After the few days in the school of master Chen in Wudang I moved on to the school of master Yuan Xiu Gang. Frozen, I was looking forward to have a hot shower, and I also had a kind of coming home feeling.
It was, of course, absolutely inappropriate for me to have such feeling, because I never practiced Wudang style myself, nor I spent any longer period of time in the school in Wudang. But few years ago, on a competition in China I met this group of foreigners from master Yuan’s school. Then, year or two later I was traveling in China and went also to Wudang. One of those foreigner students helped me to get a room in the school and so I could meet them all again. They were doing a 5-years program in the school, “an international traditional class”. That time I was not aware of what “traditional class” really means here, but this time I found out.
I arrived and it was weird not to see those people around; the program ended already. I was put into a “health class”, whatever that means, and was going to “learn” a qi gong form. There were 16 foreign students, all in the health class. After few pointers to the mysterious traditional class, I was going to have a look on their training.
“How many foreigners are there?” I asked. “None,” they said. “I was training with them for 2 months, but I want to ask to do it again in September,” said one young guy.
It turned out that the mysterious traditional class is the most intense one you could get at this school. You have to be very serious about your training and allow the coaches to treat you in the same way as they treat their Chinese students. The content of the training is more or less similar with the health class, but with a bigger intensity and longer period of time during the day. Or, if I put it this way, where the health class is welcome to join morning qi gong and can review in the evening after dinner, the traditional class has no choice. Except for the training, they also have to learn the Chinese flute and calligraphy. During the day, the independent sounds of flutes’ voices resonated through the floors of the building, when the students practiced few songs over and over again. In the evening, they would all have a class in the dining room. It was quite romantic atmosphere in the evening, when the dark was getting stronger around the outlines of the nearby temple, people were sitting on the backyard of the school, talking or going through their tai ji, and there you heard the whole group of flutes.
Stretch kicks again play a crucial role of the training. Two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, that is the main class. First hour of each of them is for the kicks and occasionally some jumps, or for the basic stances and punches. After that, as common, people go back to their own sets and forms, practicing tai ji, ba gua, Five animals’ qi gong… The main coach of the health class is Gao, a Chinese guy who can speak English. It is surprising how different he is from shishou of the previous school; they are like yin and yang. Gao is talkative, doing lots of jokes and enjoying to push his student here and there little more. If he does not like what you are doing, he lets you finish and then he announces: “No.”
Every Wednesday there is a test of progress, which takes place in front of the beautiful temple. Master Yuan would watch all the students of the traditional class, performing what they are currently working on, including their flutes. Students of the health class perform too, after they finish the set they are learning or simply when they feel like that. “Relax. Keep breathing,” Yuan shifu warmly encouraged each of the foreign students, so after it is over, I hear some of them saying with a newly gained courage: “Oh, I should have performed too. Next week!”
Watching all the performances is a great experience. It is only a good managing strategy too. Not only the students get some pressure and learn how to deal with it, but master Yuan sees what his coaches are doing with each of the small groups of students, and even the coaches have some overview what is happening. What is more, they have to perform too.
Even more precious was for me the opportunity to watch a Discipleship ceremonial the next day. Not only in Wudang, some schools in different part of China still do the Bai Shi (Bai Si) ceremony to accept new students. But that is the topic of the next post…