There was a drawback training in Beijing at the time I was there. Since the men's and women's teams were preparing for competition they were working out extra hard and weren't allowed to go out much in the evening. But one really cool thing is that I was able to witness was the athletes pushing themselves to the fullest and really polishing their forms up. The second day I was there the men's team was about to leave for their competition so they and the women's team did a "dry run" to make sure they were ready to compete.
They were wearing their silks, they had some judges/coaches come in and sit at a table and they came up and did their full set in a competition like atmosphere. The judges took detailed notes and shared their reports with the athletes afterwards, noting exactly what might have messed up on, or could have improved on. To complete the scene the non-competiting people sat around the ring and cheered in a tournament like way. (you know like one guy yells "Beijing Dui!" and everyone else yells "Jia You!") Actually it wasn't even just the Beijing Team. The Guangdong men's team was there when I got there. They were going with the Beijing Team together to the competition and had spend a few days in Beijing training with the team. Let me just say that the Guangdong team's Nanquan is pretty damn awesome.
Two weeks later, the women did another "dry run" to prepare for their competition. By this time the Guangdong women's team had arrived to train for a few days before heading out to Anhui where the competition was to be held. It was interesting to compare the two teams head to head. Guangdong had a lot more Nanquan specialists than Beijing, thats for sure. There were two types of NQ women... the "powerhouses" - big, buff, powerful and really fast and the "speed freaks" - smaller, leaner, still powerful but lightning fast! They also had really huge air. Their Changquan specialists weren't nearly as impressive, but still very talented (plenty good compared to us Americans).
|One of the things I never got tired of in Beijing was seeing incorrect English, especially stuff like this. I think they wanted to say "rockery" (as in rock formations) if that is even a real word.|
The next day at practice the Women's team was drilling their group set. It was a slightly modified version of the "Arnold Demo" they performed in the US and won the Arnold Schwartzenegger Fitness Weekend's Martial Arts competition with. They used the same music too. Those of you who saw the team perform when in the US know the music I'm talking about, complete with Machine Gun sound effects and that "chong-bee!" line in the beginning. While I enjoyed seeing the team drill the form (they were still tinkering with things as they went), the music got to be really distracting. Imagine trying to practice Xingyi to the soothing sounds of machine guns and heavy booming bass. As I left the wushu guan to get lunch, I observed that the music wasn't just blasting in the wushu room, it was also echoing throughout the entire sports school.I can still hear it ringing in my ears like it was just yesterday...
|He Jing De doing his best Bruce Lee impersonation. By the way, thats Mark in the back drilling his Nanquan.|
|I caught one. Not too big is it? If real fishing was this easy it wouldn't be much of a sport. That's Tony in the back and 'Liu Ge' between us.|
Luckily we had a chance to go out for a walk to try and burn off some of these calories. Nearby to her apartment complex was a "fish farm" type of place. Pretty much its a man-made lake full of fish. You get a pole with a hook on a string and pretty much the second you put the hook in with a little food stuck on it you catch a fish. Or at least thats how it worked for me. I caught like 2 fish within about 30 seconds. I guess I had superior technique, in that I caught like 1/2 the fish we ended up getting. When you've caught your fill, you pay depending on the weight of your catch. We got like 8 small fish, which ultimately were going to be next week's main course at the Liu household.
After getting stuffed AGAIN, they treated Tony and I to some tickets to the Chinese Acrobatics show at one of the big tourist hotels in Beijing. It was a pretty spiffy show, with some Chinese dance, Beijing opera and yes, you guessed it Wushu! I had seen an acrobatics show by a team from Shanghai before, and even though they did some fancier moves in that show, this show was definitely more enjoyable. The acrobats did a little wushu inbetween their routines, which was kind of cool, but having been watching the Beijing team practice all day everyday, I was more entralled by the opera guys they had. There was a guy doing a little Monkey King routine that was totally awesome. One scary moment was when the leg on one of the tables being juggled broke in the middle of the show, but they were totally prepared, seconds before the leg snapped a bunch of people came out from offstage and ran up ready to catch the table the second it broke.
The next day we took another group trip to the Temple of Heaven in the south of Beijing. Its the place the emperor would go every year to perform rituals asking for a good harvest. It had some pretty cool things to see, including the weirdo platform thing known as the "Round Altar" where everything was a multiple of nine: three tiers with 9 steps between tiers, 18 posts, 243 (27 x 9) stones in 9 rings... you get the idea. It was cool because He Jingde (desperate for something to do, since by this time the women's team was gone too) came with us. It was really hot that day though, and a lot of tourists were out, so I didn't enjoy this trip as much as some of my solo adventures. Afterwards I took the Wushu West people to the Silk Road market. Whereas before I went on a saturday afternoon, by the time we finished our Pizza Hut lunch it was already late afternoon on a sunday. BIG difference in the prices given out by the merchants... a lot cheaper near closing time! (I think they get fed up with barginning too). I bought another huge amount of knock off Adidas, mostly in the form of shorts. (can't go wrong with shorts right?)
|It took me a while to figure out what this was. Yes, it is the American Eagle Jet Fighter. Once I figured it out I had to try not to laugh in front of the guards and Chinese museum visitors.|
The scene was most bizarre so I had to take a picture to show my friends. I did feel a little uncomfortable being there too. This place wasn't exactly on most tourists' itineraries. I was the only non-Chinese person there, not only that, but I was an American, and a month before Americans weren't very popular in Beijing. But I didn't have any people giving me problems. One cab driver asked me where I was from and I told him I was American, he started laughing and said "most Americans aren't saying they're Americans right now." but he gave me the old "all people are the same and we should all be friends thing" which I thought was pretty cool. I did have the opportunity to see the damage to the American embassy that remained from the protests the days following the bombing. There were still some boarded over windows and scars on the outer walls.
|I really like some of the revolutionary era art work I found. This statue protrays the Chinese soldiers who fought the Japanese imperialists in World War II, brandishing swords against a much better equiped enemy.|
OK, thats it for now, hmm, at this rate maybe I can finish up the rest in one chapter...
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