Tag: Wushu forms

Shaolin Wushu Training: Listening to Carl Orff

I believe the only way to listen to Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna is REALLY LOUD.

Obviously I’ve been very busy being crazy writer lady locked in her wild eyrie shouting down the sky and raving in rage over pitches and other fun things.  And that certainly does take up an enormous amount of my energy.  However, less loudly, I have continued to work on my forms.  I can’t afford any more private lessons for them and this, now, becomes a huge incentive to become a more successful writer.  I want to be able to take private lessons all the time.  I’ve been doing my forms in 1/2 hour segments aiming for every other day (I found that every day was too much) but I’m managing to do them more like every two days.  Every single time I practice them I feel more powerful.  No one would ever know it looking at me.  Not yet.  Not now.  But I still have the optimism to believe that if I keep on doing them and keep on working on the things that are holding me back, someday I’m going to look like a person who trains hard at Kung Fu.  If I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t make myself do them at all.  I have to believe it because that’s part of what propels me forward.

My household is not a calm oasis.  It is not a place for quiet lone contemplation.  Not inside.  Not outside.  Not without aid.  I can’t do forms with my mom or Philip or Max talking to me or making noises around me so I’ve taken to listening to music on my headphones.  This works beautifully.  For some people meditation is a question of quiet, no noises, no thoughts in your head.  If you have normal brain wiring you will not understand what it’s like inside my head.  I am incapable of clearing my head of its own noise unless there is something to replace it.  I have come to laugh at those who insist that all I need to do is practice clearing my head and eventually I’ll be successful at it.  Not so.  If that were true I wouldn’t need psyche meds.  If that were true – it doesn’t matter because I know it isn’t true and I have spent many hours of my life working at meditating the usual way.  My parents were Buddhist hippies after all.  What is true is that with white noise is the only road to meditation for me though white noise thought to be soothing such as a babbling brook is distracting rather than soothing to me.  White noise in the form of music that engages my head without giving it the space to form thoughts- that gives me the calm in my mind to really meditate, to be in my body, to concentrate on breathing, and to truly relax.

Watching familiar movies has the same effect on my brain.  It calms, it distracts the part of my brain that NEVER STOPS NEVER SLEEPS NEVER STOPS NEVER STOPS NEVER STOPS.  This is why I love watching television via DVDs.  Watching movies or shows while doing forms would not provide the right frame of mind, however.

My favorite to listen to right now is Carl Orff’s “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana while doing them.  The last time I did forms I practiced doing them fast, fast and powerful.  I chose this song because it’s like a battle ax flying through the air victoriously dripping the blood of your enemy.  (It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, it works for every side).  It made me work harder.  It made me tighten my muscles when I punched and my pace wanted to increase without my even thinking about it.

Tonight I listened first to a version of “Ave Maria” sung by The Vienna Boys Choir.  Then I wanted to feel more power.  I put Carl Orff on and was going fast and really feeling it, but then, then I decided for the last five minutes I needed to practice at tai chi speed.

Imagine that you have a hundred thousand men with brutal looking iron and steel weapons clanking behind you, restless to charge, you can feel the heat of their breath behind you and you feel fire in your veins to charge, to RUN, to raise your own broadsword high and yell like a fiend- and with this fierce energy all around you and in you- you move in slow motion.  You go slower than a Superbowl replay.  You go slow enough to feel your muscles burning and shaking because you’re forcing them to hold hold hold in place and you’re sweating but even your sweat is slow.

It seems like it couldn’t work, like you’d explode or be crushed by the energy charging from behind and charging towards you and charging in your own bones.  It seems like if you don’t move fast you can’t possible harness a speck of power and you’ll be nothing but entrails on a mace.  Instead you have to feel all your power in your center.  You are storing it, using it to maintain stances that will be much more effective if you can hold them still for a long time or move gracefully from one to another.  Listening to a piece of music like Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna puts all this power in your mindset, it makes you feel like a great warrior but then when you make yourself move painfully slowly to it you take all that energy and it goes into your solar plexis rather than outwards.  It goes inward and makes you feel like steel.

Until you feel like putty because your muscles scream with the pain of having to hold such strong poses.

I love doing forms.  I think it’s changing how I feel about my own body.  Even in its current state.  It’s changing what I believe my body is capable of.

I know many people already know what forms are but in case you don’t have a clear idea of what they are I am going to include a youtube link I want you to watch.  I want you to watch it because I think you’ll get something out of this.  I’m going to post my favorite one which is of Kung Fu school doing a demo at Venice Beach California.  Not all of what they’re doing in the video is forms.  The kicking is not.  But a good part of it IS forms.  Then I’ll put a second link below it that’s only forms.  Please watch them because I think you’ll appreciate what I’m writing about more if you do.  I want to share forms with you all.  Please note that I am going to purchase the mp3 of this Chinese rap song because it’s fantastic!

LA Shaolin Kung Fu Demo

And then this one which is just the cutest Asian chick you don’t want to mess with doing forms:

Shaolin Taizu Chang Quan

One more.  Please, watch.  These are Shaolin monks and this looks more like battle training which is what forms is:

Shaolin Wushu Training and Demonstration

Love the music in that one and also- those are some kids that will NEVER be bullied. Time for me to wind down for bed.  Whatever way you choose to meditate and strengthen yourself, to work towards becoming a stronger better version of yourself, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone needs to find their own way.  My sister Tara goes on meditation retreats when she can and has been doing yoga for years.  My friend Ann also does yoga.  Many of my friends go to the gym or run.  Whatever way you choose, I just hope it makes you feel as empowered as forms makes me feel.


Friday Night Wushu Forms

Doing forms is quiet at first.  You move through your counts carefully, ticking off each part as you do it, counting them down, moving yourself through them.  It’s casual at first.  Like you could do this in a field full of butterflies and California poppies spreading open sleepily and your muscles are relaxed and maybe a little arrogant, as though you’ve just asked them to do nothing more strenuous than a breezy morning stretch.

Then it deepens and grows weighty.  Your muscles aren’t laughing anymore because while they were making fun of your light demands they are caught off guard by how deeply you’re sinking into each move, your knees bending more, your back getting straighter, and to keep doing the moves your head must now focus on what it’s asking your muscles to do.  They must coordinate, something they do all day every day but now it’s different.  It’s different because you’re asking your body to become equine in strength.

It isn’t enough to coordinate your mind to your muscles and bring your focus into your core, you have to breathe.  Something you do every single day all day long without cessation and you might think you’re pretty good at it.  But you’re not.  So you have to focus on your breathing being even and deep and in a rhythm with your movements which are beginning to make you sweat and you will find you need more oxygen than you thought.

Then you become a body of water held together tenuously by your skin and the water is rushing and fighting to break the tension that holds it in.  Maybe it’s because you start to feel your own blood pumping through your body, like a roar in your ears, and you push it and push it and push it some more.  You have to keep it as directed as possible while pushing it.  It feels like you have become a mad river heading for your origin.  The burning you feel as your muscles try to follow the water is like light.  Everything is connected.  Everything is fluid.

That’s when you stop fighting.  You become bones, blood, oxygen, and muscle moving together in a shared language.  It’s power choreographed to look like water.

Kung Fu Forms Class, and bad spinach salad

Last night I attended my first Kung Fu forms class.  I was, predictably, very anxious before class.  I was feeling it in my stomach.  (I have actually had an uneasy stomach quite a lot lately when eating, which is bizarre and probably means I’m dying) We had our family night out before my class which means we went to Golden Valley Pub for dinner.  I wasn’t really hungry but knew I needed some fuel before class so I got a spinach salad.  I’ve been thinking about ordering that salad again for months.  (I always order the nachos or once in a very blue moon I’ll get a veggie burger for a wild change of pace.  I don’t like to be disappointed when going out to eat.  Once I find something good on a menu at a restaurant I’ll pretty much never try anything new there again.)  The last time I got the spinach salad was a total flukish moment of complete madness and it turned out to be really good so I’ve been thinking about doing it again for months.

Most likely, at this point in my dawdling tale, you are either nodding your head vigorously saying things like “Exactly! Why mess with something sure?” or “You are the most reasonable person I’ve ever listened to, go on!”  OR you’re feeling really impatient and annoyed at the ridiculousness of anyone taking months to try to work up the guts to order something different, especially when they already know it’s good because they’ve tried it once before.

I ordered the spinach salad and an American Pale Ale.  I love spinach.  I love Pale Ale.  However, this time the spinach salad was a serious disappointment.  It was oily without the lemon that’s supposed to be in the vinaigrette (and which I very much enjoyed last time) and the spinach was a little tough and their grilled onions were crunchy (I don’t like food that’s half cooked, either give it to me raw or make sure that when you grill it is isn’t limp AND toothsome).  Total fail.  Plus my stomach was not feeling well what with all the anxiety about the class.  I couldn’t finish the salad.

Sometimes I want to get into the kitchens of restaurants and show them how to do their business.  I am not professionally trained but I have often thought that professional training leaves much to be desired.  Give me home cooks any day of the week and I’ll have just as good a chance of getting great food as I do from eating out.  Maybe I only say that  because most of my friends are great cooks.

(I just avoided saying something scathing about cooks who make things like “Snickers salad”)

Wait, that just reminds me that I wanted to ask how it is that so many people have “extra” candy bars just lying around their houses that they feel they need to find ways of using in their cooking.  Candy bars only enter my house once a  year and they make a swift exit.  If you find you constantly have random bags of candy bars lying around exasperating you, I think you should STOP BUYING THEM instead of finding as many ways as possible to pollute otherwise decent wholesome home baked desserts with chopped up Mars bars or whatever kind of candy you “accidentally” put in your shopping carts.  When I saw that someone made a “salad” using candy bars, that was just the outside of ENOUGH.

You have probably guessed by now that I will not order the spinach salad ever again.  I forgot to mention that the kid was in a turmoil over the fact that we didn’t get a real booth last night.  We make reservations and always ask for a booth.  This is because we all hate open seating.  We got one of their half-booths last night and the kid went into a tailspin of discontent.  (I don’t like the half booth either but as I’m a veteran mentally ill person I have learned to cope- mostly- better).

After dinner Philip and Max went to Philip’s office (he wasn’t quite done working) and I walked to Kung Fu.  Walking a little before class was great because it released a little bit of my relentless tension.  I stretched before class (a really good thing to do since I am constantly injuring myself doing anything physical) and class began.

Forms class is basically doing the horse stance for an hour.  If you have ever done the horse stance* for 60 seconds you will appreciate what an hour of it would feel like.  Kung Fu forms are amazing!  I have watched some of the blackbelts in our school doing them and it’s such a beautiful and graceful set of movements meant to replicate different battle actions.  If you’re having trouble imagining what it might look like then think of Tai Chi.  It’s not unlike it in a general way though my Kung Fu teacher would certainly jump in here and cut my head off for not being very specific and rattling off the huge differences between them which are not known to me.  Forms is exactly what I need right now.  You are in a class with other people doing forms but it’s solitary, you don’t work in teams, you don’t get in each other’s faces or touch each other.  It’s solitary and inward.  It is about intensely focused actions that you practice over and over and over.

I am self conscious about being the only fat person in Kung Fu.  I do feel I look ridiculous.  I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do.  I did NOT let this thought permeate my head while I was doing it, it kept coming to me and I kept pushing it aside so that I could breath through the movements.  What occurred to me was that if I continue to revise my eating habits during the week and keep working on reigning in the beer habit, and if I were to practice forms a few minutes every day in addition to riding my bicycle to run errands, I might actually make some progress and become less fat.  However, there is also high risk of ankle and knee injury so we’ll see how that goes.  It felt great to be back on my Kung Fu path.  I don’t know how long I’ll need a break from taking the regular classes and I don’t want to worry about it.  I really do want to get my black belt and the longer I stay away from the regular classes the longer it will take me.

What’s important right now is to reduce the number of things I’m pushing myself over.  I have until I die to earn my black belt.  I have until I die to publish a book.  I have until I die to grow things and be a good parent.  Since the parenting is something I have to work on all the time without breaks, I must give myself breaks in other areas of my life.  Because I have to write every day or have my head explode, I choose to push myself with the novel writing.  So Kung Fu must be the place where I let myself not push quite so hard.  This feels right, and it feels good.

I am so sore today, but in a happy way.

Now I’m going to shower and ride my bicycle to the Saturday market for some produce.  Hopefully we will all go picking nettles later today.  Maybe I can get my mom to take me back to Grand Island.  The nettles will all go to seed soon, if they aren’t already.

Go do something nice for yourself.

*Horse Stance and you can read more about Kung Fu forms here.