I haven’t posted for a little while. I recently went through a slump with kung fu. It started because I had to really focus on moving, which took about two weeks of my time. After that I found it incredibly difficult to get back into it. I had gotten out of it before, but this time I couldn’t get motivated. Maybe it was because I was getting distracted by work and my girlfriend, or maybe it was someting else.

I’m quite pleased to write that I am out of the slump. I still am not sure what caused it, but I’ve fallen back in love with kung fu. Expect more posts to be coming soon!

Today in class I was doing terrible. I was messing up basic stepping and not remembering my basic form properly. I attribute part of it to not eating all day so I was really weak and not feeling well, but I can’t place all the blame on that. I should note that as a vegetarian if I don’t eat enough protein then I get really weak, which happened.

It was a humbling experience. Not like I thought I was all that or flawless, but I thought that I was better than I was tonight.

One thing that I really love about kung fu, and all martial arts, is that if you start feeling down about your skills or proficiency there is a really easy fix. Train. Practice. Meditate. So thats what I must now do. As in earlier posts, I always think I should be training harder and more than I am, and that goes for this post a well. On Sunday, I’ll be working on the things I did poorly tonight.

I recently totaled my car, so I’ve been biking everywhere. Oh man, what a treat it has been. I freaking love it. Its great cardio, it builds up the leg muscles, and its extremely satisfying getting places on your own power.  Its been about 2 weeks, maybe 3, and my legs have been transformed. I considered them strong before, but now they are something new altogether. I know my legs still have a long way to go too, its exciting to see the progression.

However, I did make the mistake of replacing running with bicycling. A mistake  I realized tonight. It had been a week or two since my last run, but I had been bicycling everywhere, so I figured I’d be ok. I ran tonight, and I was wrong. Running is an entirely different beast. Running works out the respiratory system to a much more intense degree than bicycling, while bicycling works out the thighs far more than running. Both have their own merits, but one does not prepare entirely you for the other. Maybe if you’ve been bicycling for years it will, but my 7 or 8 months of running didnt prepare me well for the bike, and when I went back to running after bicycling I was winded a lot earlier than I thought.

The morale of the story is that both must be done to gain the benefits they each offer. One cannot replace the other. I’ll be running at night, and bicycling around town from now on. I’ll still be purchasing a car, but thats mainly because I still need to go to the chiropractor which is way too far away to bike. I think the combination of both methods of cardio and leg building will prove worthwhile.

A course is a method of tracking my progress and clearly stating my objectives for personal kung fu enrichment. It takes backseat to anything learned in class and anything I feel needs to be practiced to keep up in class. It’s tailored to my current weaknesses, and is in no way a guide to practicing kung fu.

Course: Building The Cranes Foundation

Level: Elementary

Time Frame: 1 month

Objective:

  • To build the whole body connection.
  • To build muscles concerned with punching and kicking.
  • To drill the basic 4 attacks so that they become instinct.
  • To discover the subtle intricacies in punching.
  • To increase overall flexibility and fluidity.
  • To be able to fall into each basic stance with ease, transition between them smoothly, and proficiently launching attacks from them.
  • To gain a deeper understanding of the technique of the 4 basic attacks.
  • To improve my overall health and fitness

Contents:

  • A routine of stretches, chi kong excersizes, and calisthenics daily.
  • Completing 1,000 punches and 1,000 kicks on alternating days.
  • A once a week round of 500 run throughs of Basic 1 (first form taught in class).
  • 35 minutes of standing each day (side crane, front crane, horse, cat stance: each for 5 minutes, other than horse stance each stance has two sides)
  • Light jogging every morning

There is a Fresh N Easy maybe a 1/4 miles walk from my house. So, I walked there. Today, forgetting that I had walked, I loaded up with a full months supply of groceries. I brought my backpack, but that hardly helped. I ended up walking back with probably 20 lbs in each hand and 40 lbs on my back. Talk about training! I was trying to keep my knees bent and my fists clenched the entire time. I just got back and my shoulders feel so loose and my legs are quite warmed up.  I’ll have to do this more often!

Also, Fresh N’ Easy has amazingly cheap produce. I got a lot of fruits and vegetables, eggs, soy milk, some cereal, and random other things for about 60 bucks. Damn worth it n my book.

I have something that I affectionately call “The Routine”. Its a group of exercises I do as often as possible to maintain blood flow and flexibility. It was great at the beginning, but lately its been lacking. I’ve taken the old routine and changed the way its done and added another two steps to it. It may take a bit more time, but with tweaks here and there and increasing the time as I get stronger, it’ll help keep me in kung fu shape and build a great foundation for what we learn and do in class. I should note I do other drills and technique training outside of class, the routine is ideally done before anything else. This isn’t always true, but its ideal.

Unfortunately I’m not going to go into the exact exercises that are within the routine, I don’t have time for that. I will make a static page about it later, this post is about three changes to the routine.

The first is how the stretches and warm-ups are performed. Since I’ve started, I’ve taken a given stretch and held it for 2 seconds for 10 reps per stretch. While this wasn’t bad for the beginner, its now clear why my flexibility wasn’t improving. The change is to take a given stretch, get into it, and hold it for a minute. I’m combining this with a recent tip from a friend to bend at the waist and not the back when bending, which takes stretching to the next level and is really what makes holding it for a minute so worthwhile. While a minute doesn’t seem that long, when you’re getting as deep into a given stretch as possible time seems to slow down. As I’m able to bend further and feel less exhausted after the minute, I’ll be increasing the time. A side effect is that it makes it really easy to stay on track when warming up (I often get lost in playing with new ways to stretch, which is great when there’s time set aside for it but I try not to waste time when I’m just warming up). The stretching routine takes about 20 minutes. I did it for the first time tonight and I’m still fine tuning which stretches to do.

The second addition to the routine is stance training. I hold each stance I know for 5 minutes. This includes the following for now:

- Side Crane Stance

- Front Crane Stance

- Horse Stance

- Cat stance

While this may not seem like much, each stance (other than horse stance) has two sides, which will each be done for 5 minutes. With a few minute breaks here and there, it should take about 35 minutes. If you aren’t familiar with kung fu stances it may not seem like much, but just bend like you’re sitting down on air and hold that for as long as you can. Maybe at some point I’ll add a description of the stances, but alas that is not now. It was extremely gruelling. However, I definitely recommend it.

The third addition is punching. I do a number of drills to build punching power and speed in the warmup/stretching part of the routine. However, it occurred to me that while I do all these things to build up punching skill, I don’t do very much punching. That makes no sense. Now, I’ll be doing the two punches in my system 500 times a day each. So 1000 punches a day. It may be every other day because life happens, but ideally it’ll be every day. I just completed the first run through and it was amazing. I haven’t been so sweaty and sore in a long time! With the first 100-200 punches I was muscling it, then you get sore and start to realize the technique behind shifting weight and twisting the waist to throw the punch. Its like what Sifu always says, its best to practice kung fu when tired or sore because the body will do things in the most efficient way possible. Eventually I’ll be doing this with kicks, but for now my body is destroyed by 1000 punches. Maybe next week.

While this seems like it takes a long time, it really doesn’t. A solid hour or two, but that’s less than most people spend at the computer or watching tv a day.

I’m out of town visiting my family and didnt want to stop running, so I ran. I put on the headphones and was so excited at the new running paths and trails and places to go that I zoned out and ran. I stopped from time to time to work on some excersizes and did some very light interval training. After about an hour, I realized I had no idea how to get back home. So embarrasing. I called the family and none of them answered, so I just kept running around. Eventually someone answered and they came and picked me up. Worse morning running experience ever!

I was watching that Kenichi anime I’m so obsessed with, and the main character was insecure about his progress and fighting ability (I can relate). His master tells him that when he thinks he’s not strong enough, train. When he thinks he’s not fast enough, train. And so on. That really hit home. Lately I’ve been worrying about so many aspects of my kung fu, but theres no point in worrying. Just train.

I’m taking this to the next level. Training cures everything. Well, as far as mental issues go. I was feeling depressed earlier today about some bullshit, so I started stretching and doing punching drills.  BAM I felt amazing and back to normal. I didn’t even care about what was getting me down because I felt so great.

I’m visiting family and asked my brother in law to spar. He’s a very athletic guy, but has no martial arts training. He’s wrestled and fought around with friend, actively plays all kinds of sports and hits the gym, and so on. He’s in much better shape than I am.

During the sparring match I got a few decent punches in, but it was overall embarrassing. He was throwing me around like I was nothing. He didn’t hit and stop and such like in some sparring matches, he just kept driving and kept attacking. I should note that this is also what my school teaches, but I wasn’t doing it. I havent learned any sparring in school yet. There were a few times where I was able to counter a hold or get him in one, but I definitely lost the match.

This reinforces the recent posts and thoughts I’ve been having. I need to train more, and more strenuously when I do train. I need to drill my punches and kicks so that they become instinct. I also need to be stronger in general and start regularly building muscle. He suggested I learn more grappling moves and such, but that isnt what my style teaches. They teach using speed and evasion to avoid grappling and holds. However, he brought up a good point. What if you encounter someone that’s faster than you that does grappling. My speed would be useless. I’m going to continue with my current plan of strictly studying kung fu, but I’ll be keeping that in mind. I believe that with this style and with my goals with kung fu I’ll be able to dominate people who use throws and grapples

Its definitely worth emphasizing that I am not proficient in my style of kung fu. I believe that if I were, I would not have had the shortcomings that I had and would’ve done much better and ideally win.

Tomorrow we’ll be sparring again, and properly warming up. This time we just dove into it, which definitely held me back. I usually get a full stretch routine in before class and am not so tense. Granted I need to be always relaxed and ready to fight without stretching, but for now its necessary.

About 3 months ago I was huge into energy. Chi. Life Force. Whatever you want to call it. Either way most people go to that annoying new agey place with it. Anyway, I used to spend atleast 30 minutes a day meditating, and every day I did a standing meditation routine called The 5 Elements. On top of all this, I did heavy stance training. I was at the point where I could move chi around my body.

Note the past tense.

I dont know what happened, but I lost touch with the internal side of the white crane style.  Since I have, I’ve noticed a lot less awareness of my movements. Today in class I was sloppy and felt so disconnected. Stance training establishes the connection and generates chi, and I need to do it more. I did a fair amount in class today. I stayed an hour or so after class to work on various things, stance training being one of them.

I’m going to make a conscience effort to set aside training time for meditation. Even a little bit before and after class would be beneficial. I cant ignore what is regarded as the most powerful aspect of kung fu.

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