Saturday, 11 June 2011

One night in Yantai

Before coming to Yantai, I expected to find mantis schools everywhere, it being the hometown of the kung fu style and all. This not being the case, I at least expected the university Im studying at to have a kung fu culture, but after looking around, I just found some modern Wushu and old people doing taiji.

Through the introduction of a friend, I finally found a little pocket of the kung fu atmosphere I was expecting to find here. Walking down a little back alley at dusk we came to a small courtyard with some little kids stretching their legs on a wall. There was a very old man sitting on a tiny stool smoking, who got up to greet me. This was Grandmaster Qu Zi Jun. He didn’t have the powerful, overbearing master attitude I often see in China, instead he was welcoming and humble. He invited me in to an apartment on the side of the courtyard, he said he didn’t live there, it seemed to just be full of swords, trophies and calligraphy, with boxes laying around everywhere. We sat down and I handed him a small gift of some tea and a box of milk, which is customary in China when meeting a master or person of respect. In return, he gave me a T-shirt with a mantis logo and Chinese characters on it.

After chatting for a bit, we went outside and I sat and watched the class. It was mostly kids, with 2 adults; my Chinese friend and another older guy who was helping teach. Master Qu would sit and watch quietly, chatting to me and occasionally telling the kids to stop talking and giving some corrections. I didn’t want to ask too many questions on the first meeting, I was quite happy to watch and soak up the atmosphere. From watching the better kids and the adults, I could see that even as our lineages are the same: Taiji Plum Blossom Mantis, there were obvious differences in the forms and body mechanics. They seem to be more obviously “mantis-like” in their movements, and I found it a bit more appealing to the eye.

They asked me to perform Luan Jie, which I was a bit reluctant about, I rarely review old forms, but I felt surprisingly powerful and clear in my movements and they seemed to like it. At first, the older student thought I did Seven Star mantis, but I explained it was the same lineage, just from Zhang Bing Dou of Qingdao (my master’s master). I was hoping to see some applications and more partner training, but it was mostly a kids class, I guess that’s kept for the older students, who need to prove themselves.

I guess I need to get out more and get looking for these kinds of experiences; the masters won’t come looking for me. My master is my master, but I want to gain a larger insight into mantis, and with my masters blessing, take a look at what others are doing and get more involved in the kung fu community here. Master Qu welcomed me to come back and visit again, although as he knows I already have a master, I’m not too sure what that means.

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