14
Apr
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The video shoot went well last week. We were able to complete everything planned and there weren’t any major problems. We did learn a lot and the experience was great. For example, there needs to be more planning in pre-production. We didn’t have a written schedule per-se; it would have been nice to have it on a white board for everyone to see. As well, a detailed story board and also item, set, and talent lists could be made. They would cut down spontaneous decision making and save time. Spreading out the shooting over another day was also suggested. Dr. Yang did a great job as the number one talent teaching about massage and internal energy cultivation. Thank you to David Silver who flew all the way out here to help guide us and make it happen. Everyone did a great job in their respective roles and we all worked together well. I am excited to see the final product once it’s complete.

I didn’t get to take too many picture of the shoot, but some of the other students did. I’ll see if I can get some to put up for you next weekend.

Reading is becoming a lost art among my generation. I’ve been doing more reading of Dr. Yang’s books this last week, specifically his Qigong Meditation Embryonic Breathing. I am disappointed with myself that I haven’t done more. The mental road map it builds by address theory and technique is essential to understanding meditations and training.

The weather has gotten fairly warm, 70s most days. It is great for training outside, but we’re still about 28 inches behind on rain. Have a fabulous week.

 

07
Apr
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This up coming week will be a busy one. We’ll be doing two video shoots. For one of them Dr. Yang will be explaining how to care for the body’s health. It will be 12-Meridian Qigong and explain how to maintain a balanced energy circulation through the body’s main 12 meridians. The DVD will be accompanied by a book and are estimated to be available next year in the spring. For the other shoot he will be discussing nei gong. Nei gong is the cultivation of internal energy. Understanding how to cultivate the body’s internal energy is an essential element of Chinese martial arts.

Dr. Yang has spent his life learning and educating people about traditional Chinese martial arts. He has written many books and DVD’s that should be read for those interested in the arts. YMAA.com has them to check out when you have a chance.

A lot has already been done to make the shoot happen. Coordinating with YMAA publishing was one of the first things. We had to find the proper equipment, get a budget together, and plan shooting dates. As well, Dr. Yang and the seniors have been planning how best to film for educational and aesthetic purposes.

Monday evening we’ll begin the final steps of the pre-production phase. This will include getting the sets arranged, make sure equipment is working, including audio, lights, and cameras, and other last minute details. Tuesday morning the production phase officially starts and shooting begins. It’s one of the rare cases we’re cutting meditation short which is virtually unheard of.

Though this week will bring it’s own unique challenges it is one we’re looking forward to. We will be learning about video production as well as learning from Dr. Yang since he will be explaining elements of our training.

30
Mar

Over the last week we’ve begun to pick up the pace for this semester as we’re about half way through. The seniors have begun to teach new sequences: Qi Xing Dao (Long Fist saber), Taiji Jian (Taiji sword), and Yi Lu Mai Fu/Xiao Hu Yan (Longfist barehand). As well there are additional short weapon basics. For sword/saber we worked on four corner matching through out this and last semester. This is when two partners trade sword/saber attacks and blocks in a continuous back and forth rhythm. One person rocks forward into deng san bu (mountain climber stance) striking while the other rocks back into si liu bu (6/4 stance) blocking. We’ve added sticking basics. Instead of letting the blades (arm length sticks) separate we maintain contact in circular cuts to the head and knees.

Below are some photos from Rohner park in Fortuna (45 minutes north of the retreat center on highway 101). I went there the last couple weekends to walk around. It’s a beautiful little park and it has some great spots to train or meditate. It was amazing seeing the contrast of the size of the trees from the giant stumps that remain from being cut down.

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24
Mar
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Really, you’ll have to hang out for next week’s blog. This week’s blogging time was dedicated to get my site running again after a funny update that put it out of commission. See you then.

16
Mar
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We all have our own paths. It’s too easy to compare ourselves to others and everything else. Work hard, take care and enjoy the adventure.

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10
Mar
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First of all >>> Dr. Yang, Nicky, Jon, and Javo all got back from South America last week! It’s great to have them here again as they were well missed. It was strange without them at the center for so long (about three weeks). The South America Summer Camp they organized was successful, good news to hear.

Here some other stuff that’s going on >>>

We finally got a decent amount of rain (though we could still use a lot more)! It was enough to fill up the stream at the bottom of our property for the first time this season. These photos were taken at the bottom of the property in the spot where we walk down to before running back up.

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Along with the rain, a nice vista.

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Here’s a pic of the start of a stir fry I cooked one evening. Javi started taking pictures of the colors. The picture isn’t good enough to get them across. I added sweet potato noodles, soy sauce, stir fry sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, lemon, cabbage, carrot, celery, onion, and bell pepper. I was going for a pad thai like dish but was missing the tamarind and added too much oil. It need a little more sour or tang, but it must have been tasty because it went fast. Thankfully I still have lots of cooking practice ahead.

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While the guys were gone in SA, we ran out of bread. I guess we had some bread makers laying around so Michelle made a bunch of loaves for everyone. Good stuff, there’s not much left.

Also, I’ve begun to experiment with pickling/lacto-fermenting veggies from the garden. Here’s the first batch of daikon root. It’s a bit too salty but the texture was nice and crisp like pickles. This will be a good way to get some nutrients, probiotics, and save some money rather than needing to buy similar foods. We’ve ordered some unrefined sea salt so we can continue trying it out.

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03
Mar
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Shoes and glues > The shoe patching last weekend held up reasonably well. For rainy reasons though the patched pair didn’t get fully tested. I ran out of time today so next weekend I will cut precise patches and refine the glue application process which got messy last time.

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Easier energy > For about the last week, I’ve been making a sort of kitchari/congee mix for breakfast. It’s definitely not bacon and eggs but I like what it’s been doing for me. I’ve got more energy and I don’t feel as sluggish throughout morning training.

Kitchari is an Indian curry of sorts made from water, mung beans, rice, veggies, and spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard seed, and fennel seed. The mung beans are particularly good for detoxifying the body. The congee originates from China. It is well cooked gruel or thick soup made from a grain and additional ingredients. There are many variations of it. I use water, rice, millet, sweet potato, and fresh ginger. Here’s the process I use to make it:

  • Soak brown rice, millet, and mung beans for 6-12 hours, soak kombu seaweed (in a separate container) for the same time
  • Discard the cereal/legume water, rinse and put into a pot. Cut up and add the seaweed and seaweed water to the pot (this is for additional nutrients and legume digestibility). Add extra water for longer cooking times, use a crock pot for all day or overnight cooking
  • Boil this for about 30 minutes uncovered while skimming off and discarding the surface foam
  • During the boil, chop ingredients like ginger, sweet potato and veggies (meat too if wanted). Add them to the pot when the skimming is done
  • Now also add a little of the seeds/spices/herbs that will help cook the beans; fennel seed, mustard seed, coriander, cumin, turmeric, hing - (note: kitchari normally calls for you to toast the seeds in oil until they start popping, then quickly add the spices for a slight toast before adding them to the main pot)
  • Let the pot boil again, turn down the heat, let it simmer for an hour or two before it’s done
  • About 30 minutes before you want to eat it’s still pretty bland if you didn’t add too much spice/seeds/herbs/etc. This is a good thing because now you can flavor it however you like your hot cereal; whether it’s a little salty, sweet, or other. I use miso because it has a probiotic element when not boiled.
  • Try different ingredients out. For a more standard breakfast cereal substitute fresh fruit for the kitchari elements. Try various meats and other legume/grain combinations out.

Here’s why I think this is helping my energy level: Traditionally grains had the opportunity to slightly ferment while being stored. Today foods are pre-cooked to eliminate bacteria and/or sealed in air tight packaging so fermentation doesn’t occur. Grains though that are allowed to ferment a little are partly “pre-digested.” Adding to this “pre-digestion” process is that grains/legumes were also usually cooked for long periods of time, sometimes all day. By soaking, which begins the fermentation process, and cooking them longer, my body can put energy into moving me around, rather than getting caught digesting.

I cooked the kitchari/congee breakfast to share with everyone but it didn’t take off. Some liked it, but it’s not exactly what people are accustomed to, nor what they want or need. I’ve purchased most of the ingredients for it so I don’t take too much from the center’s budget for something only I’m eating. I feel this is fair to everyone and my own budget. As well, it seems to be helping me train more efficiently. It may just be green gruel, but it’s awesome eating!

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24
Feb
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This last week was hard one, but good. I pushed myself physically by including more resistance with heavier weapons and training tools. I felt it in my back and shoulders, they were pretty tight these last few days. Additionally, though I have a shorter lunch break, I am back running the mountain again; it feels great.

When we train we usually use Feivue kungfu shoes. They’re great, but between your sweaty foot and the rugged concrete, the toes and heels get chewed up pretty fast. It’d be nice if we could fix them up as the rest of the shoe is still good. I ordered some shoe goo and made a quick attempt to patch a pair. We’ll see how it works this week and then next weekend I can spend a bit more time refining the process. Also I went and got my California driver’s license this last week. It had to happen, but the DMV killed my Colorado license…ah man, now I a Californian??? Take care.
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17
Feb
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Stretching consistently is going well. Pamela commented on my blog last week wanting to know some stretches. I’m not sure where she’s at in stretching but this should get us going. Here you go Pam (Lo siento! :( No hay una versión en español):

Before you start there are some general points to pay attention to. First, the best time to stretch is when the body is warm and the muscles/tendons are more limber. Ideally you have a good sweat going from physical activity, or you can cheat and take a nice hot shower, that works too. Second, it is important to stay relaxed and not force a stretch. The reason can be demonstrated by interlocking your fingers together and squeezing tightly. Then try to pull them apart and it doesn’t work well. When you relax the fingers it’s no problem; the fingers easily slide past each other. The fibers that make up tendons and muscles work in much the same way. Holding a tense, painful, and unproductive stretch doesn’t encourage anyone to stretch regularly either. Breath naturally and be in a comfortable environment to help be relaxed. Third, have good posture and pay attention to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or there is pain, don’t do it. Fourth, to gain flexibility stretches typically need to be held at least 30 seconds to a minute. Longer is fine as well. Do repetitions of stretches, say 3 times, either in the same time period or through out the day. Finally, play around with how you stretch. For example, I’ll sometimes alternate between two stretches, say the hamstrings and quadriceps, to do the repetitions. By alternating them, one muscle group gets to relax, get blood, and “breath” while the other stretches.

1) Hamstrings / Back of the Legs

A

A

A) Sit down, lean forward and then scoot your butt against a wall. Then sit up. If there’s any space between you and the wall, even down where the wall meets the ground, lean forward again and scoot back more. Once you can’t move back any more sit up straight and allow the wall to support your back. If you’re just starting, your knees may need to be bent. Try to use your leg muscles to push them to the ground. That maybe be enough. However, once the back of the legs are good and flat on the ground pull the toes back towards your face and push your heels out. Toes should point straight up and not out to the side. If it’s too easy then get someone to gently press the ball of your foot back towards your face with their foot.

B

B

B) Find a low wall, table, or two chairs and extend one leg out. Like the first stretch, make sure to keep your toes pointing straight up. Sit/stand up as straight as possible. It’s as if your spine is being pulled all the way from the base out through the top of the skull by a string. Then lean forward bending at the hips to feel the stretch in the leg. Don’t let the back hunch or round. You’ll cause tension in the back.

C

C

C) This one focuses on the calf muscle. It helps to have something to grab like the rails in the picture. Get close to the wall and allow your butt to stick back while placing the ball of your foot up against the wall at an angle. Then straighten your back and leg pressing the heel into the ground.

2) Quadriceps / Front of the Legs

A

A

A) Stand with the body upright and the supporting leg directly underneath you slightly bent. Extend the stretching leg back and rest it on something like our good friend, the chair. Keep the stretching leg close to the standing leg so the knees would be close together if they were both directly underneath you. Think about keeping the hips squared (as if parallel to the wall) and push them forward a little. If you stand further from the wall the stretch will be higher up the leg. Standing closer to the wall, the more the knee bends more and the stretch will be close to it. Play around with what feels appropriate. Continue pushing the hips forward and bending the supporting leg to feel the stretch.

3) Abductors / Inside of the Legs

A

A

A) Start this one standing and then slowly bend at the waist so the hands and head hang loose. If you can touch the ground, great, if not, no problem. Slow move the heels out, then the toes out, repeating a heel toe heel toe pattern. When the hands reach the ground use them for support and control while widening the legs. Just before your limit, point the toes inward and allow the ankles to relax. The bottom of the feet should be flat on the ground. Relax the back and hips leaning forward using the structure from the hands on the ground to adjust.

B

B

B) This is a continuation from A to increase the stretch for one side. Slowly walk your hands on the ground, one after another, over to one side. Reach for the ankle.

C

C

C) Sit against a wall and put your feet together. Going all the way back to the very first stretch for hamstrings, get as much of your back against the wall as possible. Then relax the hips allowing the legs to sink. Apply a little pressure with your hands and you’ll feel from the groin out to the backs of the knees. If you can, open your feet like a book to read to get more stretch.

4) IT Band / Outside of the Legs

A

A

A) Place one leg up on that sturdy chair. The stretched leg’s knee should be pointing straight forward and you can adjust the angle of the bent knee. Keep the hips squared and the back upright. Then lean forward from the hips to get the initial stretch on the outside of the leg. Sometimes I do this for about 30 seconds and switch to completely relaxing so that my chest and head rest on my leg. It’s a bit different but both ways feel good and keep the hip and IT band loose.

When your done stretching take a minute to let the body readjust. Stand feet parallel and lightly bounce the body up and down to shake things out. Drink some water and have a good day.

 

11
Feb
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This week is a bunch of different thoughts I’d like to get out there.

First of all, it’s finally raining! Over the last week we’ve gotten a few inches, which is well below normal, but it’s better than nothing. I suppose it’s no different than blocking an attack even if it’s a lousy one. Something is better than nothing. The color green has been revived from the depths of the tan it was turning into. The moisture is revitalizing and the forest smells like fresh earth.

The new schedule I talked about has become more comfortable and I enjoy it. It feels broken down into appropriately focused sections of the curriculum. I haven’t managed to stay disciplined in my running, not having it in our already busy schedule doesn’t help. I hope to change that this week if the weather allows. I have however been much more disciplined in stretching. Having less leg building and more loosening is causing my legs to feel weak and spring-less. I’ve got to get that back but it’s going to be a process.

It’s interesting how your entire life is connected; everything you’ve done previously affects you today. Sure the small things may not mean much, like that one time you got a paper cut and don’t remember. But there are also the substantial changes too. It all adds up regardless.

Often we find ourselves at a point in life, or at least for myself, and we feel either locked into a situation or that we aren’t sure of the next step. Both situations are true, no doubt. But these two feeling are truest when we don’t consider context. It’s good to look back at the dots that connect you to where you’re at now. And then also look at future dots. Where do I want to be? Is it really possible? By taking a minute to do this, life becomes clear and more understandable. Then the limits can become something else, like challenges or opportunities. The limitless can become informed and focused. It’s good to constantly look at the way things are in an effort to eliminate what you imagined previously and avoid expectations that don’t match the real situation.

Anyway, this week I’m going to focus on paying attention how I breath in training. I’d like to integrate it as finely as possible with techniques and sequences. Taking one aspect of training every week or per day to focus on is becoming more and more of a training strategy for me. There are some many details to pay attention when training full time that it’s easy to allow the mind to become overburdened.

Dr. Yang, his son Nicholas, and Jon leave soon to head to South America. They’ll be visiting Chile and then heading to Argentina where they’ll be lots of training a 5-day (South America) summer camp. We all hope it goes well and there is good attendance!