Saturday, March 29, 2008

Expiration Date

Thursday night was my first night back at temple after almost 3 weeks. And I'm still recovering. I am sore all over and it leads me to wonder why my muscles have lost their chi so quickly. Is there an expiration date in all of us? Is there a number of days we have to use our muscles and train or we start losing the flexibility and strength? Is there a time limit or can we prolong it by adding quarters cross training? What about stamina? To keep the chi up throughout basics is a must. But what goes first? Stamina? Flexibility? Strength? Maybe I'm just getting old, and my body is no longer able to keep up its stamina and strength without constant training.

I am thinking of this only because I foresee a future where I am working on TV/Film sets or the stage all the time and all over the world and have much less time to come train at temple. It's very hard to train while working 12 hour days being emotionally available. It's a different kind of training. More like chi kung. Energy based. An internal style.

Well, it sounds like I need to stop whining and writing and actually get my sorry sore butt to temple. How else am I going to get that CHI back?!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Action Meditation

At dinner after the class tonight, we talked about how people train differently to achieve the state of meditation... Actually, EZ and Jaka talked mostly and the rest of us listened.

EZ mentioned that he trained Karate for quite a while. His training was tied to Zen Buddhism similar to our training with Chan Buddhism. The ideas are the same - to achieve the state of meditation through actions or movements. But the expressions are different. While our training encourages us to express ourselves, his past training discouraged individualism. Movements were done uniformly and quietly.

Jaka pointed out that it might be Japanese influence rather than Zen as he is very familiar with Zen Buddhism which also has its own kind of action meditation - seated meditation where people actively sit, while being aware and in control of their bodies.

Regardless of the type of training we choose, the point is to be present, mindful and aware of our actions, bodies and the surroundings.

In the Buddhism class last weekend, somebody said that Chan is everything. Everything you do can be a meditation. It's kind of difficult to be in the moment and enjoy it at all time.

I guess this is why I need and enjoy training. It forces me to be present for at least two hours a day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Last night in L2 Mo, Sucheela, Fu and I finished xiao hong quan! Excitement! Celebration! Now we have 2 1/2 weeks to try and clean it up for testing; sort of frightening, but definitely better than finishing it up the Friday before. Time to pound pound pound away at it.

Not minimizing the awesomeness of finishing my first L2 form, but in so doing, it brought to light how bad my mabu has gotten. (The end stance of the form is a mabu.) Now I'm the first to admit that my mabu has never been super low or very flexible; and it is not exactly my favorite move so I don't go out of my way to give it extra work. But I hadn't realized the extent of the damage. The thing is, I'm building up a lot of strength in L2, but that means the muscles around my hips are reducing my flexibility. And while I have been working on stretching my hips, (which has worked wonders for the recurring hip pain, incidentally!) I guess I'm not getting at the right muscles, because I have felt my mabu getting higher and higher. There aren't a lot of mabus in L2. You get gongbus by the truckload. Fair amount of pubus, but not a lot of ye olde horse stance.

Seeing it in the mirror last night, for the first time in awhile, I was appalled. It looked even more grotesquely off because with my unfortunate long legs everything is exaggerated. (Also, it didn't help that at this point I was next to Han who can hit the floor in mabu without breaking a sweat.) So the sum of it is, the stance needs work. Lots of it. Time to overcome my hatred of mabu and focus on ways to get lower and open my hips more. I'm going to do it untill I love it. Untill when Sifu calls out mabu, I smile instead of inwardly groan. Until when I go "Huoy!" (hui, hoy, huay, how, hue, hu-ee?) at the end of xiao hong quan, it's my celebratory shout for how good my mabu has gotten.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This and That on a Tuesday Night

Tonight was my first L1 class in a over a week, and my first L1 night class in two weeks. It's not that I'm feeling too proud for L1, just a combination of engagements (and well, ok, laziness) kept me away this week. And you have to have SOME time off... Yeah, my protesting is really just a sign of guilt...

Anyway, it was really nice to come back and be in a big old class of 31 and work on polishing some basics for testing. Boy do they need it; there were definitely some places I felt myself being sloppy. What really threw me off, though, were my forms. What with teaching and learning xiao hong quan and worrying about L2 basics, there is definitely less polish on my L1 forms. I know that Sifu is going to call me on erluquan for testing, and I haven't done it all the way through more than once in the last month. My balance off in places, missing little details; I am starting to get nervous. I might even be more worried about erluquan this time around that in October! I keep going into a L2 basic, gongbu shuangtuizhang housaotui gongbu lianzhang, after the sweep. BAD! I need to get refocused, and quick.

Even so, it was a good reminder that I have to be responsible for my own training. I have to make sure that I work on those things that need it, even if it means taking time outside of class. Naturally the more you learn, the less time you can devote in class to each individual thing. So, instead of attempting headflips before class, I am going to start making sure my forms are on point. I would hate for Sifu to ask for my certificates back! :P

Monday, March 24, 2008

Noise Level

Sifu always tells us to express ourselves when training. Some people do it more audibly that others, but we all definitely have times when our grunts and pants manifest into something a little louder and more distinct of not totally intelligible. I started training in total silence, but as I've opened up more, and especially since Level 2, I've really come to appreciate the extra chi from combining an explosive noise with an explosive move, and have come to notice everyone else's unique noises. This said, I try to reign it in a little, and so have been looking forward to learning the end of xiaohongquan in Level 2 and my first "official" noises.

(Ok, that's not true, there are noises in luohan duanda which I learned in Austria, but I'm still too wimpy to do that one in class.....)

The last few L2 classes I've felt I finally found the chi for xiaohongquan, that is to say, that I've been able to alternate the times I did it slowly, trying to master the details, with doing it faster and explosive. Today, cruising on the 15 hours of sleep carrying over from Sunday, I was really pumped through the whole class, and when Hwalan told us to come over to work on xiaohongquan I was ready to make some noise. The thing was, we didn't learn the noises. We learned the movements, but Hwalan didn't mention the "mmmm -YI!" that goes with them. I figured it was probably more important to learn the move properly than get distracted by making noises. Or maybe you just don't get "taught them" per se. Turns out, after class, she told Mo she just forgot to get to that part, (clearly I'm focused on the less important though more overt parts of the form); still, it means I can go ahead and make the noises without feeling surreptitious about it. :P so everyone get ready.....

mmmmmmmmm - YI!