The Dragon Journals
The Dragon Journals

Journal Archives: January 2002 - December 2002.

2nd February 2002

Slowly back to normal...
No, you didn't miss a page, I had NO time to update this site in January. Still far too busy with work... any 'spare' time I have, is being used for family, practise, rest and exercise (more or less in that order). So the website and PC-related "fun" is a bit lower priority; I am sure anyone reading this will understand and forgive me :)

I'm now eating healthier foods (trying to stay away from the word 'diet' but really it is a change in diet). It's amazing how much more expensive it is to eat fresh foods and yet... the other day, my man accidentally picked up "organic" celery instead of... well, the celery that sells at a normal price. By the time we realised the mistake we were at the checkout and thought, what the heck, let's try it. I'll bet you already know the outcome: the taste was MUCH better.

Ok. This still doesn't turn me into a granola-eating health-conscious fitness freak, honest it doesn't... ** running off to try other organic foods in secret ** ;)

15th February 2002

Everything changes
As I write this, I am thinking of a story told by Dr. Painter about a banner he has, along the lines of, "Everything changes, including this". I'm sure that's not exactly right, but you understand the message.

We will be in England by this time next week, and from now until next Wednesday, most of my focus will be my new diet and on preparing for our holiday. I hope to give this site a bit of an update each day and will be on an exercise regime including additional baguazhang workouts each day. I will be very ready for the May seminar *smile*!

More to follow tomorrow. Still pondering change and what it means to me. May you live in dull times!

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12th April 2002

Time flies...
To be updated tomorrow...

PS I have lost a bit of weight :)

23rd April 2002

Didn't you know? Tomorrow never comes ;)
A quote to ponder, brought to my attention by my friend Jon in England, who is beginning to study aikido:

"Do not criticize any of the other martial arts. Speak ill of others and it will surely come back to you. The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move about."

Aikido: the Co-ordination of Mind and Body for Self-defense
Tohei Koichi, Souvenir Press, London, 1961, (ISBN 0-285-50195-X)

Thanks Jon!

30th April 2002

Next workshop: this weekend...
Shifu is arriving this weekend for a workshop: Friday night we will be looking at qigong, and I assume Saturday and Sunday will be mainly martial (we have asked for strength training techniques and whatever else Shifu feels we are ready to learn).

For me, this will be somewhat difficult but I should have developed better strength ages ago. Due to my neurological condition, my muscles have in places wasted to less than normal strength, and most of the past few years has been an attempt to maintain or return to normal muscular strength. The good news is, at the last visit with my neurologist, he noted all tests showed the same strength but one: in that test (which he repeated to be sure) I am now stronger.

This is good news, but why should I be satisfied with that? I used to be a competitive swimmer, now I can barely manage a few lengths and I'm gasping. Neurological problems or no, I'm out of shape and what kind of martial arts ability can anyone develop, who isn't willing to train their strength, flexibility and endurance? So, with a membership now at our local swimming pool, and some equipment in the basement of our new house - no more excuses! And a plan, so far at least, to update progress here daily... off now to stretch and go to bed. Night!

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1st May 2002

Dancing around the Maypole?
No, not today. However we DID go swimming this morning, and I managed to eke out 18 lengths - 2 each swimming, arms only, then legs only of crawl, breaststroke, backstroke. If you think I'm planning to attempt butterfly anytime soon, think again ;)

No weight training today, did stretching and standing but not much else. Tomorrow night is the last class before Shifu's visit so I hope we will be ready - I don't feel ready...

...and now, I'm off to bed. It's been a long day, very productive but very tiring. Until my next update... :)

7th May 2002

Well, maybe not EVERY day, ...
Feeling a renewed sense of motivation after Shifu's visit is typical. Today I did daoyin warmup stretches before quiet sitting, and plan to go outside later today for some standing and circle walking.

And now that we have had a workshop on strength training (Weigong) I can apply it to my practise! :) More later - I've notes from the weekend and hope to post some of them here this weekend (sooner if I can get to it). Photos to follow too! ;)

13th May 2002

Every day ...
No chance yet to set down notes from the weekend, but then again, it's not really a top priority. Life takes precedence; I was at the workshop and still remember the session. No need to record it as of yet...

Good night to the Taoist of all cats.

16th May 2002

Some thoughts from an e-mail I recently wrote in reply to a martial arts sister ...

Dear Xxxxxxx,

[...] As I am just going through my 'inbox', I came across this e-mail from you, and I apologise sincerely as I don't think I ever responded to you. The reason I am replying now, is that I always intended to respond and hope you can forgive the delay. It's great to hear from someone who has read my site and feels similarly - somehow, knowing that my seemingly mundane struggles (while everyone else seems to have no trouble whatsoever, yeah, right!) are not as uncommon as I might think. Yes, for me practise is a recurring theme, sometimes because all I want to do is play even though I really should sit quietly ;)

As for me, my online diary has suffered recently as has my bagua. Our Shifu was here recently however, and that always encourages me to practise, especially as he is so pleased to see my health developments. Personally I do enjoy the martial and find the health to be the bonus *grin*, but to be honest I too am not the most coordinated and every improvement on my part is hard-won.

For example, last week a few others in class (most of whom have prior martial arts or other fighting-related experience) were demonstrating how to fall. OK, more like, how to start to learn to fall - very similar to a somersault. Now we all know how easy it is to somersault - a child can do it. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. For me, a few bruises later, I am ready to buy a mat and practise 'learning to learn' how to fall in the privacy of my own home! Ah well.

As for practise and learning correctly - let me clarify. When I discuss practise, I am talking specifically about setting aside a time, going to either the basement or back yard, and stretching, meditating, moving slowly, practising one aspect, linear walking, focussing on a certain aspect of my practise, then enjoying circle walking and just doing it for fun, before cooling down. This "practise" is only part of my training. As our Shifu says, if you're only practising 1 or 2 or 3 hours per day, but spend the remaining 10 or 15 hours doing something else, then which is going to be your normal method of walking/breathing/ etc.? As a result, it is 24/7 to review posture, to ensure that I am 'belly breathing' and that my rolling step is a deliberate step rather than a 'fall'. Hmmmm I feel a diary update coming on... *grin*

Anyway Xxxxxxx, by now I am sure to have bored you - you can probably tell why I write this online! LOL I hope you've been sticking with your classes - sounds like you're having great fun in class. Thanks again for writing to me. It's great to get feedback :)

Cheers

Sandy.


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2nd June 2002

Still here :)
Anyone ever tried yoga? I have. More later, just wanted to let you know I'm still here **smile**....

5th June 2002

Over 3 years of bagua and still a beginner :(
Can anyone offer any help? I'm feeling quite frankly, a bit defeated. I do know that the art takes a long time to develop, but even I can't help but notice I'm still in the 'beginner's' group of our little study group. Is this really a case of just too old, or too unhealthy, or just not the right inclination? Anyone practising an internal art, who has similar experience to mine and can offer perhaps an outsider's perspective, please e-mail me. I feel stuck.

Thanks in advance.

-Sandy T.

17th June 2002

Serious concerns
Friends starting in Aikido 6 months ago, are now practising break falls. In terms of strength training, I know more about free weights and repetitions than I understand strength exercises in bagua. No problem: I'll adapt and use those principles. In terms of what is needed to progress , develop and advance in this art, I have a better understanding from my competitive swimming 20 years ago of what is needed to advance, than I do in Jiulong Baguazhang. That is a far greater concern to me.

I am aware that others do progress and that there are students in Texas and elsewhere who appear (according to discussions) to train far more rigourously and whose training seems more martially-oriented. Have they been playing longer? I don't know for sure but there is certainly more discussion surrounding falls, throws and joint locks (something I've never seen in our group). Is it time to consider alternatives? Yes, I think it's healthy to do so and in light of an apparent lack of a goal, at the very least this issue is something I need to discuss. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going back to my swimming roots and thinking of starting a training log. In order to attain improvements, I will need goals.

I'll leave you with a thought: All of nature and life may be geared towards a circle, but man's difference that has allowed him to advance himself is the concept of a straight line, and man's ability to progress in that straight line. I'm now seeking the straight line.

23rd June 2002

Lest I am being unfair, please don't misinterpret...
It is interesting to me that I have received 2 responses to my June 17 journal entry, and none to my June 5 entry. I must admit my faith in people is diminished when a request for help goes unanswered, but a negative thought provokes interest... but I'll leave that thought to one side for now.

That having been said, it has been suggested that the above may reflect poorly on the study group. That is not my belief, and so I feel the need to clarify and explain my last entry: this is my journal. My feelings, thoughts, emotions, responses are mine and admittedly, I choose my course of action that will result in either improvement or deterioration. Those feelings, thoughts, etc right or wrong, are what is currently happening - with ME - and are recorded as a matter of fact and hopefully, over time, will show a record of growth, personal and martial.

To clear up any possible misinterpretation:
This past year, as a result of both a tight schedule and some unresolved feelings, thoughts (etc) I have not been attending classes regularly for about 9 months. During this time, the group has spent a lot of time working with martial applications and planning to upgrade its facilities, including purchasing mats so that we may learn falls and subsequently train falls and throws. Given my lack of consistent class attendance, I may not have been as sensitive to the changes, and it would be unfair if anyone lays blame on the study group for my current frustrations. FYI my record of attendance for that time probably averages to about once per month.

As I said, it is my responsibility what I do about my frustrations, and subsequently to my June 17th journal entry, I gathered the nerve to ask for a discussion with my study group leaders, which was well received. As a result of those discussions, I realise that I need to better define my training goals myself - and not be too shy to ask for help! The discussions also helped me to better understand my current needs and frustrations, and I have been left with much to consider, none of which I feel comfortable sharing here today. However, an email I received contained some similar thoughts, and I'll share those with you shortly... I'll also be attending classes regularly once more and hope that the study group continues to grow, since the growth of the group will help us to build our training facilities (our first goal - mats!) Wish us luck.

This does not mean that all is resolved, but I am feeling better and ready to work through this, whatever it may be.

Apart from the above clarification, I also received an interesting and thought-provoking email from someone only marginally associated with baguazhang up to now, who has identified with my struggles with training and self-doubt. What he did in that email, was to share his stories of how he has experienced personal growth (in other areas), and I am glad he sent it to me as it has left me with some thoughts to consider. Here are 2 quotes that I intend to spend more time considering: "... In fact just about any real inner growth that I have experienced in my life has been in spite of my conscious efforts rather than because of them. The more certain I feel about the path I am taking and the goal I am pursuing the the less progress I seem to make. ..." Sounds familiar...

29th June 2002

No summer halfprice wings
Having a lazy day so far. The fence is complete in the back yard and I have some pics to post, but they will likely wait until tomorrow. Phone just rang. More later...

NOTE
Some changes underway
This site will be changing over the next three months - bear with me, let me know what you think. I'd give an email address but due to spam I will be changing my dragonjournals.com email address soon too! Once it's changed, I'll welcome your feedback. Thanks and I hope you've enjoyed my journals - Sandy T.

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July 2002

Training Log Book
I now keep written notes - thoughts, areas of training, notes on seminars - all written. For example, my July training log book notes that I have started eating a healthier diet. More updates to follow by mid-September - I'll be updating the site as well.

August 2002

See above
August training journal notes that my diet (actually the diet started changing last February) and added exercise (walking and TV yoga) have resulted in improved fitness and fat loss. More updates from August will be transcribed from my written notes by mid-September.

September 2002

New season
Class formats changing mid-September should prove interesting. Many new and interesting students - hope they will stick with it! More later this month...

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October 2002

First ever visit to The Gompa: Pre-Visit Jitters
Finally, I felt prepared (strong?) enough to visit the Gompa, gathered my nerve, and asked if all students were invited for the Founder's Day ceremony and weekend. The replies somewhat confused me (happens easily when you get excited *grin*)... but the message was that I would be welcome, if I wanted to go.

I definitely wanted to go.

I'm not certain if I've mentioned it before, but the Gompa is the name of our school or 'kwoon,' and is translated from the Tibetan word as "place of quiet study.". For more information on the Gompa, see www. ninedragonbaguazhang.com/howto.htm. Shifu Painter is in the process of creating a website strictly for the Gompa at www.thegompa.com but it is currently not completed (Oct 2002).

Did I feel "ready?" No, not really but I did understand that I'd never fully feel ready. For several years I had watched and eagerly awaited the return of others who had been to the Gompa, which seemed to me the locus of the art. Now, after a few family trips to England, I had amassed sufficient "reward miles" to keep the airfare low. I was able to book the necessary time off work. My Study Group Leaders and others who had been to the Gompa were enthusiastic and supportive. My man supported my desire and decision to visit. I felt physically strong enough to participate in the intensive training I expected. This was happening!

Dallas/Fort Worth
Some pre-flight confusion (what's a super shuttle??!?) and a few airmiles later (hey, they actually CAN be redeemed!) and I was landing on Thursday evening at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport in 88 degree F weather (I think)... warmer than Canada, in any event. Hand luggage only and even brought my swimsuit, which was after all a good idea, because Friday morning was hot and aside from the mall, the time was mostly waiting in anticipation.

The pool was empty, meaning all to myself and even though I still can't swim butterfly (arms just graze the surface when I try), I found that the resistance offered made for an interesting training session in the water. And, in the finish, it was the only chance I'd get to use the pool. So I spent a leisurely Friday morning, enjoying the nice weather and pool and a bit of time for reflection on my own.Then a few water somersaults for fun, and finally it was time to take a proper shower.

The rest of the group was arriving mid-day and soon after we would be on our way to The Gompa.

I don't think 'nervous' or 'excited' truly is the correct expression for my anticipation, more a state of quiet excitement mixed with a bit of apprehension... was I ready, would I be accepted, would I be invited back??

Add a few website difficulties...

My apologies if anyone tried to reach this site and found it removed. My web hosting provider changed their policy of providing a 'free' service to a 'paid' service but couldn't reach me due to having old email address. This did not stop them from trying to charge my old credit card number without my authorisation, and they felt that the credit card being declined 3 times gave them the right to take down my site. Thanks to catalog.com for this interesting interlude. They now have a new credit card and have charged me their new fees and the service is now paid for another year. In the past 2 years this is the first real difficulty I have had with this provider, so I can't really complain but am reminded of the latin warning "caveat emptor" - let the buyer beware! 'Nuff said.

The photos from the Gompa workshop have been developed onto CD so I hope to have them here by tomorrow.

Arlington, Texas and The Gompa

After my swim and shower, I laid out clothes and reviewed some of the Jiulong Baguazhang manuals in my room. After all, if anyone were to ask me what I knew about things, I wanted to be able to answer from the knowledge base I had been given. Anything else might appear ungrateful! These thoughts, plus anticipation, kept me pleasantly excited and somewhat on edge. I would be the most junior person there, I was sure of it, and likely the only female. Ah well. There are worse things than a room full of men! ;>

A quick 15-minute walk out to the nearest supermarket allowed me to pick up a bunch of flowers that I hoped represented the 'field flowers' brought to the Lama Zurdwang, and finalised my preparation for our Gompa visit, since it is traditional on Founder's Day to bring a gift of cut flowers and well wishes for the Kwoon for the coming year.

Early that afternoon, a knock at my door announced the arrival of Eric, Neil and Jan. Andy Garza would pick us up at the hotel soon, then drive us to The Gompa. Ready or not, I was ready.

We arrived at Dr. Painter's house just in time to have a quick look around The Gompa and gardens, then join the rest of the crowd for a pizza lunch. Some of the group had been helping to put up banners and ready the place for the weekend. During lunch, Martin Kelly looked up and said, "I know what happened to that missing banner!" Fortunately, the squirrel proved no match for Eric Tither's climbing abilities. Well, almost none...

After lunch, we gathered our materials (workshop schedule and seminar manual) and headed into The Gompa building. We had placed our flowers earlier, and were now formally and warmly welcomed to The Gompa for the weekend and what was essentially, the annual year end closing of the kwoon.

Founder's Day Ceremony
As the day progressed, and after we had completed some exercises, we exited the Gompa (bowing both when entering and leaving, as a sign of respect and gratitude for the teachings) and waited for the evening ceremony to begin. More students gathered: even though not everyone was attending the weekend seminar, all students who could attend showed up for the ceremony. After the ceremony ended, the official photograph of our Shifu and the Jiulong Baguazhang SGLs and management was taken - luckily by me! - so I was able to snap these quick "before and after the official picture" snaps. Shifu is missing from the first photo as he was preparing the camera.

After a good night's sleep, a fine day's work

After a fine supper at a nearby Chinese restaurant on Friday evening, we returned to the hotel for our beauty sleep and awoke refreshed and ready to begin. **more to follow**

Next entries: (1) Continuation/completion of Gompa experience story, and (2) November/December updates - I'm finally catching up here! (seeing as it's almost 2003)...

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November 2002

...in progress... life intervenes and training time suffers, again...

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December

...in progress... Merry Christmas! Back to the bagua mat *grin* ... It's now January 6th and I'm still updating October but 'catch up' will be completed by mid month... Thanks for bearing with me - this is the busiest time of the year for me! - Sandy T.


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