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A little less than a happy high
Kung Fu Dreams
Before the soft and weak years, I spent a good 16-20 hours a week at the white crane school. As we practiced, Sifu Wu would observe, periodically getting up to make minor adjustments, but mostly just sitting and informing us of our progress, using clipped phrases like “no good” and “AAHHHH!” When one of us would really screw up, he would chuckle, mutter something in his obscure variant of Cantonese and then show the student something significantly better. There would be breaks throughout the night, and we would sit around listening to Sifu Wu telling stories, giving instructions, or answering our questions. All of this would happen in translation.

At one point, he talked at length about paying attention to our dreams about kung fu. He told us that they were more significant than we could imagine. The mind, it seems, continues to practice after the body is resting. I understood the process as a kind of rewiring. The mind recreates itself to accommodate the art.

I used to have a lot of fight dreams. I’d try out techniques in different situations, and occasionally I’d have a genuine revelation. A seemingly superfluous movement from a form would make suddenly make sense to me, and I’d go to class the next night to find Sifu Wu commenting on my improvement. Every once in a while, the dreams would get truly violent, and I’d find myself shouting out or kicking under the covers, much to the chagrin of my rather more delicate bed-mates. In one of these, I actually kicked over M- and broke my big toe against a cinderblock dorm-room wall.

I fell out of bed. No one should begin his morning with that much pain.

At the height of my training, I had a dream where I discovered an entirely new style while meditating somewhere on the Maine coast. The style borrowed strength from the granite cliffs and the tireless assault of the ocean against the shore. Most of the techniques relied on moving with speed and fury from a seemingly immovable base. Amidst the relentless tide, I would stand, catching incoming assaults and tumbling my opponents. I would keep them off balance, unleashing a torrent of strikes once they had lost their footing. They would be tumbled against the rocks and in the end I would remain, hard and serene. It was unnerving to get such a clear image of how it all fit together. The form captured the spirit of the place completely. I saw all of it clearly, and in the dream I practiced for hours. I became an extension and at times an expression of the place.

When I woke up, I remembered a good deal of what I had seen, but knew that it would be several years of hard work before I would be ready to attempt any of it. Even then, my body wasn’t ready for the rigors of what I had envisioned.

My latest dreams have involved getting my ass handed to me because I hurt myself or because I’m out of breath or otherwise just can’t keep up.

Current Mood: determined determined
Current Music: Coldplay, "Clocks"

6 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 7th, 2003 07:43 am (UTC) (Link)

my dreams of violence have always taken the form of me knifeing someone in a typically underhanded fashion and subsequently running from cops the rest of the night.

i sleep with a very dull machette just out of arms reach, under the matress.
this does not please my wife.
komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2003 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
These aren't the only violent dreams I've had, though I can't say that I recall ever knifing someone in dreamspace. I do remember a dream involving a really big axe...

Eh, I'm pretty sure you'd kick my ass, machete or no. ;)
riverbank From: riverbank Date: January 7th, 2003 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
violence is a usual part of my dreams and even in subliminal ways, feeling of violence and not seeing it. i'm often a night thrasher.
i've never had a tai chi dream but have had ones where i am as agile as animals, an animal itself, or just the opposite, tripping and falling all over the place.
didn't know you practiced kung fu. i'm into tai chi (freestyle push hands) and have taken chi kung classes. i haven't been the same since.
komos From: komos Date: January 8th, 2003 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm horribly out of practice and I'm carrying way too much extra weight now, but yeah... I became pretty invested in pak hok pai. Still, before I got preoccupied with life's complications, I had worked to the point where I was leading the beginner soft form/chi gung classes.

Is it safe to assume that you practice Yang style?
riverbank From: riverbank Date: January 8th, 2003 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)


i've been doing it on and off for many years. i like sparing, using it as self defence. my favorite teacher (who has now moved away) taught a type of push hands (always in contact)sparing that helped me emensely in feeling control in my body, to obsorb and ground, and basically keep from falling over during the whole thing. unfortunatly, i haven't found anyone near home that teaches anything other than short form/long form. so now i'm learning those. (kinda backwards to learn sparing first)
out of the blue question here; do you watch many kung fu movies? are there any tai chi ones?
komos From: komos Date: January 9th, 2003 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)

I really liked push hands, but tended to rely a little (ok, a lot) too much on my strength. I've gotten much clumsier since I've not been practicing.

I do watch a fair amount of HKAT, though recommending one for a certain style can be tricky. There are the obvious Tai Chi I, II, and III. Be warned that these are at times fairly silly and require you to look past the wire-fighting to observe any real technique. Pretty much anything with Donnie Yen (son to Bow Sim Mak) will incorporate elements of his Wushu-influenced Yang style. I also remember seeing a stunningly good application of push-hands in a film I saw recently, but will have to get back to you with the title.

Additionally, we've a copy in the house of a film made in the 1950's depicting a match between White Crane and T'ai Chi practioners. (Sifu Wu was in attendance, though he wasn't one of the fighters.) Both men came away claiming they won. If I can figure out how to convert it into a more useful format, I'll gladly pass a copy along to you.
6 comments or Leave a comment