Was this experience difficult, challenging? Yes, on many levels and for many reasons. While the prerequisite two-four week evaluation period experienced by candidates prior to acceptance into the program provided a good glimpse of how life could be here, it never revealed what comes to the surface from actually being here day in and day out over extended time. The physical demands of training daily coupled with the mandatory communal chores required resilience, resolve, rest, and the exercise of appropriate boundaries to preserve one's Self. The inevitable training injuries, strains, and sprains, fatigue, as well as emotional and psychological irritations would compound the stress at times. Additionally, personality quirks invariably made their appearances; usually invoked by the stress of the training. You know the saying--wherever you go, there you are...
How was this experience rewarding? Well, in many ways, it was/is a lifetime opportunity for me to study with one of the world's renown masters of traditional Chinese martial arts, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, and his students. The Taijiquan curriculum is well-structured with a progressive design that is both linear and circular--we progress along a clearly defined trajectory, but always place emphasis on the fundamentals. The experience is immersive and holds fast to building proper body structure and movement rooted in an understanding of the theory of Taijiquan. I now have a clear appreciation for the importance and value of partner drills and, as a result, am better able to execute the form and some of the relevant applications. My vocabulary for successfully teaching others has expanded considerably and I'm looking forward to being in that role again.
When it comes to the weapons, I have a new found fondness for the Taiji Saber. I still like the Bo Staff, but am happy to explore the Saber. I'm also considering learning the White Crane Double Short Rods when I return next semester.
The Qigong curriculum was purposely left up to our group to design. It has been an interesting approach and so far I've learned several medical and martial Qigong routines that I look forward to refining and teaching others: Eight Pieces of Brocade, 5 Animal Sports, 4 Seasons Qigong, Embryonic Breathing, and Soft White Crane Qigong. I also got some exposure to Qigong Massage which adds to my extensive bodywork training and experience.
Nothing can replace the specific and personal corrections that Dr. Yang provides to help improve my understanding of how to embody the principles of Taijiquan and Qigong. With his guidance, it has accelerated my learning and yet, I have so much farther to go...I remain excited and undaunted. I am more inspired to continue seeking and refining this craft of personal cultivation to be in a better position to teach and support others who desire to be at their very best in life.
There were moments here during this past year when it was very difficult to start my day or to continue it once I chose to begin--whether due to fatigue, physical pain, loneliness, and other circumstances. On those occasions, I summoned what I've always called on over the years to keep me going. It's an internal 'switch' I pull to shift me into gear in spite of how I might perceive a thing or feel. When I first started running X-Country in high school, I didn't know the trails and the running shoes they issued me didn't fit properly. So, I HAD to keep up with the front runners to avoid getting lost in the woods; especially those times when it would begin snowing during late fall/early winter and all I wore was a singlet and shorts. I never knew how to gauge my pacing because I didn't have experience running those 2.9 mile courses in Connecticut. Often, I'd feel like I was running out of gas and couldn't make it, but never, not once, did I not complete a race. In fact, I was typically able to catch and pass many of those ahead of me once I got a sense that the finish line was near. Then, I would sprint, if for no other reason than, to get those ill fitting shoes off my feet and to get warm.
Since those times, I've created opportunities to challenge my resolve to accomplish the various goals I've set. A favorite phrase I picked up along the way is "A quitter never wins and a winner never quits." For me, it underscores the truth that YOU are the one that has to do the work, put the time in to get to where you set your intentions. As Dr. Yang has shared with us, his teacher, who was a farmer, once told him to just put his head down and plow, plow without concern for who is or isn't doing or saying whatever might be a distraction to your resolve. And, while I wholeheartedly have proved this for myself over the years and agree with it, in this current endeavor I must thank each of you (you know who you are) who support me to make this possible. Without your love, caring, encouragement, and financial support this would be infinitely more difficult. Thank you sincerely!
I am looking forward to resting this summer from the rigors of our daily schedule here even though I will be busy teaching. And, I look forward to returning to 'the mountain' in the fall recharged for the second leg of my marathon run. Most likely, I'll write at least one post entry during the summer and I hope to see some of you to share my experiences with.
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A Quitter Never Wins and a Winner Never Quits!