Retreat Center Visit: Part I

This was my 4th visit to the YMAA Retreat Center and I was finally able to train without injuries!

Meditation was, by far, the most difficult activity for me. Some Chinese believe we have two kinds of minds. Yi () is the wisdom mind and is steady like a horse. Xin () is the emotional mind and is active like a monkey. I tried to meditate at the most basic level by concentrating on my breathing, but my Xin
() was bouncing all over the place. I’d think about recent events, future events, shots for my video project, or feelings on various things. Then I’d realize I wasn’t supposed to be thinking of these thoughts and try to bring my focus back to breathing. This happened many times throughout the 45 minutes of meditation.

Goals in meditation can be to: regulate your Xin 
(), ponder the meaning of life, or raise your Spirit for greater power manifestation. During one of the daily Q&A sessions, Dr. Yang talked about Embyronic Breathing Meditation, where you build up and store energy in the Dantian (丹田). He said to think of the Lower and Upper Dantian (丹田) working together as one, “1 is 2, 2 is 1.” It will take a lot more reading and practicing before I can begin to understand what he means and how to do it. Dr. Yang also said it took him a long time to regulate his Xin (), be at peace, and eventually conquer himself to do what he wanted. He started meditation when he was 15, and didn’t reach that point until he was in his 50s. On the one hand, it’s good to know that struggling with meditation is normal at the beginning. On the other hand, even with diligent practice, it can still take 40-some years o_O I can always use more power, but my immediate problem is regulating my Xin (), so I should probably start with that.

Meditation gazebo

Speed Training follows meditation. Five minutes can feel long if you go too quickly at the beginning. On the first day, I stood in front of a bamboo tree and used a leaf as a target. I mixed up the hand strikes but stayed stationary. It wasn’t very exciting, but the guys were moving around, making light contact, and much faster than I was, so I wasn’t sure if I should join them. For the rest of the week, I was encouraged to participate and I gladly did. When training with a moving target that hits back, you have to be aware of blocking their strikes, distance, changing angles, opening targets on your body, finding open targets on theirs, other people around you, and a barking dog at your feet. I liked this drill and I would like to incorporate it in our classes if possible.

Qigong (氣功) is about an hour long, and I practiced a few basic Soft White Crane patterns I had learned before. In the first pattern, I moved my arms forward and back while trying to: coordinate breathing, start the motion at the Dantian (丹田), coordinate spine movements, and sink in my stance. I did this pattern for most of the week, and it still feels awkward and incorrect. I want to work on this so I can generate more power when doing external crane training. The other patterns I practiced were: alternating arms forward and back, and moving my arms horizontally in front of me.

Jon teaches Qigong to a group of students in Fortuna every Sunday. They were working on the Five Animal Sports set! I first learned this set at Dr. Yang’s seminar in Andover in 2011, but I hadn’t been practicing it regularly. It was fun to remember and go through the tiger movements, but I really wanted to do the bear and monkey ones. Dr. Yang criticized the Andover students for being too reserved and not making enough monkey noises :p (it’s an actual part of the training)

Monkey movements at YMAA Boston, complete with butt wiggle

My Taijiquan (太極拳) experience is very limited, so I was happy to learn more drills. Julian (YMAA New Zealand) taught me a Roll Back drill. As you do Roll Back on your partner, they move their arm forward slightly and drop their elbow, step and change body position angle, coil and do Grasp Sparrow’s Tail (right side), and then do Roll Back on you. Then you repeat the steps. I had to remember to position myself about 90 degrees from my partner as I did Roll Back, pull in the correct angle where I would be the most stable and my partner would be off balance, “grow” (expand) more for Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, and get the timing right. I also got some stationary single pushing hands (推手) experience for what seemed like the first time. I worked with another guest who had some taijiquan experience, but mostly in the health aspects and not so much martial applications. Staying soft and using all angles was a challenge. Dr. Yang later said, “Now go onto double pushing hands moving” but I didn’t feel ready for that.

I think the RC could really benefit from having a resident physiotherapist, acupuncturist, and/or Tui Na specialist. I told Julian (physiotherapist at The Body Workshop) that when I pressed my finger against a bone right below my collar bone, it felt sore in an abnormal way. He poked around and had me lift my right arm. He found a bunch of knots around my right shoulder blade and rubbed some out. It felt painful and good at the same time. Julian said my rib cage wasn’t aligned properly and it affected my lungs. He said it was likely due to spending long hours using a computer mouse, and weapons training probably aggravated it. Like that, the soreness was almost gone. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn the basics on how to deal with soreness and minor injuries.

To be continued…

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