Thursday, December 30, 2010

what I'm looking for

Since I started learning Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Fist from Liu Jing Ru Laoshi, I have been seeing praying mantises like I never have before. I wouldn’t begin to suggest this is some kind of Divine Sign of Mantis Approval, but it has been quite curious.

It started last summer, in the middle of Liu Laoshi’s annual visit to Tokyo. Coming home one night from a few drinks after one of my first Mantis practice (heh heh), I found a mantis on the glass door of a temporary ATM facility just outside my train station – not the usual place to find such critters. (see last year’s post)

So here he was and there I was and we communed awhile and then I decided to take him to a small park near my home where I sometimes practice – crowded spaces in front of train stations are not good habitat for mantises. He bit or clawed me or something and DAMN it hurt, even drew some blood. Maybe that was the Divine Sign of Mantis Approval? Anyway I released him in the park and hope he found a nice place to live and was not captured by insect-hunting human kids.

No big deal, probably just chance, but it kept happening.

Some months later, there was one I found on the steps of Jindaiji Temple, where I had taken my visiting mother for a visit. She must have thought me crazy as I bent to study the brilliant green creature.

This year, I found another mantis outside my mothers’ house in Texas (ironically, I had been practicing Compulsory gongfu forms – maybe he was telling me to dump the competition stuff, and return to tradition?). I lived in Texas six years as a child and don’t recall ever having seen a praying mantis in that time.

Late this autumn – well after the time they are usually to be found – I spotted another praying mantis on the side of our neighbor’s house. I have not seen any other praying mantises in our neighborhood in the nearly ten years we have been in this house. I had been practicing Compulsory Southern Fist forms…

And the best one – about a month ago at our monthly tang lang quan / mantis fist gathering in the park. Obviously I was working on a tang lang quan form at that time. I noticed something fall down from above in front of me. Lots of leaves were falling, so that was not unusual. But I noticed it in the brown carpet of leaves below – yes, another mantis, also well past the season when they are usually seen. A female, she had already given birth (I was told by our resident mantis expert). She played on my hand a bit, showing no signs of wanting to leave. I walked her over to the giant tree, placed her on the trunk, and she scampered upward at a brisk pace.

Yeah yeah, I know, we find what we are looking for and all that. If I were to start, say, snake fist, I would probably begin seeing all kinds of oh-so-symbolic and meaningful snakes all around. But there have just been too many coincidences for me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sudden Blasts

It's the end of the year, the long winter holiday when I usually do a lot of catching up, consolidation and review. It is one of my favorite times of the year, going back and putting some polish on a year's worth of work.

This year that process has been complicated by the absence of teachers.

Last gong fu practice of the year - the teacher was out and I ended up learning another (unexpected) large segment of the nangun / Southern staff competition form. I learned the first two sections in two huge blasts....then repeated those endlessly. First drilling them in, later focusing on an abridged version of the nangun form we have shown at recent demos. Now the third section is mine, and the fourth and final is in sight.

Last kobudo practice of the year - the main teacher was out and I ended up learning a new sai form (have been through it before, but this time I set out to grab it and make it mine) and moving more deeply into another bo form (have been through it before, but this time....).

I do love these long days of little work and much practice - but it is also daunting, knowing how much I have to review and consolidate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

demo / exhibition season again

Yes, 3 weekends back to back full of demo / exhibitions of Chinese martial arts. A couple weeks to recuperate over the holidays, then several more key events in January. No rest for the wicked, I suppose.

Anyway, time to get the iron out and try to get the wrinkles out of those silk uniforms....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chen style tai ji quan

"The most important thing in learning Chen style is not to rush."

From an email from my teacher last year...

Well we certainly have not been rushing on the empty hands form (a version of xinjia which he teaches). But necessity has meant learning large chunks of the chen style jian and dao forms in a very short period of time. A few days of extremely concentrated, intensive practice -- but even then I don't feel rushed. I only feel the excitement of surging forward in a form. But really the not-rushing part begins now -- weeks and months and more of practicing and refining and searching deeper.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

eight days a week

The prior weekend was filled with a demo / exhibition. My daughter and I both made appearances.

Monday – tough and wonderful night at kobudo, many glimpses of things to come, encouragement to test – and many reminders to get back to basics.

Tuesday – Afternoon gongfu with my daughter, evening focused on Sha style tai ji sword.

Wednesday – xing yi quan, much needed.

Thursday – open practice at night – a return to Liu Jing Ru’s two-person ba gua zhang form and a start on Sha Style two-person xing yi quan.

Friday – gong fu with my daughter.

Saturday – the highlight of the week, an all-day session on the Chen Style tai ji dao or broadsword (sooooo close to finishing the form…but not quite….).

Sunday – Tokyo Chinese Martial Arts demo / exhibition, my daughter and I both making appearances. Our group got a special prize for performing a two-person set of Sha Style tai ji jian.

And so on, with review of all the above before and after….Now it is time for assimilation, assimilation….

Monday, December 13, 2010

stick figures

My daughter drew these after Sunday's exhibition / demo. Three consecutive weeks of exhibition / demos, finally a short break (= time to get ready for January demo....and February demo....).

Anyway, she did a chang quan stick form (初級棍術) and I did a shortened version of the nan quan competition stick / staff form (南棍). She also did some of the basic empty-hand routines, but we had worked the hardest on the staff forms, and I was pleased to see her in action.

I was part of a group of four doing nan gun / Southern staff. Each of us was OK but we hadn't practiced together or matched the timing until the day of the demo, since we all practice at different times / places with the same teacher. Anyway it came off pretty well - though watching the video, I see several spots I need to work on....

Friday, December 10, 2010

anywhere, anytime

Your Faithful Blogger, hard at work in the office....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

cuttin' down trees

oh yes! The people across the street are doing some industrial strength shrub - and - tree - trimming. Really noisy and just what I needed.

time to run out and pound the makiwara awhile so no neighbors can complain. Recall that Tokyo homes tend to be really close together...