Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Beginnings

I’ve now trained with my master for two years. Recently, with me living far away from him and him being busier and busier, I’ve become a little frustrated. I’ve been spending long hours climbing the hill behind Ludong University to train alone; it’s been hard to keep my motivation up when I’m not learning anything new and unable to find a training partner.

Right around this time fate kicked in and Kevin Brazier, a mantis teacher and historian/researcher from America, told me he was visiting Yantai to do some training and research for a book he’s writing. I jumped at the opportunity to meet with him and discuss mantis. He began to show me a lot of two person drills and principles of mantis, which I’d never been exposed to before. He also agreed to take me to meet the master he was visiting, Zhou Zhen Dong.

I’d been feeling frustrated with my training, and my lack of progression, feeling that as I’m in China I should be making the most of my time here and getting as much knowledge as I can. The mantis I had been learning was very good, but I wanted to learn more about these principles and two person drills Kevin showed me. The way I had been learning before was more focussed on forms and sanda (kickboxing), and was modified from the traditional mantis. My lineage was from Master Zhang Bing Dou, who had made a lot of changes to mantis, adding a lot of Chang Quan, Xingyi and other stuff into it. It was complex and deep, but I felt it was just too eclectic and seemed to lack a core.

So I met with Master Zhou, and noticed his mantis is definitely the more traditional. It seems to be more built upon a set of principles with core building blocks to help the student progress. After talking to a few of his students, including a mantis instructor from Austria called Nikki, I decided this is more for me and Master Zhou accepted me as a student, provided I start again from scratch. I then spent the next two weeks waking up at 5am to go to the park, training for 2-3 hours, then going to a field with no lighting to train from 7 to about 9 at night. During this time I would just repeat, over and over again, the basic movements. I had learnt most of these, but this time the body mechanics were different, and I was determined to make a good impression. So I would just go up and down, doing the same move over and over until I was ready to drop. It was a tough 2 weeks, and I lost some weight, but I persevered and Master Zhou was impressed.

Master Cui Shou Shan
Master Zhou studied from Zhang Kai Tang, who learnt two systems, Hao family meihua mantis from Hao Heng Lu and Taiji mantis from Cui Shou Shan, one of the 3 mountains of Laiyang, who were three blood brothers famous throughout China for their kung fu skills. Master Zhou had studied in secret from his master during the Cultural Revolution, facing persecution as traditional culture was banned and anyone practicing it was “part of the old” and had to be punished.

Now I have returned home for the summer and I have three months to master these basic moves before I return to China ready to learn more. I’ve explained to Master Zhou that I don’t just want to learn forms (I already know sooo many), I want to get more confident in my fighting ability. I want a strong foundation of kung fu I can really use.

Sifu Kevin Brazier runs the Penglai Kung Fu School based in Florida. His website, contains huge amounts of research and writings on the history of praying mantis kung fu.  


YantaiScot said...

I'm a Scot who'll be teaching English at Ludong da xue from the start of September. I found your blog as I'm interested in learning kung fu while I'm there as well as learning Chinese.

How often do you train with your new sifu? How do you find the uni and Yantai? How is kung fu training organised over in China? Is it possible to join classes like you would in the UK?

Lorna :)

曾潇垚 said...

hi, i will be back in yantai in october, my apartment is right near to ludong. i train with him every morning in a park about a mile or so away. there isnt really classed like in the uk, its more informal.

when im in yantai we should meet up and discuss further. you can send me an email in the meantime