Today’s Gallery Theme: ‘Muscleaneous’
(with thanks to ‘Uncle Carl’ for the word…)
(…and, to start, one of those nice workout pictures with a trickle of sweat signifying a job well done!)
We made one of our occasional visits to the Chinese kung-fu ‘temple’ in Knoxville on Saturday morning at the invitation of our long-term friends Li and Yao. We met these guys a long while back through our friend Gary, himself a kung fu practitioner, and we somehow made a good impression with our fitness and acrobatics, especially on the 90+-year old master, leading to us being taught numerous skills like spear bending against the body which we now incorporate into our shows.
I wrote about how this all came about in my three books, whose cover images are scattered through this post (just click on them for more information). The final book, Against All Odds, chronicled the sad death of that wonderful man, and how, strangely, his spirit lived on in the temple helping Gary to master the amazing skill of balance (on the stomach) on a single spear point. He must practice this daily, along with a gruelling abs workout regime, to maintain that skill.
Saturday was the anniversary of his death, and so this date was one we were determined to keep, and show respect. Our original ‘core four’ – Dave and myself, Zach and Gary, plus my son Leo were invited, which meant Gary picking us up at 4am (arrrrgh!) because their training always starts at 5am – with an ice bath. Everything I have been taught tells me that this is wrong – it should come at the end of training – but that’s the way it’s done there. So we joined Li and Yao (now approaching 40), their nephews ‘Sam’ and ‘Alex’ (they like to use English names with us) plus their long-term American training partner Cas – plus – how time passes!) Sam and Alex’s sons, aged 5 and 7. Sam and Alex (again, we meet them in the books) each has a boy and a girl, but this is a strictly ‘men-only’ business.
A solemn vigil followed the initial weight training, something in which we were honoured to participate. The old man’s portrait, with a candle burning, has stood next to the temple lantern ever since his death. And then they were anxious to see our latest skills, with special interest in Leo – they have seen him before, but not much… and were delighted when he took to a bed of glass and allowed them to smash a couple of blocks on his stomach.
It was also an opportunity for the very young boys to show off. First of all the 5yo stood impassively on the older boy’s head whilst he walked around on the glass, and then they both walked through it on their hands. They were into spear bending too, but then they introduced a new one which we are now determined to include in our own shows if we can pull it off – Gary can do it anyway and will assist us.
The older boy produced three lengths of wire, passed them around the younger one’s body and twisted them tight – one above the nipples, one below, and one a couple of inches further down. With apparent ease, the younger boy inflated his lungs, directed his qi in accordance with the practice of kung-fu, and snapped the wire loops in sequence from top to bottom, accompanied by the usual vocal sounds of achievement. A small bow to us and to the temple lamp, then on to assist his older friend to wrap a modestly-sized iron bar around his neck. And, of course, to unwind it after.
If they’re doing that stuff aged 5/7, they’re going to be pretty impressive when they get older! Visiting the temple is always an honour and a great experience, especially when followed by breakfast in the family restaurant before being dropped off at the gymnastics center to start our weekend coaching work – and with Leo seeking out Karla in the acrobatics hall!
Acknowledgement: A small number of images in this and other posts are appropriate ‘finds’ from blog sites operated by ‘patje’ in Belgium – usually distinguished by either a small ‘Bambi’ or an ‘eye’ symbol in the bottom left-hand corner. Links to his sites can be found below – bottom right of all pages.