This year’s summer camp was a different style of camp to previous ones as it was held at Neil’s house, with occasional trips to the local recreation ground and St. John ’s Park, as well as being focused on dog boxing techniques and patterns (Di Shu). It was also my first experience of summer camp so I went in not really knowing what to expect. Milad, Will and I (the San Zhan group) were relatively new to the Di Shu style so we were tasked with learning the whole of Di Shu San Zhan, the first pattern in the style while others were learning Qi Xing, Si Men and San Shi Liu.
During the week we not only learned new patterns and binding techniques during the tough morning and unforgiving (often sweaty) afternoon sessions but we also learned a little about each other in the numerous, well-earned rests throughout the camp.
After arriving and having a few teas and coffees on the first day, we set off for the local recreation ground. As we arrived, the sun beamed down on us. It turned out to be a very hot day. Thankfully a nearby tree provided ample cover from the sun. We began with some stretches and warm-ups and moved on to some leg lifts and similar exercises to further warm up our legs (we would need it). Afterwards, we started reaching deep into our memory banks to resurrect any patterns we had learned (Will was new so did not do so at all) and began drilling our patterns. We soon realised that if we practised our patterns continuously we would ‘melt’ so we decided to practise our patterns one at a time so that we would get some rest. The San Zhan group learned more of the pattern which we drilled until it was lodged in our minds.
Then we returned to Neil’s house for the first of many sleepy lunch breaks where more people were horizontal than vertical! During the break, Max and Will discovered the trampoline in Neil’s garden and, bizarrely, found the energy to jump on it for a substantial amount of time. This became a strange tradition during the summer camp as the pair went on the trampoline during every following break without fail. The afternoon session consisted of binding, in which we learned/revisited Black Dragon Coiling the Post and a leg locking follow-up, as well as continuing to drill our patterns. We felt this the next morning. To finish,
Neil gathered us round on the floor and gave a brief talk, after which we would meditate and the session would end.
The second day greeted us with rain as we began with the obligatory hot drinks. When we began training, the aches and pains developed from the previous days training began showing their ugly faces as we stretched during the warm-up. But there was no time to sulk about them as we dive – rolled straight into binding exercises like Black Dragon Coiling the Post and others. After a ‘quick’ tea and trampoline break we were back in pattern mode for a little while before lunch. In this time, Neil demonstrated the correct low stance required for Di Shu style fighting, far lower than the Tiger-Crane Horse stance. This was one of the many differences in styles that we had to adjust to after training Tiger-Crane for so long. One of the side effects of this was that our legs began hurting much more, so the lunch break was welcomed by all. In the afternoon session we learned the next part of San Zhan, bringing us close to the end of it so that we would look good on the filming day for Master Lin. Despite this, we still had many secrets in the movements we had learned left to unlock.
On day three we decided to train in St. John’s Park in the centre of Burgess Hill and the public eye. Weather conditions were favourable for the whole day and as we warmed up, so did the temperature. We began by practicing our patterns and the San Zhan group worked on improving ground movements especially, as these were quite new to us. After getting muddy, Matt taught us applications of the first few movements in San Zhan so that we knew why the pattern was as it was and so we could move with purpose when training the pattern.
Lunch followed suit and we were treated to Mike’s chilli and raisin cake, sweet with a kick. We expanded on Black Dragon Coiling the Post after the break; different situations which we could twist to our advantage and subsequently apply the binding technique. This included starting from a sticking position, rolling in to end up between the opponent’s legs and breaking free when we were face down with an opponent standing above us. This proved to be useful because we now knew how to set up a situation so that we can use binding to win the fight. However, Neil emphasised that these moves were very difficult to pull off in the heat of a fight when it is hard to think further ahead than blocking next strike. They were worth thinking about though as working an opponent into any one of the techniques we had learned would end a fight as Neil demonstrated points in binding moves where you could break arms or legs and cause immense pain to the victim. We then had an afternoon break, once again spoiled by delicious desserts, this time thanks to Ruth’s rich banoffee pie (at this rate we would leave the camp bigger than we entered!). Later, we returned to patterns until the end of the day.
Day four: filming day. Our limbs were seizing up left and right and the warm-up was quite the struggle. Neil realised that it would be impossible to train hard without some… inspiration. Within a minute, the stereo was fired up and Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, a classic workout tune, was blasted through the speakers as we suddenly found strength within, previously locked by lack of inspiration. With our spirits high, we set off for St. John’s Park once again to film our patterns for Master Lin in China. The San Zhan group finished learning the pattern and also learned correct breathing and shouts while others finished learning higher patterns. After a quick few run-throughs of our patterns, the entire group began filming Di Shu San Zhan.
In the end, it took four takes to get a perfectly synchronised pattern. We were happy with the result. Now it was time for the senior members to film Si Men. This took a few more takes because it was a new pattern but the end result was also excellent. We headed back for Neil’s house to rest and eat lunch. After we thought we were full, I showed my mum’s banana cake and double chocolate cake and suddenly we were starving again. They were destroyed in minutes! Now we were definitely prepared for binding. We continued with Black Dragon Coiling the Post and attempted other techniques such as the Nun Kicking over the Monk Looking at the Sky (rolls off the tongue) and the General Rips off the Horse’s Hooves among others. At this point, I felt that we, as a group, had improved vastly in binding and had learned many new ways to twist people up. We took another break and Ruth had outdone herself again with a massive bowl of Eton Mess. We gobbled it up as if our lives depended on it and practised our patterns with full stomachs.
That was day four part one; part two was Chinese takeaway and movie night! As the evening began, Dave disappeared while we prepared the table and gazebo as well as ordering what turned out to be Chi foo’s biggest ever single order. Waiting for the food was, by far, the hardest part of the entire day, which made the arrival all the more rewarding. We further destroyed our digestive systems with a delicious, Chinese takeaway that evening. Although we ate like royals, there was still a lot of food left over. Now it was time for videos and a movie. We watched a few videos on the projector in the Kung Fu room about dog boxing and patterns performed by masters including Master Lin who performed Di Shu San Zhan in a soft style to show a different way of performing the pattern. Neil also showed part of a news story detailing their trip to china in 2012 which was in mandarin so most of us couldn’t understood it, but we got the meaning of it.
Matt agreed to let Neil show us his fight against a San Da fighter which was intense and close right up until the final push out of the ring. It was now time for Raid 2, provided by Milad. Max and Will were sent out of the Kung Fu room as Raid 2 is not for the faint of heart. As if on cue, the heavens opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain down as we watched, which made the raining scenes in the movie seem very real! Eventually the gazebo had taken on far too much water and was ready to break so Neil was forced to poke holes in the top to allow water to escape. Unfortunately I had to leave near the end of the film, but I heard it was good.
The last day was upon us. If we had not been worn out before, we were today. The sun was drying up the wet floor from the previous night as we stretched. It did not clear it all though; a substantial amount of water had been collected by the gazebo the previous night even with Neil’s improvisations, so when a strong gust of wind came along, the water from the gazebo tipped over the edge. Much to his dismay (and to our amusement), Will was in the perfect spot to get thoroughly soaked by the rainwater! Poor Will had to borrow a whole new set of uniform, kindly provided by Neil after witnessing the comedy gold take place. We decided to escape the dangers of overhanging deposits of water and visit St. John’s Park again, where the San Zhan group learned a Ba Gua step routine which involved two people blocking each other while walking in a circle. Practicing this movement proved to be dizzying until we tried going the other way which helped greatly. When we went back to Neil’s house, Ruth was already on the case with more sweet delights, this time shortbread biscuits straight from the oven. Truly we were blessed by the dessert gods!
The break went quickly and soon we were on our last training session. We trained hard, knowing that an evening of entertainment awaited us. Milad and I worked on making San Zhan look really good, bringing the fire up and down to enhance our movements and trying not to smack our shoulders on the ground when rolling. We finished by taking turns to perform our best pattern yet and it felt good to nail every movement without having to think too much about it. This concluded the Kung Fu section of the summer camp.
The promised evening of entertainment followed, with the few that could stay going on a quick trip to Waitrose to buy food and drinks for the evening. The barbeque was fired up, the tables and food were prepared and we were pretty hungry at that point so we got straight to eating as soon as we could. Many beverages (and a few shots) were had as the night went on and somehow Ruth’s old guitar managed to make its way into our midst so we played a few tunes to liven the atmosphere up. Before long it was dark and the adults were ready to go to the pub. It was suggested that I looked after the younger ones since I was only just too young to join them (gutted) so I took it upon myself to babysit the kids for the night, so to speak. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun; we managed to fit in a few games of Halo 3 before their bedtime.
The next day, I was woken up by the sound of Halo as Max had already snuck onto it at seven in the morning! We managed to cram in a few more games, inadvertently skipping breakfast in the process but it was soon time to go. Final goodbyes were exchanged and the week eventually came to a close. I gained a vast amount of knowledge during the camp, not only an entire new pattern but I was properly introduced to a new style of Kung Fu that was very different to what I had known before. I would like to thank Neil for teaching us so much about Di Shu.
Damian Chan 2014