Five years is a long time, but then again it's not. Someone recently asked me, "When did you finally feel your body get used to the training?" After a moment's pause I replied, "I think just recently - this year." They were quite surprised. Frankly, I still feel like I'm getting used to it.
I recall Dr. Yang saying that the first year (Body Conditioning) would be the hardest. The second year was also tough because the training changed a bit. It was still physical, and training lasted all day, but the body was being used differently than the previous year. I Sometimes caught myself wondering why it wasn't feeling any easier.
What got me throughout those formative years was my stubborness. There was a mission to prove - prove to myself, prove to the master, and prove to anyone else who may have doubted.
About two years ago, something happened. While learning and practicing massage, I noticed a deeper sense of feeling in my hands. There was a sensitivity, a subtlety; and with this there was connection and communication. I began to listen intently. I stayed relaxed, and just tried flow.
Consequently, I caught myself approaching a pushing hands match like a massage session - listening, staying relaxed, trying to flow. The goal was not to defeat an opponent, but to explore the exchange between two energies. This was revolutionary for me.
Curiously, I noticed that the same techniques that were practiced martially were being used for healing in my massage studies. For example, Chinna (joint locking) is used to control the limbs of an opponent - even break them, however when applied for massage, it is a great method to stretch the tissues and increase blood flow.
So there was this "ahaa" moment when I realized that the techniques I was learning could be applied for healing and not just killing.
This made me analyze each training exercise from the qigong-massage point of view. I would ask myself, "What does this exercise do for my energy, or to my energy? What is the effect on my body? Does it facilitate flow and relaxation? Does it cause stagnation and build tension?"
More questions emerged. "What are you training for? What is the goal? Well it's martial arts right? It's fighting isn't it?"
The truth was that my stubbornness, along with a lack of inexperience and knowledge, created a cloud which kept me from seeing that my training was misdirected and highly inefficient. It was unbalanced, lacking rest and recovery methods - healing. In those formative years, I wasn't able to see how the training could be used for building the body, while I was tearing it down on a daily basis.
I have learned that in order to achieve the best results there must be a balance of pressure and release - release meaning relaxation. In other words, too much stimulation (pressure) creates tension, which results in stagnation, and stagnation hinders movement and growth.
In massage, the right amount of pressure with the hands is paramount. What about the daily training? This lense forced me to reevaluate my training regimen. I was able to balance pressure with relaxation when I massaged others, but was I so balanced when it came to my own body?
Light bulb. What I realize is this: Each time one moves, one creates the opportunity to massage one's body. The template through which I was approaching my training was rooted in "life-taking" instead of "life-giving". I was draining my life force and energy, when rather I should be nourishing it.