Our first day of testing began at 6am this morning with meditation. Instead of having our regular meditation session however, Dr. Yang took the time to gather us in the gazebo and quiz us on both theories and procedures of what we were working on. I found that there was a lot I knew, and more importantly, a lot I still did not know. I think meditation is one of the subjects at the Center that I am more uncertain with. I hope this will change as time goes on. I do not feel that I am as into it as other things practiced here, not yet at least.
Next came finger speed. This has remained the same for years now. We try to open and close our hands as fast as possible and see how many times the fingers touch the palms in 30 seconds. Both hands are tested and the goal is to have at least 180 touches before the time is up.
After finger speed was punching speed. For those who have been following our progress, we began training this our first year. However, it wasn’t really punching at that time.
|Jachym testing punching speed, solo|
Here has been the progression thus far. We started by sitting and only moving our hands back and forth. We would try four different angles for 30 seconds each: Forward, sideways (with right hand on top), sideways (with left hand on top), and up and down. By doing this, we were able to cover the basic striking patterns: Punching, hooking, and uppercuts. The next step was to add more chest and more waist movement into each pattern. The open and closing movements of the chest combined with the turning of the waist could aid in generating more speed and power. This was the basic foundation for body structure. After we were proficient with these patterns, we began to mix all of the angles together. Because we had begun to mix, we could no longer do sets of 30 seconds. Instead, we combined all the time and punched at the air for 2 minutes. Our focus was still to build our fast twitch muscles, our endurance of slow twitch muscles when the fast burned out, and good body structure. The next step was a big jump. All the previous exercises were done from a sitting position, but now we were required to stand. Still punching for 2 minutes straight, we had to stand up in a comfortable stance, feet about shoulder width apart. Of course now it was more tiring as the entire body was involved, instead of just the upper half. As we got better, we were able to punch at different levels by going deeper into our stances. When this became easier, we had to move out of the gazebo as space was limited. The next step was to begin adding rocking to the exercise. So, we would have to take a stance with one leg in front of the other for a minute, then switch sides for the second minute. This seemed exhausting enough, but we were not finished. The next step was to add stepping. Back and forth and angling. After that, some hopping and jumping if we were comfortable. Finally, we started to begin training with a partner. This gave a better understanding of angling as well as made us more aware of sense of distance. As time went on, we would begin to add more power and slowly increased the time to 3 minutes.
|Patrick and Frank testing punching speed with a partner|
For today’s test, we had 3 minutes of solo punching. Stepping, angling, etc. All included. Then, we had 3 more minutes of the same thing, but with a partner. The main things Dr. Yang was looking for were speed, body structure, root, and sense of opponent. Did we have good speed and were we able to keep it up for the full three minutes? Did we have good body structure for our punches? Did we use our chests and waists to help with power generation? Did we have good root? Were we well planted with each strike or were we floating around? Did we have good sense of opponent? Were we able to react to our envisioned or real opponent’s movements with blocks/strikes and stepping/angling that made sense?
|Javier testing Taijiquan|
After punching speed we were given a break for breakfast and to rest a bit before our Taijiquan tests. Taijiquan testing included performing the second part of the sequence with jing as well as the third part of the sequence at medium speed. After these came the pushing hands tests. Our Peng, Lu, Ji, An routine, Yin-Yang sticking hands, large rollback routine, and finally two rounds of free double pushing hands.
One of the most important mistakes I learned today was my lack of Peng. Although I had it in some parts of my practice, it wasn’t present enough. Although I don’t particularly enjoy testing, I’m glad that this mistake was pointed out. It will be my main goal to fix it in terms of Taiji pushing hands.
Free double pushing hands was more fun. We had to randomly draw our partners and I was paired with Patrick and Frank. I was paired with Patrick for my first round. It was slow as Patrick had an elbow injury and asked to take it easy. We took our time and focused more on good body structure, on our sense of distance, and on stepping and angling correctly. My second round was with Frank and it was a lot more fun. Frank was very aggressive and really tried to get in a lot. I had to learn to neutralize his power away before he was able to lock me up. Luckily we were able to step and angle or else I feel I would have had a lot more trouble than I did. There was one point where he was able to get a really good seal on me. Both my arms were trapped and I wasn’t able to move back fast enough. Had we incorporated striking and kicking, I think I would have been finished right there and then :P
|Frank testing Taijiquan|
Our final test for the morning was Chinese. My test was different from everyone else as I could already speak Chinese. While the other guys had to come up with sentences and present them to Dr. Yang, I had to translate a section of a book from English to Chinese. I’m glad that it was still a children’s book, so the vocabulary wasn’t extremely hard. However, I found that there are still many words in English that I am unable to translate.
Well, that’s just the morning so far. We’ll see how this afternoon goes :)