Dylan will be writing about his solo trip to China through a series of articles titled “Journey to Wudang Mountain: The Home of Taoist Gung Fu.” This is Part 2 of the series. Follow along to see how he got there, what his Gung Fu training is like, and how he deals with international travel alone. Read Part 1 here.
Eat. Train. Sleep. Sweat.
So I am half asleep, in a daze, in the back of a taxi headed up the mountain to my final destination — Wudang Dragon Gate Kung Fu School. We are driving through rural China from Shiyan to Wudang Shan. The road is littered with strange looking buildings and half-finished sidewalks. It seemed to me to be a country in the midst of development.
We ascended up a hill and drove under a large stone gate. The car stopped and a guy waiting in front of the school hopped up and opened the taxi door. He was a very young and vibrant, and he would be one of my coaches at the school: Peng Tao. I grabbed my bags and he brought me up to my room. Another man who would be my roommate greeted me: Tang. He spoke a little English just like I spoke a little Chinese.
After brushing my teeth and showering Tang and I had a short conversation. Introducing each other and trying to speak each other’s language; we laughed and smiled before turning the lights off to go to sleep. The bed was a hard box spring with a thin but cushy mat, a pillow, and blanket. It was not something I would call comfortable but I already felt like at home. I was in a foreign country, with a foreign person, in a strange building and it was the safest I had felt since I left. I was excited for the next day waking up in the mountains of Wudang. I drifted off to sleep.
HUUUUU-PTUUH. Someone spit outside, then young children yelling in Chinese, the crow of a rooster, and no sun.
It was 5 a.m. “Holy crap I am in China!” I thought. I laid in bed tired, sore from the hard bed and smiling. “This is my life for the next month.” I smiled harder. I soon fell back asleep until I was woken by the sound of Tang preparing for training and the yellow sun pouring in through the barred window. After getting up I put my clothes in the large cabinet, brushed my teeth, ate a bun injected with some strange cream from last nights flight and a young woman burst through the door. “You come with me,” she said. This was Chong Qin who would be my main coach for learning Bagua. She brought me down to Master Wang’s office where we completed registration and received my uniform. Within the hour I was out in the yard waiting anxiously for my first training session. After lining up, different students were sent to the yard to practice their arts: tai chi, gung fu, sword, and staff.
I was left standing with Chong Qin. She asked, “What you want learn?”
“Bagua,” I replied. I began walking my first circle. Bagua-Zhang is one of the oldest martial arts form based on Daoist circle walking practices. I was officially learning martial arts in China!
A week passed quickly and being in China began to feel normal. Even the six hours of training a day were feeling regular. I was sore in places I didn’t even know existed and we kept training anyway. We train for about 6 hours each day in various segments.
Basic schedule looks like this:
6:00 a.m.: Breakfast
7:30 a.m.: Running, stretching, kicks, stance training
8:30 a.m.: Break
9:00 a.m.: Forms (I practice Bagua)
10:30 a.m.: Break
12:00 p.m.: Lunch
After lunch we all take a big sleep, it is very hot in July.
3:30 p.m.: Tendon/Ligament stretching followed by Tai Chi or Qi Gong
4:30 p.m.: Break
5:00 p.m.: Forms (I practice Bagua)
6:30 p.m.: Break
7:30 p.m.: Dinner
There are optional training periods that alternate each day 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. or 8 p.m to 9 p.m.
So how was all this training sustained? Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. Laughter. Three times a day, we eat rice and some combination of different vegetables with tofu or, if we were lucky, bits of meat. For rice and vegetables the food was absolutely delicious and since training was so hard we ran when we heard that whistle. The whistle itself was a representation of yin and yang: two opposites. One whistle blow meant training where we would drain our bodies and two whistle blows meant food where we would recharge our bodies. After a big lunch, we all tromp back to our rooms and just lay there until we fall asleep. We have a long midday break because it is the hottest part of the day, upwards of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. We slept until that whistle blew again.
Keep your eyes peeled for my next post! A sore body and the rejuvenating power of Wudang watermelon. HI-YAH!