ABOVE: Group picture after Saturday's training: From the left -Andrew, Wu YaJun, Wang HeLing, Lu Yan, Chris Rayner, Me, Tin Ying
BELOW: Random shots of the street and then the hutong as we walked home having missed the bus after class Saturday.
Its Day 5: Saturday morning. Hurray for my sister Karen’s suggestion-Andrew took gravol last night and actually slept. Prior to that he was only getting an hour or so per night. I was starting to have concerns about his mental health.
Yesterday morning we trained with Wang HeLing for a couple of hours (8:00-10:00), travelled back to the hotel, ate lunch, practiced for a couple of hours, rested for a couple of hours and then left for Lu Yan’s for our evening training (scheduled for 7:00-9:00 pm). We left early, anticipating a crowded bus and slow traffic, however we ended up on a relatively empty bus (it only took us about 10 minutes before we could get a seat) and ended up at Yan’s by 6:00ish. Chris had sent us a text message asking about bus encounters and I let him know that we were already at the training center. Yan was nice enough to skip her supper and come to meet us early.
Wushu Yuan (the Chinese National Martial Arts Federation) is filming all of the living top masters of each style in order to preserve what they know. Today our training with Wang HeLing has been changed to 2:30 pm as he has been invited this morning to be filmed doing Yanqing Fanzi (I think) as the Chuo Jiao Fanzi master along with another Chuo Jiao Fanzi practitioner, Li Peng, who will be doing Di Tang.
Wang HeLing is approximately 70 years old. He looks about 10-15 years younger. He quietly rolls up to class on bicycle, is very unassuming looking and certainly not flashy in initial appearance. Every class so far has started off with a chat about some aspect of Chuo Jiao Fanzi history or training. Warm up and basics are then left to us and he will offer corrections whenever he sees obvious mistakes (I’m guessing he sees lots of less significant mistakes….). Generally he then teaches Andrew some of the staff set/applications for a while Chris and I practice/review the Yanqing Fanzi. Then we switch and Wang laoshi teaches Chris and I while Andrew practices. This back and forth continues until class is done. His teaching style is very calm and quiet and his philosophy appears to be to take everything gradually. However when he demonstrates the sets and applications his smooth power is evident.
Lu Yan is obviously a superior athlete. She is approximately 43 years old and can move around better than anyone I have seen in person. Andrew is learning a very famous Preying Mantis set that was put together and taught to Lu Yan by a very successful wushu competitor named Yu Hai, who later went into movies-such as Shaolin Temple and Tai Chi Master. The Preying Mantis style has a very distinctive flavour. I am learning the Da Dao or Kwan Dao which is a very heavy, big bladed weapon with a very different flavour, used for fighting on horseback and fighting people on horses from the ground. Lu Yan is only training Andrew and I during the sessions and switches back and forth between us, immediately showing the flavour and the moves of each of our particular styles. She also has a fascinating ability to physically mimic the mistakes we are making so you immediately know what you are doing wrong. Even when I have been stuck on a move longer than might be expected she has been very patient and analytical, able to quickly figure out what I am physically doing wrong. Unfortunately, through no fault of hers, that’s not to say that I have been equally quick to incorporate her directions…
So far we have eaten all but two meals in our hotel restaurant. This hotel is government owned and we have not seen any other westerners here to date, although my impression is that westerners do stay here. Mostly there have been government meetings here for the Heibei Provincial Government. Andrew and I have often been the ONLY people eating in the restaurant. There are generally six servers who hand you a menu and then stand at your table while you try to figure out what you want. There is a lot of staring and hovering. We have generally eaten some combination of chicken or beef with chilli’s and/or garlic, steamed vegetables with garlic, chilli’s or coriander, dumplings, rice and tea. The meals are usually about $5.00 each.
The other night the helpful and friendly hotel staff (not sarcasm-they have been very accommodating) directed us to a nearby traditional restaurant. It was packed and no other westerners in sight. There was a greeter at the door who was dressed traditionally/historically, hit a gong and yelled a lot when we went in, walked to our table with us and yelled some more. We weren’t sure whether the greeter was a kid out too late or a “little person”. We were subsequently advised that it was indeed an old man who was used to “attract business” and that this was not “uncommon”. We ended up having dry, seasoned chicken pieces in a bed of chilli peppers, beef in a hot pot with chilli’s, garlic and cabbage and a huge bowl each of fat noodles with steamed vegetables and peanut sauce. Again, the entire meal was about $15.00 and we left a lot of food behind as we were stuffed.
Last night after training Yan and Chris were kind enough to accompany Andrew and I to a restaurant just across the street for the training hall. We had small skewers of spiced lamb pieces (Chinese donairs), sweet corn niblets covered in duck yolk and the deep fried (I think), steamed broccoli and garlic, beef with large green chilli’s and cabbage with vinegar or something. And rice.
We are now heading to get passport sized photo’s done for our membership into the Beijing Chuo Jiao Fanzi Federation. Due to the amount of fraud in Chinese martial arts lineage the Beijing Chuo Jiao Fanzi Federation is keeping track of who is taught what and by whom.
These are pictures of the entrance to the hotel restaurant