These last few weeks have been tough! I knew this would be hard, but... I guess you’ll just have to hear the story.
A few days into my training I started to get anxious about when I would get a day off. He still hadn’t mentioned anything about a break, and wasn’t giving any sign of letting up on the pressure. Going for my morning run was a thoroughly unrewarding experience. I could hardly lift my legs off the ground as I was trotting, clumsy-hippo style, along the road at the pace of a turtle. On the sixth day my body felt like it had been through a meat grinder, and I couldn’t restrain myself any longer. I asked as deferentially as I could, “Master Zhong, when do I get a day off?” To this he simply replied, “Day off? You don’t get a day off! If you’re too tired you rest.” Implied in this was that I shouldn’t take a rest unless I really, really needed it. The mention of him bringing out the staff still fresh in my mind.
The weather had been foggy and humid since I got here, so the clothes I’d washed the day I arrived were still not dry. That led to me having to wear them dry, which after nine days straight of hard training inevitably led to me getting a cold. Luckily Master Zhong wasn’t completely without sympathy towards the sufferings of his new disciple, so he let me sleep and rest until I was better. On day two I recovered from the cold, and my legs no longer felt like divorcing themselves from my body due to assault and battery. After being on the receiving end of a string of insults about how appallingly out of shape I was, I started training again, regularly raising the number of kicks and extending the duration of the mabu. I was making progress with my stretching (my forehead is about 5 cm. away from my toes while my leg is straight), and I was starting to feel like this could be handled.
Yesterday Master Zhong came up to me and said, “I haven’t given you a rest since you came here, why don’t you join us up to Five Dragons Temple for a walk.” I jumped at the opportunity to have a much needed break, and joined him up there with another Daoist who is living in the house with us, and we took some photos of the Daoist while he was meditating. This morning my master invited me along to do some work in his garden, we weeded it and harvested some sweet potatoes. “Whew, this is nice, finally a break!” I thought foolishly. Apparently he was just resting me up so he could break me back down.
A few pictures from a temple by Five Dragon Temple
This afternoon I started my training again after a 24 hour break (except for my morning run and taiji). This afternoon is when training really started. After running three kilometers down the mountain, and three back up I came back to a little surprise, today Master Zhong was going to supervise the whole thing and increase the amount of kicks to 1500 kicks which should be completed in half an hour. After 1500 kicks while I was trying my best to keep my composure, avoid fainting, throwing up, and burst into tears all at the same time, while my master was shouting at me from the side, I completed the kicks in 40 minutes. I did not harvest any compliments for my apparently horrendously subpar performance, and was told to walk around for a bit and gather myself. Still woozy, I continued on to pushups, mabu, frog-jumps, pushup-jumps, and other “fun” exercises. After two hours of what felt like pure torture, I was told that I could rest, and I scampered into my room feeling completely - excuse my French - shit and demotivated. After I had a shower, we all had some food together, Master Zhong, his wife, the visiting Daoist, and me. The Daoist (who is a hilarious man), told a funny joke, and we all went off into peals of laughter. Master Zhong was even holding his sides because he was hurting from laughing so hard! It’s moments like those that make all the hard work worth it. I am starting to realize what I have embarked on. It will not be an easy two years, that’s for sure. Xuanwu, give me strength!
Ok, I feel like I should polish this a bit, but I’m just going to post it as is, off to sleeeeeep for a few hours. There's so much going on, and I wish I could post about it all, but I just don't have the energy. Thinking about you guys back home!
Oh, and I've shaved my beard!
Lots of love!