Monday, August 31, 2009

Scenes From The Wudang Saber Seminar

Well, we just returned from a three-day intensive seminar on the Wudang Saber with our instructor Michael Gilman, and my head is spinning.
This form was passed down from Master Wang Bao Ren. Michael met Master Wang through mutual friends at a Tai Chi Chuan club at the Boeing Aircraft Company. Wang traveled regularly from China to Seattle to teach, and that is where the form was passed down.
This is the most beautiful yet complicated weapons form I have ever tried to learn. While Japanese sword tends to be very direct, the Wudang Saber uses intricate Bagua-type footwork, circle walking, wild slashing, hand strikes and kicks.

Unlike the harder style fighting systems of the Bhuddists of Shaolin, the Taoists of Wudang Mountain developed the Internal systems including Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua, and this Wudang Sabre form clearly reflects that lineage.
While the form is only classified as 40 movements, each movement consists of multiple complex techniques. Just take a look at some of the names of these movements:
- "Stepping into the gate with an indomitable spirit"
- "The hidden dragon turns the waves inside out"
- "Gallop through the mountain and split the wood column"
Thankfully, I was able to get a short video of Master Wang doing the form in China many years ago. My brain is wired for the written word. The first thing I did when I got home was to run the video, pause it and write notes on the movements in my own words. Not only is this a portable reference, it just allows the complicated information to be run through the brain in a different way.

Music Report
Port Townsend is a screamin' hot music town. We saw a great "Jug Band" up at our favorite Bar, "Sirens", which incidentally was built by a friend of mine. We started out with what may be the best Beer in the Pacific Northwest, Port Townsend IPA.
Our hotel rooms were about two blocks up from Sirens, over what used to be called "The Town Tavern" in the eighties, now I think it's the "Water Street Ale House" or something. There, we saw another band, this one a very hard-driving contemporary rock trio. These kids were fantastic, transitioning from fast hard-rock to ethereal vibes, great dance music. By that time we had moved on from the heavy IPA to Grapefruit and Vodka or $2.00 Oly and Pabst in a can.
Potential Hazards
Like all best laid plans, something is bound to go wrong.
Young Zackey Chan gave his hotel room key to another Dojo Rat who was sharing the room. Zac stayed up and shmoozed with the band as they closed the bar down. The rest of us had already crashed out.
Without his hotel key, Zac had to climb the fire escape until he found a door open on the third floor, but he made it in safely.
All-in-all, a very successful road trip for the Dojo Rats and a great opportunity to learn a powerful Saber form that is hundreds of years old. It really reminded me of how weapon training can make your empty-hand training even better, with the weapon being an extension of your body and your energy.
It's going to take some time and practice to get this form right, but once we got into it, it really grabs onto you!


Patrick Parker said...

The lady standing at the edge of the first pic looks like she's thinking, "Who the hell are these nutjobs who have invaded my flat with swords!?"

Dojo Rat said...

Actually, she was on leave from Iraq, and was headed back soon...

This was the hardest form I've ever learned I think, right up there with the two-man 88-movement fighting form.

Steve Perry said...