Friday, December 5, 2008

Sore No More?

I’m not that sore.

(Knock on wood.)

(Actually, let’s knock on wood a second time just in case.)

It’s so weird, but 4 days of training in a row, after a week off, and I’m not feeling as stiff or pained or injured or throbbing as I have come to expect in my training experience. I felt a little bit drained physically last night, but I still felt I had a lot of chi. My back hurts a little, but that is probably more from my soft mattress than the kung fu. Why do I not feel, well, frankly, worse?

(Knock on wood a third time for good measure. Also maybe throw salt over your shoulder or whatever other good superstitions you have at your disposal.)

Talking to Sucheela last night I wondered, “Am I not pushing myself hard enough?” I mean, one can always push harder and train farther, but I don’t feel that I’m taking it easy on myself these days. Admittedly, sometimes I don’t get in as many kicks as I should going down the carpet. But that’s because I have been focusing on putting maximum chi into each one. And while those things should be united, not exclusive, I certainly can’t pin that as the source of my non-soreness.

Why am I worrying? Not being sore is a GOOD thing. Why question when good things come to you? Maybe I’m too cynical and I am expecting a dreadful backlash. Maybe I don’t have enough confidence in my ability to increase strength and stamina. It’s sick, I was almost excited last night when I thought I felt some shin splints starting (they weren’t). I guess, the real answer is twofold: 1) my body is ready to push through to training at the next level, and 2) I am not used to exceeding my own expectations. I guess that means I should set them higher and then I won’t be so disconcerted when I am able to sleep like a log without waking up doing caijiaos. That's what we call "normal."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Heat is On - Winter Style

Winter is my favorite time of year to train. It’s dark and cold out so you aren’t tempted to skip class to go lounge in the park or do some other activity. At 5:00 it looks like nighttime so, for me anyway, training feels like a small detour on the way to bed. But the real joy is that it isn’t hot. Yes, I have made the breakthrough discovery that wintertime is colder than the rest of the year. And even though the giant heaters are often blowing unpleasantly during class, it's still preferable to sweltering 100 degree temperatures outside. Winter means no labored breathing in the nearly solid wall of humidity. Only one uniform required per class. No “Shaolin Showers.” And there is less desperate over-hydrating during the stretching break.

Imagine my astonishment then, when last night, about 30 minutes into class, I went to femininely blot some of the perspiration from my brow (ok, swipe the pouring sweat from my face like the Neanderthal man) only to find there wasn’t a dry spot left on my uniform to absorb it! It wasn’t mid-August, drenched-like-a-rainstorm-soaked, but it was significantly more sweaty than I am accustomed to as of late.

At the water break I unabashedly, and gloriously guzzled my entire bottle of water, without any nauseating consequences for the second half of class. What was going on here? Was it actually Summer and I just blacked out for 7 months? No. It was simply the extra-chi class fueled by the always-exciting N’ou-taught class and the presence of the long-absent Hwalan.

Also, at the beginning when N’ou had me demonstrate caijiao. It took me back to my first L2 class when he had me demonstrate lunbi caijiao and my brain completely froze. It’s nice to know that if nothing else, your basics are developing and strong, and it’s an especially good mindset to have while training.

Another source of inspiration was that even though I was extra sweaty, nothing hurt. I’m sore from training after the lazy-food-fest of last week, but no injuries, no unbearable hip pain or shin splints. No phlegmy flu hampering my lungs; no bad lunch wreaking havoc in my stomach. I was training unhindered and was able to execute my movements, (I felt) with much more chi and much less angst than usual. So even though it wasn’t my typical Winter training session, it is a class like last night’s that makes me excited to roll in again tonight and continue the fun, sweat and all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stretching with Shifu

(Amituofo! A guest entry from our class leader tonight, Shi Heng De.)

So tonight when I was about to call everyone back into lines after stretching, a bunch of people were doing cetitui stretch after Shifu had been doing it with Randy and Khalid. So I thought, "Hey, that looks good, let's all do it."

Luckily for me I was the odd one out, so I asked Shifu to stretch me. So I paid attention to his technique. I got as sideways as I could, straightened my leg, and just relaxed. It would be great if everyone knew how to stretch people like he does! So he raised my leg up to where there was pretty good resistance (not from me -- I was relaxed, but from my leg), but I wasn't dying. I was still able to flex my foot even more. That's not to say I wasn't getting a good stretch though. Believe me, I felt it!

Maybe I should not train for 5 days in a row more often: I hit the middle split tonight and was able to extend my back up off the floor too. I know I'm gonna feel it tomorrow though!

But, anyway, he held that for just a few seconds, then brought my leg down and told me to relax more. Then he shook the leg around a bit to help it relax. He said, "Now can go more." And when he brought it up a second time, it did go up more.

After the second round, he told me to relax again, and then, using his chest against my foot, pushed my knee to my shoulder, still on the sideways axis. This was to counterstretch, and we do the same thing when we do zhengtitui stretch, or the butterfly stretch after middle splits.

When he did my other side, the knee-to-shoulder stretch really pushed it for me (my left hip can't open up much) and my right (standing) leg started to bend without me even realizing it. Shifu noticed and gave a light kick to my shin to remind me.

Oh yea and I didn't even tell him when to stop or anything; he just stopped because he could feel it himself. After you stretch with other people a lot you start to be able to feel their bodies just from holding them and looking at them I think. So stretch together more! :)

So to me it was the same as how we do multiple rounds for straddle stretch or anything, or how I get in my stretching machine around 6 then go out a bit, then a few minutes later come back again and go more. First round relaxes and opens you up a bit, but subsequent rounds are where you really go further. And each time, Shifu didn't hold it for that long. Maybe it was because we were in the middle of class and it was a time thing, or maybe that's just a good way to do it.

Try different things and see what works for you! Be honest with yourself and push yourself! Train harder!

Monday, December 1, 2008


I've been away from training for a week; my sister was in town and though I did intend to bring her to a class, what with Thanksgiving and sightseeing we didn't make it to the Temple. Consequently I was really excited to come back tonight. There was a lot of HEAVY eating over the last six days, (when people come into town I like to take them out eating + Thanksgiving = lots of eating and more food still in the fridge) and I felt like there was sludge running through my veins, sludge comprised mostly of butter and heavy cream. It was definitely time to train.

Class was great. Randy and Khalid led the lines setting off each move with synchronized super-power. At stretching Sifu joined in and showed us the real meaning of flexibility. During forms we broke into groups for each form and spent the rest of class urging one another on. It was great to clear out all the blocked energy that had been building up and fermenting. And as I stretch out some shenanigans that cropped up in my knee, and avoid eating all the leftovers in my fridge, I feel very post-Thanksgiving thankful for being able to train and for having such a great group of people around me.

I hope to keep the ball rolling as I move towards Christmas and another 10 day vacation so that when I come back I can feel the same level of chi that I felt tonight. Those are the kind of leftovers I really need.