Personal Trainer, 3rd Dan Tang Soo Tao black belt and Tai Chi practicioner Stephen Ramsdale has a wealth of experience in the fitness industry that he uses to benefit his clients and readers. Based in Caloundra on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Stephen runs a training studio from the Brittania Garage on Caloundra's Bulcock Street.
Saturday afternoon was spent in the company of some locals enjoying the “view” of the aroma of Sweet Osmanthus at Manjuelong Village. At this time of year the Sweet Osmanthus trees flower, providing a pleasant aroma when you are near. The trees are prevalent throughout Hangzhou, but at Manjuelong Village in the hills south of Westlake the area is forested with Sweet Osmanthus. The streets are lined with tea houses and it is popular to drink tea with some Sweet Osmanthus flowers in it and pass the afternoon bathing in the aroma, playing cards and chatting.
From a quiet morning to a very busy evening, the population of the city grew as the buildup to next wednesdays China National Day Holiday commenced. Tourists everywhere, traffic chaos with parking impossible, cars doing U turns anywhere and stopped in the middle of lanes to drop off/pick up passengers. So many pedestrians and bicycles it’s difficult to walk on a foot path. As the traffic increases, the number going the wrong way increases also.
The Qing style models pictured were outside a shop I passed. They look like relatives of mine.
Last day with teacher Liu and his students was plenty of work but lots of fun. We played more competitively with push hands, which brings out individual personalities. In the afternoon practice was less intense. While we reviewed the week and looked closely at White Stork and Brush Knee, the main emphasis was to concentrate on the basics - straight spine, eyes forward, move from the waist, nothing stops, everything circles, relax and enjoy your practice.
There was much tea and conversation. Days spent practicing with Teacher Liu will be missed, but a rest will be appreciated.
Quite warm today, some patches of blue in the sky and a little direct sun. Lots of push hands practice at morning training with around seven of Teacher Liu’s students attending. While Liu takes half a step and has my back, the students find me difficult to move around. I wish I could see how he does it.
The trip across town today was via public bicycle. A little red bike with yellow basket, choosing the one with the highest seat, my knees were above the handle bars and above my elbows. Must have looked a sight. Easy ride though, all flat, but busy traffic and practically no brakes.
The afternoon was concerned mainly with internal abdominal circles creating all movements of the hands and feet. This reminded me of the picture from a couple of days ago in front of the Civic Centre.
Rain hadn’t stopped since yesterday so everywhere is sodden. A bigger umbrella was first business of the day then back on the bus. In Hangzhou there is public art to be found on streets and parks everywhere. The pictured piece is near my bus stop.
Training today looked at many variations of Part the Wild Horses Mane, Single Whip and Raising Hands. Starting with “this is what it’s for”, then lots of “if this happens do that”. All consistent with the follow then change and moving forward while moving back concepts. Much emphasis on weight change and keeping shoulders-hips, elbows-knees, and hands-feet aligned.
When we emerged from the afternoon session the rain had stopped and the pavement was dry at last. The subway was a new adventure in returning to the hotel. Excellent service with electronic location displays and English announcements.
A special mention of Kevin Hu. As he has done on previous trips, Kevin has taken time out from his study at Uni to act as interpreter. He has never been paid for this and travels more than an hour each way to be here. He always goes the extra mile to make things easy for me and others who have accompanied me on these Tai Chi study trips. He finishes his study in november and returns home to Ningbo, North of Shanghai, so this is probably the last time he can help. I hope we get the chance to reciprocate some hospitality on the Sunny Coast in future.
Rain day training moved 20 metres to be under cover and our view out is the golden orb of the Hangzhou International Convention Centre. Only two of teacher Liu’s students ventured out in the wet and the focus of our work was variations on Ward Off, Roll Back, Press and Push with many examples and much discussion along with the practice.
The scooter ride across town was hairy (but incident free) with weekday traffic and rain. In the afternoon we reviewed yesterdays material and went deeper into the footwork, width of stance and basic forward stepping. I feel some progress was made today, We ended the session with a look at a practice step called mud walking - using the waist to walk as if dragging heavy weights with the feet.
Looking out from morning training at the Grand Theatre the Hangzhou Civic Centre rises like a sci-fi Stone Henge into the misty grey sky. Today I was early enough to watch Teacher Liu’s students practice the Long Form. While we do 81 forms, the movements within movements make this seem like 1000 forms of Tai Chi.
There was much review of basics in good couple of hours push hands with various students under the critical eye and direction of Teacher Liu before we stopped for lunch. Key points were follow then change, moving forward while moving back and vice versa.
The afternoon session was a change of pace with internal aspects of ward off, roll back, press and push, stepping forward and stepping backward. more emphasis on going one way to go the other, foot placement and inversion of palms.
The Hangzhou Grand Theatre in the new CBD was the setting for Push hands training with Teacher Liu and his students this morning. There was a BMW sponsored running event across the way so we had a live band playing Beatles, Stones, Joan Jet and Disney classics for a soundtrack. After a few hours Teacher Liu took me across town on the back of his electric scooter and we had lunch including some very potent red wine he made himself.
After lunch was more training and Lang Jingchang joined us.
Bus services are everywhere in Hangzhou and it seems I will get to experience a few routes at least. It costs 2 RMB (35c) to get half an hour across town to the CBD.
Relaxed easy day today, recovering from 22 hours in transit yesterday. The weather is cool and wet with unrelenting drizzle all day.
After sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast I walked under the umbrella for 4 hours, covering some familiar ground, but noting the appearance and disappearance of businesses. In a back street I found an excellent fresh food market with all sorts of live seafood and amphibians, meat, eggs, fruit and veg. Would be handy if I had a kitchen.
Had lunch at a little eatery, 12 RMB (about $2) for more than I could eat spicy chicken, tofu, beans, celery, cauliflower and rice.
Taking advantage of the wifi in my room to study Mandarin and stay out of the rain for the afternoon.
The pagoda in the picture is in a heavily builtup area with elevated motorway on the left and shops all around, in a spot I’ve been many times at night and never noticed it before.
Returning to Hangzhou September 18 to October 5 for more Tai Chi training with Liu Zhen Wei. Classes in Caloundra will be cancelled while Stephen is away. New inspiration can be expected when classes recommence in October after spending more time with Teacher Liu.
Daily postcards will appear here in the slideshow and under the Blog Menu. Follow the adventure and leave comments please.