some internet research, I was reminded how beneficial Shaolin training is.

Vertical Leap Training 1

Vertical Leap Training 2

I couldn't believe how similar those exercises were to some of our forms and stances. It makes complete sense. Shaolin or Kung Fu in general have a need for its practitioner to have a high vertical leap. Without it, some of the moves will always be not as powerful or beautiful. I want my 騰空雙飛腳 (Téngkōng Shuāngfēijiăo) to be able to reach someone's face. And not just be able to reach their knees.

Most of us don't have the benefit of training as a professional level athlete, therefore, most of us will never achieve a 48" vertical leap. But, with the almost 1 year that I've been training at the Temple, I've found that my reflexes, speed, and now my vertical leap has improved. There's no guarantee that I will be able to dunk like Michael Jordan, and like Cheng, I can't wait to see what one more year will do!