October 26th

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Today I practiced for an hour and a half, with breaks though, so perhaps an hour or hour and 15, with my friend. It was one of the most difficult practice sessions to make it to so far. I had caught a chill while I was down in chinatown, and I also was in severe pain from head to toe. Once I got to practicing it was pretty good though; I just couldn’t do proper horse or bow stances, or the low snake creeps down etc. It was a practice the forms practice. I wonder if I got the Zhaquan right or not? It’s what I remember, but sometimes my memory isn’t always perfect ;). One thing I like about the school yard is that there are metal poles which I can use to smack for palm strike practice; I don’t have anything that perfect for it at home. It appears my wrist can now take a decent amount of impact from the uninjured side, which is good.

Then for circle walking, I decided I just wanted a relaxing time of it. It was difficult enough to motivate myself downstairs in the first place, so I just wanted to enjoy myself. I left the timer upstairs. My lower back was already sore to start so I was definitely going to be going slowly. I also changed directions anytime my lower back got too sore, or did a different palm anytime the arms being held out put too much strain on my lower back. I really wanted to last at least half an hour, but think it was unfortunately more like only 20 minutes :(. It was however at a point where my lower back was getting more and more sore as I walked more. Sometimes when I circle walk it actually makes my back feel better. Today was most definitely not one of those days. I really hope I can make it as far as my weekly lesson tomorrow… or what I mean to say is that I hope the lesson isn’t just me sitting down asking questions about Bagua, since there is no way in hell I’d miss a class.

One problem I have is being able to gage if I’m just being lazy, or if I really am sore or tired enough to take a break. I have never been able to tell when I overtrain or not. When I was really ill on bedrest I could barely make it downstairs to cook, and often just skipped a day or 2 of eating, so I figure in that case it wasn’t lazyness, since skipping meals is not on my like list. Or sometimes I will ask myself if getting out of bed, or leaving the house was for something really fun would I do it? I figure if I could motivate myself to go do something fun, then I’m not feeling ill enough to skip a day of work or practice or whatever. However with health problems, it is difficult to tell at times. One day my spiritual teacher suggested just do stuff until you fall over if I couldn’t tell. Apparently he meant that figuratively….. According to my Taichi teacher I most definitely overtrain, and she worries about me. She tends to worry even more when I mention that the hospital doesn’t *think* it’s a fracture (in that case training didn’t actually make it worse, but working did). My Chinese friend reminds me that with my health it is good to work up to things and not overdo it, and not be too upset with myself if I can’t do something.

However, I have always had the attitude of pushing myself as much as I possibly can. As I have been slowly healing over the past 3-4 years, since the healing seems to happen in spurts and at random, I never know when I can do more, so I have gone through doing as much as absolutely physically possible each and every day until I hit burnout too bad to get out of bed for a few days. This may seem crazy, but do keep in mind I was on bedrest for a few years, and have been working as hard as possible to get my health back asap. I still do wonder at times if I am just being lazy though. Today’s practice with my friend, then evening circle walking were really difficult for me to tell. I wasn’t sure if practice would make my pain a lot worse, or if I was just being lazy and not trying hard enough. I still am not sure. I guess if I can drag my ass out of bed and to chinatown for lunch, then I really should be able to practice and circle walk as well. However I will know for sure tomorrow depending on whether I can sit up or not. It’s unfortunate I can’t reach my lower back with the dit de jao!

Now for the awesome aspect of tonight’s circle walking… I felt more in tune withe the octagon then I have any other time before. I also felt Dong’s presence MUCH stronger this evening, as if he waited a month or two to see if I’d keep up this whole circle walking thing. I actually enjoyed the circle walking instead of just being neutral about it before. It was quite a comfortable experience actually, from all the built up energy of my daily circle walking. I also felt in more of a meditative state then usual (no really I took an over the counter muscle relaxant, no stronger then aspirin lol). The actual circle walking itself is getting a lot easier and feels much more natural now. It’s just the damndable back pain which gets in the way. Today I also managed to choose circle walking over a nap, it was a very difficult decision, but I managed :).

I feel sort of bad going for the private lesson this week since I’ve done barely any circle walking since last week, only half an hour per day or less most days, and none on Sunday. At least I got that good hour and a half in one day. The whole four hours per day of circle walking idea really does seem impossible at this point, but I guess eventually. OK the next posts will be much less whiny, I promise.

October 25th

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Got in 33 minutes of circle walking today. It is likely I could have gone for longer, however I knew if I did I wouldn’t have survived the two evening classes. Also after four hours of classes yesterday I wanted to take it a little easy today! My first class of the evening was Lao Jia Yi Lu Chen style Taichi. Afterwards was my weekly QiGong class, Yi Jin Jing QiGong. I wonder if the 15 minute walk to the classes and back counts as part of my exercise? I’ve never quite understood why someone would drive to the gym, when walking is an ideal warmup. Perhaps if I get off my lazy ass and attach the lights to my bike, I can bike there and back next week.

I really want to practice the little bit of Zhaquan stuff I learned yesterday, but I think my lower back would go on strike if I did. Fortunately I did go over it yesterday when I got home, and can practice tomorrow :).

Rock sock

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No, I am not talking about the shocks on my new bike…
So my Bagua teacher showed me his sock filled with pebbles and suggested I make one. Basically the idea is to get a sock, fill it with pebbles which aren’t too sharp, then gently smack the various areas of your body with it. I collected some small river rocks for my rock sock. I will bless and consecrate them sometime soon, but in the meantime they are sitting inside one of my socks. I think the rocks I chose are a bit large though, and I think I also put too many in. Due to this I am using my rock sock very gently since I don’t want any part of my body damaged lol.

Now the cool part of the rock sock, is that I’m wondering if it will help with fibromyalgia and myofascial pain? The rock sock is supposed to help out the fascia. However it’s a bit difficult to tell this early on, especially since this much martial arts practice seems to lead to all over pain. Being relatively pain free in the future would be awfully cool though. I haven’t experienced a pain free day since I was about 8 or 9 years old. This would be due to childhood arthritis, fibromyalgia, some odd spine curvature thing, crohns and a couple of car accidents. I also think the Bagua may help greatly

Ouchy!

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You know, I really should have started all this martial arts stuff in my 20’s, not when I reached 39! However at 39, I thought i should go take a QiGong class to help both my magic, but also my health and my very destroyed energy body. That’s where it all started. I walked down to my local community center, where all the best courses are, and asked about a QiGong class. Fortunately they had one, so I started QiGOng September 2009. I had been doing some QiGong before that, but it was just standing QiGong, and the instruction I had received was over the internet from my magic teacher. I had been doing it off and on for about 6 months or so. During this QiGOng class the teacher kept refering to her other classes, such as Taichi. I figured I should take 24 form, which was the very first newbie form if you want to do Taichi. More health benefits, awesome! So January 2010 i started to learn Taichi. It only took me three tries to memorize the 24 form. This is in part due to my lack of memory, but also due to my health being bad enough I kept missing classes. I pretty much have it memorized now. When starting the 24 form it made no sense since I’d never taken martial arts before, or even dance, or anything of the like. So fortunately Youtube is FULL of Taichi 24 form vids. So I would watch the videos each night before and during my practice to remind me what I had learned in class that day.

I was pretty ambitious, practicing everyday and all. I think that teachers can tell this sort of thing since she started to encourage me to take her other classes. For spring semester I enrolled in Kun Wu sword, which was really nice of the teacher to let me in since I didn’t have the pre-requisite of 32 sword. However, I would have to say I don’t think that slowed me down much, and I don’t think my Kun Wu sword form is all that bad. I also tend to know it better then some of the students since I have always practiced it everyday. I also signed up for her Swimming Dragon Bagua form. Again I didn’t have the pre-requisite, so I took the crash course a month before it started. Fortunately since I didn’t have the pre-requisite I decided I should practice even more, and I don’t have trouble for the most part memorizing the form. The daily practice really helps. OK so my Bagua form is far from perfect, but she doesn’t have to correct me too terribly often anymore.

Somewhere along the way I decided that I wanted a more active and physically demanding martial art. What was I thinking? Well my time with Aikido ended abruptly when I was distracted before a roll I didn’t know how to do in the first place and managed to tear a ligament in my shoulder. In case anyone is unaware, a torn ligament hurts just as much as a broken bone for the first few weeks. they also take longer to heal then broken bones. It didn’t heal for 6 months. Also there was some guy in class who was touching my chest to look at my tattoo DURING practice, as well as constant flirting at other times during practice as well. With those two things combined I decided I would pass on Aikido. Then a friend of mine really wanted to help me out health wise. He owns a martial arts store, so knows all the best teachers in the area. I mentioned maybe I would take up Wushu… fortunately my friend saved me from that fate, and introduced me to his daughter’s Sifu. So I tried out Wing Chun for a month. All was going well until the steel plate in my ankle made the their version of the horse stance unbearable. So the teacher had me doing QiGong exercises instead. That was going alright, accept for the 2-3 days of excruciating back pain that would follow each class, as well as during each class. So to the disappointment of my friend (I felt so bad for this) I dropped those classes.

All during this time I was still taking the Taichi and other classes from my first teacher. Well I decided that Bagua just kicked ass, and that I liked it 10x better then all the others. I was a bit frustrated though that there wasn’t any sparring whatsoever with it though. Then my teacher took 6 weeks off for the summer. So I looked online and was going to train Bagua with *her* teacher during the summer, since I didn’t want to take the summer off. They never replied to my email. Well anyways, I found a teacher who specializes in the practical and fighting aspect of Bagua! Lucky me! Again, I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking! While I quite love the classes and personal training, OUCH! My poor innocent ankles! Are ankles actually meant to twist like that, and if so, mine were very out of shape! Or that whole should really be doing four hours of practice per day thing… did I mention I should have started when I was 20 and not 40? Now, I think that my teacher is working on toughening me up a bit (not that I would need it after three years of bedrest and very poor health right?), and has been progressively using more aggressive and stronger sparring techniques with me. After yesterdays class, I sort of wonder which truck ran me over! The whole being pushed backwards with an arm in front of my throat thing, not so good for my back I don’t think! The good news is, I think this might strengthen my back somehow. This would be the very same back that is too weak to sit up unaided for longer then a few minutes without severe pain. Why the rest of my body aches though I’m not entirely sure, perhaps something about four hours of class time all together yesterday?

Or maybe it is that I decided I should learn Zhaquan (I think I may have even spelled it right that time!) I got shown the first few moves for the…. uhm some preliminary Zhaquan thing which involves some shoulder pain and moving about a bit. I also got to watch the teacher and the TA perform Zhaquan, I’m not entirely sure what i was thinking… some turning around jumping stuff is involved. I guess if I can get my health up good enough to do that all will be good.

Here is some Zhaquan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dipHbjYWiDs the guy kind of makes it look/feel more like fast Taichi then what I was shown yesterday.

Anyways, I’m probably going to be learning Zhaquan as well, as long as I can keep Bagua as my primary focus.

An odd experience

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Today we were shown an arm movement to do, then partnered up with each other. I was paired with the teacher (who obviously knows what the hell he is doing, so made sure I did it right). At one point I did the movement to move his arm out of the way, then turned my wrist to keep his arm from moving about, or at least so I could follow his arm if he did move it. At the point where I bent my hand back to put my wrist over his…. I remembered this exact same move before and “knew” it. I then ran through all the martial arts I have ever done in my head, and no, I had never done this before, but it felt as though I had done it hundreds of times before at least. It was the oddest feeling ever. This familiarity hasn’t even happened with the moves which I *do* remember from say Taichi, which are nearly identical to ones I was shown today. It wasn’t a deja-vu really since it was the move, and not the situation or person that seemed familiar. Any of you mystically minded folks have this happen before? Or hey even you not so mystically minded folks.

An amazing class today! :)

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First I went to the morning sword class. We covered quite a bit more then usual since the teacher wants to have the form complete by the middle of December. Fortunately we covered the new moves often enough I think I have them memorized! Practicing a couple of hours later at the Bagua location helped as well (it was before class, and it was in public so no teacher dude didn’t mind). A neat thing to note is that I did the sword form and the teacher asked what it was, Kun Wu sword. Apparently he had also learned this form before! That in itself is pretty amazing since it is rarely taught, and not usually heard of. The truly amazing part is that I apparently did the form well enough he was able to recognize it as something he had learned before lol.

Then we had class, what luck for me, there was only myself and one other student!!!! I know that doesn’t help the teacher much as the more people the better for him, but weeks like this are a treat for us students who show up rain or shine. Actually only half of the people showed up for the earlier sword class with a different teacher as well. I guess there was some awesome party last night I must have missed or something.

I’m still having trouble figuring out how to do the advanced direction change thing unfortunately. I will have to get my teacher to show me during the next private session I guess. I appear to have been born without a memory, but eventually with enough repetition things do kick in. Unfortunately they seem to kick in a low slower then with everyone else. We covered circle walking of course, which I’m starting to think I’m half decent at! Must have been that hour and a half circle walking marathon during the week or something.

Then we covered an arm strike. As with all Bagua, it was more a whole body strike with your arm and palm making contact. This particular one was to knock their arm out of the way and pinned to them while you walk around behind them at the ame time. Kinda handy. I still love how you always end up behind your opponent. I think Bagua would be extremely disconcerting to someone who had never seen it before :).

Then after class was officially over, I asked the teacher how to block a punch, and he showed me a few things, then showed a few other very handy techniques (shit I can’t remember most of them). I think I get the general concept though. I have some ex… well sort of ex… stalking me again (you would think after 15 years dude would get over it right?), so wanted to ask for some tips just in case dude who is a LOT larger then me got violent.

Then we got onto the topic of Zachuan (I’m pretty sure I spelled that wrong) which he also teaches. It is quite a bit different then Bagua, but also looks interesting. I still prefer Bagua quite a lot more of course, but an external form would also be interesting. Or at least I think it would be interesting, I will know better tomorrow when I assess how my lower back feels. I am thinking either my back will get quite a bit stronger from all this, or quite a bit more sore. I’m hoping for the former.

The teacher and his TA showed me the first bit of Zachuan, and were even patient enough to help me try to remember the first few movements. If I would stand up right now I might try them again LOL.

This week I have been extremely discouraged about Bagua, thinking it’s too difficult (it really is damn hard), and how silly I feel walking around in a circle for half an hour or more. Also wondering if this really will have all the health benefits I hear about. I figure it’s a phase, that all even slightly difficult things have; first you find the new thing exciting and fun because it’s new, but then you find you have to do a fuck of a lot of work to get anywhere with it. I was contemplating earlier today if I just want to stick with dabbling, or in fact take Bagua more seriously and keep up the intense work. I really do wish I’d started this stuff in my 20’s when my body was much more forgiving and in better shape. Well my teacher, he’s pretty smart, he made me commit to 20 classes to get the discount I wanted, so looks like I’m stuck with him for 13 or 14 (I lost count) more private sessions, and that many Sunday classes as well. In December I may take some extra lessons to learn this Zachuan stuff, depending on how the money situation is.

Did I mention I don’t have much of a social life? I think I will have to strengthen my back more first before Zachuan though. Also those crazy ass spinning jumping in the air and kicking things look a little ambitious for my poor innocent still healing body. However when I mentioned wanting to learn Zachuan my teacher didn’t say something like uhm no, I don’t think you could physically do that, so I have hope.

I again feel re-inspired from the Bagua class, but after 4 hours of class today, and my now VERY sore back, more circle walking is not in the plan. I don’t usually do circle walking on Sundays anyways though, I like to give myself a bit of a break. On a side note, I did the new sword movement I learned last week in my dreams last night to defeat a dream opponent :>. For those of you who know Kun Wu sword, it’s that first 180 degree pivot on one foot while doing half a figure 8.

October 23rd

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Managed half an hour of circle walking today.
Also did a little sword practice, and a little Swimming Dragon form practice.
Had Bagua Swimminng Dragon class this morning.
So tired today unfortunately, so that is enough practice for today since I would like to be functional for tomorrow’s classes.

I have to admit I’m not looking forward to tomorrow’s Bagua class. It is the one with a bunch of people who have been practicing martial arts for many years and who catch onto each new move very quickly, while I tend to be quite lost and not quite get it until shown many times. It’s quite embarrassing when you are the ONLY person who doesn’t catch onto something. Fortunately each of my practice partners in the class just show me the move we are supposed to be practicing, and are always patient and nice about it.

Technical Difficulties with Bagua

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I mean besides my back and ankles threatening to picket….
Ever since I started taking Bagua more seriously and doing this daily circle walking thing, everything else has gone to shit. No, I have not spent less time and energy on the other stuff, more actually. For example I stopped getting sales for 3 weeks, which is unheard of. Fortunately rent was paid, and my other expenses covered, however being about $1000 shorter then usual for a month makes things a little uncomfortable. Then there was my energy wandering off for a few weeks thing. Also for a couple of weeks there everyone I ran into had a very bad impression of me and suddenly started acting different towards me (accept the others I practice martial arts with). Then my luck went to complete hell, everything going wrong instead of right. It was really odd. Not that things have gone back to normal yet, but they are again bearable.

Circle walking

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Well at least I don’t usually get dizzy anymore. When I first started the Bagua I would get dizzy walking in circles pretty quickly, that seems to have gone away now, unless I have been walking for quite some time in the same direction. Well handy I guess, if I’m all fresh out of ideas, as a last resort I can just make my opponent dizzy! My teacher informed me that one really should circle walk for 4 hours per day, 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the evening. I spent the next week after that feeling a little hopeless as far as Bagua went. As I mentioned in the intro my health isn’t all that great. I’m lucky to be able to walk in a straight line for 2 hours, and still be functional afterwards! Circle walking is quite a bit more difficult then normal walking, and I tend to be pouring with sweat during most of it.

Later that week I mentioned to my teacher that I really don’t think I can physically manage 4 hours per day. I made sure he understood that it wasn’t just out of laziness. I think he beleived me, but at the same time looked a little confused about why someone couldn’t stay standing for four hours per day. I sometimes envy those with good health! I think we agreed on (or I insisted on, I don’t recall which) that half an hour would be good. So now my daily circle walking goal is half an hour, and trying to eventually get up to 4 hours per day. In other words, Bagua had better be as good for one’s health as they say it is, so I can practice Bagua for longer. I have not yet seen any health benefits from the daily circle walking, but then again it has only been just over a month that I have been circle walking everyday. I really hope I can keep up my daily circle walking for years to come. At least I don’t get bored during it, but I definitely have to say it’s difficult, and I will sometimes refer to it as “ankle torture” instead of “circle walking”. Right now I would also call it “lower back torture” since my lower back still hurts 48 hours after circle walking for an hour and a half the other day. I was trying for 2 hours to see if I could manage, and no I could not. The day after, I managed only 18 minutes before I become too wobbly and my back hurt way too much.

My teacher spent a few years circle walking for four hours per day when he started Bagua, that is how he was taught. He suggests this amount for me to improve my health, and also the amount to do if you eventually want to become a master of the art. It seems that becoming a master is diametrically opposed to having a social life of any sort. I asked my teacher, and yes that was *before* he was married lol. It’s alright though, since I work for myself and run my own business, I am used to not having a huge social life. However four hours of practice per day will be quite difficult when I have to travel, especially when I will be spending 12 hours per day vending/working.

Welcome to my Baguazhang blog

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I have been practicing Bagua for nearly 5 months now. I should be a master soon right? 😉 My first Bagua class was on May 29th of this year (2010). Before this the only martial arts experience I have had was doing QiGong for a year or so, and Taichi for about 9-10 months now. Needless to say I’m a complete newbie who knows practically nothing about Bagua. However, I like to think I know lots, so I will post lots of my impressions and experiences here.

I started out taking Swimming Dragon Bagua, which is basically a form of movements that you learn. I really should have taken the beginner’s Bagua first, but the teacher allowed me to take the 2nd class in the series since I show unreasonable amounts of ambition; well that and I practice daily, which apparently it’s par for the course from what others tell me. I don’t understand the not practicing daily thing. I practice every day that I can get out of bed anyways. My health is far from perfect, so it is unimaginable for me to see someone with good health miss an opportunity to practice. If you have no trouble standing up, and practicing for half an hour to an hour doesn’t destroy your entire day for other activities, why wouldn’t you? OK so perhaps after I have been practicing martial arts for 5 or 10 years I will understand better LOL. I have however been practicing magic for 20 years now, and it has been VERY seldom I have missed a day of my regular practice. I did take a month off on three different occasions during this time though. I currently practice magic for 1-2 hours per day, and Bagua for half an hour to 2 hours per day. It all depends how I’m feeling that day, if I need to get other stuff done (too much Bagua makes me too tired to work), and so forth. If I have a Taichi or Bagua class on the same day, then my practice time is only half an hour, or on Sundays is non-existent. Each Sunday I have 3-4 hours of martial arts classes, so I take it easy.

My current class schedule is a bit busy, but I feel it is really needed to keep my health up. I really don’t feel as good during the summer and winter breaks, even though I do keep up my daily practice. I currently take 6 classes per week (including one which is personal training in Bagua), and once per week I meet with a friend who practices the same Taichi and Bagua that I do.

I will refrain from adding my teachers’ names to this blog, simply because I take a very unorthodox approach to things, speak my mind which is often politically incorrect, and thus don’t wish to make either of them look bad.

If you are wondering what Bagua is, you are really on the wrong blog, and should probably go out and get some fresh air or something. Or you can go look it up on wikipedia. It involves a great deal of circle (octagon) walking. Actually it involves so much circle walking, I sometimes wonder if that is all I will be learning!