Saturday, June 30, 2018

I CAN do it...

Nothing compares to the feeling of having set a goal and accomplishing it! Nothing... Today, June 30th, is my final day “on the mountain” for this second year of the program. I slept later than usual since there was no group meditation this morning. When I finally got out of bed, I was focused on finishing my packing to get ready to leave in the afternoon to catch my evening flight to San Francisco.

As I moved about, I realized I wanted to take advantage of the morning to do some conditioning and review a couple of the sequences (Taiji Saber, Taiji Sword, and the Taijiquan form itself). Sitting in the airports between flights, as well as, the 5-6 hours on the plane itself was not appealing; especially after all the moving and training I’ve been doing these past 6 months. So, I skipped breakfast...

I began with Panther Crawling up the hill. I then did my trampoline push downs followed by pull ups and chin ups. Afterwards, I went to the enclosed gym and did my HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine using the 70 pound kettlebell (squats and swings). When I left the gym, I walked down the hill toward the main building. As I approached the vertical climbing rope, it beckoned me to the challenge.

Earlier this semester, I severely strained my right shoulder and had to stop climbing the rope as well as curtailed and/or modified several of the solo and partner drills. As my shoulder slowly healed, I promised myself to climb the rope all the way to the top before I left this semester. I made some good faith efforts along the way which were encouraging because I didn’t reinjure or aggravate the shoulder. I just didn’t have the extra power and strength to make it to the top.

Additionally, the focus of the past two months shifted to managing my time and energies around all the varied guests and prospective candidates for the upcoming new 3-Year Training program that begins in September. This last month, the focus was on preparing for the graduation ceremony for the Shaolin students. Needless to say, I hadn’t paid much attention to my climbing goal. However, this morning there it was right ahead of me.    

At first, I wavered a bit. My arms felt good. It was my mind. I felt doubtful and a little nervous, too. Then again, I always felt nervous every time I got ready to climb the rope even when I had no problem doing it before. So, I reconciled those thoughts and feelings and made up my mind to do it. There was no one else around. I gripped the rope firmly; right hand above my head, left hand just below my chin; elbows tucked in tight. I took a few deep breaths and used my legs to literally jumpstart me upwards.

I surprised myself the first few feet because it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. However, not long after that feeling, the doubt returned. I fought it off each time I pulled my body up. It got more difficult and there was a moment when I felt like completely giving up, but it was the furthest I had climbed up the rope since I had stopped. I paused for a microsecond and then committed myself to reaching the top no matter what. And I did it! It wasn’t elegant and smooth. In fact, it was pretty ugly, but I did it. I didn’t give up on myself. I didn’t give in to the doubt and fear.

I descended slowly and part way down I had to use my legs to help. In the past, I was able to climb up and down just using my arms. I know that will come again. I know I can...

It took me several minutes to gather my wind and emotions after I got to the bottom. It’s been a long time for me not being able to make it to the top. Now I know I can again...

Once I got my wind back, I Panther Crawled down the hill to the main building. I spent some time doing the Taiji Sword basics and the Taiji Saber sequence and then called it a day. Now I’m ready to leave the mountain...


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Faith, Discipline, Tenacity, and Diligence...

Sunrise at the Retreat Center
Faith has always been about things unseen for me. Absent of any concrete evidence to support one’s dream, there is this steadfast belief that a way is possible to fulfill it. And more than belief, there is the behavior, the actions that eventually shape the journey and manifest the goal. “Faith without works is dead.” -James 2:14-26 New King James Version

Yesterday, June 23, 2018, we celebrated the first graduating class of the YMAA Retreat Center training program! This was the initial culmination of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s vision to preserve the traditional Chinese martial arts and culture. Jonathan Chang trained here for 10 years, Javier Rodriguez and Frank Verhülsdonk trained for 9 years, Quentin Lopes trained for 6 years (and will be returning for an additional 3-5), and Michelle Lin, Piper Chan, and Enrico Tomei trained for 5 years. They trained in Shaolin White Crane, Long Fist, and Yang Family Style Taijiquan barehand and weapons.

To view this momentous event, Google the YMAA Retreat Center FaceBook page and either scroll down the Home page to yesterday’s live-stream video or click on the Videos button on the leftside of the page to open the video section. Once the video begins, make sure to turn up your volume on your device as well as on the video screen itself. You’ll see a variety of individual and partner demonstrations of barehand and weapons sequences performed by the graduates as well as members of the current 3-Year Training program; presentations by Dr. Yang and special guests; and the ceremony for accepting the new disciples into the YMAA family.

Dr. Yang provided the unique environment, opportunity, and mentorship for these young men and woman to experience this journey of self-mastery. The sponsors of the Retreat Center, the local community, and the families and friends gave their financial and moral support to help them achieve this goal. Most importantly, however, it is the graduates’ discipline, tenacity, and diligence which got the job done. This ability to make their bodies, minds, and emotions bend in service to their wills has rewarded their faith in themselves, Dr. Yang, and their process of personal, moral, and spiritual cultivation.

Yesterday was an inspiration for me! With just 5 days remaining now to conclude my second year of training, my aspirations have been further bolstered. The phrase, “Anything worthwhile having is worthwhile working for...” comes to mind and I understand it with crystal clarity. The challenges of a strained shoulder, recurrence of vertigo from a 21-year old car accident, and just the fatigue from these past 6 months of training stymied some of my goals this semester. Nevertheless, I learned so much and am looking forward to this summer’s break to then return for my final year “on the mountain.” Tomorrow we begin 2 days of oral testing on Qigong. Thereafter, we’ll devote time to preparing the Retreat Center for the summer seminars which commence in July.

Thank you, again, for all of your support these past two years! Perhaps we’ll see each other during the summer. I’ll be co-teaching a Tai Chi and Qigong workshop with my teacher, Quentin Lopes on July 14th in New York. The deadline for registering was 2 days ago, but if you’re still interested, please call me: (914) 482-3984, to see what arrangements we can make to have you join us.
Yin-Yang Symbol Partner Drill