China 2019 – Day 2, Friday, 19th July
My last visit to China – the Shaolin Temple in Kunming – included very early mornings and temple cleaning duties, so it was nice to wake up here and just grab a drink and a light breakfast before starting training at a very civilised 0930.
The one potential downside was that the temperature had reached 31 C by that time, so even slow gentle tai chi movements could make you feel like you were melting – but I actually like a bit of adversity and struggle in my training, so the heat adds to the authenticity of training in southern China in the summer – and as our teacher said, it is actually good for you to sweat.
Morning training was built around that most fundamental of training essentials…. The basics! Standing posture, hip positioning, sinking weight, shifting, yielding – all of the fundamentals upon which tai chi is built, whatever the style.
Coming from quite a different background to the Chen style which I am studying in China, I had a Yoda-esque voice ringing in my mind, ‘You must unlearn what you have learned’….
After a very nice lunch and an afternoon break where I had a walk around the village (or up and down the one street that is the village), I found a coffee shop and had the chance to practice some of my Mandarin and chat to a couple of locals. It’s not that great but it’s a sight better than when I was in China six months ago – slow and steady progress!
The afternoon was spent firstly working on a standing meditation – and for those of you who have practised Turning the Moon, or Standing Like a Tree meditations/qigong routines with me, you’ll understand when I say how painful standing with knees bent, body in alignment, muscles relaxed… and we stayed like that – for quite a long time. Then we took to standing on one leg meditations, which as well as making me feel as though the qi was flowing more powerfully, it certainly made the sweat roll more profusely!
After an hour we switched to forms training and I got my first taste of Chen style Tai Chi and the opening of the 74 step form. Very different again to the White Crane which I have steeped myself in over the years but I loved the way the first couple of moves felt very circular and after the work we had been doing previously, very rooted as well.
So a great afternoon of training and another delicious meal of rice, with several meat and vegetable dishes to choose from. Followed closely by an awesome Tui Na massage, which I really needed after a long journey and a day of training!
I then thought I would spend a bit of the evening outside refining moves which I had learnt previously (see the Facebook White Crane Online page for a sneak preview!) and I received an ad hoc hour or so long pushing hands lesson from one of the teachers… and when I say this guy was a master of the art, I simply could not shift him, as soon as I thought I had him, he moved, yielded, shifted, felt empty… and then I was gone!
And that’s why you come to China in a nutshell… to learn great new things, get schooled by the Masters, train hard, eat great food and receive Tui Na!