Thursday, October 11, 2007

September Trip to New York

Our first full day in New York was initially spent checking in and rounding everyone up and then we went to see some major sites in Manhattan which included having lunch and shopping in Chinatown. Right off of the subway in Chinatown, I quickly located the Shaolin Temple, hit the buzzer and was amazed that the door opened! We then knocked on the door and were surprised to be face to face with Shi Yanming himself! He was very friendly and cordial. I spoke with him in Chinese and English. He was impressed with my Chinese and I found his English to be very fluent. We were kind of dumbfounded, so didn't have much to say. He asked if I had trained with the Beijing Wushu team and I said no, but I did train with the TsingHua team. He strongly encouraged me to open a Wuguan. He invited us to come back in the evening to either watch or participate in their practice. I was glad that we just chose to watch, because they worked out really hard doing two sets of Titui and there was no AC, so they sweat a lot. We even got splattered with sweat a couple times! Yuck!

We got tired and hungry just from watching them train, so we begged out towards the end. Shi Yanming escorted us out and said he would help me if I started a Wuguan. We then went to Little Italy to eat dinner. In the teeny tiny restaurant I was amazed to see that UFC fighter Rashad Evans came in a sat near us. Most of our group didn't recognize him, and I decided not to call any attention to it since I figured he didn't want to be bothered.

We trained every day in Prospect Park in Brooklyn twice a day. In the mornings we focused more on Baguazhang and in the afternoons, we worked more on Meihuazhang. In both sessions, we worked with Master Sui on Qigong, Titui, strikes, kicks, throws, counters to wrestling moves, sparring and some Meihuazhuang ground fighting. The great thing was that on the first day, we had two guys who just happened to be wandering by join our training sessions because they were so impressed with what we were doing. A guy that happened to be practicing in Bagua in the park also stopped by and watched for a while. A lot of people tried to imitate our Qigong movements in the background.

Master Sui is always very hands on and he beat us up all the time. He showed a number of counters to single and double leg grabs. He said it actually is really stupid to try to grab the leg of a skilled, traditional Kung Fu fighter because you're head is so exposed to counter attack. He showed one way to hit the ears that would make their ear drums explode and blood would gush out of their ears.

He also demonstrated something that looked similar to the guillotine choke and he would sometimes add punches to the ribs from that position. He put each of us in it so we could feel what it was like. He showed a number of escapes from various holds, such as going into Supporting Heaven Palm to break free from a bear hug. A lot of his escapes from holds were dirty or sneaky like graping or hitting the groin, stomping the feet, head butting, etc..

A couple students sparred a bit and Sui thought they were ok, but he said the main thing lacking was full body power and they they weren't attacking continuously. He emphasized that we should attack in long continuous explosions.

My Dad had us all attack Master Sui at once and he demonstrated how to use chopping palm techniques (White Ape?) and Bagua footwork to fight off multiple attackers simultaneously in different directions and from getting in too close. The chopping palm movements he used were from an exercise he had shown us earlier in which we swung our arms and took long, low steps like an ape. It believe these movements may have their origin in White Ape Tongbeiquan.

I think the Bagua footwork and palm strikes Master Sui showed us are a great for practical self defense against a gang of thugs. Here at UNLV an international student was telling me about how Mexican gangs jump people on the street late at night, beat them up, and take whatever money they have. He said he's had several friends beaten up by these gangs and sent to the hospital. He almost got jumped too, but he figured out they were setting up a trap and he changed the direction he usually walked. Sure enough, they were hiding behind a dumpster.

We worked on both some moves from the advanced 64 palm form and reviewed basic forms such as Dingshi Bazhang and Laobazhang. There's a lot to Dingshi Bazhang and I'm still learning new stuff about it all these years after first learning it. Master Sui says there's a lot of good fighting application from just that form. Like Wulong Baiwei - Black Dragon Shakes His Tail and Yin and Yang Palm, to name a few. We also worked on applying Lion Rolls the Ball.

Most importantly, Master Sui said he can teach us all the applications in the world, but they won't really work in real life unless we develop our Qi. He said the key to developing Qi in addition to walking the circle is to practice a number of Qigong exercises that he showed us in more detail this time around. He said the term Qigong isn't the correct word, it should be Daoyingong, which roughly translates as guiding Qi exercise. Meditation on the Dantian is another important piece that is something that should be explored.

He emphasized that it is important not to "loose your Qi" when going from one movement to another one transition to another when doing a form. The same would be true in attacking, that you don't relent in your attack and that in holding very rooted stances and good form, you will have much more power.

The most impressive thing about Master Sui is the power he generates from Qi. He hit me on the chest and power went deep into the lung and I had trouble breathing for a couple hours. He wasn't even trying to hit very hard. He also threw me harder than ever this time around. One time I saw the ground coming so fast like a car wreck, it was scary, but I was able to break my fall safely.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Trip to Beijing May 2007

I've just concluded yet another successful trip to China this year. There were many adventures and tales to tell. Early during my stay right after practice, I happened to see the world's tallest living man Bao Xishun walking down the street! He is 7ft 9in tall, but he looked at least 10 feet tall from my vantage point. I was just walking back to my hotel when I ran into him. I have never seen a person so massive in size. I saw Shaq in person earlier this year, and he made Shaq look like a little kid in comparison. He was walking down the street with an entourage of average height people. Many people on the street recognized him and said hi. Also many cars stopped people were taking pictures with their cell phones.

The first day of practice offered some surprises including some new, and interesting Titui kick combinations. Also a new exercise called Diantui in which the two partners take turns flying through the air at each other, it's quite fun though very tiring. I learned the ancient Titui this time as well. I'm planning on teaching that to my students at UNLV and Winthrop.

Another new thing I noticed was that there is a new big dirt ring for sparring. At the end of practice, a couple Russian Bagua girls went all out against Giuseppe and Yangzi. I noticed that one of the Russian girls had a fist shaped bruise on her temple, obviously from a recent scrape. Over the course of my training, I learned the "Jinga" for both Meihuazhuang and Baguazhang sparring. I did some sparring with Giuseppe, Master Sui, Shitian, and Volodya (new Russian Bagua guy). Sui mentioned that he hoped to train Delmar for a big Chinese Sanda tournament some day.

I learned a lot of new parts of the Meihuazhuang form. I got up to about the 3rd center more or less. I almost made it to the end, but it was too much information. When doing the Meihuazhuang form, we did a lot of unrehearsed attacks and defenses. It was quite interesting. I was able to do the entire set with everybody by the second week. I also learned the first 4 sections of the 2 person 64 palm form.

We also practiced a lot of punching and kicking techniques with striking pads. One day, a big Meihuazhuang guy from another school showed us some good take downs and counters to take downs. He has one a number of full contact Sanda tournaments. He asked me to strike him with whatever technique I chose, I opted for a sudden crescent kick to the head, and he quickly used the "Kao" technique to neutralize it. His name means Double Happiness in Chinese, and he always had a roguish smile that would lighten up even more when demonstrating a technique.

The old wound on my ankle started to bother me again, so Master Sui suggested I see his top Chinese doctor. The new Russian Bagua student, Volodya, is currently interning at the hospital he works at, so I met him at nearby Xinjiekou. It turns out that Yangzi works as a security guard at clothing store in Xinjiekou, so I spent some time hanging out with him. I found out that he was going to lead a northern lion dance that weekend, but since it was in the countryside, we weren't able to see it. When I went to see the doctor, I was surprised to see another one of Sui's longtime students also working there. The doctor prescribed some medicine to improve the flow of Qi in the meridian connected with my ankle. I found that the medicine started to take effect quite quickly and I was able to practice with a lot less pain for the rest of my stay there.

On Friday of last week I finally got to see my long lost Bagua brother Shitian Haoshi (Kouji Ishida) who I haven't seen in 9 years! We spent a lot of time catching up and talking about old times. Master Sui invited us to eat Xinjiang food and had us try mutton kidney shishkebabs. I have to say that it was kind of gross, but Shitian liked it. It helped to wash it down with a lot of beer. Shitian's Bagua has reached a high level because he focuses on the Dingshibazhang basics and Zhangzhuang (static stance training). He sent me flying a couple times when sparring.

On Saturday, in addition to practice I got to see my friend Christopher Parsons, a.k.a. Mr. Magic perform in a bilingual puppet show he had written to teach Chinese children English. He was very entertaining as usual and the kids really enjoyed the show. Later that evening I met up with him again at a Coach Surfing party. The concept of Coach Surfing is to exchange into with people and offer each other your coach when someone is traveling through town, or something to that effect. We then ended up going to a bar in the Houhai district called Bagua, believe it or not. But the name is probably more likely from the slang term for gossip instead of martial arts or Fengshui.

One day it rained and so we watched footage of Sui and company's recent trip to the Meihuazhuang village. They practiced 3x a day for many hours in all kinds of weapons forms and the basic hand form. They also did a fair amount of sparring. At the end of their trip, they took part in a regional Meihuazhuang performance. Tons of people came from all over the countryside to watch. Various groups from around the region performed different forms, titui, and sparring. There were some epic sparring battles including a guy that had one normal hand the other hand only had two giant fingers. He used them as an intimidating weapon. Yangzi bravely took on a much older, bigger, experienced guy from another school and got totally schooled, but that's OK it was a good training experience.

Oh yeah, there's a new weekly traditional martial arts tournament broadcast on Beijing TV. Here is the link Each week they have 4 martial artists from the same traditional Kung Fu school fight each other on a circular Lei Tai without any protective gear. The top fighter goes on the semi finals later. During my stay, it was all traditional Bajiquan fighters. I heard the previous weeks it was Meihuazhuang. Sui's Meihuazhuang's master's son is one of the top judges on the show. In the future, they will have Baguazhang, Xingyiquan and other traditional arts. It's good to see that there's a renaissance in traditional martial arts going on in China now.

On one of my free days, I went on a tour of Beijing's old alleys including Prince Gong's Palace, the former home of the infamously corrupt Qing Dynasty official Heshen. He amassed a vast fortune of gold, silver, and precious stones. The palace imitates a number of features of the Forbidden City and Summer Palace. I also visited the home of a typical Beijing Hutong family. The end of my tour included a glimpse of the new Olympic Beijing National Stadium dubbed the Bird's Nest due to it's bizarre shape.

Shitian and I took one day to go to a major weapons store next to Tiyu Daxue. We bought a variety of books, videos, Feiyue shoes, uniforms, and I finally got a nice pair of Jizhua Yinyangrui(yue), or roughly translated as Rooster Claw Yinyang Axes. It's a weapon unique to Bagua and very intimidating looking with razor sharp blades in all directions. The shape is roughly like that of a Rooster including its head, beak, plumage, and claws. Shitian and I also hammed it up for the camera posing with various medieval weapons and armor.

On one of the last days of practice, I made sure to ask Master Sui to play the flute for us. I had only last year found out that one of his favorite hobbies besides martial arts was playing the flute. He taught himself by listening to flute players on the radio. He said this was before the days of TV and all they had was the radio for entertainment. This time I finally remembered to ask him to play, so he brought out a simple, bamboo flute. It was almost stunning how loud this little flute became once he got started. I was impressed with his wide repertoire of complex folk songs he could play in quick succession.

I talked to Master Sui a lot about organizing a trip to train in the mountains of Sichuan or Fujian next year. The area that in Sichuan that he often leads training trips at is the home to famous, ancient Daoist temples and well known for its natural beauty. There is a Daoist priest there that is 110 years old and still has all of his faculties. Not only is the environment much more conducive to developing Qi energy and much closer to old China, it is also cheaper to stay at the Daoist temples there. So we will hopefully be heading for southern China next time around.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Training Regimine

Over the past couple months I've modified the training regimine for the Bagua class. At first I had them work on a lot of standing Bagua drills, two person drills, titui and self defense techniques before teaching the form, and then we would do Push Hands! This meant not as much time was spent on the form itself. I found they weren't really getting it, so for the past few weeks I've decided to just do some basic warmups and go straight to the form. They've since made a lot of progress.

Now that they've learned most of the major moves, I'm having them perfect them. One effective way is to have them slowly do one palm at a time and checking themselves in the mirror. We also do the form in its entirety as a group. Preparing for the performance was week was a major motivating factor for many of the students and this rapidly improved their form and interest in it.

When doing the form, many students have started to notice interesting sensations. For example, some have felt tingling in their finger tips. Others have noticed a floating sensation in their feet when walking the circle. I have felt warm energy emanating from many of their palms while walking in the circle in postures like Embrace the Moon and Yinyang Fish.

Internal Martial Arts Association Now Official at UNLV

Well, after much hard work, the Internal Martial Arts Association is now an officially recognized student organization at UNLV with a president and financial officer. Now that we're an officially recognized organization on campus we have since been able to reserve space in the Martial Arts room in MPE (McDermott Physical Education) building. Also, we are now eligible for funding and so we have purchased some basic weapons, stretching equipment, and striking pads.

Last Tuesday, April 10th we participated in UNLV's Unity Fest Variety Show in the Student Union Theater. Three students and I performed Dingshibazhang, one of the students performed part of a traditional Yang form, and I performed the complete 64 Palm Bagua form. Once we finished, we got a really good response from the crowd. It was a nice and brief performance at only about 6 minutes, with good music for each form. I think this was a good venue for us because there was a wide variety of acts including Rap, Hula, Jazz, Indian flute, poetry, and improv. My students were able to perform almost the entire Dingshibazhang form despite only having practiced it for a short time.

Wednesday, April 11th we had a booth at the Unity Fest Festival of Communities Fair and recruited several new members. Slowly but surely we're increasing our presence on campus. I anticipate the next academic year being a lot bigger for the club.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

First Practice at UNLV a Success!

The first day of Bagua practice at UNLV went quite well. Four people showed up, two others expressed interest and one person watched from a distance. The people that came represented a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and age ranges. Most were beginners, but some had prior experience with Tai Chi and Qigong.

I started the class with basic stretches and warm ups and then followed this with basic Bagua palm exercises, which included Tuimozhang. From Tuimozhang we went right into basic mud slidding step and circle walking. I then taught a few basic Titui including front, and inner and outer crescent kicks. We then practiced the first three basic mother palms without the transitions together as a group. I then had them practice the first palm on their own around a tree. We then took a break and tried to feel the Qi from each other's palms.

We then got into pairs and practiced walking around the circle facing each other in Tuimozhang (Grinding the Millstone Palm). The emphasis was maintaining proper posture and distance while mud sliding around the circle. There was a "leader" and a "follower", the leader dictating when to change direction and the follower would have to respond in kind. We practiced this several times and then switched roles and eventually switched partners.

I then finished the class with two basic Bagua Qigong exercises. I then answered questions about Bagua and performed Deerhorn Knives and Youshen Lianhuanzhang. Overall, I think it went quite well, I think we'll need to schedule more practice sessions during the week to maintain steady progress.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

First Bagua Class at UNLV

I'm going to start my first Bagua class at UNLV this Sunday. I'm planning on teaching Dingshibazhang and the 64. I will report on how the class goes. I'm concerned that there won't be many attending as it's on the weekend and I haven't gotten any inquiries yet. I might need to advertise more and change the practice time. Bagua is always a tough sell since there's such little awareness of it in the general population.