“It’s Morphin’ Time!” – Back To Training & Performance Preparation

A week off always makes it tough to get back into the swing of things. My body felt better than it had in months thanks to a good amount of rest in Beijing, however, it still felt sore in a few places (damn the Great Wall!). I had returned more motivated as well, wanting to push a much as possible. A part of this motivation came from noticing my increased fitness levels while I was away, whether it be from walking long distances with reduced flinching, or from others noticing my bodily changes. Another part came from actually missing the academy and wanting to train with the gang again. Little did I know the return to academy held a roller coaster of events (both emotionally and physically) for the next two weeks.

Week 1
Monday hit and we lined up as an entire group while Master Du told us we were doing the Xinyi Half Year Show the coming saturday. All classes were cancelled, and grading, so we could learn and organise the performance. I was excited! I like change to weeks, stops everything being so samey and I still have more than enough time to complete the training I came here to do…a little sidetrack from this never hurts. Well, this is what I thought when I thought we had just a week to prepare (more on this later, let’s get through the first day back).

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Master Du Briefing us on the Xinyi show. Master Wang looking intense. Mona for scale.

I came back to a group dynamic change. In my group, a few have asked for extra training, harder training, and more standards. I noticed there were some students (not here anymore) who were skipping out on some training and making excuses, or just plain not doing the runs. Even though I’m concerned for my own training and training only for me, if I’m having to run 4km before power training and I see someone who doesn’t do it just because they can’t be arsed, then I get demotivated. If I have to suffer…all should! Anyways, Master Wang came up with the idea to have a “monitor”. This individual would be voted in to look over the class with the master, be the liaison and generally help keep the standards up. So after the voting, it was me! I’m not the best here, but not a bad all rounder (I guess), and can lead well when required, so flattered I got voted in by the team… I do prefer the title “Lord Commander”, but because I’m not John Snow from ‘Game of Thrones’, everybody refuses to call me that!

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Phillip (Denmark), Me, Matt (Non-EU UK), Master Wang, Kasia(Non-EU UK), Mike (Non-EU UK), Nemr (Lebanon), Kristian (Denmark). Jauffrey is not in this picture because he wanted a shower

For the performance we were going to be doing a mixture of our specialities and this is what we did in each of them;

Sanda
We we split into pairs, one on pads and one gloved up (I’m gloved up). Sanda combinations on the pads were a welcome return for me actually. Our group concentrates on stamina and techniques in Sanda, it’s been bloody ages since I’ve had to use the pads to remember combinations. It’s very military themed, from marching on shouting “HOO!”, to commands being shouted out and instantly reacting to attack the pads.

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Sanda - Phillip getting really involved in the set

Group Form (Fist)
Now our group fist form it is looking great, just going over and over it to iron out any details we get wrong, and get more and more feeling into it. Constantly we get the same thing from Master Wang;

Spirit. Speed up. Spirit.

He loves spirit more than The Ghostbusters! We get it though, when we roar our commands and our eyes are in “kill mode” the whole form exudes so much more contagious energy. Jauffrey got injured during the week, so I get to lead and shout the commands now…yay! #lordcommander

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Group Form Fist - Can't tell you how many times I've done this

Group Form (Tai Chi Fan)
Thijs, me, and the girls practice at Tai Chi class in the mornings (if I get up…getting so difficult lately!) and our delicate form is set to a nice Chinese soundtrack. Mentioned before but really enjoyed this form. I can see myself doing this in Prospect Park opposite where I live in Reading…with people looking oddly at me. As the week went on Kasia got injured so it became a set with Thijs, Sabine and myself doing this form…still looks kind of nice with us three.

Group Form (Double Stick)
This weapon was on my list to learn since Jauffrey and I have been practising the basics on this. We were all outside learning the form, and then Jauffrey and I taught everybody the basic combinations that you complete with another person. It looks like when Oliver Queen trains with Diggle in ‘Arrow’. Some people got really into this new form, while others really made it noticeable they were unhappy, or bored, with it. It affected people who were engaged in the activity negatively as well, which annoyed the hell out of me at the time because it shows they didn’t even care about helping the person opposite them. Oh well.

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Jauffrey & Phillip ready for Double stick sparring

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Double stick duelling

We all worked hard on these separate areas throughout the week, but then it got to Thursday and…CHANGE! We were annoyingly told that the performance had moved. China strikes again! The performance was not the coming saturday, but a week on Sunday. Quite a change huh?! Understandably, people got fed up because we were missing standard training, learning new moves in forms, and generally working towards their goals. At this point I was still fine, didn’t mind missing standard training because there was loads of time left to get what I wanted completed before going home.

The afternoon I was ready for some routines, but instead Master Wang announced we were doing a half hour of power training, then some rehearsals. Because of the shorter time, the power training was intense! The worst is what we call the “Spider-Man Crawl”. From one end to the other (approx 50 meters) we do a push up, at the same time one leg bends to meet your elbow and you repeat this movement to crawl across the grounds. The worst thing is when I was knackered, body shaking, sweat dripping off…and I looked up to see how close I was to finishing, there was still like 49 meters left!!! The saving grace here is that I went first and finished in good time, so I could just watch the rest of the gang screaming and crawling to their doom. Muhahahaha! The rest of the week saw a relaxed mixture of classes and rehearsals. All in all not a bad week back.

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Power Training - The "Spider-Man Crawl" taking it's next victim, Shane!

Week 2
It started with a…CHANGE! The double stick form was gone…”too ugly looking”. So 7 of us who already had completed a Bo Staff form were taken to the training room and taught a Bo Staff Group Form.

Group Form (Bo Staff)
Finally! Master Bao mentioned this months ago, but at the time was waiting for more students to finish their first Bo Staff Form. Master Wang started teaching this form and it looks amazing. Energy. Technical ability. Me with my top off! The form has everything! The tricky part to this form is the timing with all of us when we execute the flower moves (spinning the staff), but considering the speed at which we learnt it I’m optimistic that this will look the nuts when we need to perform it.

About mid week there was another…brace yourselves…CHANGE! Performance was not on the coming Sunday, it was during the following week AND it was not a one day performance, but a festival so performances over several days. Instead of performing one time we were going to split the sections over three days; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Are you keeping up with the changes, because we weren’t!).

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Bo Staff Group Form - Getting to grips with the new form in the training room

Week 3
So it became a 3 week change to training! We got to Tuesday and it was performance day. We were going to do the Group Fist Form and Tai Chi Fan. I will update an entry about the performance. It was good and everyone did well, however, the following morning Master Bao came to speak to us. CHANGE! (I know right?!). Instead of performing for the 3 days he wanted a longer performance so we were to perform on July 5th. This was because we got a loud reaction from the crowd but our forms are so short it kind of leaves the crowd empty. Alongside this we had to add another group Form and a group Tai chi movement form. So we added our introductory form ‘Continuous Fist’ but trained it like a group form, with me as lord commander.

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Continuous Fist Group Form - Training in 30°C heat.

This was when I lost my motivation. Unlike some of the team, I didn’t lose if just because the move in dates and times. I’ve stated that whatever a master asks me to do I would do it. Why I lost it was that it was never considered how comfortable people in the team are yo keep changing. Nerves. Stress. Competence. None of these were considered and they expected everyone in the team to still want to do if without really asking. As a team leader this sent me into a very very closed off place. Not my usual, jovial self. Just wanted to get through that day. When I spoke up to say that not everyone would feel comfortable with ALL the changes and would possibly lack the confidence to look good on stage, we were met with this reply from Master Bao;

If you feel you can’t do it, change your feeling

In this situation this didn’t resonate with me. That’s like when someone has a confidence issue and the advice given is “hey, just be more confident”. Erm…It doesn’t quite work like that. Anyways, I needed that afternoon to pass, shake it off and then move on with leading the next day, and training hard the rest of the week to ensure our performance is on point.

All in all, becoming the “Monitor/Lord Commander” has bestowed a great sense of responsibility on me, and I am leading every performance, which I do really enjoy. It’s different leadership to what I am use to at home, but kind of reminds me of the great times when I lead my  Street Dance team (award winning dance team I might add, ha!) ‘Legacy Crew’ all those years ago. It has been a tougher time for training due to uncertainty, but we have worked through it. Fingers crossed nothing changes for the performance on the 5th July, and I will have an update on the fun at the Xinyi Half Year Show.

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