Having recently moved to Beijing for work, I have decided to start a training diary, mostly as an exercise in self-discipline. As most of the month was taken up with the miscellaneous yet important errands that come along with moving to a new city (such as actually finding somewhere to live), training took a back seat and I was only able to meet with a few masters here.
Before going onto specific encounters with teachers, one general observation about the traditional kungfu scene in Beijing has to be made. During previous visits 5-10 years ago there was a thriving MA scene in the historic parks near to the centre of Beijing, such as Tiantan, Ditan and Ritan. Tiantan in particular harboured a wealth of practitioners of both well-known styles like Chen style taiji and Liang style bagua and lesser-known (but popular regionally) styles such as Sanhuang Paochui and Chuojiao Fanzi. However, a lot has changed, especially the security measures around the parks, so that you need to register with full name and ID when entering any of the above-mentioned parks, probably a consequence of the restrictions which were brought in during the ‘covid’ years. What this has meant is it seems to have driven a lot of the groups that used to practice in central Beijing way out to parks out beyond the 5th ring road, which is over an hour away by public transport – at least that is the impression I get currently.
The experiences from this month can be summed up into one ‘lowlight’ and one ‘highlight’.
The lowlight was an encounter with a teacher of Dachengquan (Yiquan) in a park in western Beijing who proceeded to spend the next 2 hours going through a litany of Dachengquan history, gossip and inter-branch grudges without demonstrating a single posture or application. He may well have been an accomplished practitioner in his own right but none of that was on display that day.
The highlight was a visit to the house of a teacher of Northern Wu style, who displayed great whole body strength and listening skills (ting jin) and was able to uproot and throw me with ease. I hope to have more to report of my studies in the next instalment, watch this space….