At the start of Week 5, Jon said, “By the way, we’re testing you guys tomorrow.” I don’t think any of us were particularly worried because the results would be reference points for us to set goals for the end-of-semester tests. It would also help us and the senior students plan our schedules and progressions for each drill.
During tests, sometimes you do worse and sometimes you do better than usual. Sometimes you get tested on things you’ve never practiced before. This was one of those times when we were tested on our levels + 1 (sometimes + 2 or 3). We had to use what we knew and apply it in more challenging settings.
The 2 days of testing were more mentally than physically draining for everyone involved. Hearing critiques is necessary for improvement and I’m grateful the senior students care so much about us. But it does take its toll when you do poorly on something and have a few more hours to go.
In the end, it was okay. I felt good about some areas and bad about others, but they evened out. It’s just a test. The next day, you continue practicing. For the next few days, the critiques started to sink in and some (probably all) of us were frustrated. It’s harder to reprogram years’ worth of habits than it is to learn something new. I’m including the LONG list of drills in case anyone wanted to compare their corrections and development with mine.
Results (what I can remember):
Day 1 (10/1/2013):
- Tumbling (tripod, elbow tripod, cartwheels, jump over a stick) – I was thrilled about jumping over the stick at solar plexus level (personal best), but then I had a bumpy landing and said, “Oh crap” out loud. (We land in a handstand and do a forward roll)
- Centering: Too tense (no surprise)
- Coiling (solo): I was one of the students who mixed up when to pluck and seal. It’s yin = pluck and yang = seal, as yang is the more aggressive coil.
- Mountain Running: 16:20 with 16 lbs (- 23 sec from previous time with same weight and personal best) [I’m starting to eat less before my runs, including the previous night’s dinner] – YAY
- Staff Wrist Conditioning: This was our first “surprise” or NEW (for me). We usually do the same drill 20-30 times and switch to a different one. For our test, we had to mix them up. I felt okay with mixing them up, but the staff started to feel heavy and I didn’t have full control of my movements. Some of our shoulders and stances began to rise. It just takes continuous practice to build strength.
Dan Tian Conditioning: When I push off my back leg from Si Liu Bu to Deng Shan Bu, my body comes up instead of going forward (no surprise). On the push (hand on the other person’s dan tian), I need to keep my body and arm connected. I could definitely feel a difference when I lost/won. Extra credit went to anyone who could go against visitor Gray.
- Rails – NEW. It was my first time trying to jump onto/over the rail. I was still working on the much lower wall. I was really afraid of banging my shins and my first 3 tries were basically just jumping upwards. On the last 2, I made it up on the rail, but not over. I guess I should be content, but I am way behind compared to the other students. They’re already monkey running.
- Wall – This was also a challenge for me and I have that same fear of breaking my shins. We had to jump on and off the wall as fast as we could for 1 minute. My legs felt heavier than usual. My landings were heavy.
- Stick (jump over forward and backward) – This has been a weird drill for me. On some days, I do okay, on others, fear creeps in (again, it’s the shins, and I have bruises to prove it). I did better than I’ve ever done before, but I’m behind in this drill.
- Steps – I made my usual 3 steps. I used my whole body to jump and the senior students noted it was good form/technique. I need to get 4 steps.
- Vertical Rope – It was slippery and I did worse than usual.
- Horizontal Rope – I haven’t been practicing this as much because I’ve been focused on the other log drills. The rope is thin and hurts. I did better than ever did before as I made it halfway through, but I lost of a lot points. Everyone else made it all the way across.
- High Logs – NEW. On the previous day, I got up (with 10 fingers from Nathan) and walked along the walls for the first time since over a year ago. The week before, I managed to crawl up, but I couldn’t actually stand up so I sat there. For the test, I hopped up by myself (pretty quickly, said Jon) and walked along all the logs with ropes in about 1:26. A whole lap is counted as going across all logs (including ones without safety ropes) and across the horizontal rope. – YAY
- Low Logs – NEW. I never timed myself before and just walked at a leisurely pace to build balance. We had to go across the logs 4 times. I did it in 51 seconds, which was slower than everyone else, but it’s a start.
- Stumps – NEW. I’ve also never timed myself on these. We had to go across 2 times and I did it in 49 seconds and touched the ground once. Again, slower than everyone else, but it’s a start. To put things in perspective (or out of perspective?), the fastest student can do it in 14 seconds. Others were around 20-30s.
- Cinderblocks – NEW. We usually toss them for a bit and stop for breaks. We had to push it and toss them continuously for 2 minutes and then 1 minute with a partner. I dropped it a lot and I’m probably below expectations, but all I can say is that I’m better now than when I started.
- Iron Board Bridge – We had to do at least 2 minutes of stomach training, longer if we could hold it. I did it for the minimum and stopped. Then I decided to push myself so I had the plank for as long as I could. I went for 4 minutes and stopped. Then I did 2 more for extra credit.
Day 2 (10/2/2013):
- Taijiquan Solo Form Part 1: I felt really nervous having all the senior students lined up watching us. I forgot to peng (can this be a verb?) in the 2nd posture and that messed me up for the rest of the sequence. I didn’t have much balance on the kicks, leaned forward, stuck my butt out (recurring problem), rushed, legs finished movements before the rest of my body, and my movements were too small. I was really unhappy with my performance, but it happens.
- Taiji Symbol: I felt more stiff than usual due to nerves. Sometimes I turn my palm from in to out too early (before crossing the centerline) and sometimes my knee locks out in Si Liu Bu (although I think this only happens during this drill).
- Taiji Ball: Same forward lean and stuck my butt out.
- Saber & Staff: NEW. We had to mix up the drills from taiji saber, something we’ve never done before. I stuck with these drills, although I later realized I could’ve used the techniques I learned from Qi Xing Dao and San Cai Jian. I felt more confident with staff and used what I knew from the 4 sequences I’ve learned.
- Stances & Kicks: I had led most of the drills during regular training since I had the most YMAA experience out of the new students. We thought the 1st semester would be more focused on body conditioning, so we didn’t spend as much time on stances as we should have, and I felt responsible.
- Push ups / Pantherhops: We were asked to show the variations of push ups we do when we train. I felt comfortable with pantherhops since we did it in almost every class at Andover. – YAY
- Reaction: One person punched while the other had to do covers on the opposite side (right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand). We didn’t score very high.
- Posts & Bags (3 min): These stations condition our limbs and build sense of opponent (treating each post/bag as an opponent). This was tough since we don’t feel like we know what we’re doing. We need to use and create distance, vary our strikes and target heights, be mindful of groin protection, vary power and speed, block before attacking, have lower stances and better root, and use the spine and chest more.
- Trampoline (2 min): I need to get over my fear. I realized that when I attempt a forward flip, I don’t jump as high as I could and I prepare to land on my bum (it’s more like a somersault). Part of the problem is: I have no idea what it feels like to land on my feet.
- Bars: I did 3 pull ups and 2 chin ups in a row, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I haven’t been able to do that since I was about 10 and I weigh more now. I did better on the dips and chest dips.
- Rooting on bricks (3 min): On one brick, I did white crane qigong patterns, sometimes with jing. Unsurprisingly, my butt stuck out, I didn’t turn my waist enough, I rose up in my stance, and my jing didn’t come all the way out. Our goal is to stack up 3 bricks and do the patterns with jing.
- Candle punching: I lean and stick my butt out. When I do the palm strike, I need to pull straight back and not down. I have to stay sunk in my stance. I got a few out with the palm but none with a punch.
- Sequences: This was the very last thing and we were drained after 2 days of tests. Lian Bu Quan is the first sequence YMAA students learn. I must have done several hundreds by now, but I will always make mistakes. I need to not blink, have more sense of opponent, use my chest and legs to get the power out (not just the arms). At this level, I have to link the movements. Next, I did Gong Li Quan and my power wasn’t coming from the legs. I understand the theory and I tell my students all the time, but it’s tough for me to apply it when I’m fatigued. I’ve also developed bad habits in fear of hurting my knee again. I can do much better and don’t really know what happened this time. Xiao Hu Yan had better power and intent than the first 2 sequences, probably because it’s one of my favorites. But I needed to fix form corrections, get lower, and transition between stances.
Butt-sticking-out problem: I think it’s my butt getting bigger (stronger). Maybe it’s not the only thing, but I think this and my leaning problems may be related to my ankle flexibility issues.