They began class by meditating. Shan had them sit cross-legged on the floor and then he walked them through some breathing and visualization techniques intended to get everyone into a highly relaxed and peaceful mental state.
As always Kyle tried to follow the instructions, and as always, he failed. The basic point of the meditative exercise was to draw in magic. Kyle practiced meditating weekly in class, but he practiced spell casting a dozen times or more each day. So, at the start of every class, he found himself facing the same river of energy he always saw rather than at one with the universe. It didn’t hurt his performance, but he always rather regretted not being at one with the universe. That sounded nice.
After about 15 minutes, Kyle felt a light hand on his shoulder. Jun had finished his meditation and was now moving through the class signaling them to stand and move on to the next exercise. Kyle opened his eyes and rose feeling more awake and relaxed despite not mediating properly. Holding magic was always nice if you didn’t over do it. All of the students, green belt and above, should have at least a little bit of magic after the meditation was finished.
Next Jun led the group through a series of stretches. There wasn’t much order to the stretches. They did upward and downward dog, then hurdler stretches, and touched their toes. Kyle wasn’t certain if Tai chi had something like a hurdler stretch but Jun seemed to like both the American version and the American name.
Normally they would have begun to practice strikes, instead Jun clapped his hands to bring the students to attention and smiled, “Today there will be an opportunity to test for the next level of belt. If anyone feels they are ready and has a clean attendance record with no demerits they may step forward to test now. Students who will not be testing, you may get mats from the equipment room to watch.” Chaos briefly ensued as everyone tried to get to the correct spot.
While that was going on the two class black belts began pulling out an assortment of exercise equipment. There was a huge “heavy bag” which they filled with water, punching mitts, a couple of padded blockers, a forearm kicking shield, and the ever traditional breaking boards.
Testing started with the lowest ranked member of the class. Several white and yellow belts were led through a series of punches and kicks. Most of these relatively new students had good form and as much force behind their punches as one could credibly expect from beginners. It wouldn’t have been good enough to pass a higher belt, but a good solid yell, and basic form was enough to get beyond the low belts.
Only one student had probably failed to advance. Ironically, it was one of the larger men in the class. After watching him throw several strikes Jun shook his head a little and said, “You are pushing your punches.”
“You are punching with your muscles, you need to punch with your body. A good strike is not about strength.”
“I don’t understand.”
Jun nodded, lifted one finger in a “wait a minute” gesture, and vanished into another room of the dojo for a moment. When he returned he had a pair of nunchaku with a long chain. Those had nothing to do with the current class, but Master Jun Shan also taught an armed self-defense course. Kyle had been surprised when he first learned about it from a sweet little old lady who took both the unarmed and the armed classes. She’d described it as “introductory shanking” then showed him the switch blade she kept in her purse. The Steel Dragon drew in some odd sorts. Then again, she was probably better off at night than a lot of grandmothers.
The black belts had apparently seen what Jun was about to do before, while he’d been gone they’d set several boards across the gap in a waist high platform made from cinder blocks. “Good strike is not about the strength of your arm.” He began to spin one of the nunchaku. “There is no muscle in the chain, but there is leverage, momentum.” He was only making a small motion with his hand, but the nunchaku he was swinging was practically a blur. “When you strike your arm is the chain. Put the force of your whole body into it. Let your arm be the chain. Throw your fist forward.” By this time he’d moved over to the boards, as he finished the last statement he swung the nunchaku down at the boards and they all shattered with a resounding crack.