The group consisted of three foreigners and Chinese men in their retirement age except for one young guy. Two of the foreigners live in Beijing and are fluent both in Chinese, as well as in adapting to the local way of life. One of them in a joke pointed out that the visiting friend of theirs is wearing fei yue shoes, a favorite footwear for martial artists; not so great for almost frozen Beijing concrete.
Di Guo Yong shifu approached me with a big smile and encouraged me several times to ask questions. No one needed to encourage him to flood me with his own Chinese, fortunately the students hurried up to help and translated.
The training was a typical example of traditional style’s practice. To start with, there was no “structure” and no time limit. I am not saying that it was a chaos; each student did his own thing and the shifu went around and corrected. It was like an individual lesson in a group a of people. The training was over when it was time for a lunch and shifu announced he is leaving. When we arrived, people were stretching and warming up and some more came later. Each of the student independently started working on his own skills; there was no group practice. Sometimes people crossed hands and went through the applications, other times they moved continuously in between the form, basics and conditioning. They all trained in their free time and meet each other on weekends; in traditional wushu it is not so common to teach full-time.
It was surprising for me to see that the forms were not practiced the most of the time; I saw them but much less than I would expected. Major part of the training took basics and principles, single movements and core motions, repeated and repeated. The pace was in the hands of practitioners. However, it was much more convenient to keep moving to not to freeze.
ere was one spear, long and heavy, that few of the participants use. Except for that, few bricks from the near wall served as weight for weight training, and I especially liked the elastic ropes. People used them for both kicking and punching, stretched over the back or attached to a firm object. “For the feeling,” they said, when one of them attached the elastics to his leg and practiced the punch with stepping forward. They offered me to try that, so I did, not having much idea what should the correct technique look like. Definitely my leg had more feeling than my zero technique was able to bear.
Master Di Guo Yong did not lose his positivism during the practice and even after few hours on the wind he was fresh and smiling. “When the day is windy, don’t crouch. Stand tall!” he said. The foreign student explained to me that he is a very caring person and laughed: “In winter he would pull up your trousers to see if you are wearing enough.” My guide then noted that even though he is famous, it is not so easy to find him. The best option is to come through someone’s recommendation.
This unexpected encounter left me with a happy heart. I watched the morning practice with curiosity, moving around to keep warm. A little bit the world of Xing Yi has opened up for me. Even though I would wish my sport shoes had thicker soles than those fei yue…
Here is a video about Xing Yi and Master Di's long term student Byron Jacobs, living and practicing in Beijing.