Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Shoe, Two Shoe, Old Shoe, New Shoe

The Changing of the Shoes - A Solemn Event in my Personal Training
(Note the nicks from a kwan dao on the left shoe, above)

This week’s workouts were a first for me - my first workouts in new wrestling shoes in more than five years.

The other pair has lasted me a good long time. I use wrestling shoes because they are sturdy, lightweight and flexible. When practicing kung fu or taiji, I think it is important to be able to feel the ground beneath your feet.

What’s more, I have better luck with wrestling shoes staying on my feet. The slippers that are considered part of most traditional kung fu uniforms are certainly comfortable. But, in my experience, finding a pair that fits is tricky. Too often, I’ve had them come flying off whenever I throw a kick or when practicing on a wet surface, like grass.

Other athletic shoes are just too heavy. Certainly those cross-training shoes are the worst for practice.

I hate getting rid of old shoes. The old ones are comfortable. They bend in all the right places. The rubber treads are worn off in all the right places, making it is for me to pivot, while the rubber itself still gives me enough traction that I don’t fall and kill myself.

I put off changing my shoes for about a year. The others started to fall apart when I came too close to my own foot while practicing with my kwan dao. I cut through some of the material in one of the shoes.

Once something like that happens, it’s only a matter of time before more holes and tears appear.

Changing my shoes forces me to take an inventory of my training equipment. I start to look at what needs to be cleaned, what needs repairs or maintenance. Especially now, given my economic situation, I don’t have any extra money for replacing broken gear.

I lucked out with my shoes. I bought two pairs during a buy one/get one sale at a sporting goods store. The new pair I put on isn’t exactly new. They’re five years old, but they’ve been sitting in a shoe box in my closet.

Practicing with my sam jei guan (three-sectioned staff). Note the new colors, black and red.

In addition to the shoes, I took a look at my old three-sectioned staff. It’s the same one I bought 25 years ago. It’s still holding up, but it did need to be painted.

Rather than simply break out with the spray paint and masking tape and have at it, I decided to try something different. I’ve been practicing the Yau Kung Mun version of the three sectional instead of just free-styling it, or trying and failing to recall the form I previously learned.

One of the risks of the three-sectioned staff is that at least one section will always be out of your direct control. I noticed that sometimes when I thought I was holding an end section, I was holding the middle, and vice versa.

So I decided to try different colors. The middle section is red with black trim, while the end sections are both black with red trim. Like my competition uniform.

Besides looking cool, I find it gives me a quick, visual clue as to what section is in my hand at a given moment. This comes in handy, especially during the opening move when the pieces of the staff go from being held together to spread apart.

Which brings me to my recent workouts. I’ve been working the three sectioned staff and the Mung Fu Chuit Lum (Fierce Tiger Crashes from Forest) in my recent workouts.

Today, I managed to get a lot done in just a little more than an hour. Starting with a full-body stretch, I did an eight-rough circuit with the Mung Fu Chuit Lum form, the ab wheel and three to eight reps of claw pushups.

I did the pushups in a pyramid fashion, starting with all five fingers in the first set, and removing a finger with each set until I was down to just doing them on my thumb. For the last few sets, I only did about three reps, but I’m proud to say that I can finally do them with a fully-extended pushup position, not from my knees.

After the set on my thumbs, I started adding fingers with each set. I closed with a set of 15 pushups with all the fingers on each hand.

With the circuit completed, I warmed up with five rollouts on each side and five runs of the first half of the three sectioned staff. It’s a simple form. When you remove the repeating moves, there’s probably only about a dozen moves in that whole set.

But it will take a lot out of you. Especially with the rollouts.

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