Sunday, 23 August 2009

Carefree Rantings

Since the end of June, Ive been at my mums house in Italy. She lives in the countryside of Piemonte, surrounded by green hills covered in grape vineyards and hazelnut groves, with medieval villages and large villas dotted around. My mum and stepdad grow most of their own fruit and vegetables themself at the end of the garden in a patch the size of a small backyard. With all kinds of butterflies, bees, insects and lizards, its the perfect place to sit and ponder life. I often go down the garden with my Chinese tea set and spend hours just reading and drinking tea. Its a good place for me to get some intense Kung Fu training too. Generally I have 2 or 3 hour sessions of Kung Fu a day and spend the rest of the time doing some jobs for my mum like gardening, digging, picking fruit and vegetables, or reading and pondering life with my Chinese and Japanese teas.

Ive been reading the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi (also spelt Chuang Tzu) a lot recently too. He is a very early Taoist philosopher, from around 2000 years ago, whos views on nature and stillness of mind are more attune to most Zen writers and poets of 10th century China and Japan than they are of the typical esoteric teachings of religious taoism that concentrates on immortality and new age practices. He was a wanderer, who liked a life close to nature and in tune with the Tao, that indescribable and impersonal force which guides the universe and keeps balance in all things.

Being in this environment, away from the greed and corruption of society, surrounded by nature, time to ponder and clear my head, has helped me to understand Zhuang Zi's ideas and to appreciate the harmony of nature. The flowers grow from the soil, the butterflies eat the nectar and help to cross pollenate, the dead flowers fall off and are eaten by insects and make new soil for the plants, and the insects are eaten by lizards, who are eaten by birds. Its all just so perfect and it makes me believe that if there was no force to regulate it all, there would be chaos and the universe would fall apart. Its just too perfect and it is also a very delicate balance. One which people seem determined to detroy with deforestation, mining and pollution. It makes me wonder if we really NEED the things we think we do. Do you really need a TV that big and expensive? Or all those expensive clothes made by children in Asian sweatshops? It seems to me, that in the west, the government controls people with debts, consumerism and celebrity gossip. People are too busy thinking about what new haircut David Beckhams got, than to do something to contribute to making the world a better place. People are more interested in buying the latest phone cum MP3 cum video camera cum sat nav cum whatever stupid invention they make next, rather than giving a few pounds to help starving people in Africa.

On the Kung Fu side of things, Ive had time to put together all Ive learned from different teachers, realising the similarities over the differences. Ive evolved my own training routines, so that I focus on all different aspects, including strength, fitness, flexibility, skill, basics, force training, arm/leg conditioning, Qi cultivation etc etc. Ive put together some drills and techniques I think are useful, combining elements of Wing Chun, Taiji and some Shaolin, along with bits Ive picked up from books, like Mantis, Xing Yi, Ba Gua etc. Ive also made a good workout that does all the important muscle groups and deep stetching for the whole body. ive actually found that rather than contradicting each other, the different styles compliment each other, and anyone who disagrees has probably not tried, WITH AN OPEN MIND, to do this, but in my experience, it works well.

So, all this is getting me ready for my return to China to spend a year taking my Kung Fu to the next level at Kunyu Shan Shaolin Kung Fu Academy, in the mountains of Eastern China.

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