Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back to Back

I love our Shaolin community. When packing up after work yesterday I saw two new voice messages on my cell. The first, was from fellow dork Heng Mo’s boyfriend, who was locked out of their apartment. (Mo and I also happen to be neighbors so I have her keys. Sadly, I wasn’t around to be helpful. Still, it was a nice reminder of our compatriotism.) The second was from fellow China-traveler Livia, who had just finished taking day class. The contents were, roughly, “Oh my God class was so rough! I know you trained yesterday, I wanted to see if it was as bad for you!”

Livia has more chi than several people combined, so if she was tired you know it must have been rough. No worries, Livia, you were indeed echoing my sentiments from Sunday. As I touched on in my last post, because of weird jet lag, I was up at 6 am Sunday, so decided to hit training and get it out of the way. In spite of appearances, we didn’t actually do that much “training” in China. We learned a lot, we hiked a lot of mountains. But none of it was really comparable to training an intense 2 hour class. And combined with the amount of un-nutritious eating and hours and hours of being sedentary on buses and trains, well, it didn’t spell for a triumphant return to training. All in all, her message, combined with the previous day’s training, left me with an ominous feeling as I headed to Level 2 last night.

As 6:45 rolled around and warm bodies remained scarce, I was really wondering where everyone was. I knew that Sunday I would probably be the only lunatic to come train. (Actually, Zhou was there too. More chi!) And I knew Monday might be somewhat sparse, but again, only one other China comrade, Richu, was in attendance. Now, I am not feeling superior for being stupid/crazy enough to train two days back to back immediately after disembarking a 13 hour flight. I was scared about what would happen if I started procrastinating. Plus, I missed it. And, in the end, despite the dubious mindset I went in with last night, class was more mentally enjoyable than it had been for awhile before leaving. I couldn't move so well this morning, but that's the price you pay.

Tonight, I'm not training, making sure that I get back in the swing methodically and without injury. (Plus I am still not totally unpacked…) But mentally, I would still love to go. There are lots of folks I have yet to see since returning, and there is much to review, both from the trip and in preparation for impending testing. But rest is probably wise.

Long story short, it hurts, but it’s great to be home!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Well, I know everyone was hoping for consistent, exciting updates from our journey into the Middle Kingdom, and when it became apparent that wasn't going to happen, began eagerly anticipating the promised deluge of posting that would follow quickly on the heels of my return. Now, you're patiently making excuses for me (jet lag, unpacking) for why I haven't yet provided the details on the China training. You're reading this now with joy and wondering when the heck I'll get on with it and talk about training. Here's the thing, there is just too much to even begin trying to capture it all in blog posts. Even when I leave out the stuff not strictly kung-fu related there is more than I can wrap my brain around telling everyone, and I feel inadequate to convey what happened without losing a lot in translation. I'm overwhelmed just thinking where to begin.

I can tell you that I learned eagle claw and sword, and that others learned tiger, mantis, and 7 star fist. But just from that I could devote an entire post to describing what eagle feels like, or what it's like to be taught by an instructor who doesn't speak any English. I could wax poetic for pages about the wushu schools, and watching the armies of children training on expanses of bare dirt doing rapid fire caijiaos and butterfly twists and intense stretching exercises. I have a whole post in my head about watching our instructors at Sifu's brother's school do 10 backflips in a row and suicides on a cement floor, jumping higher than any of us could if we had a sprung floor under us. I could talk about how we couldn't drink the tap water so I was never fully hydrated. How it felt to train with perpetual low grade indigestion.

Then there's all the spiritual moments. Climbing Drum Mountain at the Shaolin Temple; seeing the places we hear about in Buddhism class. I want to talk about the irony of watching a monk talking on a cell phone and the different feelings and thoughts that evokes. Or seeing the classic monk-coming-down-Bell-Mountain-stairs-on-hands-and-feet. Then there's the experience of meeting our Sifu's Sifu and how surreal that felt.

I can talk about the bizarre jet lag that had me training yesterday, about how totally whipped I was in class and how much endurance I lost in two weeks. the list is endless. So why don't I? Instead of summing up all the things I COULD talk about, why don't I just talk about them, you wonder? Besides it being an overwhelming amount of blogging, besides not wanting to bore the pants of everyone, and besides feeling unable to do it justice, honestly, I myself haven't totally absorbed everything or straightened out all my thoughts and feeling about everything I did and saw. Note the excessive run-on sentences in this post.

So, while I set it all in order in my mind, I invite you to ask any questions that I hope I can compile into a single "Answers here" post. For the rest of it, expect lots of anecdotes and references to crop up as I move forward in my posts. I beg your patience in this endeavor. In a way it's like looking at my photos, looking at them all en masse can never convey the experience and deadens your senses, whereas seeing one picture has its own story and its own impact it couldn't otherwise have. At the same time, the single picture isn't enough to express the whole trip. So as I move forward it will be like seeing the photos a few at a time, and I think it will provide the best story.