China 2013: Part V

After Hangzhou, we went to Guilin and the rice terraces in the area. Beautiful countryside… not so much to do in terms of martial arts, though. Sure, we saw the occasional Taijichuan pracitioner in the morning and evening. Also, there’s a [Taiji school] that even made it into the [Lonely Planet] travel guide, but that’s in Yangshuo, not Guilin (yes, I know it’s actually just one hour away. Guilin was scheduled as something of a relax area from the beginning, though, and since we did little but hiking in rough terrain the first couple days, we just wanted to take it easy on the only day that really came into question).

From Guilin, we took a sleeper bus to Foshan, home of [Ip Man] and [Wong Fei Hong]. I expected a lot of the place, as everyone in China is referring to it as the cradle of Wushu. Granted, there’s a lot of places that showcase the cities martial history. For example, we went to Zu Miao, an ancestral temple that also houses memorial halls for the above mentioned martial arts legends. There’s daily martial arts and lion dance performances, which I was really looking forward to seeing. I wasn’t in luck, though – due to bad weather, the performance was cancelled.

Perfect… I also followed [China Expats] advice on the Wing Tsun schools and made enquiries in both the Yao Bao and Sim Wing School. Since the prices given on actually seemed reasonable (especially considering my experiences in that regard so far), my initial plan was something like the following:

  • take a private 4-hour lesson immediately upon arrival at Yao Bao    
  • do another hour at Sim Wing in the morning of the next day
  • conclude with another 4-hour lesson at Yao Bao

Just as so often before, it turned out that things aren’t quite as simple in China. Apparently, the data on chinaexpats was quite outdated. I won’t go into too much detail on the communication with the schools, suffice to say that it was tiresome, to say the least. I’ll say something about this (not this very situation, but rather the situation I’ve experienced in China as a whole) in a later concluding post.

Finally, our last stop was Hong Kong. For me, Hong Kong is probably the coolest city in the world. It’s not like I’ve seen them all, but still, so far, HK is my favorite. It’s a city where everything is possible (though not in a dubious way like in Bangkok) and you can find just about anything if you know where to look. Now for one, you could look at HK as a blend of Asian and European culture. But still, I found that many things we westerners tend to think about China, especially when it comes to values and behaviour, are much more present in HK than in other parts of China. Certainly, the cultural revolution didn’t help in conserving and promoting traditional chinese values in the mainland…

Anyhow, one of the most notable fusion of east and west in a martial arts context, in my opinion, is [Bruce Lee’s] [Jeet Kune Do] (BJJ practitioners might take issue with that point of view… I just don’t know is BJJ’s philosophical foundations are as strong as those of JKD). I guess that apart from San Francisco, Hong Kong is probably the best place to learn some authentic JKD. After some google recherche, I found [Sifu Patrick Ko’s JKD school]. Sifu Ko is a direct student of [Ted Wong], so it’s really just two steps away from Bruce’s original teachings.

I scheduled a Tuesday-night session with Sifu Horace, who is Sifu Ko’s premier student. Horace’s approach was very similar to what [Master Zhao did in Beijing]: first, he assessed my skills, then he picked the most important points to work on. I strongly feel that this makes sense, too. In software development, there’s an appraoch called [SCRUM], which works pretty similar: in a nutshell, you pick the features that are most important, work on them for a given amount of time and then re-evaulate the actual situation as well as your needs. Of course, doing this in a group setting is so much harder than in one-on-one sessions (actually, I participated in a JKD group class, but since I was the only participant, it was pretty much a private lesson)…

 It came as no surprise that the session almost exclusively revolved around the straight lead. In the [Tao of Jeet Kune Do], Bruce Lee said that „the straight lead is the essence of Jeet Kune Do“ (or something in that style, I don’t have the book with me, so please accept my apologies if the quote isn’t 100% accurate). [Teri Tom], a student of Ted Wong, has devoted [a whole book] to that topic. Now the JKD straight lead is quite a lot different from what most other martial arts do… I’m no expert on the matter, so I won’t go into detail in this post. Still not sure about a couple of points. I have to look some things up in Teri Tom’s book first and ask Sifu Horace…

I initially planned to have another session on Thursday. However, for reasons I won’t discuss here (which were unrelated to the training, though – I loved the session I took), I didn’t make it to the session, which is a pity. I definitely plan on going back to HK and spend more time at Sifu Ko’s school as soon as I can muster up the budget.

We did, however, manage to go and see the Kung Fu corner in Kowloon park on Sunday (actually, that was before the JKD class). The Kung Fu corner basically is a demonstration of HK-based Kung Fu schools (although only one school of Choi Lee Fut had ads there… I don’t exactly know which schools are involved), sponsored by the HK government. We’ve recorded quite a few of the performances. You can take a short while and enjoy the footage before continuing to read the rest…

Note: Just as so often in the last time, I’ll have to postpone that upload, so check by again in a couple of days…

Below, I attached a couple of non-martial-arts-related images to give you an idea of our impressions. In the following days, I’ll post a conclusion of our trip and address three practical/philosophical issues I’ve been pondering on over the course of the journey. I’ll spend the last two weeks of August in summer camps, so I guess I’ll have plenty of stuff fo you then, too.

So long,

take care

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