Friday, April 11, 2008

Shaolin Retreat, No. 2

This went up on the Temple's MySpace yesterday:

Ji had a great time at the first one. Whaddya think?

Breathe In, Breathe Out!

Testing is this weekend -- yippee! I'm not trying to be facetious by saying yippee! I am genuinely looking forward to being in the moment, having an opportunity to show Shifu where I'm at.

It's interesting how much can change in just six months. Back at the end of September, I had just finished erluquan, and was feeling some doubt as to how solid I felt, overthought it quite a bit, and then went ahead and wrecked my knee. Nutty! Fear of testing at that point no longer occupied the forefront of my mind; my newfound fear became, Will I be able to regain strength in my knee to the point where I can train kung fu at the same level again? Of course, I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to try for Level 2 with some of my fellow dorks -- Mo, Sucheela and Cheng -- but that disappointment became a mere trace of a thought as I propelled myself through recovery these last six months. I learned to project less towards the future, and to focus on the here and now.

And here we are once more, six months later, with my testing countdown at about 26 hours from now. But instead of feeling anxiety over whether my erluquan will be up to snuff, and whether I'm ready for Level 2, I am feeling pretty calm because I know how much work I've put into training and myself since my return on December 1st. I know the progress I've made since my knee injury. While I still feel a little gimpy at times, and my ability to blast off with my bad knee is still not great (not that it ever was), I feel prepared. I will be able to show Shifu on Saturday that I have worked hard. And perhaps there is still much room for improvement with my knee and myself, but hopefully he will recognize that I am capable of training har-dah.

So, yes, like that seminal band Bush from the mid-'90s urges us, Breathe in, breathe out! Breathe in, breathe out! and all will be fine.

Good luck, everyone!


Last night, after about 25 minutes or so of relentless handstand-choke-fall over, I finally got the handstand somersault. On a mat, but I think it is a worthy first step. Bolstered by this success, when class started I bopped right to the front of the line and managed to stay there the entire class, even through ceshoufan, which is when usually I have to make way or get run over.

Training was great. There were at least 30 people there; and maybe it was the chi of the first really warm spring day, or maybe everyone was excited for testing, but the energy was bouncing off the walls. It was a relief after the struggle of yesterday, and I think I have just been off kilter of late because I was sick, then threw the baby shower, and my schedule was out of sync. So it was nice to have everything get back to normal and high-chi right before testing. I even got a chance to do erluquan and xiao hong quan all the way through. I finally felt like I was having fun again. I guess I probably should have taken off more than two classes when I was sick.... but what can you do? Testing is this weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fear isn't something you have; it's something you ARE!

Tonight I went to class in a pretty good mood. I decided I didn't want to work too much on anything where I could potentially injure myself right before testing, so I opted to do some mental training instead.

As we know by now, I have serious fears about landing on my head and going upside down. Well, to prepare for liyu dating we occasionally, (more often of late) do a handstand and then go into a somersault from there. I use "we" loosely. Everyone else does a handstand somersault, I just do the hand stand then lock up and either come back down to my feet or fall sideways and land like a sack of bricks. Fear. I got it. Can't seem to lose it.

So today I spent a half hour before class using a mat and trying to overcome this obstacle. It's since I know I'm lacking the upper body strength to go down slowly; I'm just waiting for a CRACK and impending quadriplegia. And as much as my brain says "DO IT!" my body simply will not respond in kind. I got a little closer as I went on, working in baby steps, but after the 73rd try or so I started to feel queasy and decided to stretch the rest of the time before class.
Sadly the queasiness did not go away. Even sadder, it intensified. I was about to ralph the entire class; I couldn't do my shuangfeijiaos to save my life. And when Han told us to do handstand somersaults, well it simply wasn't my happiest hour. At break I compounded the problem by drinking a ton of water, and I spent the rest of class trying to do my forms as gently as possible so as not to get sick all over the carpet. It's almost midnight and my stomach is still not quite right.

After class some of the other folks said they too had felt really tired and/or queasy. So at least I wasn't alone though I think I looked a mess. I'm glad thought that it was something in the air and not the handstands. Because I just found out that it is something Sifu might actually make us do during testing. So I have to keep wailing at it for the next few classes until I can stop choking, and I sure was hoping it didn't mean I would be this nauseated for the next three days.

Kung Fu Election

Okay, so some of these candidates are out of the running now, but this game is kinda silly fun. I did all right with McCain and his big staff, huhuhuhuhuh. I'd probably skip the intro song, though -- it's really obnoxious and dumb.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I had a Dream...

Sunday night I had a bad dream. I couldn't do caijiao. And then everyone was standing around and Sifu cancelled class. He told me if anyone showed up that night then I should teach class. How can someone who doesn't know caijiao teach class?! I looked around frantically for some way out, but I couldn't leave because class was being held at the Hamptons....

Taking a psychoanalytic view of this dream, I would say - I'm a dork. Kung fu is supposed to ALLEVIATE stress, not invade my subconscious and disturb my hours of rest. That's the time for my OTHER anxieties to invade my subconscious. And why am I stressing for testing? Nothing is hanging on it. and even if something was, it doesn't matter. As Mo put it last night, as per Heng Nai, "Kung fu has no meaning, and no purpose." Instead of being depressing I found this very comforting. I mean Buddhism's base tenet is no attachment, so it's kind of antithetical to get worked up over my "action meditation." So to say kung fu has no meaning and no purpose is not to discount it specifically, but a reminder that just like all things in life, it is transitory and it's bad to get wrapped up in it, just like getting wrapped up in money, or people or any of those other things I've let stress me out and give me bad dreams.... Dinosaurs... outer space... high school calculus... Here's hoping now I can get back to having those nightmares instead.... Actually, here's hoping now I can have those dreams only now I know kung fu and can defeat the dinosaurs, or calculus, or whatever....

Monday, April 7, 2008

Smashing Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Another guest entry from Heng De. Amituofo!

So I've recently been playing a lot of a certain video game called Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. Basically, it's every Nintendo character you can think of, and probably some you can't, fighting each other trying to knock the others off the screen. I first played the original version for N64 when I was just a wee lad back in 1999. In addition to moving around you basically have 4 other motions -- attack, special, shield/dodge, and grab. I never used the shield at all back in the N64 version, and rarely used the grab.

As I started playing Brawl, I was decent, but I realized (especially after playing a few matches online) that to get better, I would seriously have to start blocking and dodging. While trying to learn to incorporate these new things into my play, of course my level of play would go down a bit because I wouldn't know exactly what I was doing. But after practicing over and over I knew that my overall game would improve greatly.

So basically what this made me think of was how we go through a lot of the same things in kung fu. We get comfortable doing the movements a certain way, and then at some point maybe realize that the form isn't exactly correct, or the physics are a little different, or something. But it's hard to stop doing what we've become so used to to try to implement the new thing. Especially when it feels like we already are getting enough power/pop/looks good from what we're doing.

Some moves I can think of off the top of my head where I've had to do this are:

- bian tui and cechuatui -- the whole using the hip and not your leg to kick thing, especially because when you first start to use your hip more it feels like you don't have any power.
- tornado -- I noticed from a picture taken recently that I'm not tucking my leg at all, despite my tornado apparently looking purty; need to fix this.
- gongbu -- keeping your body straight forward, especially in forms like xiaohongquan.
- strumming both up and down instead of just down while playing Guitar Hero (for when it gets really fast).
- pubu chuanzhang -- using hips to power it instead of arms.
- Actually in basically every movement using your hips for power instead of whatever else.

I guess this whole thing can be extended to life in general too; to change and improve ourselves we have to step outside our comfort zones and be willing to try something new. Hmmm....and who says video games aren't good for you!