Some readers are interested in the details of our training, so here you go!
The internal training was planned by the senior students and will stay for the most part. The new students mapped out an external training schedule and we’ll adjust as we go. Prior knowledge and experience will help, however, the goal is to strip everything down to the basics and rebuild. I have next to no experience on the internal side so I’m starting fresh. My understanding of the external side is shallow compared to what I’m about to learn.
Meditation (45 min, daily)
Meditation is going to be one of the most difficult practices for me. Problem #1: We are supposed to coordinate our breathing with the bell chimes on the audio track. My breaths are too short so for now, I’m trying to relax and extend them without straining myself. Problem #2: My mind is all over the place when I’m supposed to be finding my center. Problem #3: Whether or not I use the cushion, my legs keep falling asleep.
White Crane Qigong (15-45 min, 3 days)
My legs were shaking after squats on the first day, so my qigong practice was pretty much a bust. The next time was better and for now, I’m focusing on the forward and back pattern and in and out to the side pattern. I have one leg forward and the goal is to rock back and forth, pushing off the legs to drive the movements.
Taijiquan Applications/Discussion (1 hour, 2 days)
We’re starting with Qin Na techniques White Crane Nods its Head and White Crane Twists its Neck.
Taijiquan form (1 hour, 2 days)
I’ve learned part 1 of the solo form in the past, but it needs a lot of clean up. I’m focusing on the first few movements and working on opening/closing my chest and timing my leg movements with the waist, chest, and breaths.
Centering (20 min, 5 days)
It was extremely helpful to have the senior students break this down. The first step is to find the other person’s center and know which direction to push your opponent. If they stand square facing you, you can pull them forward or push them backward. If they stand at an angle, use the same idea of pushing or pulling in the directions where they can’t use their feet to find their root.
Next, we used one hand to push on our partner’s center and the partner had to sink (bend the knees) and turn their waist to neutralize and avoid losing their center. You also don’t want to lean and lose your center while you push.
The next step was to have one person use both hands to grab their shirt and use only their elbows to neutralize. The other person used their hands to push against the elbows. After that, you can both use your elbows.
This is new to me so I’m struggling with neutralizing, but since the other person knows what I’m doing, they can easily follow and push me off balance. Something to work on. Meanwhile, the senior students are practicing while standing on bricks…
Pushing Hands (20 min, 5 days)
Pushing Hands is mixed in with the Taiji Symbol. For Taiji Symbol, coiling is the main thing I’m working on in addition to feeling and timing. I started doing single Pushing Hands with the first 2 targets.
Taiji Ball (20 min, 5 days)
The goal is to build up the lower back muscles, practice the spine wave, and learn how to move in circles in different dimensions to better understand how to execute barehand and weapons techniques.
Chinese (1 hour, 6 days)
Jon and I can speak and understand a little Chinese, but our reading and writing skills are weak. This is tough because it’s up to us to design our own curriculum. We’re using one of Nicky’s workbooks for now, which are designed for students with our background.
- Sequences (~4 hours / week): Lian Bu Quan. We are to practice Lian Bu Quan and Gong Li Quan 1000 times and every other sequence 500 times. LBQ: 37, Gong Li Quan: 5, Beng Bu: 4. Side note: anything I did before does not count, not even a little bit.
- Weapons (1 hour, 2 days): We’re starting with sticks to do basic saber/sword drills solo and on a partner.
- Basic Stances (10 min, 2 days): I’m in charge of leading stance & kicks drills.
- Basic Kicks (10 min, 2 days)
- Reaction (20 min, 4 days): One person pushes against the partner’s chest or shoulders and the partner has to react by turning. Also added one person punching and the other blocks with white crane covers.
- Tumbling (50 min, 2 days): Basic forward rolls for now, sometimes ending with a spinning jump. Jump and roll over a stick. I used to take gymnastics from ages 2-7 and I wish I had learned how to do flips before I stopped. I stopped at front and back walk-overs.
Body conditioning –
For the 5YP students, the initial body conditioning phase will last 3.5 months. After 3.5 months, we will continue to do conditioning based on each individual’s needs, but also spend more time on sequences, applications, and reaction. Jon (the only person from the 10 year program) did this for 7.5 months and without days off (except Sundays). (The schedule now has no external training on Wednesday afternoons so people can catch up on media projects and articles.) Each student who joined after him has spent less and less time on conditioning. The 5YP students only have so much time, but we can also learn from the senior students on how to prioritize our training to maximize efficiency.
- Speed Training (5 min, daily): We’re working on building body structure and punching as fast as possible to build endurance. Right now, I’m just punching branches. Some days are better than others. The senior students punch at each other but with light contact. Sometimes they add weights.
- Squats (15 min, 2 days): There is no goal set by the program, so each individual sets their own. Some go for quantity. Some only do double legs while others do single. On Monday, I did 325 just because I didn’t know what else to do, so I did as many as I could. I had difficulty walking down the stairs the next two days, but now I feel okay.
- Mountain Running: About 1 mile on a 37 degree incline. Eventual goal: 50 lb weights in 12 minutes. I’m starting with no weights and clocking in at 14:42. I’m in a transitional phase where I’m gaining more muscle and therefore more weight, which makes it harder to run.
- Jumping (15 min, 4 days): 1) hold a stick and jump over it 2) jump over the railing 3) jump onto the wall or steps. Eventually, this becomes Monkey Running along the rails and trees (essentially basic parkour).
- Staff Wrist Conditioning (10 min, 4 days): Hold a staff and move it up and down, smilies, circles with the end as the center, in circles with your wrist as the center.
- Dan Tian (10 min, 4 days): We place one end of a staff on our Dan Tian (a few inches below your navel) and the other end between the wall and ground for stability and push; or against a partner with the staff at his/her Dan Tian.
- Leg Speed (10 min, 2 days): Jump and bring both knees up, single knee alternating, alternating kicking, stationary kicking, shuffle, hop in four corners.
- Pantherhops/Push Ups (10 min, 4 days): We’re coming up with creative ways to torture ourselves. Enrico is leading this.
- Staff Basics (20 min, 2 days): Sliding, normal and reverse grips, striking down and up.
- Bag Punching (10 min, 2 days): Focus on body structure and root on single bag, eventually move to multiple bags.
- Rooting (10 min, 2 days): On bricks, slowly adding crane patterns and eventually adding more bricks.
- Bars (10 min, 2 days): Pull ups, chin ups, dips. Enrico is leading this.
- Trampoline (10 min, 2 days): This is to help us with flips in tumbling. It’s a mental challenge and I usually open up in the middle of attempting a flip and crash.
- Core (10 min, 4 days): Nathan is in charge of leading variations of stomach & back training. He’s good at torturing us.
- High Logs (10 min, 2 days): 10 feet high. I’m taking time out of my break to get more training in for this. I’m scared of falling and haven’t gotten up to the top by myself yet. Working on the lower logs.
- Low Logs (5 min, 2 days): Logs are piled on top of each other and we run across them. It’s not so bad until you step on one that moves…
- Posts (10 min, 2 days): The posts are set up so that some are further away from others, and the idea is to hit them with a sense of enemy, meaning block or fake before striking against another one.
- Stumps (5 min, 2 days): This is pretty tough as well. The stumps are sitting on the ground but not in them, making them very unstable to land on.
- Horizontal & Vertical Rope (10 min, 2 days): The horizontal rope just takes more practice but it’s rather thin and can hurt your fingers. The vertical rope is a challenge for me since my upper body is weak compared to the guys. But I did climb further on my 2nd day.
- Cinderblocks (10 min, 2 days): We toss cinderblocks up and catch them with our fingers. We can flip them over, flip them in circles, or play catch with each other.
- Candle Watching & Punching (5-10 min, 4 days): Watch every small movement of the flames. Try to extinguish the flame with punches, palm strikes, or other strikes.
Body conditioning status: Bad in most areas
Physical changes: Quads and back muscles are noticeably more solid after just one week. I think my core and back muscles are getting bigger and stronger, and even helping my stomach take in more food. I’m eating more than my body needs at the moment and I will cut back (if I don’t look at the Nutella jar), but it’s as if my stomach is being conditioned and it no longer hurts to eat too much (is this bad?). I’ve gained about 6 lbs and I’m at 115. Jon says his body got bigger in the 1st year of training, then it shrank a bit as it adjusted to the training.
I’ll have to find out what my ideal body shape will be so that I can maintain speed and agility while having strength and power.
We survived week 1! Yes, I am sore. But the only major soreness was in my quads for days 2 and 3. I’m now only perpetually mildly sore in most areas. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.