Last week I described how I was attracted to a new book called "The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior's Way." You may recall how I didn't find most of the first part too challenging. Well, I can safely say that those days were over when it came to Part Two!
Sifu ("Master" or "Teacher") and I began with a hip stretch that, in its complete phase, made me feel something like a human pretzel. Suffice it to say that I felt "stretched" indeed. Then it was on to the Pu Bu Stretch, a continuation of the former excercise. A continuation, that is, if you can even remotely get into the position that Sifu's illustrations demonstrate! I made it, oh, roughly a third of the way. How long did it take this man to achieve such flexibility?
Next was the Hip Rotation. This one made me giggle just looking at the illlustrations. Attempting it, I felt like a hula dancer! But where things really got interesting was when I moved to the Knee Rotation. Frankly, I'm darned if I can figure out the purpose of this one. Nor was I too good at performing it. You try it: Stand straight and relaxed, legs closed, feet together and pointed forward. Then reach down, grab your knees, which you should relax and bend, and, keeping your legs together and feet on the ground, rotate your knees in a circle. It's not as simple as it may sound. With all due respect to Sifu, I feel pretty silly!
I'll pass over the next two stretches, as they are impossible for me to fully achieve at this point, except to say that by the time Sifu instructed me to (from a lotus position, no less) lean my upper body in one direction and "Kiss your knee and toes while you're there, to show them your appreciation," I was not only thinking, "Appreciation for WHAT?" but was strongly tempted to retort, "Kiss THIS, Sifu!" I resisted the temptation, as that really would have been rude and unappreciative.
Next we came to the Pushing Palm Strike and Fist Punch. Now those feel like kung fu moves! I can do these. Only problem is, I have a bit of a problem getting the right-left rhythm down. Oh, I know the difference between the two. It's just that, as I've said before, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world. Definitely need some practice there.
The Bow Stance was another balance challenge for balance-challenged me. I'm okay with the Gong Bu strike pose, but getting one leg up and bent makes me wobble. Sorry, Sifu!
Of course, this is nothing compared to the Front Slap Kick. After kicking your right leg "straight up in front of you," you are to "reach for enlightenment with the top of your head." Loosely translated, that means "attempt to touch the top of your head with your foot." Sifu, needless to say, has this mastered. I, on the other hand, can't even get one leg out in a straight line with my hip. I'm not sure that any amount of practice is going to make that perfect, either!
The Horse Stance involves "two side fist punches executed simulataneously." As I punch my fists out, I am to move my head so that my arms and head finish the move at the same time. After all, I need to see whom I'm punching. That makes sense, but I'm not sure I could knock out Ronald McDonald. The Horse Stance (and what in the world, by the way, does this move have to do with a horse?) is continued in a squatting position. Okay, Sifu, I have to ask: are you trying to hit your opponent in the chest instead of the jaw with this one, or deck a very short person?
I know it sounds like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not. It's just that when I attempt these moves for the first time, it's hard not to laugh at the picture I must be creating. The truth is that the further I go with Sifu's workout, the more respect I have for his strength and flexibility. And needless to say, the man doesn't appear to have an ounce of superfluous fat on his body. I wonder if that's a prerequisite to mastering this routine.
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Two parts to go! Are you still with me? If so, stick around for next week's look at "Warrior Transformation," in which I'll describe my efforts to perform such moves as a "front slap kick with arm rotation" and "front flex kick." I'll also take a closer look at the daily meditations that accompany the physical routines, as these are full of wisdom and I will probably be coming back to some of them in future entries.
But right now...I'm stretched and kicked out. Time to do a routine I can perform with relative ease and confidence - my evening walk!
Till we meet again, Keep on Treading!