Friday 15 February 2008

Day Three of our training sessions with Shaking Crane Kungfu Master Linn and we learnt some more moves in our pattern. The acupressure massage from last night had its effect though as it really drains you and I found that I was quite woozy which didn’t help in learning the moves or doing them in co-ordination with my three fellow students.

I mustn’t underestimate how lucky we are though. The lessons, as I’ve said before, take place in the Government Sports Hall. We use a room usually devoted to table tennis (ping-pong for those Chinese speakers among you)) but we have it every day for three hours when the doors are locked and the curtains drawn. We are, after all learning, a pattern that is jealously guarded by its practitioners. Also, we are just four people, plus our instructor, having one to one tuition from a highly respected master. Unlike the Shaolin Temple where you are just one in a thousand.

Pity I’m not better at it! Great experience though.

Master Linn is also able to communicate better with us now and we are really learning from him eyeball to eyeball.

Today he arrived with a man who had swords and other weapons for sale. We are all going to buy straight swords – this will be my third – they are really well made and in Master Linn’s opinion well suited to our style. They also work out at about £30 odd quid each. Will be fun at customs I expect.

Afterwards, we went to a teahouse in the park and sat by the water with teacups and small pot and all the stuff needed for traditional tea making. Very civilised and very tranquil, even when two old ladies, with more metal teeth than ivory, joined in a conversation full of smiles and attempts to understand us in spite of our elementary Mandarin. I think they were saying that it was good to be by the water but they might have been saying go jump in the lake as far as I know.

We had a free afternoon, which we spent wandering around the shops in the downtown area. This is vast and, as China has such a large population, you are never away from crowds of people. To put it into context Fuzhou has a population nearly twice the size of Ireland and it is not a particularly major city. It seems that you can go anywhere in China and you will always see loads of people – there are just so many of them. It is more extraordinary that they seem to live together in much more harmony than a similar crowd would do in Europe. Everywhere we have been, with only a few exceptions, has been relaxed and, dare I say it, joyful.

Whatever we may think about the politics, there are definitely many things we could learn from China.

Crowd wandering is a real pleasure here as people are so friendly and interested in strangers. We have seen no other Westerners since we have been here and we do seem to cause a stir wherever we go. When we walked past the medicinal shop that we had been in yesterday all the staff came out and said hello…and this is on a really busy thoroughfare. I think trying to speak the language has made us very welcome here.

The rat we saw in the middle of town looked healthy and frisky and not at all shy of people. Maybe the Chinese look after them in the year of the rat. That and the stomach turning smell that comes from the public loos were the only blemishes on a day when the population of Fuzhou seemed to be out and about enjoying itself in the spring sun.

We didn’t see the problems so I guess you can only imagine that there must be some people here having a less than joyful time.

We went, yet again to the massage place and this time I had a foot message – which actually took in everywhere up to the thighs. This was a weird mixture of pleasure and pain. Your feet are plunged into a barrel of very hot water whilst thighs, knees and calves etc. and given a strong pressure point massage. No old injury went unobserved – the masseuse went straight to where I had my knee operation and also spent a good deal of time with one of my big toes (poor woman!) which was the victim of one of my early and ill advised kicks in Kungfu class. When she got to the feet she pressed all the really painful pressure points – so painful at times that unmanly tears filled my eyes were only just repressed – but somehow it works and you don’t run screaming from the room. We talked away in Mandarin (!) not always having any idea of what we were saying but communicating just the same. It ended up, after some excruciating toe clicking, with extremely hot towels being wrapped around feet and legs. Even though it concentrated on legs and feet, it actually affected the whole body making my fingers twitch involuntarily and sending all sorts of energy through my body. Powerful and slightly unsettling stuff.

We had a good meal in town…beef with very hot peppers, a fish opened up sideways and served gaping mouth forward, some bony chicken, probably best described as chicken bones in a fragrant sauce plus a tempting chicken foot accompanied by steam cooked vegetables and fragrant noodles.

Back at the hotel we did another hour of Kungfu training before the Wolf came up to write this.

Only two more days with the first Kungfu master and then it is the dreaded dog style………will I survive? Think of me…owwwwwwwwwwwwww!!

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