torsdag 27. oktober 2011

Getting started as a Wudang 16th generation disciple

Hi folks!
I hope you enjoyed yesterdays little story. I know, two blog posts within the first week of arriving in Wudang Mountain, I’m on a roll here. 
I’m not sure where to start telling this story, so I better just start at the beginning. 
Sitting on the bus on my way up the mountain I am struck by how natural it feels to be here, slowly climbing the winding roads of the Wudang Mountain chain. My thoughts go back to when I arrived back in Norway last Christmas after becoming Master Zhong’s disciple. I felt like I was separate from the rest of society, I saw how foolish we all were, stressing around, grumpily trying to find gifts for everyone we cared for while they were fretting over the same thing. It did not feel natural. And here I am again in Wudang, almost one year later, riding the same bus up the friendly mountain to see my master, and it’s as if I never left.
Beautiful Wudang

Super-comfy wooden-mattress bed
I arrive at his home as he instructed me to. I don’t know what he has planned for me, all I know is that he has prepared a room somewhere for me. I get to his place before him and wait for him to come back from some business he had to take care of. When he returns he greets me with a smile and tells me to bring my luggage into his house. He places my staffs up against the wall and suddenly asks me how tall I am, I’m probably looking a bit flustered by the abrupt question so he stands next to me and compares our heights. I’m only slightly taller than him. “The bed will be just right for you,” he says and points to the bed in the room, “I used to sleep in it too. You’ll stay here at least until next year, we’ll see then.”  Then he walks off to let me settle in. I’m letting the fact that I’ll be staying in the same house as my master sink in, and start mentally preparing myself for what is to come. 
I wake up the next morning relatively well rested, the reason I write relatively is because I’m basically sleeping on a wooden floor with a blanket underneath me... It takes some getting used to. Breakfast is prepared by my master, as was yesterdays dinner. I’m starting to get used to eating in silence with him, since every time I tried asking him a question while eating I get shut down by a slightly irritated yes or no answer. The training begins by him telling me that these first months until next year I’ll be practicing basics, starting with 900 kicks a day, working up towards 5000. I start stretching and he says that by next year I should also be able to reach the tip of my toes with my mouth while holding my leg straight. I stare at him in disbelief and say “Really? I’m nowhere near being able to do that.” “You will have to work hard,” he replies sternly.
My basic-training space and tea house in the background
After my first training session and lunch we sit down in his tea house to drink tea and relax for a bit, and he goes on to tell me what his requirements from me as his disciple here are. “You should prepare to ‘eat bitter’ (in Chinese this means “endure hardship”), I will not always be here to make you train, so you will have to train on your own some of the time. If you don’t practice while I’m not here, I will know, and I will bring out the staff. You have committed yourself to train here for two years, so you have to remain here for the entirety of those two years.” “I understand and accept this,” I say, while what’s really spinning in the back of my mind is, “Oh shit! What have I gotten myself into?” The rest of our talk is about more pleasant topics, like what he wants to teach me during these two years. He wants me to become a true Wudang disciple, so I should not only learn the martial aspect, I should also begin to study the culture, meditation, Cha Dao (the art of tea), calligraphy, massage, Chinese medicine, and literature. “Prowess in martial arts is not the highest achievement, do you know what is?” He asks. After a short while I offer a tentative reply, “Dao?” “That is correct!" He exclaims happily, "Martial arts is only a small aspect of Dao, as is calligraphy, Chinese medicine, meditation, and Cha Dao, together they create the whole. I want you to treasure every moment you have here, and always make the most of it so you will not have any regrets.” To this I nod and agree wholeheartedly. I vow to not take this opportunity for granted, and truly value the precious time I will spend here.
After an hour or two an old Daoist doctor who is going down to town with Master Zhong comes by. I sit and have a talk with him before they leave while Master Zhong makes preparations for his short trip. He is a friendly old man with a big wispy beard protruding from his chin, I contemplate complimenting him on his beard, but decide not to. It turns out he came here for the first time some 30 years ago, and hasn’t been here since until this week. So I ask him what he thinks about the change on Wudang Mountain with the tourism blossoming and the renovation of all the temples. He simply replies “Tian Di Zi Ran”, which I think means something like “everything between heaven and earth is as it is”.
When Master Zhong is ready to leave I say farewell to the friendly Daoist, and get some last instructions from Master Zhong on what to do while he’s gone. He gives me the keys to the house, tells me that I can eat whatever food is there, and he tells me what to train (which is pretty much just kicks and horse stance). He leaves and says he will be back tomorrow. 
Master Zhongs front gate

I stand in Master Zhong’s front yard alone letting everything sink in, and am not sure if all of this really happened or not. I look myself in the mirror in the courtyard and say to myself “You lucky bastard!” With a huge grin on my face. “Now get training before he grabs his staff and beats you.”

onsdag 26. oktober 2011

Travelling to Wudang

Hi folks!
Wow, so it’s almost a year since I left my masters house after becoming his disciple (story in separate blog post below), and went back to Norway. I have now returned to Wudang Mountain for two more years of study, and practice.
First, I just want to share a small story of what it’s like being a blond foreigner with a beard, I experienced on the train on my way down here from Beijing. As those of you who have been reading my blog for a while already know, I had a less than elegant departure from Beijing the last time I set off for Wudang. Well, apparently I will never learn since this was pretty much a rerun of last time, except this time I was lugging a guitar and two staffs in addition to everything else whilst tottering towards the departure hall and a boarding time deadline. Bucket loads of fun as I’m sure you all can imagine. Anyway, when I got settled on the train, and we were well on our way, I decided to go get some grub in the restaurant carriage. As I enter the carriage, the noise dies down and heads turn to look at me like some scene out of a horror movie, and the police man who saw me get on the train with my staffs whispers discretely (in China, that means hollering loudly while gesticulating with great enthusiasm), “This is the one practicing the staff.” Briefly acknowledging him, I swiftly move on to the chef sitting smoking a cigarette close to entrance of the carriage. He looks at me and makes a “shuffling noodles into your mouth” gesture, while looking at me with a mix of curiosity and confusion. I ask him "Could I look at the menu?”. He looks mildly surprised, and says “oh, he speaks Chinese”. This is then repeated by the waitress sitting next to him and subsequently by most of the other people in the carriage who are still staring at me quite flagrantly and completely unabashed. I order my food, and the chef who has had a ponderous look on his face for some time while I was looking at the menu exclaims “He looks like Liening! Am I right? With the beard and everything!”. “Who is Liening”, I ask. “You know, Makesi, Sidalin and Liening”(it sounds closer to the original names with Chinese pronunciation), he replies, hardly able to contain his amusement. “Oh, you mean Lenin”, I say ”Yes, exactly, Liening!”. “Ok” I say, and sit down to enjoy my meal while simultaneously being the subject of a discussion at a table close to me of which I couldn’t quite make out the topic of.
So what do you think? I’ve been compared to many people since I grew long hair and a beard, Viking, Techno Viking, a Chinese posing as a Norwegian, a lion,Thor, Saint Stephen, the Kungfu King, and a few others I can’t quite recall, but never Lenin. Maybe it’s just the fact that many Chinese think all of us westerners look alike anyway, and that having a beard disguising some of my facial features just exacerbates this conundrum. Hmm, but the lion doesn't really fit into that conclusion though. Who knows, judge for yourself!

Spot the difference

Ok, so this wasn't a Wudang blog, but I'll try to write one tomorrow describing all the exciting stuff that has happened to me since I began my life as a Wudang 16th generation disciple (which is a lot!) But right now my legs are hurting, and I want to sleep!

Lots of love!

Bjarte Hiley 凌远