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Thread: My Ongoing Journal: the Intersection of Shaolin Arts and Life

  1. #21
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    Aug 2015
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    Helsinki
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    ~ A Happy End ~

    I'm extremely pleased to state that I and my four Taijiquan class mates have all passed the level 2 test in good grace. I wish to congratulate my Shaolin brothers and sisters for their good work.

    I would rate my own performance as a solid "C" in school grade. I will have to improve my Horse Riding and Unicorn stances, and practice more felling and gripping. Thank you Sifu for giving us detailed advice and the chance to address our flaws!

    Strangely enough I couldn't find any earlier trace in my journal how I had discovered a while ago that rising up from the floor isn't heavy anymore. It's absolutely fantastic to be able to immediately spring back up feeling light and energetic even after being felled to ground.

    Now towards a new beginning! Next week we shall continue with level 3, which will finally teach us Fajing at some occasion. I have been missing it since the Lohan Art part 1, which gave us a taste of exploding energy among other methods to generate internal force.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  2. #22
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    ~ Many Hundreds ~

    Yesterday we had the first session of level 3 Taijiquan. Sifu didn't waste her time in setting the tone of practice henceforth as she taught us how to do "Hundred Punches" and "Hundred Kicks" in Taijiquan way. The Hundred Punches consists of White Snake Shoots Venom (covering first), Low Punch, and Thrust Punch. It was probably the hardest training I've had so far, and my legs were going completely lactic soon after we started, although there was plenty more of that following... I enjoyed all of it even though I had to take breaks to shake and loosen my legs. The toughness was an indication to me that I should focus on this particular training routine, while not neglecting any other important aspect, if I wanted to get the best benefits. What I liked about it was how holistic it is. It includes having good stances, using hips to rotate through the stances, keeping the waist pointing in the right direction, learning how to use force with punches, keeping the central line in punches, not extending the shoulders or leaning any forward when punching, having the spine always straight, and staying relaxed. If I can master this one simple practice, there is a lot to gain.

    It's still very encouraging and inspiring that recently I have made significant gains in dealing with mental blockages, as even my chi flows have begun to take much more relaxed and spontaneous expression than earlier. Without much fuss I applied Sifu's instructions and tried the Punches and Kicks immediately today. I felt like giving up few times, but then I chose to relax more and persist. Open up and enjoy more! Sifu's advice on imagining the body opening has been very useful whenever I have felt accidentally doing things too physically or unflowingly. In the end I felt at least two mental blockages dissolving, so it was extremely beneficial to push back my comfort zone. Yesterday there had been some instances of momentarily being able to do the Punches completely relaxed, but today I had clearly improved. Make no mistake: there is much practice be had however.

    I was a bit surprised how pleasant and able my legs felt during kicking. Curiously enough I have found that the Hundred Punches are harder on my legs than the Hundred Kicks but that is probably because in comparison to doing kicks the fairly static stances and hip rotation really underline how tense my pelvis still is. When I practiced the kicks today I realized that I have improved quite a lot in terms of stability, relaxation, and force. I also observed that my right leg is not in par with its left counterpart and this must have everything to do with the scoliosis I have mentioned earlier.

    I am extremely pleased to announce that I shall be committed to Hundred Punches and Kicks for at least 100 days. Not only do I want to make Sifu proud and satisfied with my progress, I got surprise extra motivation after discovering that the UK Summer Camp 2017 will feature the super interesting and beautiful Cotton Palm. Even if I were nominally qualified for all the courses, I wouldn't want to go for Kungfu courses and disappointingly demonstrate Sigung my flowery fists and embroidery kicks. My conscience wouldn't allow me to call myself worthy of any advanced training in particular, so at this stage it's also a necessity for developing my moral character that I really am able to show good results in fundamentals of Taijiquan.

    ~ Next Year in Preview ~

    It's still open what the next year will turn out to be, but I wanted to share something about what is going on in Helsinki. Sifu and Sipak have been hinting that there will be changes in how they teach Chi Kung, and a special course "Dragon in Zen" has already been announced. We will also have at least one combined training lesson for both Shaolin and Taijiquan groups, which is a neat idea. I really am looking forward to learning what else they have planned.

    As a child I liked to read toy catalogs and see what kind of awesome stuff other kids could have. My family background is poor, so we kids couldn't really had afforded to have many toys even if we had wanted them. Still I liked to daydream and imagine what could be accomplished and how much fun could be had with technical toy such as expensive Lego kits in special. I might be nearly thirty now, but reading in Sigung's course schedule all those foreign locations, then later organizers' teasing course announcements, and with open and lovely people attending them makes me feel like attaining again the particular type of childhood enthusiasm and curiosity as I found in reading toy catalogs. Make a guess if I'm stoked for the publication of next year's schedule?

    Currently my heart is not set for traveling abroad or planning for some nice vacation with my dear Shaolin Wahnam Family and learning more of precious Shaolin Arts, but living in the moment and practicing the fundamentals as Sifu is teaching. I guess it is also a natural consequence of finally starting to realize just how good standard of teaching our school's certified instructors have. The UK Summer Camp 2017, however, really feels something that I should be aiming for, so I wish to do everything possible to really justify that I am deserving to attend even a single once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Sigung. There might be some other really 'WOW' events coming up, but only time will tell if I may consider myself ready for those opportunities.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  3. #23
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    Aug 2015
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    Helsinki
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    ~ Discovering the Living Shaolin Magic ~

    There was barely any transition, but since yesterday something has dramatically changed. What I am doing now is not the Kungfu I had been doing previously. This is magic, and I really mean it. There is no more any struggle or need to push myself in any manner, but incredibly enough I let go, just do it, and enjoy all of it. The subtle bliss of Kungfu has finally dawned upon me, and oh how sweet it is. Words fail to seize how grateful and dumbfounded I am by the suddenness and dramatic improvement of my performance.

    My body has begun to feel incredible light and free. Sometimes I can barely feel the body, or it feels like an empty sack or saturated with a "potent silence" for the lack of better words. No wonder a recent thread recalled how Sigung has called our every day a birthday because now it's completely tangible how alive the Shaolin Arts make us. Even standing up feels more like a spring uncoiling and reaching its natural untensed state, instead of the fight against gravity as it used to be. The change is most prominent in my palms in that I can hardly feel any residual irritation or tension in them. My hand and arm joint mobility and fingers are still not completely clear, but these are minor concerns compared to how huge relief this progress already is. Now I only have two locations that have noticeably oppressing tension: my head and chest. By how things are going, I have good faith that I will be completely relieved of these before the turn of year.

    Infinite blessings and thanks to you Sifu, Sipak, and Sigung!

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  4. #24
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    ~ I am Becoming Energy ~

    The days since my last journal entry have been magnificient. I have discovered that my plain Chi Kung has already become automatic in that I only need to relax and breath in and out, and all the appropriate movement happens on its own without any effort. I have also had several instances of my hands vanishing and becoming semi-autonomous entities with extremely sharp mind control whenever it's necessary to utilize that function. Walking is also starting to feel comfortably rooted, very floaty, and impressively self-guided. Then today I finally started experiencing how kicking is showing signs of flow and effortlessness, so the same benefits of Chi Kung are little by little transferring into my Kungfu too. It's incredible to have all this happening even though I don't yet feel fully recovered from my internal injury, though I have to say that every day now seems to result in a noticeably lighter chest and more shining eyes full of resolve and zestful expression. On this evening in particular the final chi flow seemed like having my heart center (or something similar) expand like the regular dantien might do in special occasions. All tension is just creeping away unceremoniously.

    Yet regardless of all these developments, the most striking sensation of all is how perfectly ordinary I feel. Unlike before, I feel no extended euphorias or mental attachments in this or that phenomenon that might arise, but pervasive clarity and stillness abounds. I am nothing special, just a regular human being like everyone else! It feels very satisfying to be able to relate to everyone with humble and unassuming ease like this.

    During my childhood days I spent quite a while in a Christian kindergarten where we often sang some comforting children's songs with a subtle religious message. I remember a particular psalm that I liked. The lyrics deal with how on the palm of God everyone is safe and protected. I don't remember the exact day and moment, but I realized that invoking the name of Guan Yin really makes me feel like that I'm either shielded by the palms of something powerful and benevolent or that there's some kind of sheath protecting me. Very interesting experience, but not sure what to make of it. For the record: just twice a day after Facial Massage I briefly pray, ask for forgiveness for my misdeeds, and reaffirm the bodhisattva refuge vow. I also bless whenever appropiate because I just love to think that I am able to benefit others even if in subtle ways.

    Thank you Sifu, Sipak, and Sigung for giving such marvellous meaning for my life!

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  5. #25
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    ~ Soft Heart and Ease of Relaxation ~

    Today after Hundred Kicks I had a loud cleansing shout after a fairly long period of relatively quiet chi flows. While closing my session during the point massage I was asking for forgiveness as usual and I suddenly felt very light and pure in my heart. This time it was very tangible that I had let go of a major blockage.

    Then when I was taking a shower I realized that the effects are even more profound. I seem to be able to enter a new type of relaxation when I just softly relax my heart. Next thing I sense a faint chi current activating all around my body, although for now the effect is most pronounced in my spine and feet. It's not a "WOW" buzzing kind of energetic overload, but rather a very soothing and invigorating sensation of being alive and fully aware. Awareness is a terrific word in context because the experience definitely brings some odd dreamlike quality into the consciousness. It's also very interesting observe how the focus from the soft heart then automatically draws into the dantian which seems to be epicenter of this new energetic emergence.

    The days after my last post had been more difficult than the preceding ones. It was no longer as easy to stay relaxed or flowing with energy, but I knew this was a temporary adjustment to new energy capacity. Indeed, my body has been feeling quite tender with good pain as an indicator that good progress is happening all the time. I am very delighted and grateful that Sifu taught us the routine of Hundred Punches and Kicks because the timing and the method was perfect for my needs. I don't believe that this method could result in overtraining easily, so I also seem to have passed one very bothersome hurdle in a smooth jump.

    Generally, my feelings of soreness have also given glimpses of my fingers finally opening up, and there has been an unusually strong accompanying mental tendency for expressing frustration. On last Sunday I felt like I had some very nice flowing moments with my punches, for which I was very happy. I could hardly believe how pleasant and open one can feel for holding a fist and still issue punches with both flow and force.

    I have much to be grateful for. Thank you Sifu, Sipak, Sigung, and past masters!

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  6. #26
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    Aug 2015
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    ~ The Real Me ~

    Yestereve's (currently past 1:00 AM when writing this) session was great. I didn't experience anything extraordinary, but it was the best Chi Kung or meditation I have ever done. Everything turned super ordinary. Just plain, unaltered experience with acute awareness of it all. This plainness is difficult to convey because it lacks conceptualization. Everything just gushes forth in a pure and immediate manner.

    The day itself was a bit complicated. I woke up late after the day before we had a thanksgiving dinner to our Sifus and season closing with the Finnish Shaolin Wahnam Family. It was an excellent gathering, so hopefully we will be having more of those in the future. Anyway, in the morning I discovered to my dismay that the examination I though was on Thursday was actually today beginning in half an hour. Boom! I did a quick Chi Kung in the examination hall before the examination officially started, and I did feel quite nice throughout the two and half hours. Later back home I felt that I need to let go a bit more and just smile from the Heart. It's incredible how much easier and profitable this simple skill becomes with passing time and practice. Nevertheless, the first actual surprise was when I was doing Hundred Kicks I noticed that I was more grounded than before. It was also very striking that my feet felt intensely connecting to the ground through the heel, so that my stances felt more back-supported than before. Conincidentally in our final sparring lesson in last week's Monday Sipak commented how I should take care not to keep my weight front loaded. I didn't have a lot of time to correct my postural bad habit, so this seems more like natural development. It was very pleasant to experience how much more natural Three Levels to Ground and Dancing Crane felt after weight conducting more through the heels. The chi flows were unspectacular, but when I entered the final standing meditation I was overwhelmed by the vast and unamazing consciousness of being here and now.

    After finishing up it became clear that something had changed. My Heart feels again lighter, but this time my face also has shed a substantial portion of tension, in particular in the nose. It might sound funny, but I can smell better now and my air passages feel more free. In fact, the whole experience brought a recollection of a kind of faint odor that I haven't experienced since childhood. Maybe I had completely forgotten about it and how intimate it felt, but this odor feels somehow very vitalizing and "natural" in that it really makes me feel like a fresh baby. Again, this might escape regular experience, but this is the closest description I can give. During my recovery I have also had some other less prominent instances of recalling some odor and memories going with them, so this wasn't exactly new. What distinguishes it how strong, clear, and prolonged this experience is.

    I feel exceptionally healthy and clear inside. Smiling from the Heart seems to brighten all my senses with the nose and the eyes especially becoming active windows. There is still some road ahead, but now I experience clearly how all these mental trappings are not going to keep the real me shut inside, for now is the season for flowering and enjoying life and happiness.

    Thank you Sifu, Sipak, and Sigung for the past year and for all your precious teachings!

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  7. #27
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    ~ Nearing Breakthrough ~

    Dear diary,

    I am terribly sorry for the recent lack of updates. I have a few entries sketched that detail some happenings since the year's change, but I haven't been able to finish them when dealing with other more pressing and engaging activities.

    The past week has seen my everyday practice improve dramatically. Finally it seems that I can train Kungfu, including force training, every day for 45 mins and enjoy all of it without feeling any negative effects. No sign of overcleansing, no returning pain, neither grogginess nor gloomy spirit. After each session I am very much refreshed and full of vibrant health. These benefits, which I didn't experience ever before although the practice has been enjoyable, are simple incredible when compared to regular Chi Kung. Even just practicing sets relaxed on the physical level feels completely different in a good way when earlier it just felt uncomfortable despite all my reasonable adjustments to training.

    What can we deduce of this? Any blockages I may have had as the result of my internal injury, they are no longer significant enough to cause aggrevated pain or relapsing bad symptoms. Hence building is actually very pleasant now. Hence I am also able to get increasing benefits because I am able to grow the volume of my chi, thus making further recovery easier and faster.

    Now I feel ready for the grand finale. I am on the verge of real breakthrough that all my health problems become history.

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  8. #28
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    Aug 2015
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    ~ A Funny Zen Moment ~

    As I have recently written in the Dragon in Zen thread, the flow produced by Dragon in Zen is very efficient. It had been a puzzle why I couldn't harness it for my Taijiquan seemingly at all, and even more so a disappointment because I could get it working very easily for the UK Summer Camp Shaolin Lohan Kungfu combat sequence.

    So I wrote to my Sipak and inquired in a rather complicated manner which is the best Dragon in Zen skill to unlock similar flow in my Taijiquan. His response was while it's possible to make use of those skills, the best course of action is to practice every day and improve performance instead of intellectualizing practice. Instead of questioning his kind advice, I decided to implement it directly and started practicing Immortal Waves Sleeves with special emphasis on effortless waist rotation. After few repetitions - there! - suddenly the whole concept of waist rotation became clear to me and I could perform it with a new ease and flow unlike before. Thank you Sipak!

    How ironic, but still a very iconic Zen moment.

    This development wasn't entirely out of the blue, I suppose, since in the past week I found that my strikes had begun developing an extra flowing sensation from dantian that lends them extra acceleration and force. I have noticed how this made my recent work more enjoyable through not having to put up a similar type of taxing effort as before. Then flowing feet would make life even better because these engender the skills of timing and spacing. The next major goal shall be bringing my basic footwork up to the same distinguished level of simple, direct, and effective.

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    Last edited by understanding; 29th March 2017 at 06:30 PM.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  9. #29
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    Aug 2015
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    Helsinki
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    A Shaolin Miracle!

    Dear readers,

    I apologize for the recent lack of updates. Since the last entry I unfortunately hit another wall of overtraining and have had to deal with sore kidneys along with that. Despite that I have felt myself becoming very healthy even if not brimming with excess vitality. I will get back to writing more soon enough, but now I wanted to give you a short update.

    ~ A Shaolin Miracle ~

    After 1 year, 7 months, and 14 days I have manifested an excellent result. As I was finished with today morning's eye exercises and started to move towards home, my mind spontaneously took the lead and invited my physical being to follow. Thus I have attained the formative stage of using mind to direct form. All it takes is to relax and set the intention for given action, although it feels a bit clumsy and coarse for the time being. What an incredible joy, and it's a really fun skill too!

    Thank you Sifu, Sipak, and Sigung!

    With sincere gratitude,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  10. #30
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    Aug 2013
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    Frankfurt, Germany
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    Dear Olli,

    please keep on posting your diary. I love when you report about your achievements and ups and downs along the way. It's a good motivation for training

    Greetings

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