Tuesday 19 February 2008

Well today was the day I have been dreading and been really excited about…the beginning of our Dog Style lessons with our second Kungfu master…also called Master Lin….. sometimes I think there are only a handful of words in China for everything.

I got up early to practise some rolling backwards and forwards – as you do – in my room before breakfast.

Master Lin 2 was meeting us at a school ten minutes away for our five three hour sessions this week. He is an elegant and obviously ferociously fit man of 65 who met us outside and waited with us for Chen our interpreter…who has become our friend… and then his son who is also a brilliant martial artist…. one of his top students came along too.

Far from him being an ogre, he was both charming and highly sensitive. We all entered the empty school – it is Spring Festival holiday time. We walked up the twelve flights of stairs, passed a giant outdoor poster of the school kid and their teachers, to a large hall at the top of the building.

Hiding any breathlessness that the stairs caused, we were soon being initiated as honoured guests to his Chinese dog-boxing club. The style is a variant of the one made famous by the Southern Shaolin Temple. I was still thinking how can a mere Wolf take on all this stuff with its athleticism with rolls and jumps and other things that usually make brings down the black curtain on my coordination. Well it was all or nothing now. I few deep breathes and the initiation was over.

It was a polite affair with Master Lin reaching a speech from a prepared paper. Chen translated and we all clapped. We are now officially welcomed to China and to his club where we are also welcome to train and learn diligently.

No more excuses. Master Lin’s son showed us the whole pattern that we are going to learn this week. It looked impossible with all the moves that I had dreaded. Well we will see.

Actually so much was similar but different to our own style that my nerves dissolved and it was really like being back at a normal lesson at home. By the end of the three hours, we had actually done the first 24 moves and, without bragging, the old Wolf had actually kept up.

Dog Style is nearer to my comfort zone than the Shaking Crane style of last week which I know will take ages to master.

We are learning the Dog Style pattern, San Zhan, the three battles… the same name (and philosophy) as our first pattern.

The rough principles of the moves were familiar but the order and the style took some drumming in….then it always does for me. Master Lin bent my fingers and wrists in particular until it felt that they would bend no more. In fact one of my old finger injuries produced a loud and embarrassing cracking sound when he straightened it out.

We have done about half of the pattern but all the most difficult stuff is to come. Tomorrow we start the rolls and jumps and, worse of all for me, there are some moves which will test my left and right coordination beyond their limits.

We all photographed each other…it was really touching that the Lins seemed as interested in us as we were in them. It was also really strange to be filmed fumbling through my practise by Master Lin Jnr. who smiled and encouraged even though he is obviously a supreme athlete.


We are meeting them again tonight when we are invited round to dinner at their house. As Master Lin is also a professional and highly regarded chef. This will be something to look forward to without reservations.

We have now come back to the hotel to have a lunch and to do an afternoon training session in the new pattern and to keep going with last week’s too. My brain went into overdrive but apart from some Ricky Gervais moments, I survive.

Ricky Gervais was sent to this planet to haunt me…whenever the cloud descends when I can’t remember whether I’m supposed to use left or right, I seem to do that infamous dance.

No question though that I will be coming home with my Kungfu improved beyond my hopes. Doesn’t mean I’ll ever be really good at it though.

Just a side thought whilst I’m here. All the hotel staff have English name badges…the beautiful and coy Fanny is really Hou Fan. Just thought I’d share this with you…little does she know the effect that her name has had on this laddish group half way through the trip.

We practised on the hotel’s outdoor tennis court this afternoon for an hour. It was really good to be able to keep drumming in these moves before it gets even more complicated tomorrow.

This week will see less sightseeing and more training as we step up the pace. So far so good…and anyway I don’t think I have ever felt so fit.

Dinner was in the grandest restaurant we’ve been in yet. Master Lin2 is obviously a figure of respect here so we had a real banquet…. typical our interpreter said of a Spring Festival banquet. The circular turntable in the middle of the table
was literally laden and we had many toasts in rice wine.

Master Lin’s wife and second son came too as well as his older son, our other instructor and his student who it turns out was a Buddhist monk from the Northern Shaolin Temple…he is apparently a phenomenal martial artist. So as he and Master Lin’s son will be demonstrating and helping us again. It should be really interesting.

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