The time has come! Blood, sweat, a bit more blood, and tears have lead me to the final part of my journey at the Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy. Before you leave the academy you have a chance to grade anything you have been training, and it is a great chance for the masters to give you some final feedback for you to train when you return home. I had 8 forms to grade; Shaolin Broadsword, Tai Chi Broadsword, Baji Black Tiger Fist, 7 Star Fist and 4 Wing Chun dummy forms. This was the culmination of my training here, so I wanted to give it maximum effort, more speed and definitely more power!
Nerves? What are these things!? For a guy who rarely gets nervous, something shook me to my core, thus making me THE most nervous I have been in recent years. That something was the ‘1st Annual Xuzhou HuaiHai Holding Cup’ – A new Kung Fu competition in one of our closer cities. I knew for months that we would be attending, but with all the performances lately it kind of snuck up on me.
Finally! Performance time. It has been a long 3 weeks preparing and rehearsing everyday, and with all the changes to the set it was starting to get too laborious. Alas!…the time came and I was ready to lead the team and show the area that their local Kung Fu students are full of energy, enthusiasm and spirit.
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.
There is more to my story out here than trying to learn Kung Fu. Don’t get me wrong, that is the cool aspect, and I am having a friggin’ ball training with my Kung Fu Brothers (and sisters!). However, an underlying reason to why I journeyed over 5000 miles is to find if the things that granted me happiness back at home was finite, or is there so much more out there? To find out, I think I have to be open to all opportunities. I mentioned this before and it’s why I took the chance to teach English to the Chinese Younglings (Chunglings?). Another such opportunity arose to journey to a slightly further city with my Danish PIC (Partner In Crime) to teach English.
5 months have flown by! Sometimes there is so much going on here it is easy for me not take time to reflect on what I have achieved, or think about my next steps…I just take each lesson and training sesh as it comes. But even in the short time I have been here I have seen some improvement in my speed, my power, my control…and most of all I have progressed to using weapons in my forms. I don’t want to learn just one form for each weapon and therefore try to get as many weapons “done” before I get home, but I want a good set of basic moves for each, a Tai Chi form and a Shaolin form in them so I can practice enough to really stand a shot at being very competent with them. This takes time, and a lot of patience…
Friday morning. I ambled down the stairs reeling from Master Wang’s bitch of a leg power training session the previous day, reluctantly ready to warm up and go for the usual 2km run. To my surprise Headmaster Bao was there and asked us ALL to line up together. We all knew it would be some kind of important message since now we line up in separate groups…he had my curiosity, then he got my interest.