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 http://www.youtube.com/user/zhengfaning. 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.