Last week was an amazing week. I had an incredibly instructive, inspiring and mind-awakening week studying with a Shaolin Gung Fu Master who has had quite an influence in my life.
I started studying Gung Fu when I was almost 15 in a small Shaolin school in my hometown run by Shi Fu Jason Parks (Xing Mu). It was amazing because I found people and ideas that challenged me, new ways to look at life, and perspectives that looked beyond the mundane (and ironically back again). I’ve always had a strong connection with Chinese culture, language and martial arts and have over a period of almost 14 years spent about 8 years studying Shaolin, Mezong and White Crane Gung Fu as well as a combination of weapons, Qi Na, Qi Gong and Chan Buddhism. The more I study the more I want to study, and the more sense it all seems to make – which leads me to a core goal in my life, clarity.
Anyway, I hadn’t seen Shi Fu Parks for 10 years and jumped at the opportunity to visit his Shan Men Shaolin Gung Fu school for an intensive week of training and study. I spent 4 1/2 days training ~8 hours a day, studying hard and spending quality time with Evie, Shi Fu and his partner Karen‘s beautiful little girl. Karen has also studied Shaolin Gung Fu and is as awesome Pilates instructor. I had a fantastic class with her which was a first for me in understanding the value of Pilates, even though I’d been to classes in Sydney.
An unexpected surprise was when I realised weapons are not nearly as regulated in Tasmania as in other states, so I got to play with a bunch of weapons that I’d need a special permit for in New South Wales (my home state). I played with Nunchucks for the first time which was awesome, scythes and my main weapon, the pole.
One of the core lessons that arose from this week was how my entire life is actually in fact one big classroom, and how the constant habitual segmentation of life into this and that is both completely unnecessary and ultimately divisive. This sense of wholeness about it all was quite a relief. I learnt a whole schwag of new Shaolin fist and weapons forms, and polished up some existing stuff I already had. It was awesome and although I got a little sore, I was actually quite surprised that I didn’t get much more sore! I guess time goes quickly when you’re having fun 🙂
I spoke to Shi Fu and Karen about getting their ideas online. They were interested and excited about the concepts of FOSS, software freedom and Creative Commons, and it felt pretty cool to explain it all. Jeff and I set up some blogs for them and will be helping explore how something like Gung Fu or Pilates might balance both the ability to engage broadly online, and the personal interaction so necessary in a teacher/student arrangement like you’d have in Pilates or Gung Fu. It’ll be an interesting challenge!
It was also fun to help two non-geeks get excited about WordPress and feel empowered to play and tinker. Karen made the comment that she didn’t expect it to be so much fun, and I’m really pleased to be sharing something back 🙂
So a big thank you Shi Fu and Karen for their lessons and time, and a huge hug to Evie who personifies gentle tenacity, and from whom I’ve a lot to learn 🙂
7 thoughts on “Eyes wide open”
Your photo of the pilates studio is 2560×1920 and being presented at a huge size on the planets (not to mention eating a lot of its host’s bandwidth). Maybe provide a scaled version?
Thanks Mary, fixed!
I have a master more practical marshal art than Kong fu. I can introduce him if you want. 🙂
@Choipd, thanks but Shaolin is extremely practical and I’m more than pleased with my current studies 🙂
Argh… the mix of romanization systems makes my eyes bleed 🙂
?? = g?ng fu in modern Mandarin Pinyin (but the ~1910 Wades-Giles romanization “Kung Fu” has made it into English anyway). “Gung fu” is correct in a couple of quite obscure systems only (Yale and another this chart labels “GuoinII”)
There might be other martial arts out there in some limited sense more “practical” than a given Kung Fu style for beginners. There are simple tricks that can be taught to anyone for particular situations, where you hope to take your assailant by surprise and hope you can get away in the time you just bought. In our school we call teaching these tricks “self-defense classes” and are often taught very quickly. There are also “external” styles which focus on power and strength first, and skill and precision second (a judgment few masters will accept, full of pride for their own style).
But once you’ve already put the investment in for an internal style there is little point in turning around. All through the history of Martial Arts, the internal styles were regarded as the superior. Here is a famous match where a Tai Chi master repeatedly flings off a former asian wrestling champion some 10-20 years his junior: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u9RvbhqFkI
I thoroughhly enjoyed reading about your intensive week of training with Shifu Jason and his partner and daughter.I share a similar story as yours regarding reigniting a past friendship with Shifu as it has been almost nine years that I have not been in contact with him since I was a student.And I had accidently found his mountain gate website and the the rest is history.
I noticed you mentioning that you have studied “White Crane”? .Is this style you studied with Shifu “Bai He Chan Quan” what he originally taught in Canberra?
Hi Adam, sorry for the long time to reply 🙂 I haven’t blogged for ages! I did study some White Crane with Shi De Chuan and still practise the forms I got from him. I also learned a brilliant Double Headed Pole form from him which is still one of my favourite pole forms 🙂 If you are ever in Canberra, it’d be great to train.