Learning the True Forms
In the Liang household, one old and two young partook of their meal.
There was a plate of sweet-sour pork ribs, a plate of twice-cooked pork, fish with eggplants and plate of fried Chinese lettuce. These dishes were all cooked by Xia Lei and they were in celebration of him getting the piece of land. His celebration was simple and modest.
"Have a piece of pork rib, Master." Xia Lei picked up a piece of sweet-sour pork rib with his chopsticks and placed it in Liang Zheng-Chun's bowl.
Liang Zheng-Chun was all smiles, "Eat, eat. You eat too. No need to take food for me."
"Dad, just eat what Lei gives you," Liang Si-Yao smiled, "Lei told me more than once that he's his own father."
"He can say that but you can't simply repeat it." Liang Zheng-Chun's smile was a little mysterious, as though he had another meaning behind his words.
Liang Si-Yao's cheeks reddened and she buried her head in her ricebowl.
Xia Lei felt a little awkward too and lowered his own head to his ricebowl.
Liang Zheng-Chun, however, did not intend to let Liang Si-Yao off and he knocked her head with his chopsticks, "See, a grown man like Lei can cook such nice dishes. A girl like you can only boil instant noodles. You should be ashamed of yourself. Learn from Lei. You can't prepare instant noodles for your husband and children when you're married, can you?"
"Dad..." Liang Si-Yao's face got redder.
"Okay, okay. I won't nag you anymore. Eat, eat." Liang Zheng-Chun stopped talking about it but he could not contain his happy brows. As a Master, he was rather proud of his disciple Xia Lei being able to get land worth hundreds of millions for one million.
After they were done eating, Liang Si-Yao took the initiative to wash the dishes. Liang Zheng-Chun called Xia Lei into his study.
This was actually Xia Lei's first time in Liang Zheng-Chun's home and the number of books in his study surprised him. From what he could see of the tightly-packed shelves, the books ranged from martial arts, natural sciences to literature and so on. It was quite a comprehensive collection.
"You seem to love books, Master. I'll bring you some good books next time," said Xia Lei.
Liang Zheng-Chun smiled, "Sure. I read, write or draw when I'm not practicing martial arts. Reading is good. You should read more too. Books give you knowledge and impart some morals."
"I'll remember that," said Xia Lei.
Liang Zheng-Chun patted Xia Lei on the shoulder, "Master didn't call you in here to talk about these things. I feel like it's time to teach you something."
Xia Lei begun to feel excited. He knew this was a sign that Liang Zheng-Chun was preparing to teach him some true Wing Chun.
Every Chinese man seemed to have a martial art dream but few have seen real martial arts, let alone be able to practice. How could Xia Lei not be excited with such an opportunity before him? He felt like he had been transported back in time to when he had just finished watching Li Lian-Jie's* 'Hero', where he was looking for a martial arts master to take as his Master and one appeared before him to show him the right path.
This was a great feeling indeed!
"Lei, what do you understand of energy centres?" Liang Zheng-Chun did not talk about techniques but asked him a strange question.
Xia Lei thought for a bit and rubbed his forehead awkwardly, "Master, I've only read some descriptions of energy centres in martial arts novels. It's where internal energy is centered, right?"
Liang Zheng-Chun shook his head, then stretched out a finger and pointed at the space between Xia Lei's brows, his heart and below his navel, then said, "What I pointed at were all energy centres. The Upper Dantian, Middle Dantian and Lower Dantian**. What they talk about in martial art novels is the Lower Dantian."
Xia Lei nodded. This wasn't difficult to understand.
Liang Zheng-Chun continued, "Energy centres are not fictional concepts but real organs. Orthodox Daoist scriptures*** say breathing centres vital energy in the Dantian. Users of the Dantian refine Yin and Yang three inches below the navel. The common man births offspring but the Daoist births oneself. Do you understand the meaning of this?"
Xia Lei turned the words over in his head and shook his head in the end. He knew too little about the teachings of martial arts.
Liang Zheng-Chun smiled, "It is actually very simple. The Dantians are organs in which people can refine their energy and maintain good health. If you practice, it will strengthen your body and make many things possible for you. If you neglect it, it will atrophy like a muscle. Skilled Daoists can live to 140 or 150 and still step lightly and not have dulled minds. This is the embodiment of these words."
Xia Lei sort of knew what he was talking about but didn't at the same time and he seemed to understand some of it but could not put it in words if he was asked to talk about it.
Liang Zheng-Chun continued, "Breathing in stores energy and it's refined into Spirit. Spirit is thought and also vitality."
Xia Lei smiled wryly, "Master, this is too esoteric. I don't get it."
"Simple. Practicing martial arts is like training your Spirit; your body and soul. Grasp the rhythm and secret of your breathing and meld it with your own Spirit and you will attain greater power. This is the internal force they talk about in martial arts novels," said Liang Zheng-Chun.
Xia Lei seemed to understand a little more this time but his brain was still mush.
"Look here." Liang Zheng-Chun walked to a wall and did not do any preparatory movements. He simply drew in a breath and suddenly threw out a punch at the wall.
Boom! A loud but muffled sound could be heard and the imprint of a fist appeared in the wall!
Xia Lei was gobsmacked. Liang Zheng-Chun had hit a hardened cement wall, not a mud wall!
Xia Lei had used his X-ray vision on Liang Zheng-Chun in the past to see how he channelled his power and he thought he had learnt about Wing Chun's true form - but he discovered that he still had much to learn after Liang Zheng-Chun showed his hand!
"Master, you're so powerful!" Xia Lei came back to his senses after a pause, his eyes full of adoration.
"You can be powerful too if you are willing to work hard," said Liang Zheng-Chun.
"How do I train for this?" Xia Lei was eager to try.
Liang Zheng-Chun walked to his desk and picked up a piece of fine writing paper packed densely with calligraphy. He handed the fine writing paper to Xia Lei, "Read this. Let me know when you've remembered all the contents and I'll teach you how to begin."
Xia Lei took one look at it, "Master, I've remembered it all."
"Huh?" Liang Zheng-Chun said in surprise, "So quickly?"
Xia Lei smiled, "I'll recite it if you don't believe me." He cleared his throat and recited the contents of the paper word by word, "Inhale breath as whales take in water, exhale breath as the wind blows sand..."
Xia Lei recited everything word for word. Liang Zheng-Chun was pleased, "A good seedling indeed. All right, I'll teach you how to begin now. There's no going back home for you tonight. Look for Si-Yao later and ask her to practice with you. She can instruct you a little."
Xia Lei nodded, "Mm, I won't go home."
Xia Xue had gone to Jing-Du to study and there was no one home anyway so it didn't make any difference whether he went home or not.
Liang Zheng-Chun taught Xia Lei about the true forms of Wing Chun in his study. These were all secrets which Yan Yong-Chun had left to the descendants of the family, with hundreds of years of history and the culmination of ten generations of blood and sweat. Xia Lei was now the eleventh successor.
One hour later, Xia Lei left Liang Zheng-Chun's study and found Liang Si-Yao.
Liang Si-Yao was preparing the guest room for Xia Lei. Xia Lei saw the girly pyjamas on the bed and girly slippers at the foot of the bed and was temporarily at a loss for words, "Si-Yao, this..."
Liang Si-Yao put on an air of generosity, "Mine."
"Yours?" Xia Lei dared not envision Liang Si-Yao sleeping on the bed in pyjamas.
Liang Si-Yao laughed, "My dad doesn't wear pyjamas and has no spare slippers. Make do with these for one night. Nobody would know if neither you nor I speak of it."
Xia Lei smiled wryly and nodded. If a woman didn't mind it, it wouldn't be right for a grown man like him to be wishy-washy about it. Worst comes to worst he could just not wear pyjamas. He couldn't do anything about the slippers either so he'd just wear them.
"My dad's strict, isn't he?" said Liang Si-Yao.
"Not at all. Master's kind and detail-oriented," said Xia Lei.
Liang Si-Yao wrinkled her brows, "Biased. When he taught me he hit me a lot and was fiercer than a tiger."
Xia Lei laughed, "That's because Master loves you. That's right, Master told me to ask you to instruct me. Do you have time?"
"Sure, I'll practice with you. Ask me if you have any questions." Liang Si-Yao agreed readily.
The two of them began practicing in the guest room.
Xia Lei did a horse stance and clenched his fist as he inhaled, then punched as he exhaled; his movements were rhythmical. Following the rhythm of his breath, he felt that his punches were stronger than before and so was the strength and hardness of his fist.
Liang Si-Yao stood to the side giving instructions and correcting things which weren't right.
"This here is a little off. You're exhaling too quickly." Liang Si-Yao stood next to Xia Lei, one hand adjusting his arm and the other pressing his navel. "Do it again."
Her hand was soft and warm and pressing close to a sensitive area. Xia Lei's nerves tensed all at once.
Liang Si-Yao, however, did not sense the change in Xia Lei. Her little hand pressed gently on Xia Lei's lower abdomen as she encouraged him, "Breathe in, breathe in... What are you doing?"
Xia Lei hurriedly drew in a breath and punched as he exhaled. However, his brain was full of Liang Si-Yao's beautiful face, alluring peaks and the shapely lines of her hips. He closed his eyes nervously, afraid that his left eye would do something wrong.
Liang Si-Yao turned to his front again and used her other hand to press on his lower abdomen, "Again."
Xia Lei's reaction became slower and his movements stiff.
Liang Si-Yao seemed to realise something and her gaze suddenly went down to a certain place down below. Her face turned red immediately and she went to Xia Lei's back, pretending to be calm and collected, "Um, that... Just do what I told you to do again."
Xia Lei was so embarrassed he could die but he had no way to control it. It was all because of her hand touching him in the lower abdomen.
A man and a woman, both single and practicing martial arts in a room by themselves - awkward situations would be hard to avoid. However, Liang Si-Yao was patient and there were some obviously embarrassing moments but she overcame them and instructed Xia Lei carefully.
They practiced late into the night.
"Okay, we'll stop here for today. Let's continue tomorrow." Liang Si-Yao had worked up a sweat too and her thin T-shirt stuck to her skin, accentuating the curves of her breasts, and her legs were like slender, moistened jade.
"Good night." Xia Lei did not dare look at her body.
After Liang Si-Yao left, Xia Lei snatched up the pyjamas she had left on the bed and inhaled the faint fragrance it held. It was Liang Si-Yao's smell; it was the same as what he had smelt earlier from her body.
"I can't practice with her like this again. It might've been nothing to her but it's difficult for me to bear." Xia Lei looked gloomily at his trousers.
*** I am not going to translate the thing itself but you can read an overview here (in Chinese).