Day one (and a half) of training


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March 3rd 2009
Published: March 3rd 2009
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Started training yesterday at 6 am when I went out for Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Tai Chi was a lovely introduction. It's very restful and requires more grace and balance than power. Qi Gong is a different matter. In Qi Gong you spend your time cultivating your Qi or life force, and there are 4 major points to do this - the palms of each hand, the top of your head and your belly button. In Qi Gong we had to get into horse-riding stance (which puts a lot of pressure on the Quadriceps and calves), put our hand in front of us with the palms facing each other, close our eyes, and move the hands out as we breathed in and in as we breathed out. We do this for about 15-20 minutes. This KILLS your legs, but all the while you should focus on your hands and them feeling hot and inflated (which they didn't because it was freezing and I didn't have my gloves) and numb and with a magnetic feeling (which they did - numb from the cold - but actually in the end it didn't feel like I was moving my hands voluntarily, so the magnetic thing worked). The pain in your legs soon takes over though, and so you stand there, hoping for it to be over. (I can report, however, that this wasn't so bad today).

At 7 is breakfast - on Sunday Roger encouraged us to buy our own oats for breakfast, and I'm glad we did, or breakfast would consist of a roll and some hard-boiled eggs. This isn't really enough to sustain a full day of training.

At 8.30 we start the first training session of the day. My shifu is Master Wong (otherwise known as Big Wong because he's the older of 2 Wong brothers at the academy). He's awesome, and the legends say that he won the national Sanda competition with a broken back...He's very friendly and supportive though, I'm glad I've got him. Mornin session starts with a run - usually around the hall or up and down the drive within the school - though today we went for a run outside the school. Next we stretch, first putting your foot on the (tall!) windowsill, and then doing 2 person stretches, involving one person standing against the wall and the other lifting his/her leg as high as possible. I'm pleased that I can already reach people's shoulders. Then we have the warm-up, where one of the class (Shaun) leads the rest of us in various stretching and jumping exercises - this is probably actually the hardest part as it doesn't let up - I'm left gasping for air after this. Then we're taught the basics by Master Wong while the others practice their forms - this is a lot to remember and, unlike at Karate back home, they're unforgiving if you forget things or do them incorrectly, but not forthcoming with praise if you do them right. We then practice the basics over and over and over, and I'm reminded of something Mr P used to say in band "You don't practice to get it right, you practice until you never get it wrong." The philosophy is the same here.

Then we have lunch, which consists of various different Chinese dishes, rice and (randomly) chips. We have to eat with chopsticks, which has been hard on Jonathan (an American who arrived at the same time as me who had never used chopsticks before), and this can be hard when it's so cold that your hands go numb (like mine did yesterday!)

Then we have the biggest break of the day of 2 hours (I'm in this break now) where we do whatever we want - yesterday I had a much needed nap!

Afternoon session starts at 2.30, and goes much the same as the first, but we do Sanda instead of Shaolin. Sanda is Chinese Kickboxing, though we didn't do kicks yesterday I hear we'll be doing them today! Being taught by a national Sanda champion has got to help though.
At 4.30 we have another session of Tai Chi and Qi Gong (in this session yesterday, Catherine, a girl who got here with me fainted) and by 5.30 lessons are finished for the day. At 6 there is dinner, which is substantially the same as lunch, and at 7 there are Mandarin lessons. By the time these were finished yesterday I was ready for bed, so I was asleep by 8pm!!!

Things are amazingly cheap in China. Grandma very kindly gave me 500RMB to spend (about 50GBP), and so far this has covered everything I've needed - including a 10 hour train journey, 3 decent meals, snacks, a lot of drinks, and all the internet time I've used. I am very pleased because it means I'll have more money for when I go and visit Faye.

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