My Framework for Wushu Self-Training

My Framework for Wushu Self-Training

Based on your emails and messages, it looks like a lot of you have a hard time finding good training options. Some of you are in a remote location with no facilities, or perhaps it is too cost prohibitive to pay for a coach, but for some reason or another you are stuck training on your own.

I totally sympathize because I’m also in an environment that has limited wushu options. I live on a small island in the middle of the ocean with only 7,000 people. The only wushu training center within 3,500 miles is a 30 minute plane ride away.

Needless to say, I haven’t trained much since moving here in 2013. Aside from my recent Taiji Quan class at the park (3 times a week for an hour each time) I haven’t been doing any martial arts at all.

The Challenge

Recently the Hawaii Wushu Center announced that they will hold the first Honolulu Wushu Tournament on October 24, 2015. That just happens to be exactly 6 months from today!

I thought it might be a good challenge to see if it is possible to go from being totally out of shape to being “competition ready” in 6 months. (You might recall I did something similar in the winter of 2012 with my “35 Days to Shanghai” challenge where I gave myself 35 days to get in shape to train with the Shanghai Wushu Team.) It isn’t that I plan to compete at the competition (maybe?) but I want to at least by in good enough shape to be able to compete if I so choose.

Since I know some of you also have challenges finding training or figuring out how to train on your own, I thought posting up my training plan might be helpful when coming up with your own. Self-training isn’t necessarily difficult, but figuring out what to do can be a challenge.


Before we get started I wanted to cover my bases and make sure you know that you should always consult your physician before embarking on a program of physical training. (Not that you’ll do it, but I have to at least make sure you know that you should do it.)

Also, this is NOT a replacement for a coach. You should always follow a coach’s advice whenever possible, since they have a much better understanding of your limitations and strengths. This is just a reference tool, nothing more.

Who is this for?

This program isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s really just for me. And that being the case there are 6 things you should know about my situation and the approach I’m taking with this plan. Here is the run down:

1. I used to do wushu.

Of course, you probably know that already. My point is that this program is meant for someone who has a background with wushu and isn’t trying to learn something new. This is primarily for physical development, not for wushu education.  If you don’t know how to do a hammer fist, this isn’t for you.

2. I haven’t trained in a LONG time.

I’m devising this program for someone who hasn’t trained consistently (3 times per week for at least 3 months) in at least a year. The last time I did that was when I lived in China back in early 2013 and that was over 2 years ago!  If you’re training every day in China, this isn’t for you.

3. I do nanquan.

While some of my basics training and conditioning work will apply to anyone, some of my training will include training specifically related to nanquan. Of course, you can just swap out the nanquan stuff with things relevant to you. :-).  If you’re a Taiji athlete, this probably not for you.

4. I don’t jump.

I don’t practice nandu. It isn’t my focus and so I don’t include jumping training in my own practice.  If my legs ever get to the point where I can jump, then maybe that will change, but for now, no nandu. If you have nandu in your form or are training for a competition that requires nandu or jumping training, then this is not really for you.

5. I’m old.

Those under 30 recuperate much faster after a workout than someone at my age. I’m familiar with my body’s requirements so the schedule is tailored for my recovery time.  If you’re a teenage, this is probably not for you.

6. I’m overweight

This program also includes a nutrition component with an emphasis on losing weight. I’m not going to go into too much detail about it here (perhaps a future blog on nutrition for wushu athletes?) but just know that you should also be aware of what you put into your mouth and how it will affect your training.  If you’re super skinny, this might still be for you. 😉

Okay, so with that out of the way, let’s talk about the phases of this program.

Four Phases of Training

I’ve broken up these 6 months (28 weeks) in to four phases. Each one has specific milestones and mini-goals that will help me stay on track for the whole time, and each focuses on a different aspect of my development.

Since this whole program is quite long, and I’ll be learning and making distinctions in my approach at each step, at this time I have only written out the full details for the first phase of the training program. Once the first phase is almost finished I will take what I learned to create a plan for the second phase. Then the same with the 3rd and 4th phases.

At the end of each phase I will also post up the things I’ve learned and how I would do it differently, so that you can (hopefully) learn from my (many) mistakes. 😉

So, today I’m giving you all the details on Phase 1 and in a couple months you can expect the next piece of the puzzle. Of course, if you have any questions, then you are welcome to ask me either here on the website or on Facebook.

Also, regardless of the phase, before any training session I do a warm up and get my joints ready. It’s the typical warm-up that you might do before a wushu class with the circling of wrists and ankles, hip rotations, arm circles, etc. It takes about 10 minutes to go through the whole cycle.

Phase 1: Building the Foundation

Dates: April 27 to July 3, 2015 (10 weeks = 2.5 months)
Frequency: 30-60 minute sessions, 3 times per week (M, W, F)

This phase focuses on physical conditioning, specifically strength, stamina and stretching. These form the foundation of any sport so this phase is 99% focused on those fundamentals. In addition, I will have a secondary focus of losing weight.


This will focus on 4 main areas which are most crucial for my wushu. I have also included 5 core wushu basic movements. These are a result of conversations and research with Chinese athletes and coaches on what they felt were the most fundamental basics for wushu athletes (a topic for a future blog).

The other requirement for my strength exercises is that I have to be able to do them without any equipment. So, just body-weight exercises, since that is all I have to work with.

When I train muscle groups I usually do 3 sets. The first set is a warm up set at a light intensity at about 70% of my max repetitions. The second set is higher intensity at the previous session’s max repetitions. The third set is to failure. Since I focus on body weight exercises, and I’m trying to build strength (not size) I focus on increasing reps rather than adding load.

I have included my goal for each exercise that I hope to reach by the end of this phase, as well as milestones that I would like to reach at each 2-3 week mark (May 15, May 29, and June 19). This gives me “mini goals” to reach for and chops up all of this in to bite-size chunks.

The exercises are divided into two groups.

Group 1 is more for strength building, and Group 2 is for wushu fundamentals. With 3 training sessions per week I will alternate between the two, which means each group will get trained 3 times over 2 weeks. Just right based on my recovery requirements.

Group 1

  • Legs
    • Squats (Milestones: 30, 50, 70 | Goal: 100 non-stop reps)
    • Reverse Lunges (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop reps)
  • Core
    • V-Ups (Milestones: 5, 10, 15 | Goal: 20 non-stop)
    • Sideways “Supermans” (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Explosive Power / Plyometrics
    • Plyo Pushoffs/Pushups (Milestones: 5, 10, 20 | Goal: 30 non-stop)
    • Plyo Jump Squats (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
    • Plank to Squats (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)

Group 2

  • Wushu Basics
    • MB – GB w/ punch (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
    • Zheng Ti Tui / Front Stretch Kick (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
    • Dan Pai Jiao / Front Slap Kick (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
    • Pu Bu Chang Zhang / High to Drop Stance (Milestones: 10, 20, 30 | Goal: 40 non-stop)
    • Wu Bu Quan / 5 Stance Form (Milestones: 5, 10, 15 | Goal: 20 non-stop)


This can actually built pretty quickly prior to a competition (a lot of China athletes don’t focus heavily on stamina development until the month before they compete), so the main purpose of this is for fat loss and building the stamina required for wushu training classes. I have two types of exercises.

One is for slow cardio, which is to help me build up longer term endurance at a slower pace. Basically I’ll be walking and increasing the time each day I walk. The second type is high intensity interval training (HIIT) to build more intense cardiovascular endurance and promote fat loss.

Type 1 (Daily)

  • Walking – Start with 20 minutes and increase by 1 minute / day
    • Milestones: 1 hours, 90 minutes, 2 hours
    • Goal: Walk 3 hours (180 minutes) non-stop

Type 2 (M, W, F)

  • Wind Sprints (HIIT) – 10 reps of 50m sprints w/ 30-120 seconds of walking in between
    • Milestones: 10 min, 8 min, 6 min
    • Goal: 5 min.
  • Frog Burpies – 3 sets of max reps with 30 – 120 seconds of walking in between
    • Milestones: 5, 10, 15
    • Goal: 20 without stopping


I will focus on 5 stretches that are most crucial for wushu, and are also some of my weaker areas of mobility. I’m using similar techniques for each (if you haven’t had a chance to check out my free tutorial on getting your head to toe, then be sure to check that out!)

Here are the stretches I’m focusing on:

  • Head to toe (front and side)
  • Front splits (both sides)
  • Straddle splits
  • Core (waist and hips)
  • Shoulders

I don’t have specific goals in mind for these stretches, except to be consistent with them. I will be following this schedule for my stretching:

  • Every Morning and Evening (7 days a week – about 15 minutes)
    • Head to Toe stretch routine
    • Massage Roller routine
    • Yoga stretches (variation on sun salute)
  • Every Training Session (3 days a week, on M,W,F)
    • Pre-training stretching routine (about 10 minutes)
    • Post-training stretching routine (about 20 minutes)
  • After Friday’s training session
    • Intensive stretching and flexibility session (about 1 hour)

So, while this might seem like a lot, actually, it’s just what you would normally do in a wushu class, plus some light stretching in the morning and night. Then, on Friday’s I do a focused hour of stretching my entire body. (I’m actually looking forward to that one!)

So, there you go. On a weekly basis, this is what it will look like:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday:

  • Morning Stretching Routine
  • Morning Walk
  • 3PM Taiji Class in the Park
  • 4PM Wushu Training in the Park
  • 5PM Yoga/Pilates in the Park (only M,W), Fridays is the intensive stretching
  • Evening Stretching Routine

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday

  • Morning Stretching Routine
  • Morning Walk
  • Evening Stretching Routine

You might be wondering about the 5PM class on Monday and Wednesday. There is a trainer here on Moloka’i, Ayda, who runs a free yoga/pilates (“yogalates”) class at 5PM at the same park I have my Taiji class. So, I thought it would work well to do my wushu training at 4PM and use the “Yogalates” class to do some additional conditioning and stretching.

It sounds like a lot with 3 continuous hours of exercise, but actually the Taiji class isn’t very strenuous and the YogaLates class works totally different parts of my body than the Taiji or wushu training does.

Nutrition and Weight Loss

As I mentioned before, I will also have some focus on nutrition during these 10 weeks. It is actually pretty simple and deals mainly with being consistent in my approach to food.

I have 3 meals a day at 6:30, 12:30 and 18:30. Each meal consists of a large (2 cups) serving of greens/veggies, a medium (1 cup) portion of protein (chicken, fish, beef) and a small (1/2 cup) serving of carbs (legumes, sweet potatoes, rice, etc.).

I will also have a snack around 10:00 and 3:00 — usually something like almonds, celery and carrot sticks with some organic peanut butter, or green / purple smoothies. Just making sure my body gets whatever nutrients it might need.

Besides that I also drink a lot of water (around 100 oz / day is my goal), get lots of sleep (I aim for 9 hours / day from 21:00 to 6:00) and totally avoid sugar and processed foods. I occasionally take Omega 3, CalMag and CoQ10 supplements to aid in recovery.

I don’t have a specific weight goal, but I think by following this plan I should be able to reduce by around 5 to 10 pounds a month (based on previous experience), so if I can drop 20 pounds during these 10 weeks that’d be great, and put me in good shape for the second phase of my training plan.

Phase 2: Back to Basics

Time to Complete: 8 weeks (2 months)
Dates: July 4 to August 28, 2015
Frequency: 60-90 minute sessions, 3 times per week (M, W, F)

In this phase I will be integrating lots of work on the core, fundamental basics of wushu. I’ve selected 6 stance transitions, 6 kicks and 4 techniques. The intensity of these will gradually be increased over the course of this phase.

My milestone dates for this round are July 18, August 1, and August 15.


During this phase I will maintain work on physical conditioning, but more of a focus will be paid on wushu basics.  At the end of each wushu training I will follow this conditioning program:


  • Reverse Lunges: 4 sets of 20 (or) Squats: 4 sets of 20
  • V-Ups: 4 sets of 10 (or) Supermans: 4 sets of 20
  • Plyo Pushups: 4 sets of 10
  • Plyo Jump Squats: 4 sets of 20


  • Wind Sprints (HIIT): 10 reps of 100m sprints w/60 seconds between
  • Frog Burpies: 3 sets of 10 w/60 seconds between


  • Light routine in the morning and evening
  • Full routine at the end of every workout

I will also maintain a regular habit of walking in the mornings with some light intervals of jogging worked in for good measure.

Stance Transitions

  • MB – MB (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • 45 MB – MB w/ Butterfly Palms (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • MB – GB w/Punches (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Pu Bu Chang Zhang (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Empty – Empty (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Qi Long Bu w/ Butterfly Palms (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)


  • Zheng Ti Tui: (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Wai Bai Tui: (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Li He Tui: (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Dan Pai Jiao (Continuous): (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)
  • Tan Tui: (Milestones: 20, 30, 40 | Goal: 50 non-stop)


  • 3 Step Dan Pai Jiao > Wu Long Pan Da > Za Quan (4, 8, 12 | Goal: 16)
  • Pao Quan x 2 > Gua Gai > Upper cut > Side Palm Thrust MB (4, 8, 12 | Goal: 16)
  • Wu Bu Quan (4, 8, 12 | Goal: 16)
  • NQ Wu Bu Quan (4, 8, 12 | Goal: 16)


As much as I want to, at this stage I don’t start incorporating combos and sections from my forms yet.  I’m still trying to get in shape and still working to build up my endurance, strength and flexibility.

However, I will start thinking about my choreography, so during this phase I spend time each session going through my form in my head, or maybe doing a very light walk through of some combinations.  Nothing close to real speed, but just to start thinking things over so that when I do get into the form, I have an idea of what I’m doing.

You can think of this as a pencil sketch of the idea, but I’m not even close to using a pen with ink, or scanning it into photoshop or illustrator. 🙂

On a weekly schedule, this is what it looks like:


  • Morning Stretching Routine
  • Morning Walk / Jog
  • Evening Stretching Routine

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • 15:00 – 16:00: Taiji Class 
  • 16:30 – 18:00: Wushu Training

As I said above, I will be coming back to this post in 2 months’ time to give a recap on the lessons I’ve learned, and then provide details on my plans for Phase 3.  If you’d like to be notified when that comes out then be sure to sign up for my (spam-free) email.  As a special gift you will get my head-to-toe tutorial for free!

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Phase 3: Combinations

Time to Complete: 4 weeks (1 month)
Dates: August 29 to September 25, 2015
Frequency: 90 – 120 minute sessions, 3 to 5 times per week

This is where I start to incorporate training in the choreography from my form. In the previous phase I was working on finalizing the choreography for my form (but not practicing it!) so this is the phase where I start working on the components of the form. Breaking the form into 8 parts, I focus on each micro-section, focusing on the subtle nuances and details of the form.

This phase is 1 month long (4 weeks) and each session will last from 90 to 120 minutes starting at 3 times per week and building up to 5 times per week by the end. Also, during this phase I start to pull back on the intensity of building strength in favor of more time with basics and combinations. This is also where I start working on building up my competition-level stamina (which is different from “able to do a wushu class” stamina). Think of it kind of like the difference between training for a 10k run vs. training for a 100 meter dash.

Check back at the end of August for details on this phase.

Phase 4: Sections and Forms

Time to Complete: 4 weeks (1 month)
Dates: September 26 to October 23, 2015
Frequency: 90 – 120 minute sessions, 5 times per week

Finally, we are in the last phase! This is where we start building out from combinations to single sections, double sections, and up to full sets and double sets. This is also an intense period of building up stamina, as well as mock-competitions and really drilling in to the final parts of the form.

Check back at the end of September for details on this phase.

27 thoughts on “My Framework for Wushu Self-Training”

  1. Dear friend Mark, thanks so much for sharing such exeprience!!! For many many point my workouts program is perfectly the same of Ur, and I’m happy to see that U use to plan Ur training work too as I use to spend some time of my traveling by train to get to work on thinking about the program I’m playing and evaluating the scores I’m reching and the one I’dd to reach!!!
    If U may can help, I’d like to share my program of training, as U know, focus on Chen Style Taiji:

    下肢柔韧练习 压腿,压腰
    长拳踢腿, 压腿练习
    陈氏太极拳新架十三式 + 四十二发劲式

    下肢柔韧练习 压腿,压腰,太极踢腿 (星期四)
    推手训练 两手练习
    下肢力量练习 (星期三)或劈叉练习(星期四)

    子立运动训练 骨盆和躯干练习
    陈氏太极拳新架十三式 + 四十二发劲式

    It’s a 5 days program, actually focus on mobility and learning at deeper stage the Xinjia Yilu routine of Chen!
    Thus a double-score schedule which will have a 3 months wide-time general point with some variations to be applied and an increasing of power workouts (xingqi san) made following the classical weekly scheme for month: this month 2x, 3x, 4x, 2x; next month 3x, 4x, 5x, 3x. Last month 4x, 5x, 6x, 4x.
    Hope U like and it may can hel U somehow as U allways help me by sharing Ur experience.
    One last consideration: I think mobility is maybe (for me) the greatest greatest focus of training!!!!! And the first thing I use to notice in a good chinese wushu player is the extreme “natural” attitude in making very very hard (for me) mobility performance.
    I think everybody will agree with this consideration, that chinese are extremely extremely good in mobility!!!! In Italian we use to say “sono di gomma = they’re made of gum”
    Anyhow,,, I’ve never never met a good mobility training workout nowhere!!!
    Moreover,,, this focus for Wushu training is always not discussed as well as I may expect in training system and method paper or blogs, except in some of Ur blogs, where U explain well some focus of mobility pre and after training workouts!!!
    It could be so usefull, I think, to try to fix some point and try to prepare a workout for mobility,,,expecially for Wushu player as me: european, aged, long legs and absolutely not so flexible (in Italian “di legno” = made of hard wood!!!)
    It’s some time that I’m looking around in others sports as gymnastics, some kind of Yoga, dance and athletic, trying to steal some exercises and workouts for mobility which I think could be good for Wushu and could be good for me and my particular scores (and handicaps to be won!!!)
    I actually think that I need 2 kind of paths:
    1) playing daily flexibility exercises of Wushu “normal” schedule, beside some harder and more specific workouts, as for instance Ur head to toe
    2) playing some planned workouts focused on increasing some flexibility to get higer level or simply to get a “normal”level in some flexibility standard I still have not or I’ve never worked on
    the problem is little similar to nandu… I allways fear that I’m working very near to the injury, thus I use not to force too much
    But I think this kind of uncertainty is also dued to the fact that I don’t know esactly what to do, what to try, and what to reach step by step
    I mean…. it’s a very different situation from the 2, 3, 4, 2 month/weekly force rpogram schedule…
    let’s work on it 😀
    thanks so much and excuse me for the long dissertation!!!
    Greetings from Italy, waiting 4 U in September

    • Wow Stefano! That is quite a lot of information! Thanks for sharing it with everyone. 🙂 I agree that flexibility and mobility are issues for many people. I think part of it is that massage therapy is not a large part of most athlete’s training regimen. But if you look at the Chinese athletes they receive body work (massage, etc.) all the time. This helps them recover faster and gain more mobility. This might be part of the issue (I’m sure there are other things involved too) but it is one thing that I have noticed lately.

  2. Marc, I have a doubt about the milestones in this part:

    Type 2 (M, W, F)

    Wind Sprints (HIIT) – 10 reps of 50m sprints w/ 30-120 seconds of walking in between
    Milestones: 30 min, 20min, 15min
    Goal: 10 min.

    So, are you performing 30 reps for each training session, or are you trying to lower the time gradually from 30 min to 15 min?

    • Hi Jose!

      The milestones here are the total time it takes me to run 50 meters 10 times. So I’m gradually trying to reduce the time it takes me to run 10 times to be quicker and quicker. Each training session is just 10 reps of the 50 meters. This might be very easy for some people, but for me I have problems running so it is quite a challenge! 🙂

  3. Sorry Marc, here I have another question refered to milestones:

    What does it mean 5,10,15 ???

    Frog Burpies – 3 sets of max reps with 30 – 120 seconds of walking in between
    Milestones: 5, 10, 15
    Goal: 20 without stopping

    thanks and best regards.

    • Jose, Thanks for the question. The milestones are my goals for the maximum number of reps I can do for the exercise. So, my first goal is to be able to do 5 reps of frog burpies (basically burpies with frog leaps after the pushup). My ultimate goal is to be able to do 20 of them without stopping so I have 3 milestone goals of being able to do 5, 10 and 15. I hope that answers your question. Please let me know if I can help clarify any further.

  4. Marc, thanks for your answer.

    I started this week and my goal is to be able to perform the Changquan 2nd set International Wushu Routine.
    So let´s do it…..jiayou!!!!!!

    thanks again.

  5. Hello Mark, I would like to know about your progress at this point. I know that you will post your results and troubles once you finished, but I need some motivation in order to upgrade my training.
    In my case, I’m a little delayed with my stretching, so, I should focus my energy in this aspect.

    Best Regards.


    • Hi Jose!

      Well, truth be told, I got off to a rocky start. So, to kick-start my progress I have spent the last week on Oahu training with the Hawaii Wushu Center. I’ve super sore, but it has been just the kick in the pants I need to get me off my butt. I started strong, but training on one’s own (as you know) is challenging. I’m still not sure I’ve come up with a solution for self-training, although I think the framework is still viable. The most difficult part is getting the motivation to train when no one is around with you and you don’t really have any serious pressure to train or not train. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I hope to come up with some ideas.

      So, yeah. The first week was good, then things tapered off. Then I forced myself to train in Honolulu and things are going well again. 🙂

  6. Hi Mark!

    I would like to know if you already have the phase two.
    July 4, it´s comming soon and I´m anxious about to know the next phase.

    best Regards!!!!


  7. Hi Mark, I´m sorry for my insistence, and good luck in your new home.

    Obviously, I have a lot of questions, I don´t understand this transition MB – MB and 45 MB – MB w/ Butterfly Palms.

    Do you have any video with this???.

    Best Regards.

  8. Mark, I already remembered how to perform the 45 MB – MB w/ Butterfly Palms. The doubt it´s just about MB – MB.

    Thanks. Best Regards.

    • Hi Jose!

      The MB – MB is just as it says. You go down in to Mabu and then transition to the opposite side Mabu.

      So, if you are doing them in a line, you step out with your left foot into mabu. Then you turn towards your left, bring your feet together slightly (but don’t raise your body up) and then step out to your right foot in mabu. It is similar to MB > GB, but without the GB in between each MB. 🙂

      I hope that helps!

  9. obviously!!!!!,jajjjaaa, now I understand this MB – MB.
    I remember from my wushu classes with Chen Min the MB-GB. In addition, we used to do it including the fist.

    thanks again.

    best Regards.

  10. I appreciate reading this article. I don’t have the extensive wushu training as you have – I’m a martial arts beginner and in my 40’s+ with my own physical challenges. I often wonder wth am I doing?! Why am I trying this? But it’s so beautiful I feel like I have to keep trying. I have a dance background, so flexibility, getting the right shapes and remembering choreography are easier for me, but again I’m old!! and the physicality is super challenging. What you mention about having smaller mini goals and consistent conditioning is helpful to keep going and keep motivated. This article inspires me. Thank you.

    • HI! Thanks for your comment and sorry for taking a while to reply. Yes, I’m still training. I’ve been incorporating strength/weight training with my wushu training, which have been providing great results. These days I’m training about 3 days a week and preparing for the start of my wushu and Taiji classes on Molokai at the end of June. 🙂 Jiayou!

    • Hi Olivia! I think it would have if I hadn’t gotten sick that year. Life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches in our plans. lol. 🙂 But I still think it is a decent framework, although I’m sure I would probably adjust some things if I was doing it today.


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