As you probably know by now, In December I spent a week in Shanghai where I got to check out the King of Kings competition in Taicang (Jiangsu), finally finished my first training challenge with the Shanghai Wushu Team, watched a few of the Shanghai team’s training sessions, had dinner with a few old wushu friends, was given a nandao by one of my favorite Nanquan athletes, and got to visit Wei Jian’s wushu class at Fudan University.
All-in-all it was a jam-packed week filled with just about everything I could have hoped for from my trip. I got everything done that I wanted to get done, and then some. Unfortunately there are a few friends I was hoping to see that I didn’t get to meet, but I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to visit again in the future so I’m not too worried.
Here I’m going to write about the first few days of my trip, specifically about training with the Shanghai Wushu Team. I’ll give you more details about the other activities in future blogs, but instead of throwing the whole week in to one entry, I thought I would space things out a bit and give each part it’s due attention.
King of Kings
Of course, I’ve already written a lot about the King of Kings competition. I even included some excerpts of the experience in the second episode of the Wushuzilla Podcast, so anything I say here is just going to be redundant. I just wanted to share that you can read all about it on the blog entry I wrote back when it happened. Yes, videos are upcoming. Lots and lots of videos.
Training with the Shanghai Wushu Team
In the podcast I also eluded to the training I had with the Shanghai Wushu Team. As I mentioned, Yang Rong Kuan’s coaching style is a bit more passive than some other coaches. He leaves a lot up to the athletes to pay attention to what they need to work on. That style doesn’t work for everyone, but for others it is definitely ideal.
I’m probably somewhere in the middle. Left to my own devices I can get a bit lazy, but when I want to really focus on figuring out some choreography or piecing together some details in my form, this is a great way to work out.
My flexibility and general physical power wasn’t too bad, but I was definitely lacking a bit of endurance. Lots of heavy breathing and sweating. (Granted that isn’t really anything new for me.) But let me back up a bit.
As I hate showing up late for a workout, I made sure to arrive super early to the wushu guan area. In fact, I had about 2 hours to kill when I got to the Shanghai South Train Station subway stop so I parked at Starbucks for a while and worked on some projects, including reviewing my form in my head. Lately I’ve been working on updating a few of my section transitions so I have been trying to get down a final version (well, final-ish version) of my nanquan form.
At around 2 PM I headed over to the sports school, still too early, but I was raring to go. I ended up arriving in front of the wushu guan around 2:20 and sat there for about 20 minutes waiting. I took a few pictures of the rhythmic gymnasts training and eventually one of the coaches came over and asked me what I was doing there.
“Oh, I’m waiting for the wushu class. I’m a friend of Yang Yu Hong.”
“You’re training wushu?”
“Oh, that is on the other side. You’re in the wrong place.”
She directed me to the other side of the building where I found two wushu carpets tucked behind a room full of trampolines. (That was pretty impressive too; tons of children bouncing 2 stories up in the air like Peter Pan.)
When I walked in I saw a few familiar faces. Meng Bi Fa was there, but then I also saw Zhu Ke and Liu Xiao Long who I used to know when they were little kids. They were 3 of the 5 boys that used to train with Yang Rong Kuan back in 2006, and here they were 6 years later and waaaay bigger than they used to be.
Zhu Ke now does nanquan, which makes sense based on how huge his deltoids have become. Liu Xiao Long switched from Taiji to Changquan, Dao and Gun (and he’s quite good at them too), and of course Meng Bi Fa is still the same as when I saw him in Lanzhou with the same three events.
I changed in to my wushu workout clothes and put on the wushu shoes I had bought earlier that day near where the old Shanghai Wushu Yuan was on Nanjing Lu.
That is another story in itself. That was the school I used to train at with the former Nanquan King of Shanghai, Cao Wei Ming, and now it was completely demolished (much to my surprise! they used to have a good supply store there).
Another small (and not nearly as good) wushu store that still existed in the neighboring alley (the last holdout!) told me they moved to the south side of Shanghai. Well, at least they were still somewhere. That was good. I ended up buying a pair of shoes to workout in from them.
Okay, enough with that tangent. I got geared up and then after a few minutes Yang Rong Kuan walked in. He came over and said hello.
“Hey, Mark. How are you?”
“Yang Yu Hong isn’t here yet?”
“No, not yet.”
And then he walked towards his chair from where he conducted his coaching. That’s Yang Laoshi — no nonsense and straight to the point.
When Yang Yu Hong showed up he came over to me and said “Hey, you’ve lost weight”.
I had? I didn’t think it was all that noticeable, but it’s nice to hear since it is a gradual change.
Some athletes were starting to warm up with their combos so I asked what I should do. (It’s been a while since I’ve been in a wushu class, remember?) Yang Yu Hong said just to go in line after him and so I followed dutifully behind.
At first we worked on short little combos from our forms. I picked a few key ones that I needed to hammer out the details on and to help me get a bit more warmed up. We just did that, cycling around the carpet for several rotations — probably 15 or 20 times around the carpet. It was definitely taking it’s toll on me and I had to eventually sit out a few of the rotations to catch my breath.
As I said, the movements themselves didn’t really get me — it was the intensity of the pace that did a number on my cardiovascular endurance. I had been right to be concerned about my lack of sprint training at the track. I would have to be sure and work on that for the future. Endurance can be quick to build up, but it takes some commitment and focus (not really my strong suits, to be honest).
Here is a short clip of some of the workout. This isn’t everything, but I wanted to give you a quick taste of what is to come. Enjoy!
When I heard the familiar sound of Yang Laoshi’s mouth clicking it was time for a quick 3 minute break before going in to sections. Everyone was supposed to go through 10 sections and then the group would take another break. I probably made it through 6 sections before I got too tired to continue, and then I tried to do every other one. During the second round of sections I did a bit less — maybe 5 of the 10. But by the end of the class I was pretty much finished. I could tell I was going to be pretty sore.
Overall I was pretty happy with the workout. I feel like being able to get through 60 – 70% of the team’s workout was quite an accomplishment considering where I was just 35 days earlier.
After the training I hung out for a bit in Yang Yu Hong’s room while he waited for his girlfriend to finish up with work (she is a trampoline coach in the aforementioned training room). While he went to take a shower I heard him calling someone to his room telling him that “Mark is there”.
“Mark!” I heard a familiar voice say and in came Xie Fu Yan one of the Shanghai Wushu Team’s nanquan athletes. We shook hands and shared a few toothy grins. “You’ve lost weight” he said.
He asked what I was doing in Shanghai and I said I had come to watch the King of Kings competition and train some wushu. “Oh, you watched King of Kings?” he asked, curious. I pulled out my video camera and offered for him to watch some of it. He was more than anxious.
Yang Yu Hong also gave me an introduction to the new gunshu (staff/cudgel) that all the athletes are using. I mentioned it (and you heard a bit of it) in my podcast, but I was able to take some photos and videos, that I’m going to share in a specific review of the new weapons. They have some pros and cons that I think are pretty interesting. You can look forward to reading about that in the coming weeks.
While we were sitting there I asked about Xie Fu Yan’s training. He and some of the other nanquan athletes train with their nanquan coach, Chen Xun Hong from Guangxi. He invited me to come train with them, but I knew that I wouldn’t’ be in any shape to do that, but I asked if I could come to watch. “Sure” he said, “It is tomorrow morning at 9:00 in the wushu guan across the street.”
Sweet! I was really hoping to check out some nanquan while I was there.
Yang Yu Hong finished getting ready and we both took off to meet up with his girlfriend outside and made our way to eat some Korean BBQ. We had a nice conversation about coaching, life, wushu and other such truths. We also decided to all go out for dinner the next night with some of the other Shanghai Wushu Team people I knew in the area — Zhu Wen Jun, Zhang Yi and Wei Jian. It was going to be a big old blast from the past, but I’ll save that for the next blog entry. (This one has been long enough!)
So, there you have it. My first workout with the Shanghai Wushu Team and my first wushu class in over a year. After 35 days of training, I had made it. I was pretty happy with the results and as I started making my way back to where I was staying, I started formulating plans for my next wushu training challenge.
What about you? Do you use personal challenges or milestones to figure out the best way to get to the next level? How do you push yourself to train by yourself? I’d love to hear about your ideas and experiences so comment below.