Hugo Berger tries an enjoyable, if sparsely attended, Yi Lu Quan martial arts class at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Fight, get fit with no bruises with Yi Lu Quan
What is it?
It's a Far Eastern discipline that you've probably never heard of. It's a form of the ancient Chinese fighting technique of Wushu - a sequence of kicks, punches and stances, executed in a predetermined sequence.
Wushu is huge in China. In fact, the Chinese unsuccessfully lobbied for it to be accepted as an official event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Among its famous exponents are Chinese movie stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and British martial artist Ray Park, best known for playing Darth Maul.
Disappointingly, during our course at the golf club, we didn't learn how to twirl a lightsaber like the evil Sith Lord from the first Star Wars movie. The Yi Lu Quan style of Wushu is a solely weaponless affair. An apt description of it would be as a more vigorous version of Tai Chi, with forceful mid-air punches and kicks, rather than slow, sweeping movements.
The class is taught by Paulo Bautista, a smiley Filipino with an infectious enthusiasm for the martial art. Bautista claims that practising Yi Lu Quan can improve balance, flexibility, strength and concentration as well as one's overall fitness.
It was somewhat disconcerting to find that, apart from myself and the instructor, there were only three other attendees. Bautista insists this is because the class is still relatively new and predicts that once word of its existence spreads, more people will turn up.
The minimal number of participants does have its advantages, though. It means we're given plenty of personal instruction to master the sequences of Yi Lu Quan.
After an energy sapping warm-up involving running and stretching, we begin with some basic punches and kicks. Then, Paulo guides us on a few combat stances, before we begin the complex task of linking them together in a routine.
The sequence of moves is relatively easy to memorise. Having said that, a couple of times, mid-routine I found myself facing the complete opposite direction from the rest of the class. Also, unlike some martial arts classes, you don't need the pugilistic prowess of Bruce Lee to take part. And since it's a non-contact sport, you're almost guaranteed to go home with your facial features unscathed.
Learning the routine is a painstaking, time-consuming process, meaning you're repeatedly stopping and starting while you're being taught the next move. This means it's not a particularly high-intensity affair. In fact, in some ways, the warm up was more tiring than the class itself. So if you're expecting to burn off excess fat during the hour of tuition, you'll be sorely disappointed.
However, in the final minutes of the class, once I was more adept at the routine and could perform it at a steady pace, I did work up a bit of a sweat. I envisage future lessons, because I'll be accustomed to the activity, will be a lot more intensive.
Yi Lu Quan classes are on Tuesdays at 6.15pm at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in Sas Al Nakhl. They cost Dh30 per class for members and Dh50 for non members. Contact 02 558 8990 for more information.