2nd, November 2, 2010. I didn’t sleep at all last night, instead I sat at the laptop, Sarah and Catzu sleeping behind me on the bed and I read a book online. It was a book about a westerner who went to the shaolin temple for a period of time to train, I am not going to name any names because I intend to lampoon it a bit. Over a year ago when I was in Kuala Lumpor training with Guru Azlan in Silat I met the author of this book. He seemed like a nice man, calm and knowledgeable about martial arts and open and interested in learning new arts. He had come with a camera man to film a training session with Guru Azlan. I was excited to meet him and ideas for either training with him or in some shape or form being filmed with him filled my head. Asking Guru Azlan to demonstrate moves and talk about the philosophies of his art during the filming after the class we all parted ways.
Sometime later I was searching for his information on the internet and I came across his pod cast, I was excited to hear what he was up to. I was shocked when I listened to a few of his pod casts and they where the most juvenile crap I have ever come across. He is living in Asia somewhere and his pod casts consist of him talking about his lack of money, moaning about which ever country he is living in and having meandering brain fart rants about the most trivial of things. Last night I stumbled across his book which I almost finished through the night. Now even saying what I have I deeply respect the man for pursuing martial arts and especially for going to train at the shaolin temple and writing about it. This is the sort of life I would ideally like to lead, to be able to write and travel and do various martial arts along the way. His story sounds a very interesting one, until you actually read his book. The idea of a westerner going to the shaolin temple to learn for a year is one which tickles my interest greatly. Although I have no illusions about the shaolin temple and I am sure there are many genuine and great masters in that area but I am also sure the vast majority of school set up around the shaolin area are money grapping wushu schools who are basically a tourist attraction, in some ways this aspect intrigues me almost as much as the genuine art of shaolin. It’s interesting to see how an ancient art has changed over time and warped into something completely different.
The author of this book manages to take all the adventure out of the book. Reading it was like reading a giant gossip magazine. The author would maybe begin describing a place and then probable unable to help himself launch into some whiny dull rant. It was deeply frustrating to go through the book and have to listen to his China bashing, talking about his opinions on whatever passed through his mind at the time and having to endure his childlike, sarcastic insults. His only skill as a writer was to somehow put himself down while still sounding arrogant. His style was bland and dull, undisruptive and reminiscent of listening to the drunk ramblings of an idiot in a pub.
The book made me uncomfortable as well, I wondered if my style as a writer is similar, Maybe that was why it was annoying me so much. Some of his China bashing rants where similar to what I think and feel sometimes, I wondered if I ramble on talking shit in my blogs. I am sure I do but I am fairly sure that I don’t do it to such a consistent extent as the author. I got a lot out of reading it as it was a scary warning about how not to write. It’s so easy to get angry in China, it’s so easy from the different questioning views of being a westerner to nitpick and wag fingers, to moan and grown about the hardships of living here but at the end of the day it’s my firm view (although I forget it most of the time) that I am a guest in someone else’s country. It’s not my place to judge, it is not my right. I am hear of my own free will and am free to leave any time I want.
At 5:30 when my alarm went off I was still awake and I turned off the computer, donned my cloths and set out into the cold morning. There has been an almost daily increase of cloth items I have been putting on. Every day is colder than the one before. I wore a thick jacket today and put the hood up when the cold wind began to give me a head ache. The air crisp, the last dying leaves with frost on them hung shriveled and ready to drop. People walked with a more brisk and purposeful step, well wrapped up, men and women marched along the road stiff and awake. A frozen dog poo twinkled glamorously at me as I hopped over the road. Trying to miss the road sweeper who was in the centre of a dust cloud he was creating. A tall beautiful woman with a mini skirt and thick leggings was walking a puppy in front of me. She turned around looking startled at my presence behind her. She began crossing the road and stopped dead shouting at her puppy that was already half way crossed. A black BMW raced past two walls of yellow dust flung up in its wake, like waves breaking on a dam. Students traveling to school on their bikes masked their mouths with their sleeves as they cycled through the risen cloud.
Fewer and fewer people exercise in the morning now and only the hard core morning fans come out, old men and women thickly dressed jog and run around the park, clapping their hands and shouting at the top of their voices, sounding like a jungles morning call.
To my surprise and annoyance my heat rash has been making the odd unwanted drop in of late. In Haikou this plague bamboozled me as to its weakness or cure. I tried different creams and lotions, some working one time then sometimes making the itching become maddeningly unbearable other times. Now I have found that when I become angry or frustrated it makes a comeback. When the cat scratches me, when someone yells at me on the street if I trip up I get a surge of adrenalin and then almost instantly a prickly wave of itchy needles peppers all over the old bod. Today as I was running I was thinking inflammatory thoughts and instantly begun to get the hated symptoms, I managed to Zen it away and even though I began running faster and became very hot and sweaty I didn’t have it again that morning. It would appear the rash has returned to teach me a lesson in controlling my internal fire.
As per expected my vim left after the training session and I wholly felt the effects of having been awake for 27 hours. The once glamorous turd now lay dull and squalid in the unforgiving light of day as I passed back up the main road back home. I got home and after a shower, food and the daily pleasure of picking cat shit out of Catzus litter I sat down at the computer and began singing a Chinese song as a warm up for my mandarin lesson. Not half way through the song ‘ta hai bu dong’ (he does not understand) a slow warbling love song, my eye lids began to uncontrollably close, with the effort of picking up a sack of wet sand I would open one slowly while the other would begin closing again. I don’t know what I must have looked like, slouching with a gormless look on my gray haggard face and eye lids batting up and down unhinged. I gave in and made for bed, sleep took me fast and brought me back equally so at 12:30. The epic battle of the titans commenced between laziness and will power. Today will power triumphed and I got up and we trundled down the busy main road and lunched in a small grubby Muslim restaurant. Men with taqiyar hats and the women with headdresses bustled around serving big bowls of steaming noodles and meat. I got a big bowl of pulling noodles, the chief using a single lump of dough and through dropping and pulling it, turns it into one continues string of thin doodles. Then they are plopped into boiling water, cooked, souped in a bowl and given a smattering of lamb and chives. I get the large bowl and douse it in vinegar and dry chilly choppings, then I eat it. Sarah had a plate of dry doodles with tomato sauce (not Heinz) with onions and pork which tastes like fish. We where both incredibly full after and it was stonkingly tasty and it only cost 13 Yuan which is about 1 pound 30 pence. Saved a few penny farthings on that occasion I tell thee.
The sun was sending out a fair bashing stream of light in our direction in the afternoon. My noodles sloshed and gurgled inside me as I executed the warm up run, like the serious Viking that I am, I lollopped along painfully through the stitch, was it a stitch or was it indigestion?. Whatever it was it felt like a gremlin was plucking my inner wall like a demented musician. Coach Ma was away in the capital today so we were left on our own to train. After the run our group of wrestlers stretched by a low wall and I felt the potential of sun burn as the great eye looked at me lidless like I was Frodo with the ring. The students began asking me questions about America and the UK asking for what must be the millionth time “do you have any English money here?” I cut this inquisitiveness short by clapping my hands together and saying “let’s do some wrestling!” I tried unsuccessfully to engage a few students in combat but they were more interested in crouching in the dirt of slapping the freshly shaved head of the youngest student, an 8 year old boy who spends most of his time either trying to annoy the older students or crying because they hit him.
After my latest quarry, a muscle young man with a huge back and a six pack who had run away from me laughing when I asked him to wrestle I looked over to the other side of the field and watched longingly as the senior wrestling students ran through drills like obedient army men, I looked behind me and for a disapproving moment watched as my class mates dosed around throwing peddles at each other and chatted. I had bad thoughts about my bunch and walked over to the senior class. I didn’t hold it against my class mates that they didn’t want to train when Coach Ma wasn’t there, if I was a 17 year old boy again back at school I am certain that if I had ever got a lesson without a teacher I would have done exactly the same.
“ Coach Ma isn’t here today, can I train with your students?” I asked the seniors coach. He agreed and pointed me to the group who had just begun running. After another long run in which I went from full of beans to feeling like I was going to vom. They just kept running and running, faster and faster. “Jesus when is it going to end?” I asked the Gods. I wasn’t about to slack out of a new class and show them that I was a lazy bum, no sir, not this Johnson. It makes you wonder about that name doesn’t it? Who was John? What sort of person was he? And what was his son like? It would appear that he was worthy of having his first name turned into a family name. I might have to reinvent my family name to Timson or even better Timpson the second one has a plesent ring to it, then eons down the line when we are all zipping around on light beams with bombastically big heads one of my distant relatives with ask himself the same question “ who was this Tim then?”. But I mislead myself.
We had a fantastically grueling weights session, I spent most of the class lifting two heavy blue lumps of metal and raising them above my head. After wards when I was walking home my arms where utterly useless. They hung limp by my sides, Later that evening I found two swollen lumps under my arms where my muscles had put up a fuss about all the extra work they were doing. The day was done, I ate slept and that was that.