Long time no write, so lots to catch up on. I also couldn’t think of a title for it all so you’ll have to make do with a seemingly random list of things. They all do kind of relate though, as you’ll see.
Possibly the main reason for the late post was that the week after I last posted was not my greatest here. I should have known by the start really. The weather here has been a bit up and down but mostly getting better, day by day. That week though it began with grey skies and a perpetual light rain that kept us indoors on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday it stopped raining but the sky was still dark and with little sun to be seen the training field remained too muddy for us to train on, so instead we trained on the concrete path that leads up to it. That and the secondary field that the wing chung guys use. Anyway, it didn’t seem like the mood was really there with anyone. Some of the class still hadn’t returned from the Hong Kong competition and a couple of new guys had arrived from the other school to train with us for a few months, so the dynamic of the group was definitely unsettled. I’d already had a bit of an argument with one of the over how to train the 7 year old in the group. Anyway, as it got round to Thursday I was starting to feel a little down but I had been chosen to lead the group that day. In the afternoon we were going to be trying some sparring and I’d said provisionally I’d give it a go. I then ran the warm up for the class but really didn’t feel any respect of interest from anyone. It felt like everyone still saw me as the new guy who didn’t really know what he was doing, generally to the point where they didn’t want to listed or follow with any enthusiasm. Anyway, how much of that was in my head I’ll never know but with my spirits already crushed we started to get ready for sparring.
There were quite a few of us that decided to spar that week but for some reason I got pared up with one off the smallest guys there. A little french guy, 22, around 60kgs to my 100 ish. He had been sparring quite a bit but mainly because his technique was bad and his sifu wanted him to work on it. Turns out he comes from a rough part of France and is much more familiar with fighting people bare fisted on the streets, and as he is quite small he’s got used to a particular style. Anyway, we start to spar and every time I move in and try to close distance he just jumps back. I keep moving in and trying to get him into range, all the while he’s dancing back. This continues for a little while before he suddenly seems to duck forward and right and swing big wild right hooks into the side of my head. My guard is pretty good, so I avoid getting hit in the face but he keeps raining blows into my left ear. We break, and start again and every time the result is pretty much the same. A lucky punch somewhere along the way gets my nose bleeding a little but that’s reasonably easy to do for me, so I continue. We carry on like this with me only really getting one chance to pin him so he can’t continue retreating and give him a few wallops. I’m pretty resiliant though, and I feel like I can take a good beating before stopping but it’s when another big flailing right slaps me in the ear again and it all goes quiet on that side that I decide I’m done.
As I’m taking all the gear off, which includes a head guard I will add, that I really take stock and start feeling these bits in my mouth. Turns out they’re bits of 4 of my teeth that are now pretty chipped. Luckily they’re not broken to the point where they cause pain or expose any nerves or anything but it was a little more than I expected to receive permanent damage in this light sparring session. I then also checked the state of my ear, which remained slightly muted for the next couple of days. It’s a strange one and I’m not sure exactly what’s happened to it but it still to this day feels a little numb on the outside. Also, when i tried to change the pressure in my ears (the old hold your nose and blow thing) I just heard the air whistling out of my left ear. That’s almost stopped now but I’m not testing it for a bit to hope it heals up. Anyway, after that my mood was just so low I couldn’t even think about training. Friday I asked Sifu if I could just take the day to get my head together and spent the day sullenly in my room, trying my best to avoid breaking into tears in front of people.
After that the weather and my mood rapidly improved again, giving us a couple of nice sunny weekends and a good last week, which ended on a particular high too. It was a blazing hot sunny day and we had been told there would be no training and instead it would be a day long mountain walk, similar to one we did in Kunyu Shan. This one took us away from the temple and up a super long stair case over into one of the mountains. After reaching the top of the stairs we walked over to a look out point to be shown, in the distance, a spectacular temple, just nestled into the side of a cliff. This was the actual destination but while it looked reasonably close and at the same altitude as we were the rest of the walk was far from quick or easy. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in China so far though. From that point the route was along a walkway, big enough to comfortably have two people side by side, stuck halfway up the cliffs of the mountains between. To our left the cliff that reached up to the sky and to the right was a sheer drop down into the valley. You may have seen similar on youtube or TV but to actually be there was something very special. It was surprisingly long and featured yet more stairs though, up and down all the way as you zig zag in and out of crevices but the views were extraordinary. I’ll try and post pictures but I’ll have to sort through them all to find the best ones first. To add to the hard work of it however, I had been assigned as one of the people to look after the shaolin baby, the 7 year old, named Ocean. From the very beginning you could tell this would be difficult as even before we started going up the first stairs he was complaining about his sore feet. Cut to 6 hours later and we had resorted to one of us pulling him up stairs by the hand up as someone else was pushing him up them. Anyway, after around an hour at the end of hearing about how his feet hurt, despite my assuring him that our feet hurt too and that there was no other option right now than to keep walking until we were off the mountain, I now have a far greater respect for my parents (love you both) for all the times as a child I was taken on long walks and I’m sure I must have done the same.
In other news, I’m am feeling much better at the moment anyway. I took two weeks to not do anything particularly intensive on my knees (avoiding hyper extending it really, you don’t get to avoid steps here) and they are now both feeling much better, although now they’re a bit sore for other reasons. At least I was back being able to do basic high kicks and cartwheels this week (including one handed cartwheels, which I’m pretty pleased with). Also after a third session with Iya (Oceans mother, who has been doing massage all her life) working on my back I’m almost completely pain free. Apparently I am a mess of knots and tight muscles though so next she may take a look at my shoulders and neck as they’re feeling pretty tight now. I am amazed by her work though as I can’t remember a time my lower back has felt this good.
Other cool things to note from the last few weeks. I finished my staff form last week!! Finishing forms always makes me happy as it means with a few weeks practice I’ll be moving on to new cooler things. I believe I’ll be doing a new fist form next, which should be a nice change as the weapon forms can be really tough. Also, breaking news, Tyler and I finished our tai chi sword form yesterday morning too, so with a little more practice on that I may move on to some slightly faster Chen style tai chi forms. I’ve also been doing more sparring practice this week in our sanda sessions and Sifu seems really pleased with the training we’ve been doing.
Now some random things that need to be commented on. There are camels here. Don’t ask me why, I really have no idea, but for some reason there are two camels that roam around the Shaolin Temple, followed by some guy that apparently owns them. They have recently taken to eating all the greenery around our training fields though and by now are a regular sight, just standing to one side eating the trees. Their first arrival nearly got me punched in the face though as it was during a sanda session and as I saw it wandering towards us through the loose undergrowth I completely dropped my guard in a combination of amazement and wonder. Meanwhile, something which went completely unnoticed here was the earthquakes (were there multiple? I still don’t know). The first one at least (if there were multiple) was at around 8am our time and we were all definitely awake by then and there wasn’t even the slightest wobble. It was quite far away in a completely different province and news travels so badly here that we mostly only knew about it because some peoples family then desperately contacted them to find out if they were alright. We have been informed about the outbreaks of bird flu over here though so the school has promised the slightly paranoid but kind precaution that they’ll stop serving chicken for a while and move to pork and beef. This is despite the fact that you can’t catch anything off the cooked meat, but anyway, we think they’ve given up on that already as I’m pretty sure we’ve mostly been eating chicken ever since.
That’s pretty much it for now. Sorry for the delay in posts. After the bad week we had a load of ups and downs with the internet. First it died, then we got our own line in our room, then we couldn’t get the wireless router working, then we got it working, then the main router upstairs died and we all lost internet and now, finally, it’s all back up and running and seems to be pretty good actually. The wireless router is right beside my bed so signal is excellent and the speed is so good that yesterday we streamed the first 11 episodes of season 4 of Community (for those of you that know Community… Woooo!!!!!!). Yesterday was a very good day. In fact all off this week has been going very well. Just two more days left till the weekend then we’ll do the usual trip around Dengfeng, for some of the finest Jiao Zi (steamed dumplings) the world has to offer (seriously, we eat these every week and they’re so good we’re all considering going back to our respective countries and opening up restaurants, only we’d have to charge more than they do… 40p!!!!). Then I’ll see if I can round up people to teach go, chinese chess and mahjong to, as I’ve bought sets for all of them.
Got to run now though, as I need to get dressed for first class. Comment, email or catch me on Skype, I love to hear from you all. Byee.