I spent a lot of this weekend interviewing university applicants. They have to go through a whole series of tests and examinations, but one small part of the procedure is an English-language aptitude test, so many of us foreign lecturers are roped in for this. We are paired with a local member of staff, and interview the applicants one by one, with an average of six minutes for each. The standard of English varies enormously, from near-fluency to complete inability; most are able to sustain a simple conversation about their lives and aspirations. (Note to self: that’s better that your standard of Mandarin – get this sorted out).
It’s tempting to get bored by this constant stream of stumbling, inarticulate youngsters. Still, many of them are still in shock after the dreaded gaokao; many of them have spent years in preparation, only to be disappointed. In addition, it’s a real opportunity to learn something about the lives and aspirations of China’s young people – easier in a way than with my own students, since there’s a culture that encourages maintaining a distance (correctly so, in my opinion). Many of them are vague about why they are applying and what they want to do – but really, was I any different at that age? I decided to make it an exercise in compassion, if that doesn’t sound too precious, and to try to find something interesting in each one. I’m glad I did; many, who were incredibly nervous and could barely speak at first, relaxed and talked passionately once the right question was asked. Not all of them will succeed, of course. Still, I know that these were extremely important interviews for them, and the experience will have marked them; I hope each one left feeling that someone was genuinely interested in them.
Anyway, moving on. I met up with Master Liu Jing Ru’s disciple Kong Cheng on Saturday evening. We first met when I trained with Master Liu back in 2007; he’s the one who took me out to visit Dong Hai Chuan’s grave. He’s recently returned from a tour of Europe, where he was teaching bagua and TCM in a number of countries. We chatted about bagua and other martial arts, and he didn’t dismiss my ‘theory’ that bicycling is a great CIMA training method 🙂 (Hey, but don’t the classics say that one of the hardest joints to relax is the ankles? And can’t pedalling really focus your mind on the flexing and movement of the ankles? And there’s also the alignment of hips, knees and feet…) Hehehehehe. Anyhow, we discussed training, as (as I previously blogged), I was thinking of re-starting bagua. I’m not sure that I can go back to Sun Ru Xian Lao Shi, as I don’t live near him any more, and the language is an issue (but let be clear that I really like and respect him – his skill is fantastic, and he’s an incredibly warm and generous guy). The Liang-style teacher has moved location, and my contact with him, Taichibum, seems to have vanished. Kong Cheng suggested that I train with him, and I think that’s probably what I’ll do, although not until after I’ve gone back to Wales for break.
And on the topic of going back to Wales, I see that there’s a systema school near my hometown, so I’ll try to get a couple of private classes if I can, just to finally get a taste. Via Twitter, I’ve also found that one of Cheng Man Ching’s students lives fairly close as well, and it would be cool to catch up with him if I can.
As for the yiquan… well… something’s happening. Last week, I went to a morning class, and really made progress, I felt, with the basic health movements and testing-force exercises. Everything just seemed to work, and I went home feeling stretched, with the tendons in my wrists and hands feeling energised after force had rippled through them. Master Yao commented that I’ve relaxed a lot since I started his classes – which I agree with, and I put it down entirely to the yiquan training methods! I couldn’t go on Saturday, due to the interviews, but I made it yesterday. To be honest, for most of the class I was just feeling tired, but towards the end we had a tui shou training session. I was paired up with one of the new students, who’s about my age, I think, very strong but very tense. I found that the more he pressed, the easier it was to slightly redirect his force and neutralise it, without me needing to use muscular strength. Then the “something’ happened – I found I was able to ‘bounce’ him. I don’t really know what I did, but he was thrown backwards and upwards, with both feet off the floor. As soon as he touched down, I was able to do it again. This really didn’t take any strength on my part. I could have carried on, I think, but I was a little bit freaked out, and broke contact. Hehehe, the whole class was speechless. There was a long discussion about it, which of course I couldn’t follow. Master Yao I think pointed out that I still tend to go through tui shou in a taiji way rather than the way yiquan does it, which is probably true – I tend to be passive and wait for my opponent, rather than moving to take them down. I also haven’t mastered yiquan’s quick, uprooting methods. I’ll work away at it, though. Master Yao told the class that I had real gongfu, though, which of course I’m very pleased about!
Hehehe, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: yiquan rocks!