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Wushu Whiteboy Studying Shaolin, Sanda, and Mantis Kung Fu in China

Kung Fu in China Week Three: Coal Haulin'

CHINA | Sunday, 8 September 2013 | Views [852] | Comments [2]

This week I added the optional Tai Chi and Qigong classes. These add another 2 hours to my daily training, but they aren't as physically demanding as the rest of the training. Mentally, however, the exercises in Tai Chi can be difficult for me to coordinate in my head, and Qigong requires patience, which is not one of my stronger assets.

As the school is heated with the most innovative 19th century methods, a couple of coal trucks showed up on Tuesday. The conversation with a fellow student in the morning went something like this:
Student: Ready for coal shoveling day?
Me: What?!
Student: Ready for coal shoveling day?
Me: Are you serious?
Student: Yes, we have to spend the day hauling the coal to storage. Make sure you wear clothes that you don't mind having ruined.
It was an all day affair in which students and masters alike hauled coal. By the end of the day we all looked like we were auditioning for the role of Al Jolsen.

Wednesday I pushed myself on the morning run, and I was pleased with the results. Of over 70 students, I was the fifth to complete the run. For the temple run in the afternoon, however, I took off at a pace like that of the morning, which was a mistake. Failing to pace myself for the uphill run, I did not run as far to the temple as I did last week before walking, failing in my goal to run farther each time to the temple.
Thursday morning, I decided that I would push myself even harder and try to keep pace with one of the school's strongest runners. He was taking it easy that day, so I ran on ahead of him, and I finished the run before anybody else in the school. I don't expect to do this consistently - I was apparently just feeling particularly motivated that morning - but it's a good feeling to know that I can. My conclusion is that I am capable of running reasonably well on flat ground, but I am terrible at running uphill.

Thursday was also the school's annual birthday demonstration, which consisted of the Sifus and a few of the senior students demonstrating their skills on stage for the rest of us. This included forms demonstrations, choreographed weapons use, and the Qigong instructor breaking a small stone slab with his head. That afternoon I half-jokingly asked him if we will be learning to do that. He appeared amused and informed us that he knows some Chinese who have practiced that same maneuver and now have some brain damage. After Qigong, however, he did take us outside to the conditioning trees to practice striking them.

At Friday's mountain run I decided that I would run up the mountain just once, and let myself walk the rest of the way. Most of the students don't run up the mountain from what I've seen but some do, and if some can then I should be able to. My legs disagreed with me. I ran up a bit and pretty quickly realized that I was not going to succeed in running to the top so I walked the rest of it. On my second ascent I carried a 7.5kg weight (about 16.5 lbs), on my third I carried two of them (about 33 lbs), and on my fourth ascent I carried a tire. Although I am not able to run up the mountain, I do feel good when I add heavy objects to the walk. I also use them for endurance training, such as holding the tire out in front of my body during the entirety of the descent.

I had previously assumed that I would have trouble with arm strength and that my legs would be just fine, but I had that backwards. I'm finding that arm strengthening exercises are not a problem and are in fact enjoyable, but my legs lack endurance. This becomes an issue every time we run to the temple and during the hill exercises at power training. I guess that comes from sitting in front of a computer all day for several years. Part of why I'm here is to build such strength, so hopefully this will change in time.

Friday I got to see my first Sanda sparring. The vast majority of the students don't spar, which I found surprising; only 10 students volunteered to spar today and that's apparently a lot. Having seen it now, I considered volunteering next Friday but I wanted to try it first in a more private and informal setting since I really don't know what I'm doing. The Shaolin, Wing Chun, and Mantis groups all practice Sanda also, so I and one of the Wing Chun students arranged to go to the ring to spar together this morning. He's a very experienced martial artist with a backround in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Kung Fu, and he performed far better than I did. Afterward he gave me some good tips which I plan to implement during my training.

My measurable goals for my year here are:
1. Drop from 82kg/180lbs to 72kg/160lbs.
So far I'm down to 80.5kg after three weeks.
2. Break a brick with my hands.
Just because it's cool.
3. Run all the way to the temple without stopping.
I think that this will be the most difficult to accomplish. It'll probably be at a very slow pace, but I want to do this just once before I leave. [EDIT 10/5/13: I ran to the temple, slowly but non-stop, on 9/25/13.]

Coal Haulin' Day

Coal Haulin' Day

Tags: china, goals, martial arts

Comments

1

You are doing great. Just remember some of those students have been there longer than you and have built up to where they are. Don't be so hard on yourself and don't set unreasonable goals. It will come in time. You haven't even been there a month yet, you have 11 more months to hit your goals. I would like you to come back to me with out injury.

  Nicole Sep 8, 2013 2:18 PM

2

I heard Hello Kitty is going to come out with their own beer. It will only be sold in China.

  Frank Sep 12, 2013 2:05 AM

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