A little while ago I received a notification from WordPress that I have been blogging for 5 years, this coincidences with my 50th post. To mark this milestone I am going to write about my own personal journey in the martial arts.
To make it a little easier to read I have divided it into two parts
As I said in the ‘about’ section, I started TKD when I was 16 as a very unfit teenager who could run the length of the hall without turning purple and collapsing. over the years i got better physically but I was never much of a competitor despite winning a few medals over the years. I was always more interested in the application of the movements found in the patterns. I think it is that interest that has led me to study different martial arts.
I am also lucky that I travel with my work quite a lot which has exposed me to a lot of different cultures and teachers.
So here it is… my journey part one
After achieving black belt in TKD and training in Scotland, Italy and Russia I moved to China. Originally for a year but ended up staying for 15 years. While in China I had the opportunity to train in a number of arts. At first I studied the Chinese internal martial arts, initially under Professor Liu Yuzeng who taught Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua. It was under him that I discovered how different training in the Chinese martial arts were. Training was done early in the morning and consisted of practicing the movements and forms over and over, we would start with the short explosive movements of Xingyi, then move on to the circular walking of Bagua and then finish with the softer movements of Taiji before closing with qigong. Although I enjoyed the training I think I was too young and inexperienced to really make the most out of it. I had gone from the pad work and sparring of Taekwondo to just movement practice, I often felt frustrated with not fully understanding what the aim of the training was.
Training under Professor Liu gave me a keen interest in Baguazhang, which eventually caused me to move to what could be regarded as the birth place of Bagua, Beijing. It was in Beijing that I met Zhu Baozhen, who I regard as my main teacher of the Chinese styles. Similar to professor Liu, Zhu Laoshi (teacher Zhu) taught all three of the internal arts, however he mainly concentrated on Baguazhang from the Yin Fu lineage. Similar to Professor Liu his practice also consisted of single movements repeated many times and the circle walking forms, but he also included a lot of standing qi gong. In fact for my first class under Zhu Laoshi, all he taught me was the standing practice and walking method specific to his line of Bagua.
Although both Professor Liu and Zhu Laoshi were both highly skilled in their arts and very capable teachers, I feel I was in a better place to learn from Zhu Laoshi. This was both in my understanding of the Chinese arts and also my Chinese language ability.
I spent about 4 years with Zhu Laoshi, then due to circumstance I stopped training under him regularly. Sadly Zhu Laoshi passed away in 2014
While training in Bagua I also took up Aikido, this was mainly to get some more partner practice. I had read that Bagua and Aikido were somewhat linked so it seemed logical to try Aikido to supplement my training.
In the beginning I got a lot out of training in Aikido. Our teacher, the only female teacher I have had, was highly technical and appeared to really love the art. Through the Beijing dojo I also had the pleasure of training with Horii Shihan from Japan on a number of occasions
Everyone in the dojo started out really enjoying the training, however over the years our teacher seemed to get progressively more frustrated with her situation. I don’t know if she wasn’t getting the recognition she wanted, wasn’t developing herself as much as she wanted, or if the issue was purely financial. Whatever the reason it started to show in the classes. There was a distinct lack of patience with new students coming in to the dojo and even some of the classes were trained with an atmosphere of displeasure.
In time the dojo was to close, it reopened months later and all the students went back for a while but as the frustration continued the students, including myself, started to fall away. Aikido still leaves me with a sense of unfinished business. One day I still plan to return to the art.
Continued in part two……