‘Fiiiive… Fouuuur… Threeee… Twoooo… Oneeee…’ Master Yan Xin’s “Kung Fu count down” resonates in the Lough Dan scout camp site. Even though “Kung Fu seconds” seem longer than the ticking on the clock, and despite the pain from the leg stretch, everyone tries his best to reach that little bit closer to the foot. “Feel the pain. Enjoy the pain. No pain no Kung Fu.”, says the 34th generation Shaolin disciple.
Morning is a great time for Qi Gong. As the sun rises all lives on earth re-energise. After the stretching and before breakfast, everyone moves on to “Ba Duan Jin”- 8 Section Silk Brocade, an ancient Chinese Qi Gong form known to have many health benefits.
This is the second Kungfu.Life training camp. From being only a small special training of 10 people in 2015, the number of participants double this year. Students of all levels and ages gather in this beautiful camp site of County Wicklow in Ireland. Besides his Irish students, there are Master Yan Xin’s old students from parts of England, where he has taught for a number of years. A couple of them are already running their own Kung Fu schools. Others are from various European countries like Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy having different martial arts background. There is even a total beginner all the way from Japan, who just wants meet and train with the “Smiling Master”, as she describes him!
The atmosphere is eclectic. After breakfast everybody is chatting to one another with excitement, exchanging martial knowledge and skills in a friendly and non competitive fashion waiting with anticipation for the second morning training session to start.
In Kung Fu, conditioning and foundation training are particularly important. Even the masters routinely go through them. After a short run and warm up the training starts again. The students advancing up and down the field drilling the foundation movements,Tan Tui (Flick kick/ 弹腿), Li He Tui (Inside crescent kick/ 里合腿), Wai Bai tui (Outside crescent kick/ 外摆腿), Zheng Ti Tui (Front kick/ 正踢腿)… The sweat runs down the face. The t-shirt is drenched but everyone still pushes his hardest trying to make each movement better and better each time. For the less experienced Master Yan Xin patiently coaches the movements and does the drills with them. He is strict and yet caring. He knows when and who to push more and to lay off. Everyone watches with eyes wide open in admiration when he is doing the demonstration.
9 Section Chain Whip (Jiu Jie Bian/ 九节鞭) is the main program of this year’s bootcamp. It is one of many Master Yan Xin’s specialties. His breath taking performance can be found in the first ever Wheel of Life show, where he was the team leader.
Being classed as a soft weapon in the Chinese martial arts, 9 Section Chain whip is regarded as a ‘powerful hidden weapon’. Generally the whip has a handle on one end and a dart on the other, used for slashing or piercing the opponent. The techniques used in the form (Taolu/ 套路) taught in this camp are elaborate. The chain whip is flicked around the wrist, neck and leg, or flung underneath a recumbent performer (Shen Xia Guo Bian/ 身下过鞭) combining acrobatic movements such as Tornado Kick (Xuan Feng Jiao/ 旋风脚), Fish Jump (Li Yu Da Ting/ 鲤鱼打挺) and Butterfly Kick (Xuan Zi/ 旋子)…
Master Yan Xin’s teaching is methodical and concise. The students quickly got the hang of the techniques under his guidance. After 3 days of training, they have all pretty much learned the general pattern. By the end of the last session, they can all go through the form together.
The evening is time for socialising and relaxation. It’s time for light stretching and meditation. Master Yan Xin’s senior students took over some evenings to give a Body Mechanics talk and some Qi Gong exercise. One of the evenings they made a camp fire and gathered around playing games and eating marshmallows. Everyone gets on so well with one another. Nobody is left alone. During this extended weekend, everyone left their daily life behind to share this valuable experience with like-minded people. In the last evening after an exuberant group chat everyone goes outside and sends off lanterns with their wishes written on them into the sky as the grand finale.
Monday morning after a quick run and going through the chain whip for for one last time, it’s time to pack our bags… So long everybody! All the best to your future training back home. We shall keep in touch and hopefully see you in the next bootcamp!
For more information on Master Yan Xin and Kungfu.life, please go to: www.kungfu.life