Tuesday, April 19, 2011

late night xing yi quan

I have never been much of a morning person. My natural body rhythm would have me going to bed about 1 or 2 AM and getting up about 9 AM. That worked very well during my 8 years at university but had to be modified slightly upon coming to Japan. And then modified significantly as I made the painful transition from a practice-first, work-second lifestyle to a work-first, practice-second lifestyle (and added a family, just for good measure).

I am known to return home at 1 or 2 after a few nutritious health drinks, but now that reality has sunk in, getting up early is unavoidable.

But that reality changes once in a great while. Like last year in Beijing. I was heading back to my hotel about 2 AM in the morning when I stumbled across a fellow practicing xing yi quan in the street. Well, on the sidewalk anyway.

We got to exchanging words and then exchanging techniques and it was quite nice. Two guys who had each been doing xing yi quan for awhile comparing notes on their styles in a friendly, non-threatening way. It was really a strange and fortuitous meeting. We study different strands of xing yi quan, but the roots were clearly the same.

He declined my parting offer of a beer and I declined his of a cigarette. He continued his practice and I ambled on my way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

xing yi quan form of the month: bear

We have been working on the bear form for several weeks now. In the short / simplified version of the 12 animals, the bear form is combined with the eagle form. But in the set of longer, more complicated forms, the bear and eagle are separated. There are still motions where the bear blocks upward while looking up at an eagle overhead, but they remain separated.

To be honest, I wasn’t very sure about the practicality of the bear form – there seemed to be a lot of motions without much combative usefulness, which is very much unlike most xing yi quan.

But that was while just doing the form, whether reps of isolated motions are going through the whole thing. This week we basically “played” with the form, exploring how each motion could be used. And suddenly I gained a lot of respect for the bear form! The form is nice by itself, but by moving off at an angle for most defenses and attacks, instead of moving directly forward / back as in the form, everything was much more useful.

This was one of my best xing yi quan practices in a long time, and I hope we’ll spend more time like this, actively exploring applications. And not just focusing on one application (yes, that is important too) but freely mixing motions from different parts of the form.

This is part of my long-term situation. I came to Japan after 7 years’ hard training in the US, with free fighting a regular part of most practices in karate. After some years of transition here, Japanese arts to Chinese arts, I am in a wonderful training situation and am satisfied with most practices. But we don’t do any free fighting.

Someday, back in the US, I will be teaching this stuff and one of my long-term challenges will be how to convey the things I have learned here in Japan within a different country / culture, and how to add in much more fighting practice to the basics and forms I have learned.

This week’s practice was a good wake-up call to me. Forms are all fine and good but I need to be doing much more application work, and moving in the direction of training with un-cooperative partners. I have been away from that for too long. Maybe I have been sleeping like a bear and am now ready to wake up after the long winter of hibernation?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

more shoes

OK, I really wasn't going to put up any more cheeseball photos of worn-out shoes, but these were hard to pass up. Besides, I was enjoying ohanami cherry blossom viewing with a friend and he complained about the prior post having been up so long.


No thoughtful reflections on the meaning of practice tonight, then. Actually the loss of much work lately has meant a great increase in practice time. But for now, just a shoe for you.