Retreat Center Visit: Part II

Before visiting the Retreat Center, I made a To Do List:

  • Train Be like a Retreat Center student
  • Place 1st in a category (or categories) at TCKFMC (<= videos now uploaded)
  • Shoot as often as possible
  • Pass Shi Zi Tang (十字趟)  
  • Make food – buns , chicken pot pie , cookies , bread & butter pudding
  • Do something I’ve never done before
  • Say “yes” to something I normally wouldn’t say “yes” to (high logs)
  • Teach the local students on Sunday
  • Video project for grandmas
  • Play duet with Frank

♐ Someone stole the archery target! Did that stop me from shooting? Of course not. Rain caused a mini mud slide to cover part of the range, making it more narrow. We took one of the firearms targets, stuck a branch through it, and propped it against the dried mud. I backed up 20 yards and started shooting.

Desperate to shoot
Xiao Hu waiting for the release

Like last time, Xiao Hu (小虎 Little Tiger) came along. He eagerly waited with his tail wagging, for me to load the bow. Then he happily barked and chased after every arrow. He was getting much needed exercise :p I once spent an hour at the range, and even though Xiao Hu was breathing heavily and most likely dehydrated from the dry 80+ degree heat, he didn’t stop until I did. We appreciated each other’s company and bonded. Even with a barking soundtrack to my shooting, there’s something relaxing and meditative about loading the bow, drawing, aiming, and releasing. I would like to shoot regularly, but the equipment is expensive and I don’t really have space. After I ran out of arrows or whenever the target fell over (as it often did), Xiao Hu would stop barking and follow me as I walked over to collect the arrows. Then we’d start over again.

External training was different each day. There are so many things you can do, and you do them at your own pace. I trained with the weighted staff and short rods. Walked across the stumps and low logs. Did dips on the bars. Did solo and partner weapons drills solo. Conditioned my arms on the tall stumps. Candle punching. Worked with Frank and Javi on Kong Shou Dui Gun (空手對棍) and Er Lu Mai Fu (二路埋伏). Worked with Julian on 2nd stripe fighting forms and take downs (shuai jiao 摔跤) for his test. He tested everything and earned his 2nd stripe (Congrats!). I tested and passed Shi Zi Tang (十字趟), but it wasn’t pretty. Dr. Yang makes me nervous, and sometimes my body doesn’t listen to me. I’ll keep working on it.

Stumps & low logs
(by Javier C)
Jon, Nicky, Xiao Hu, and I walked down the mountain to the creek. Since we were only walking, I figured I’d give myself a little resistance. I wore wrist weights and weighted gloves that totaled about 3 lbs (I think) on each arm. Jon decided that my ankles needed some weight so we added another 2.5 lbs on each ankle. Now I really wish I had taken a photo of this. Going down wasn’t bad, but coming up was a challenge. This mountain is steep. Jon said that during the conditioning period in the program, this was his least favorite part of the day. Eventually, they ran the mountain while wearing a 50 lb vest. On this day, Jon was tired, Nicky was fighting a cold, and Xiao Hu is overweight, so I led the pack. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be ahead of the two humans again, when they aren’t tired or sick. I train best when I’m in the lead. If I’m behind someone, I feel like it’s easier to give up. If I’m in the lead, I want to stay there, and I’m actually following the pace of the person behind me. The faster they go, the faster I go to stay ahead of them. I want to train with someone who complements my style. The weights got heavy, but I chugged along. I was afraid that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to keep going. I threw some hand strikes in the air Rocky-style, to take my mind off the burning muscles in my legs. When I reached the top, I yelled “SPARTAAA!!” in my head.
Creek at the bottom of the mountain
(by Javier C)

The second most difficult activity for me was walking the high logs. When I visited last year, I had a knee injury but Jachym and Frank encouraged me to get up. Just to see. They brought out a step ladder and I climbed up. Needless to say, it’s much scarier when you’re actually 10 feet up in the air. I’m hugged the tree until I came down. This time, Jon encouraged me to try walking it. Getting up wasn’t hard, but you have to walk across two logs before you reach the section with the rope above you. I couldn’t do it without help. You know that feeling you get when you’re coming down a rollercoaster? It was like that but worse, because I wasn’t safely strapped in a car. I could fall over and break some bones if I lost my concentration. It was about 10 seconds of agony :( In my head I kept thinking, “I hate this, damn you for making me do this.” “Come on, Spartan,” said Jon. The sections with the ropes were better, but I was still scared. Jon was training to go forward and backward faster and jump or something, so sometimes he’d be shaking the logs. “No shaking please,” I said, as I made my way across the longest, and therefore, shakiest log. As Dr. Yang walked by us, he yelled, “You spent 1 hour on the logs. It’s only supposed to take 10 minutes!” He was teasing, but he’s one of those people who says things that aren’t meant to be funny, but he makes you laugh anyway. (It was more like 30 minutes instead of 1 hour.) I went two more times that week, and it got a little easier each time.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
(by Javier C.)

On Sundays, the students teach martial arts to a few locals. Last December, I got to meet Maddy and her mom Kato. Although Maddy enjoys learning martial arts, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a beginner, and one of two students learning from really skilled guys who do martial arts full time. It must be a little intimidating because they’re so good, older, and male. I was happy to teach her because it gave me a chance to teach in a new environment, and I think she enjoyed it too. Maybe the area is too remote, but it’s a shame that there aren’t more locals who take advantage of the opportunity to learn martial arts at the RC.

I taught Maddy, Ruby, Kato, and another visitor. It was a nice day out so we trained on the driveway. I tried to do drills that they don’t normally do, to give them a taste of something different. We did more pushups than they were used to, push ups and holding the push up position in a circle, and pantherwalk (AKA pantherhops). It wasn’t easy for them, but I was impressed by their effort to keep going. I’m not naturally athletic, so hopefully if they see me doing this, they’ll know that they can do it too.



To be continued…

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