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.