Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning to Fly

Before we learned to walk, we all repeatedly fell down over and over again until we were able to develop our muscles and coordination to the point where we can balance ourselves precariously on two feet. It is after millenniums of evolution that humans have become one of a handful of creatures that has chosen to walk on it's hind legs. And now, I'm on a quest to further that evolution. I want to aerial, butterfly twist, and TengKongWaiBaiLiang as my only mode of travel from Point A to Point B.

I feel like a child learning to walk again. Oooo...boy! I sure have the bruises to prove it too. On Wednesday night Level 2 class, I walked in and both John and Heng Ji (Branden) said to me, "So you landed an aerial, eh? Let's see it!" They proceeded to pull out the big mats for us to play on. We had about 20 minutes worth of jumping and fumbling through the air trying our best to land our aerials and butterfly twists. None of us landed it but it was nice to have the mats and not have to worry about landing too hard on the ground. It does pose an interesting question. Is it better to learn how to land it on a mat, build the confidence there and then land without it? Or is it better to venture out onto the real surface where we will be doing the aerial anyway? I suppose it comes down to personal preference. Do you want bruises now or later? You are going to fall a few times. It's a fact. It's overcoming that fear of self-preservation. It's letting it all go and just fly. During class, I put that philosophy to the test. Heng De let us do BaiWangZaiKui for about 10 minutes. I think the way I was falling was scaring some people. "Leo, when you land fall, it's like seeing and hearing a sack of potatoes fall on the ground. Ka-Boom! But you do it with no fear though. I don't know if I can do that..."

My body is still a little battered today. I am not sure if it is from the falling or my muscles getting used a new way of coordination and use. I would like to think it's the latter because if I let my fear control me, I will never be able to fly. It really isn't about the falling down. It's about the getting back up and trying again after you just failed. But maybe I should invest in some protection, just in case. A wearable airbag. I sure could use that!

Even though I wince in pain every step I take, I can't wait to get out there and learn to fly again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Riding on the Wings of Victory

The Aerial. I did it. I landed one.

After seeing it all my life in kung fu movies, tv shows and acrobatic tumbling routines, I did something on Friday I've never thought I would be able to do. I landed my own aerial.

It's not that I never thought I would be able to do it. Lots of people can do it. Most of the senior Level 2's can. I remember one of my first classes at the Temple when Heng Li was leading the line and we were doing 側手翻 (CeShouFan). He did aerials oh-so-casually all the way down the line. And if you know Li, when I say "casual", I mean FULL of chi. :) My fancy took flight and I told myself, "If I trained harder, maybe I'll get there too."

It's been a year and a half since that day and I have evolved physically, mentally, and spiritually. I've been feeling and witnessing exponential growth within me. Friday was the day I tasted my first freedom and learned to fly. That's exactly what an aerial is. It's suspended animation gliding through the air. It's as if a mini-worm hole was created and the laws of physics and gravity no longer applied. For that split second, time stopped and the world ceased to exist. I was in a moment of total amazement and bliss. The next second came and the world came rushing back. All I heard was the class exploding in clapping and cheers. I landed one. My very first.

I've been on the cusp many times. But, right when I get to the vertical point, doubt would creep in and I would reach out my hands and fall back down. Not holding out your hands to touch the ground takes courage and fearlessness. You have to believe that your head won't get smashed on the ground. You have to believe that your body has enough momentum to carry you over the 90 degree point. You have to believe in yourself.

I've had horrendous pain in my neck and spine in the past two weeks. I'm not really sure how I got it but it just wouldn't go away. Now I know what that was. It was the blossoming of my wings of victory.