The Great Wall
This was a bit of a disappointment to me, as it has become a three-ring circus in some parts of this magnificent monument. Stallholders who are in your face trying to sell anything and everything that relates to the great wall hound you. It is mainly tourist crap anyway and you can get better souvenirs in Beijing. If you are staying at the Downtown backpackers they do a great tour to the wall but be prepared for a hard day’s walking.
Out and about
The best way to get about Beijing is by underground or bus as these two transport systems are cheap and very reliable. The stations on the underground are in pin yin as well as Chinese so us foreigners can get to most of the local attractions and parks using this system. The cost on the underground is 3 Yuan about 20p in our money and the buses are even cheaper at 1 Yuan about 7p. You can travel a long way for your money and on the underground as long as you don’t come up from the station you only pay 3 Yuan and can travel on the red line and the loop line. Taxis are also very cheap compared to England but beware as Beijing is a huge city the taxi drivers will not always know where you want to go, it helps to have a map and also a Chinese speaker if possible.
We also traveled by taxi to the International wushu association in Beijing where they have a large selection of books and DVD’s on all different styles of Chinese martial arts. I also visited Beijing Physical Education University where there are shops that specialise in weapons and managed to pick up a couple of chain whips for my Gung Fu brother John Farrell at 70 Yuan for both, less than £6!!
Yunhe Gong Temple
This is a must visit when in Beijing as the temple grounds are magnificent. On the outside of the temple are shops selling incense and beads, these shops are cheaper than buying stuff in the temple itself. Once you enter the temple grounds all sounds of the city have disappeared and it is peaceful and tranquil. There are large pagodas housing the different Buddhist deities and Buddha’s, as it was a festival day when I visited it would bring me good fortune if I lit incense at every altar, so armed with two bags full of incense I honoured this tradition which took about two hours. This temple is near to Ditan Park and after visiting it I walked the 20 minutes or so to Ditan Park to visit my friend Phil and his teacher Wen Da Sheng.
I can’t wait to return to Beijing and continue my journey in Sun Style!!
I would like to thank the following people who made this trip possible
My son Dav, David and Siu Ying Martin, Phil Morrell, Jenny, Peter Farrell and all my students from Salford and Blackpool.
A special thank you to Lei Laoshi for sharing such a wonderful gift and for Dave in opening up the door so that I could step through.
I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours (inc transfers) when I finally touched down at Beijing International Airport at 9.30am on 30/10/2005; nothing prepares you for the massive urban sprawl that is Beijing. My Sun Style Tai Chi teacher in England Dave Martin had told me that Beijing was big and my traveling companion Phil had also said “ you won’t believe the size of the place”. They were both right and as we traveled by taxi to my apartment for the next 18 days my tired eyes were trying to take it all in without being culture shocked.
We arrived at my apartment situated in Wan Shou Lou Hai Dian district and were met by my teacher’s wife and my teacher for the next 3 weeks Mr Lei. He seemed pleased that I was strong and healthy and he himself looked very fit and strong, he asked what I was hoping to learn from him and I jokingly said “everything” so we arranged my training to start the next day. I would be training in Sun Style Taiji, Hsing Yi and Bagua depending on what Mr Lei thought about my current level of skill. Mr Lei’s lineage is through his Grandfather who studied with Sun Lu Tang directly so I was excited to be exposed to a more direct system than I had previously been taught in England.
Mr Lei said that he would be best able to show me how the three internal arts that make up Sun Style work by training a lot of Tui Shou (push hands). We started and I soon realised that his skill level was a long way ahead of mine and just to prove it Lei Laoshi introduced me to a nearby bush. I picked myself up and like a lamb to the slaughter willingly went back to experience this skill again and again. Sometimes it was a bush and other times he would introduce me to a nearby tree. Mr Lei has been learning Sun style since he was a small boy and had been taught by his grandfather who was a student and great friend of Sun Lu Tang. He practiced everyday and it showed in his understanding and ability to use Taiji, Hsing Yi and Bagua. Our practise continued until it was my time to leave and I gradually got better and began to understand for the first time what true internal power was. Mr Lei has knowledge of all three internal arts and he has exposed me to teachings that I will be grateful to him for all my life as it is for me like finding the Holy Grail. I will be returning to train with Lei Laoshi as he has told me he will teach me everything if I am able and this includes the Sun style Hsing Yi weapons which until speaking to him I thought were lost. I also trained with another great teacher in Mr Liu Shu Chun who along with Mr Lei and other seniors in Sun Style founded Sun Lu Tangs Martial Arts Research Centre (Beijing). These two great teachers exposed me to the basics of Sun Style Hsing Yi and Bagua, whilst also checking out and correcting my Taiji form and also the Hsing Yi I had previously learned in England. Fortunately these did not require a lot of fixing and I came away with a great deal of material. I practise the Taiji form the same as my teacher Mr Lei, as Sun Jian Yun’s version which I previously practiced is a little different not only in movements but intent and application. Mr Lei said that Sun Jian Yun’s version of the Taiji form was her final research and it had developed into mainly a health art as opposed to being more martial in application, though the applications are there if you know where to look.
My favorite places to visit were the parks and out of all the parks in Beijing I liked Ditan Park the best, probably because my great friend and traveling companion Phil trains there with his Bagua teacher Wen Da Sheng. Mr Wen is a great person and gave me a lot of advice and cared about my training even though he was not my teacher, the Fan style Bagua he practices and teaches is very good and for someone near to 60 years old he is in fantastic shape. My friend Phil is his only western student and is very very good and trains really hard, Mr Wen really puts him through his paces.
Watching the older people train was a fantastic experience for me as they really put us “young uns” to shame, I never got tired of watching them perform even the most complicated exercises with ease. We met an elderly gentleman who was only 75 and practiced Taiji but warmed up by stretching his leg up a tree and even smiled for the camera whilst he did it! I met another lady in her 40’s who was practicing Yoga effortlessly and when I asked her who she studied with said “ I have learned from DVD’s and books” soul destroying or what? I saw some rare styles in Ditan park most notably Hao style Taiji, there was also some very good Chen style Taiji practitioners. One of the things that amazed me was that people in China did not wear special clothes or fancy brands to practice they just trained in the clothes they had and that might be a normal pair of trousers and dress shoes, but the ability of some of these practitioners has to be seen to be believed.
China was for me a very humbling and enjoyable experience, I have been practicing and teaching martial arts for 27 years, but to experience the power of my teacher was awesome, I have experienced similar power from my Chu Gar Kuen teacher Master Chu, but Mr Lei did it without any effort, he could push me around very easily and I also knew that he could have ripped me apart if he had wanted to.