Posted in: Latest News
Written by Ash Dykes
Myself and Mandarin Films (China-based production team creating the Mission Yangtze documentary), head to the Wudang Mountains, to learn and film further Kung-Fu training.
This was a really insightful experience.
When I arrived, I was a little thrown by its appearance, it was a concrete built academy. I guess I was expecting a temple in the mountains, like my experience in Yunnan, late last year.
However, I was eventually taken to the old academy which was more to my liking.
I soon became accustomed to this new environment and realised it was actually a very practical and great learning space. I hadn’t expected to meet quite so many westerners here - but then I guess it showed they were seeking out that authentic experience too.
My first day was actually a little frustrating, due to having to memorise new, unfamiliar movements. it reminded me of practising karate as a child.
Some of the moves felt totally alien compared to my Muay Thai training, which had been ingrained, plus I couldn’t fully appreciate what some of these new Kung-Fu moves would achieve in action. It felt quite difficult at times to re-learn these complex new moves, which surprised me, given my vast experience in other martial arts. It actually created a barrier, rather than a stepping stone that allowed me to learn faster.
To give you a little insight, I was throwing a kung-fu elbow and kept being told by my trainer to drop my shoulder and to stop protecting my face and jaw and to lower my guard. Of course, this was the total opposite defence strategy I’d learnt in other martial arts.
In the end, I had to try to forget about every martial art I’d learnt and install a new beginner mindset, soaking up everything and trying not to find reason to question, but rather just going with the flow in a relaxed state of mind, which in turn - relaxed my body and naturally relaxed my guard and my shoulders.
Things became easier and I started to learn a lot more at a faster rate but very quickly realised that the practical side of Kung-Fu isn’t really for me.
However - the mental and spiritual actuality of it is. I could relate to a huge amount.
In fact, The Kung-Fu master Lui who owned the academy and had over 40 years experience truly enthralled me with his conversations on mindset and spirituality, and I identified with so much due to my vast experiences over the years. I could have chatted for days, but the camera crew had other plans ;)
Whilst we have different missions and objectives and live completely opposite lives and cultures, we held the same ethos and related an awful lot with each other.
I found this very interesting and believe (for example), that whilst I’ve never practised meditation, I believe I’ve probably been in the deepest of meditational states whilst on the mission, to help glide me through difficult times, over long periods of time. Especially where I’ve been in such agony and needed to escape to another place. Almost like a state of nothingness.
I then met with Master Jake, an American who has been living here for ten years and has fully adapted to his life as a Kung-Fu Master.
He has a wife and daughter and plays the Chinese bamboo flute. He’s also fluent in Chinese, practises Taoism (to a certain extent), as he says:- “if you tell people you’re Taoist, then you’re not really true to Taoism, as it’s a way of life, rather than a religion”.
I learnt so much from him, with his first language, of course, being English and one of my highlights with Jake, was meditating on an overhanging rock, whilst listening to his beautiful flute playing.
A truly tranquil experience.
I’d love to hear your martial arts experience in the comments below, what’s your number 1 and why?