A few weeks back when I mentioned on the newsletter that I would be heading to Beijing, I got a great e-mail from Bernhard, an Austrian wushu athlete who was studying with his girlfriend, Sheila (also from Austria) at Beijing Sports University.
Of course I jumped on the opportunity because it had been such a long time since I had set foot on the Beijing Sports University campus (in 2006 with Liu Xiao Lei, to be precise). It just so happened that I was going to be staying just 2 subway stops away from BSU too, so it was a pretty convenient journey to make.
Walking around the campus of Beijing Sports University
So, yesterday (April 10) I headed to ShangDi station on Line 13 (just 1.5 km from the Beijing Sports University campus) and parked myself at a nearby mall (that didn’t exist the last time I was in the area — it was an open field back then!) and used some of the wifi at BreadTalk to get a bit of work done.
Bernhard and I agreed to meet up around 4:00 pm at the West Gate, but I was finished with my work early so I headed to the campus to walk around and check things out. I snapped some pictures from Champion Road, the big Mao Statue and a few other things.
I saw some track athletes training. I saw a bunch of javelin athletes training. And everyone walking around looked quite healthy and fit. I guess that makes sense, right?
After a while Bernhard came out to meet up with me near the Teacher’s building (i.e. “Pedagogy Central”) and we walked over to the International center (where all the international folks live and hang out) to pick up a few things and then to one of the wushu guan’s on campus to see about some training.
It wasn’t the same wushu guan I had trained with Liu Xiao Lei back in 2006, but of course Beijing Sports University had a whole ton of wushu guans so that isn’t surprising. Actually, the wushu guans are pretty busy places, so there wasn’t any space available for us anyway, but we were able to sit and watch a class of sophomore students who are majoring in wushu attend a class on Mantis style.
Watching Mantis training at BSU
To be honest, it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen: 40 or 50 wushu athletes (of varying skill level, but none of them were necessarily bad — clearly they had some skill) learning a form from a teacher/coach (who was excellent, by the way).
While we were watching I snapped some photos and videos, and also had a great talk with Bernhard about wushu, Austria, BSU and lots more. I wasn’t really that familiar with the environment there, nor the training options, so hearing it from someone who was in the thick of things was very eye-opening.
Here is some footage I snapped from my time walking around the campus and from the class. Again — the skills levels are all different, but I don’t think any of them are necessarily that bad. In fact, a few of them were quite good.
Hanging out with my new Austrian friends
The class went for 90 minutes and when it was over we headed to another wushu guan to meet up with Sheila, who had a class as well. We hung out for a bit at the coffee shop on campus and then made our way to an off-campus local restaurant (Guilin food) and had some super good grub.
Lots more discussions about wushu, Austria, and BSU, along with a few lessons in German pronunciation, and then it was back to the dorms for a bit of wushu video exchanges on our dueling laptops. Bernhard showed me some footage from his school back in Austria — a Shaolin temple school that seemed to have a really good vibe. (Another place to visit when I get to Europe someday.) You can check out a video from one of their demo’s here:
We also took some photos in the lobby of the International Center and they walked me out to help me get a taxi back to where I was staying.
I have to say that both of them were SUPER nice and accommodating. Let it never be said that Austrians don’t know how to be good hosts. I really enjoyed getting to know them better and I really hope I can meet up with them again in the future.
They will probably be in China for a while, so there might be some good opportunities to meet up later on.
Here are a few more pictures from the day, just to give you a bit more to look at.