Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Kung Fu camp – The end is in sight!

Jesus titty fucking Christ I’m battered. And not the good battered that one gets from large quantities of whiskey like I was on Saturday night! My body is aching everywhere and I’ve been off the last couple of days resting!

Ok, so I’ve been a bit shite at keeping this blog up to date whilst I’ve been at the camp, but as I explained before the internet here is balls. The good news for you blog fans out there is that you’ll just get the MOTD highlights of my activities here at the camp (4-1 FT).

Obviously most days here have been spent training, getting up at 5am and training all day and most evenings have been spent chilling watching films. There’s been a couple of nights when we’ve gone to the restaurant at the local village of Shin Show mainly just to get a change of diet from the same meals of rice we get practically every day! We usually get a nice mix of pork ribs, chow Mein, duck heart etc. just to get a fix of protein as the meat at the camp is pretty sparse (insert joke about women being meat here) and it costs around 4 quid so can’t really go wrong. We did have a day when we went to the Golden Lake to see some gay little waterfalls and a Buddhist temple but the weather that day was crap so it wasn’t all that spectacular to be honest.

Weekends are usually spent grabbing the bus to Taining to get battered at the ‘western’ which is as close as you get to a bar here and is named as such as they sell lots of western food, booze and fancy coffees. We usually hit dico’s at least a couple of times as they sell KFC style fast food for under 3 quid J Last Saturday was pretty much the biggest night in terms of alcohol, I remember getting a bottle of grants whiskey to share with this Dutch guy and vomming in the western toilets but not a lot else. Most drunk I’ve been all year. There was another night when we had a few beers and went to this karaoke bar where by I pretty much hogged the mic for about 2 hours solid as no-one else could be arsed to sing. The karaoke bars here are weird, you pay 300 Yuan (30 pounds) between however many people there are in your group (in our case there was about 10 of us) and you get your own room and beers are 5 Yuan each (50p each!). That was a pretty cool night.

Err, so in terms of the training I decided it would be a good idea a few weeks ago to do Sanda Boxing with the Shaolin class (I was doing white crane at the time) and was pitted up against a guy from Bristol who had been here for about 3 months. He battered the hell out of me, so much so that I nearly cried in front of half the school. You see the sparring here isn’t like the sparring I did back in England whereby you were trying to improve your technique and land a few gentle hits on your opponent, the object here is to smash the crap out of your opponent until you win. 3 x 3 minute rounds and by the end of the first round I was seeing stars. Obviously I felt like a total pussy nearly being reduced to tears but I’d never really had a proper battering like that before and it was a real shock to the system. Managed to keep a brave face on though and I don’t think any of the guys clocked that I was welling up (but they did see me get battered though!). After that I was up half the night with shooting pains going up my spine and wasn’t really back to full fitness and confidence for a few days.

Had a web cam chat with H, Andy and Emily which was really nice followed by a web cam chat to mother, trev, Cathy and Chris. So good to speak to peeps from back home and see my family J Dad called me last Saturday too which was really cool to speak to him.

This is my last week here so I decided that I’d got as much as I was going to from White crane and joined Shaolin on Friday. First day in and we did the Taining run which is a run from the camp to the local town – 23k no less! To my shock and delight I managed to do it in 1 hour 58 mins and was utterly chuffed having not really done any long distance running in the last couple of years (and even then the most I’d ever done was 10k which I did in 57 mins). 

Monday came around and I spent the day with the Shaolin class which put me out of action for 2 days! Basically they train far harder in Shaolin and my back and neck took a major beating and needed to be rested. They do 3 5k runs a day, lots of acrobatics and at the end of the day they do squats up these set of stairs then press ups down them 4-6 times. Killed me! Today was my first day back training since my injuries and earlier today I did Shaolin boxing again, and lasted all of 30 seconds before kicking my opponent in the arm and bending my toes back putting me back out of action. Don’t think they’re broken but they’re pretty sore and I can’t put any weight on themL.

So my tickets are booked for the three busses that will take me back to Guangzhou where Pete Hull will be putting me up for a night before heading onto vietFUCKINGnam (Forrest Gump reference there). Frankly I’m really looking forward to getting the hell out of here. Don’t get me wrong, my time at this camp has been brilliant, really beneficial and even more enjoyable than I’d hoped but I’m looking forward to getting back to travelling and seeing some more of the world and chilling out for a while.

Thinking about buying a little motorbike when I get to ‘Nam and riding around like they did on Top Gear but I’m not sure if it requires too much planning, equipment and money. Would be a brilliant experience but I’ll have to do a bit of homework.

Ok, so basically I’m done training now, too injured to carry on today so I’m just going to watch the classes and chill. I’m travelling to Guangzhou with this English guy called Rob (who has over 100 sky dives under his belt!) and we may end up leaving tomorrow as he’s pretty much done with training now and there are some of our mates going to Sanming tomorrow for a night out. Would be nice to get some decent food and to stay in a warm hotel but I’m not sure if it would be better to rest my foot and head off on Sunday instead (which would be a lot cheaper too).

Rambling now. Laters on the menjay.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rising Dragon Martial Arts School (Week 1.5)

Arrived at the school on Tuesday around 9pm at night. Scott Bird (the owner) had picked me up from the capital Fujou earlier in the day and drove for about 5 hours to get to the camp. On the way through we passed through Taining town which was suprisingly large and developed. I'd put it on par with Wokingham town centre in terms of size and how modern it looked. Met my room mate Dan and first impressions were all good, nice bloke, been here a while so a good person to show me the ropes. He explained that essentially there where 4 classes to chose from. This is my (potentially ignorant!) understanding of the classes:
1) White Crane - this is centered around power and force. it seemed like the most practical option in terms of learning something that could be used in a real life situation rather than busting out fancy jumps and spinning kicks. Around 2/3 of the school does this. As my room mate and neighbours where all in White crane I figured it was a logical place to start. Pretty sure I'm going to stick with it though as it's pretty bad ass!
2) Shaolin - This seems to be centered around fitness and flare. It's still a very powerfull form in terms of how 'hard' it makes someone, but is more for professional ring fights than bar brawls. Lots of horror stories about people crying beause they train so hard (lots of runs, press ups etc) Again, around 2/3 of the school does this.
3) Baji - This seems to be centred around performance of kata's (sets of movements that demonstrate techniques) with and without weapons. only about 4 students do this
4) Tai Chi - This is focused around the control of the body's Qi (chee) and performing set kata's, but basically in slow motion. If you've seen road house I'm pretty sure Swazie performs a Tai Chi kata at one point topless whilst the bad guy watches him. It's a really relaxed martial art but I think the idea is if you can perfect the moves in slow motion then you can use them in real life at full speed. Fuck knows.

So a typical day at the camp is as follows:

5:00 wake up and get ready to kick off at 5:30
5:30 The whole school (all the classes) meet at the shaolin hall to do the morning circuit. Most days it's held by Pierre, who is essentially a robot. This guy is 27, ripped to fuck and hard as nails. The class varies from day to day to excersize different parts of the body eg upper body, legs, abs. A couple of times we've done something different though like one day we did conditioning (where you smack forearms and legs into each other to make your body 'tougher' or this morning when we did akido type holds and arm locks (for self defence). Not only is it fucking early in the morning, but it's also the hardest thing we do all day!
6:00  Class starts, so as I'm in white crane we meet on the area of concrete outside the rooms and start off with Qi Gong. This is a series of movements to get the fundamental body possions and stances corrrect. It's pretty cool to do neo meditation as the sun rises looking out to the hills and vallys below.
6:30 Line drills. We all line up and go up and down the concrete area doing different kicks, chops, punches etc. Can't really explain what we do without demonstrating, but if you've ever done a martial art class you'll know what I mean! It's really good for muscle memory of the different attacks and combos.
7:30 Breakfast. As with every meal, get there quick and be ruthless otherwise you go hungry! They sit all the students around 4 circular tables 8 or so to each table and put 2 bowls in the middle, one with scrambled egg and tomatoes and the other with chips. The egg one gets battered first then the chips. everyone has chop sticks so if you don't have ninja chop stick skills you're fucked!
8:00 Morning break. I usually take this time to go for a crap and grab 40 minutes sleep.
9:00 Class re-convenes at the basket ball court. White crane then go off and do sprints which is basically 300 metres jog, 200 meteres run and 100 metres sprint four times without a break between. I come 3rd last to this litte kid called Jimmy and the stoner Billy who is mashed most days. Ahead of me is always Jackson (really cool aussie guy who is letting me use his laptop right now!), Samir and Jack (these two always come as a package, really cool 19 year old guys from england who are a good laugh) Dan (my room mate) and Scott (full timer who has been at the camp for 18 months and has arms like steel posts!
9:30 We go through a series of stretches to limber up each part of the body. this lasts about 20 minutes. Then we do knuckle push ups (on concrete!), jumps, running on the spot and punches for the last 10 minutes.
10:00 conditioning, ok, so as I mentioned earlier conditioning is basically getting your body used to being hit. The idea is to strengthen the bones and muscles that are frequently hit during a fight like forearms (during blocks) legs (to stop getting 'dead legs' aka grandad's), chest, abs and forehead. As I type I have a cut on my knuckles from the press ups on conrete (designed to toughen up the fists) and rather large brusing on my forearem from the conditioning. If you go to the rising dragon facebook page there are loads of videos of people smashing arms with each other and at some point i'll try and get a video up of me getting knocked about! DO NOT DO CONDITIONING WITH SCOTT HE WILL CAUSE YOU PAIN! I did slaps with him which is designed to condition your abs. You basically tense your abs as much as you can and the other person issues a palm punch to them. Then you return the favour. I think I actually managed to beat the record against scott the other day of surviving 7 of them from him! Probably cus me and chall always do it when we're drunk!
11:30 break. No time for sleep so I usually just chat or kick a football about with the guys.
12:00 Lunch. Again, survival of the fastest with the old chop sticks! Massive bowl of rice for everyone (more than enough to go around) and 2 bowls per table of 8/9 people, one with meat and veg and the other with just  veg. Everyone just hen picks out the meat at warp speed (no time to chew!), then eats the veg with the rice. Bassically it's all about getting your fix of protien to build your muscles that you're constantly battering!
12:30 Longest break of the day, either watch a film on my ipod, hit the computer room, go for a sleep or take a walk to the near by village for supplies.
2:30 Meet at the basket court and go for a jog. We either go to the waterfall or up the hill and back. Only about a 20 minute jog either way and the same order as earlier in terms of finishing possitions!
3:00 Meet in the 'red man room' (so called as there's a big red dummy there with no arms that we practise hitting to get used to the techniques) and go through the same stretching and pressup routine from the morning. After we're finished with that we do some more conditioning only this time we tend to do it against objects rather than each other. There's the red man for doing combos and strikes against, the wooden dummy which if you've ever seen an old kung fu movie there's usually a scene where the hero hits these wooden blocks at warp speed with different blocks and chops, a bucket of gravel to grind your fists into, a couple of padded walls to punch and a weights room to condition your wrists with (and to work out outside of class hours if you like).
4:00 Break
4:30 FInal half an hour doing form, basically our kata. Only as we're in white crane our form consists of about 10 moves which we do over and over and over again and never seem to learn anything else. Sightly tedious but I suppose necceary for getting the fundamental stances correct.
5:00 Finish. Usually a good opertunity to do washing, tidy your room or have a shower
6:00 Diner. Basically exactly the same as lunch!

Ok, running out of time and you're probably a bit bored of reading all this so I'll give you some more details on what I've been doing day to day and at the weekends another time.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

China - the journey to kungfu

Just to set the scene, it's 7pm on the second day of my month here at the kungfu camp, every muscle in my body is on fire, my knuckles are cut (from doing press ups on concrete) and I'm shattered from these 5am starts and lack of protein. Having said all that, this is exactly what i expected and hoped for and I'm having a fantastic time here! 

I'll start with my development in India that I was being coy about. I wanted to let the mother unit (hi mum!) know via message before she found out on here, but I got a phoenix tattoo done in Goa. I did loads of research first to make sure I went to a good and clean place and put a fair amount of thought into the design. It's a bit wanky, but the symbolism of a phoenix rising from the flames and starting a fresh symbolism what I'm doing now. I was in a pretty bad place last year so traveling has really helped me start a fresh with something new. The design itself is about 8inches long and i've posted the sesign on facebook. I don't want to post any photo's of it yet as it's still peeling and healing so it wouldn't do it justice :-)

The journey from Goa to Singapore was a bit of a mission, got a taxi with a couple of other Indians who had pulled 3 day sickies from their bar jobs in Mumbai just to go to goa with these French girls they'd met! They must have spent about a years worth of wages chasing that bit of skirt around! Bless. Train to mumbai was pretty cramped and minging but i had my tunes and films to keep me occupied. Bex, that ipod you sold me is a god send! :-) Arrived in Mumbai at about midnight and saved some money by sleeping at the airport on the floor of the waiting room. Again, a couple of vally and I slept like a log! 

Arrived in Singapore the next day after a skinfull on the plane (took full advantage of the free booze on the flight!) and decided to treat myself to a hotel for the night. Went to some karaoke places and the only song I recognized was Madonna "power of goodbye" which is one of my favorite songs (and I'd like it played at my funeral by the way) but not really that easy to sing so I sounded like a right mug. A RIGHT MUG! 2-1.Singapore was really clean and pretty (as expected) but I didn't spend long there as I plan to go back on my way through to Australia.

Got a taxi back to the airport the next morning and flew to Hong kong (watched thor the plane which was a great little movie!). Arrived in Hong kong and made my way to the hostel I'd booked into. Bumped into a fellow traveler on the street outside the hostel who was looking for the same place (a swiss guy called Ulrich) so we managed to find teh place. We were told that the hostel was fully booked and I realized I'd booked the following day (it was some trade fare that night so all the hostels were booked). So I managed to blag us to stay at the hostel opposite and we headed out into town to see the sights. Ulrich had spent a few months here previously so he knew his way round really well. Saw the HSBC tower and the Tower from the dark night and they looked sweet all lit up at night. Went out to the main party zone and it was manic due to Halloween. Instead of spending loads in teh bars we just went between the 7 11's (the chinese equivalent of a co-op) and bought a beer in each. 

The next morning we went to meet Ulrich's Chinese mate for lunch which was really nice then went back to the main tourist places. Rode the ferry across the island and saw the bruce lee statue and all the stars with their hand prints in concrete (like Hollywood only for Chinese films!). Hong Kong was pretty similar to Singapore really, developed, modern and pretty. Walked past a couple of Indian guys trying to sell fake watches and it reminded me how annoying India was. Really wanted to spark them as they don't go away until you tell them 'no' like 5 times. Thought I'd got over all that! Managed to get the train to Guangzhou that afternoon (by the skin of my teeth!) and met Pete at the station. Really nice to speak to someone who could speak casual English (most of the other people I've met have been European or Australian) so it's nice to bust out slang with-ought having to explain what the words mean. Pete has it pretty sweet in China, he has a slamming Chinese misses and I think he's on relatively good money compared to the cost of living so he's laughing. 

Next day we had to make our way to another town (can't remember the name of it) to get the train to Sanming (for the kung fu camp). We went to loads of Chinese restaurants and a fast food place and ate like kings all day! Also saw half a dog's carcass strung up at one of the restaurants so snapped a photo of me stood next to it! Booked the tickets and phoned the owner of the camp (Scott) to let him know and he said to change them to Fuzhou as he was already in that city. Easier said than done! The ticket place said that I had to do it on the train and when it came to explaining that I wanted to stay on the train past Sangming to get to Fuzhou no-one spoke any english. Had to call Pete's mate and have him explain it to the ticket guard about 3 times! 

So eventually arrived at Fuzhou and had to kill some time before meeting Scott met me so I decided to get some decent running trainers. Couldn't pay by card and couldn't get any money out of the cash machine either but fortunately I had packed some emergency US dollars that they excepted instead :-). It was a 5 hour drive to the camp and on arrival I was immediately chuffed with the place. Met my room mate who had been there 3 months and is a really nice bloke and went to sleep pretty rapidly as we had to be up at 5am the next morning! This internet connection is starting to play up so I'll write more at the weekend. Right now I'm off to bed! 5am start in the morning.... again!