China 2019 – Day 30, Friday, 16th August
I thought I would round off the blogs with my final thoughts. Partly because I like rounding things off and partly because to finish on 29 just didn’t seem right – so here is a nice even number 30.
My China trip this summer was predominantly for two reasons: Studying Tai Chi and Mandarin. It just so happened to be in an absolutely stunning part of the world, which I wasn’t complaining about!
I am incredibly grateful to be able to just say, “Right everyone, I’m off to China for a month!”.
I’m very lucky to be in a position where my instructor team takes all of the classes, where none of my students and clients decide to go elsewhere whilst I am away, and to have Karina on the end of WhatsApp taking everything I need doing, often very last minute, or – being 7 hours ahead – at random times.
I like writing and I find that my brain often works better when the output is through the written word rather than spoken. Maybe it’s because there’s no one there to interrupt me, possibly it’s because my brain is a bit like my body and it likes operating at tai chi speed!
I’m a relatively frequent blogger and quite active on social media, with part of my business being online I have to be, so I intended on writing a few blogs whilst away.
Those who know me will be aware that I can be a little all or nothing. That’s how ‘one or two blogs’ turns into one a day.
In retrospect I have really enjoyed sharing some thoughts and experiences whilst being away. I think that people who have known me a while know me a little better now, which is good (I hope!). Those who follow White Crane Online and only know of me through the online courses get a better sense of what I am like, and likewise, I hope you are still here 😀
Even people that you teach week in week out, year in year out, you don’t always get to know personally on more than a level that scratches the surface quite a lot of the time (although your instructor always knows more about you than you think!), so as well as a travelogue, I thought I would write more about my ideas and philosophies on training and how that relates to life.
I think that often the link isn’t made between how training in tai chi can eventually pervade and benefit every facet of your life, should you let it. So perhaps I raised a little awareness and provided some food for thought.
For those who think in a similar way already and this is all old hat, well it’s always nice to know that you’re not alone and have ideas and beliefs confirmed by someone else, or possibly articulated in a slightly different way, one that could even clarify your own thought processes further and deeper.
For those who have disagreed with anything I have said… Good! I am glad. If you didn’t raise an eyebrow once or twice then you probably aren’t thinking for yourself. If you disagreed with a lot…well, I guess you aren’t reading this now, so it doesn’t matter!
I have been quite forthright with a lot of what I have said and you may ask who am I to offer advice and give my opinions.
You’d rightly be justified to ask such a question but if what I have written has made someone smile, made a positive change, or even made them think about taking charge of some situation they are not happy with, then it’s more than worthwhile.
Even if it’s just one person – it’s all worthwhile.
Improving one person’s day, in no matter how small a way, has immense repercussions. It’s the butterfly effect. That person will then spread it on, and the whole process replicated.
Looking at my website stats and having read several messages and comments of appreciation has been really encouraging. So thank you, I’m really grateful that more people than my mum, girlfriend, and daughter would read the blogs.
Actually, scratch that… My daughter doesn’t take any notice or read what her old dad says!!!
I think that it’s crystal clear from my blog posts that taking charge of your own life is something I feel passionate about.
Learning is key to personal growth and development. It doesn’t stop as soon as you finish your institutionalised education. In my case, that’s when it started!
It’s not about collecting certificates and qualifications. If you look honestly at yourself, you can be your own examiner.
I’ve always had a fiercely independent streak in me and the couple of times in my adult life where I have felt like I was having to rely on something or someone else were incredibly frustrating.
Studying and learning is about taking personal responsibility. It’s about being humble, finding a teacher who will show you a way to unlock unlimited potential within you. For me, who has always had a passion for teaching, the next step is to pass it on.
And that’s what I have been doing the past decade, focusing on teaching. The sweet spot of teaching is where through the art of passing on knowledge, you in turn deepen your own but there comes a time where the source needs some replenishing and that’s where trips to the wellspring of martial arts knowledge become so valuable.
I could seek out excellent teachers in the UK or Europe but to travel and train in China lends an authenticity and overall experience which cannot be found anywhere else. Again, I’m lucky to be able to do it.
I’m a firm believer that learning more is often futile if you haven’t reached a high level of skill or understanding in what you already know. Hence, until the last couple of trips to China over the previous few months, I have not learnt any new forms for more than 10 years.
I felt then that it was time to branch out and add something new to my skillset.
I have always liked the look of Chen style tai chi. I have always liked visiting Chinese villages in amazing nature. So when the chance to combine the two came about, I did not hesitate for an instant!
I speak about, and I have blogged about, the importance of having a beginner’s mindset. People often forget that an expert was once a beginner, just as they are now.
So with this mindset and an empty cup, I approached my learning as I did years ago when with my first instructors…by listening, watching, and training really really hard.
Too often you see people with their ego getting in the way of the progress, I’m sure I’m full of myself in many other ways but here I seem to manage to keep it in check.
As I am used to doing, I trained before and after class, often until late in the humid and sticky night, fighting off mosquitoes!
I loved the training, the instructors are fantastic and inspiring, they have made me look at a few things in a slightly different way.
The training focused on Chen 74, meditation, push hands, and Chen broadsword.
I feel like I have learnt an awful lot.
I feel like this journey is just beginning.
As you learn and deepen your knowledge, it is important to peel back the layers of tai chi, the more you revel the more you realise how it can have an incredible impact on how you approach your entire life. I hope that this has been demonstrated by some of my blog posts.
Life is uncertain but it becomes a common thread that is woven throughout everything you do – a thread that is soft as cotton to the touch, yet internally as hard as steel. The essence of tai chi.
Yielding yet becoming resilient, not being rigid and breaking when strong winds challenge you. The image of a willow tree is used a lot in tai chi.
Or as Master Kim said in one of my private lessons (and I love this).
“On the outside soft as a baby, on the inside strong like King Kong”.
One of the most pleasing things about this trip to China, was how much my Mandarin has come on in the last 6 months. I put in a few hours each week and whist I am by no means fluent (yet!!) I understand a lot more, can hold a conversation, and I don’t feel like I have that rabbit in the headlights look on my face when anyone speaks back to me now.
I like a challenge, I like things that make me think differently, I like things that seem strange, exotic, and foreign. Not necessarily because they are better, I just need to be challenged and inspired by something a little out of the ordinary.
China fascinates me: the language, the culture, the history and philosophy, the mentality of the people, and of course the martial arts.
It is a vast and immense country with everything from mega-ultra-modern cities, to the most awe inspiring historical treasures, to incredible nature. They don’t always sit comfortably side-by-side, yet that somehow seems to add to the allure.
The West often feels homogenised and a little too comfortable for me. China feels like a foreign country – sometimes a very foreign country – and I love that.
I’m really lucky to have been able to visit such a place of natural beauty for the last month. Those who have seen my pictures will probably agree… even if you have got fed up with me posting them! 😀. I like travel/backpacking but where I find true value is spending time in one area and really getting to know it in a bit more depth than you get from simply passing through for a couple of nights.
Aside from training, walking and cycling with rice fields one side, river the other and the majestic karst mountain scenery enveloping everything in sight, has been the best thing about this trip. (Especially when the school dog Hotpot was keeping me company).
It’s an area where tourism is taking off, so hopefully it doesn’t become too rampant and take the gloss off it a little bit. Despite being well organised and very functional, China and mass tourism don’t seem to site side by side all that well. Maybe because the population is so vast here that when the tourists come, they come in droves!
So I’m currently sitting at Hong Kong International airport. No protestors in sight and my flight scheduled an hour from now.
I’m sad to be leaving, yet really looking forward to getting home.
If you have been reading my blog posts and enjoying them. Thank you!
I have really enjoyed writing them and I will probably have derived as much, if not more, benefit than anyone reading. Reciprocal benefits we’ll call it.
One thing it has ignited in me is a reminder that I really like writing, so I fully intend to spend more time writing (hopefully) quality informative, educational blog posts that occasionally offer a few direct home truths and a dash of inspiration.
And with Karina’s help they’ll be grammatically correct and well punctuated too!
All of these posts have been written on my phone, so as well as my well worked feet getting a bit of a rest the next 18 hours as I travel home, so will my thumbs.
Thanks again for reading. We made it to number 30 😀
One thought on “Day 30 – Final Thoughts”
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences during this trip, Mark. I’m even more impressed knowing that you wrote them all on your phone. You gave me a lot to think about and I do feel that I know you a bit better even though we’ve never met in person. I’ll miss reading a new post each day but am glad that you’re thinking about spending more time writing going forward.