When the Kung Fu course began I had no idea how we would be able to learn such a huge amount of content in such a short period of time. We were to be taught at first a plethora of Kung Fu Basics, or Ji Ben Gong, some of which proved more complicated than the name implies. Although I was not in bad shape, I think I could safely say those I jumped more in those first few weeks than I had ever done before in my life. Although my legs were sore, and at times resistant (particularly first thing in the morning), after a few weeks there was an obvious improvement, and soon I was jumping higher than I ever had before in my life. I was both surprised and happy with this progress, as it was something I believed I was already too old to do.
One rainy day a few weeks into the course be began Da Gong training. The focus of this kind of training is to develop an “iron body”, and I can safely say today I can take punches and kicks to my stomach, ribs and various other sensitive areas of my body that would have floored me 2 months ago. Although I have not been doing this training long, I believe it can also help develop a kind of mental toughness, helping provide a resilience when facing obstacles in life, or one’s fears, whatever they might happen to be.
For me personally, I had the greatest affinity with the Ba Bu, or Eight Step Form, which we began to learn roughly halfway into the course. From one of the first days when we learnt the basic stepping, I could get a sense of the immense power it contained. Li Shifu informed us that these stepping patterns originally came from ancient shamanic rituals, and were a method of communicating with higher realms. These were later incorporated into this martial arts form around the time of Lu DongBin, the famous Daoist immortal. After we were taught this basic pattern, I continued walking this pattern after class for a total of 4 hours or so. After a while, I felt time begin to shift in a way that is difficult to describe, that I was somehow outside the usual human perception of time; I also felt that I was no longer so much in control of the walking myself but there were some greater forces in the universe propelling my movement. I also generated an immense heat that remained inside me long after training. That night during evening meditation I was able to collect this heat in my Dan Tian, and after some time I began to experience bright lights appearing in certain injured places of my body, opening them up and healing them. When I went to sleep, my dreams were concerned about certain family issues, and provided me with some direction on how to proceed with them. Perhaps this experience touched on what Li Shifu was referring to when talking about “connecting with higher realms”.
In the last few weeks of the course, we began to study the Seven Star sword form. As there was not much time left to study the form, and many students, myself included, lacked a solid foundation in sword basics, the intensity of the training was increased significantly at times. As time progressed, the form gradually came together, small details were corrected and it became more fluid, although there still remains much more work to do.
Those two forms certainly are beyond the level of the common Kung Fu found in society.
As the course comes to a close, I can say with certainty I feel stronger, and feel I will re-enter society with a new vibrancy and potency. During the most difficult periods of the course, I felt my body regulating, ridding itself of old weaknesses and potential future diseases. Although these periods were not always pleasant, they will ensure a healthy future for me, and provide a basis for me to function with vigor as I travel my path in the future. I am grateful to Li Shifu and all my brothers and sisters at the Five Immortals Temple for helping me get the most out of my time here, and making the experience one I will not be able to forget.