Cook Ding brought up something on one of my comment feeds recently that made me reflect back on my martial experience, namely the horse stance (馬步).
While as an adolescent I was brought to a local Shaolin Kung Fu school by my father in hopes that it would “improve my coordination”. From age 10-14 I went to this school 2-4 times a week, loyally (or rather blindly) going to this Sifu’s school to attempt to improve my coordination. Needless to say my coordination never improved significantly – I blame this on my lack of experience with video games. However, I did however gain several things that have stayed with me since.
- I made one of my longest friendships during my training then. He and I (Let’s call him H.J.) had the unofficial, and rather unfortunate moniker of the “trouble makers”. We were the two 12 year olds who our Dai Si-heng would constantly yelled at “Hey you two! Stop fooling around!”. Whenever we do our combo partner spear and broad sword form we would often break into impromptu Shakespearean sword-fight duels where we’d try to out-class each other as oppose to actually practicing the form. Ah just thinking about those times makes me feel like a man. There were other boys that I hung out and misbehaved (I’ll referred to us as “the rat pack”) with but he’s the only one who I still talk to.
- My own experience of being at a “McDojo”. At around the age of 14 I hear from some members of the rat pack that our Dai Si-heng had been let go by the Sifu. This shocked me because our Dai Si-heng was well loved by many of the students, young and old. What made the whole situation eerie was that it happened so fast – over a period of a couple of weeks. Even more so, our Dai Si-heng (DSH) and the Sifu had been Master-student for almost 20 years, our DSH had practically grown up with our Sifu and anything that would have destroyed that relationship virtually overnight would had to have been something major. Upon hearing this, I stopping going as often until my attendance basically went down to zero – I was 14 years old. Years later I eventually learn through several sources that the Sifu was basically running the school like a business and would regulate the majority of the teaching (90%) to his underlings. The same friend, HJ, had told me that school after DSH’s unceremonious departure went downhill; quality of teaching including. The Sifu himself was absent from most classes and I was told getting noticeably sloppy in attendance and teaching quality. HJ even told me Sifu slept during a test which he was judging!
- And finally…the horse stance!
I couldn’t do it then (I was a skinny 13 year old!), but now that I’ve getting back into it. My Sensei (both of them) have never mentioned anything and seem content about me doing it (by all indications anyway). You can almost say it’s a body thing: something that was helpful to me was remembered somehow and has found it’s new “home” in my Aikido training. I’ve also taken the liberty of simply doing the horse stance whenever I feel restless at home. Just that deep, settling, grounding movement is great for the general grounding metaphysical practice of Aikido.
Being one with the universe through the horse stance – one day at a time! Till next time ladies and gentlemen.