It was exactly 4 weeks ago that I returned back here "on the mountain" to resume my training. Like magic, I was transported by the wizards of United Airlines from the hot, humid, and rank city streets of Harlem, New York to this Northern California butte in the dark of night. When I finally arrived ten hours later at the Retreat Center around 1:30 in the morning, the most obvious difference was how exquisitely quiet it was compared to Harlem. I could actually see ALL of the stars in the night sky. And, the air was so fresh and sweet, breathing was like drinking down a cold glass of water every time I inspired.
The first week here felt as if a month had quickly come and gone. Now that a month has passed, the tempo is synchronizing to real time and my body and mind are finding a sane rhythm with which to complete this final year. Can you believe it (ironically, I'm now listening to "I've Known Rivers" by Gary Bartz...)-I'm at the tail end of the program already? Our graduation is tentatively scheduled for June 22, 2019. As I have more details, I'll pass them along to you.
It's my humble opinion that this program should have really been at least 4 years, if not 5 years, long. Three years is not sufficient time to grasp, practice, and embody all of the curriculum qualitatively. This is especially true of the partner-based training drills. Truth be known, this is a lifetime devotion and I will continue to train even after I graduate, still in search of that elusive 'power'. Practice makes progress...
While the graduates of the 10 and 5-year programs are no longer officially here en masse, several have returned as temporary guests focused on polishing up their areas of personal interest. It's good to have them here to answer training questions that come up unexpectedly. Our 3-Year group is down to only 2 active students. We're missing one teammate who will join us sometime this fall. We originally began with six. There are also five new students in the new 3-Year Program group and they are going through those initial pains of accommodating themselves to the daily grind. They are very enthused and dedicated to learning.
At the end of our first week, Dr. Yang strongly recommended my teammate and I do our Centering drills on bricks. This is to help us create a deeper ability to root when we're not standing on them. It's been a great practice to firm up our equilibrium. We are also 3/4 of the way through learning the Taiji Sword sequence. Of all the weapon sequences we have been taught, by far the Taiji Sword is my favorite. Grace and power are intricately woven together in a way absent from the other weapons (Staff, Saber, and Spear). I haven't been taught the White Crane Two Short Rods yet which I'm highly attracted to as well. So, I'll see how they fare against the sword...
We (Nona Ikeda and I) began learning the Taiji Fighting set. It is the extension and integration of the other skills we have been training these past two years: Pushing Hands, Yin-Yang Symbol, Taijiquan Form, Peng-Lu-Ji-An, Qin Na, and Applications. The set is a choreographed sequence that will prepare us to better execute our applications.
Video courtesy of Quentin Lopes
My conditioning is pretty much on target. I'm really happy to be back Panther Crawling up and down the hills at least 3 days weekly. My shoulder has improved considerably even though a slight twinge lingers. Yesterday I climbed up the vertical rope a little a little more than 1/2 way just using my hands and arms. It was a good climb, but didn't include speed yet. I resumed my pull ups, chin ups and dips this afternoon and will continue doing all of the hand and grip strengthening drills. My goal is to make it to the top in 10 seconds or less before the end of this semester which ends in 11 weeks.
On the Qigong front, we are doing the complete sequence of all the animals in the 5 Animal Sports routine. It takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and feels great to transition from the Tiger to Deer to Bear to Monkey and finally to Bird. The most challenging of them is one of the movements in the Monkey routine-combing. That really works the feet, knees, and buttocks!
We'e still doing Four Seasons Qigong and I've been practicing the All Seasons set on the bricks as well. I'm also now standing on 3 bricks doing Central Pole (Embracing the Tree).
With 11 weeks remaining in this first semester, there are several areas that I'm focused on: Qin Na, Applications, Taijiquan Form medium speed, the Fighting Set, and Taiji Sword. I'll keep you updated on how I'm progressing.
Thanks, again, for all of your encouragement and support!