De Profundis

Every day, as we walk from our school to the YuXu Palace for practise, we pass a middle aged man who seemingly spends his entire day sat in this one spot smoking rolled up newspaper 'cigarettes' and smiling with an air of insanity about him. Earlier this week he actually moved and ventured into the palace grounds itself. I was sat alone resting between my Forms when he sat down next to me and laughed, pointing at my beard. I could only laugh and say hello in return. He then took my hand and pressed a piece of thin cardboard into my palm before closing my fingers over it and patting my fist conspiratorially. He nodded at me, patted my thigh and shuffled off again. The card had some Chinese writing on it and I asked a friend to translate it. I was hoping he was, despite his strange demeanor, a profoundly insightful man who had deemed me worthy of imparting some sacred truth. If not that, then perhaps a poem or something equally creative and inspiring? My high hopes were eclipsed when I found out it read simply, "bunch of foreign idiots." Awesome! It made my day. Of course I have kept that little piece of card as a treasured memento of this incredible trip. HA!

As some of you may have seen from the videos on facebook, I have finished the Tai Chi 28 Form and have now begun Taiyi Wu Xing Chuan. I have spent the first week of training only learning the fundamental movements found repeatedly throughout the Form instead of beginning the actual Form itself. I have made good progress in my understanding of the movements so far. What's particularly cool about Wu Xing is the inclusion of "Fa Li" (explosive power) in the Form. It's a very fluid Form but interspersed with short, sharp, explosive displays of physical power, which makes for a great contrast in the style. Videos, of course, will follow shortly.

On Sunday we held a small question and answer session with Shifu, which was, for me, my first opportunity to discuss his personal experiences with Tai Chi/Kung Fu. It was an interesting evening as, due to the lack of any Chinese students, Shifu could be quite frank about some issues Chinese find sensitive, like the ability to control sexual desire with Qi Gong exercises and certain other philosophical and political taboos here in China. What I found most interesting was his childhood battle with rheumatism and the power of his mind/intention combined with dedicated physical work to effectively cure himself, or at least manage the pain. It provided me with the extra impetus I needed to continue working on my own issues using my mind and body together.

The eight of us travelling to Beijing later this month have begun working together on our own performance of the Tai Chi 28 Form. Our much anticipated TV appearance is creeping up on us but everyone still seems to be excited by the opportunity. No visible signs of nerves have surfaced yet. We are representing Wudang style martial arts in front of the nation, so we want to do ourselves and our school justice, especially against the guys from Shoalin!

Tomorrow I will be venturing back up onto the mountain, exploring the Carefree Valley, Nan Yang Temple, the Needle Grinding Well and the Golden Mountain Palace. It's going to be a busy day but a full one and I'm sure some great photos will follow, too.

Xie Xie!

Keith Abraham Playful Dragon