Children EVERYWHERE! Kung Fu Camp (or KFC as I like to call it) has started at the academy. For 40 days in the school summer holidays, approximately 30 children are getting trained by Master Bao and Peter. The place is filled with a different, refreshing energy, as well as the pain of the youngling students training, which we cannot take our eyes off of!
Like many great leaders, Master Bao is always seeking opportunities to expand, one of those areas being training younger students that are local to the academy. Before my time, I know a couple of local children trained here, and actually there were about 5 children training here in the winter break when I first got here. This was just the first step. Master Bao wanted to start a summer camp for them. A couple of weeks ago Master Bao asked us to go out in little groups in the surrounding area to hand out flyers. Jauffrey and I were tasked with a local school not too far to target the parents as soon as they went to collect their kids. Other groups went to local towns high streets, and other schools. This low level marketing worked quite well and we have over 30 kids training.
Their main trainer is Peter. He is a young (and suspiciously tall) man who has trained at our academy for 2 years.When I got here earlier in the year he left to help out at his family farm. Master Bao offered him a place here to teach the kids, so he has made his glorious return. All us students here like Peter because despite him not speaking a lick of English, he still interacts with us and is always cheerful. By interacting I mainly mean punching you I’m the kidneys as you walk past him in the corridor, and when you turn he wears a rye smile on his youthful face. It’s always a pleasure being surrounded by positive energy eh. Peter does not have the rank of Master, so the kids call him ‘Jiao Lian’ which means coach.
Watching Master Bao train these kids is like watching Lion in the wild. Fierce. Commanding. Dangerous. Master Bao always carries a stick with him to correct the stances by hitting the body part that needs to change. Seeing this gives us shades of what Master Bao and the other masters went through at the Shaolin temple. I mean, I think what we go through can be tough, but it is about 25% what they went through…if that! Their schedule is a bit different from ours. They have a big morning session from 8:30-10:30, then a huge lunch break (where they make so much friggin’ noise) and start again at 14:30-17:00. Master Bao and Peter have the kids stretching first as a warm-up; straight to splits and low stances. They stand in Horse Stance much longer than we have ever done…fuck that, that burns! They have already started conditioning and do press ups on their fists. Great start for their childhood right?
We observe the children quite a lot and we have favourites that we never want to see beaten, or get moves wrong. There is Pyjama Boy, Shaolin Son, and The Mexican. Pyjama Boy is aptly named because he wears this white light baggy suit, that he must sleep in. He was here when I arrived for a bit of winter training, so his familiarity with us has made him a fan favourite. Shaolin Son is the young boy of the man who owns the restaurant we go to around the corner. He looks EXACTLY the way a Shaolin kid should look like. He always smiles and tries hard, winning! Oh The Mexican. Matt and I joke he looks like a 70 year old Mexican drug smuggler. He is so tiny, and generally doesn’t know what is going on, and we support that! Whenever we see him Matt puts on a Mexican accent and says “You lika the merchandiser”…cracks me up every time! Earlier in the year, Master Bao said that when his son, Ze Ze, turns 6 he will start training. Cute alert! He has started punching and conditioning with the other kids. It’s funny to see such a small kid start this type of training. At the moment it looks cute, but much like his father. I’m sure this is the start to becoming the province’s most dangerous man!
As the weeks have gone by Master Du has stepped into train them, and this just makes us all laugh. The first thing he does is find a tool to potentially hit the kids with, my favourite being a white plastic pipe. Before people get all “mahhh should you be hitting kids?” It’s not very hard, blood is not drawn! Whenever the kids are moving too slow you hear a stick hit the ground near the individual, and a commanding voice;
Quickly! Quickly! From what I can see Master Du uses his time to teach them coordination. He has had them stepping out in lines, marching, turning…very army-esque. Master Du also teaches them Sanda basics; guard, steps forward/back, straight punch, and hooks.
While we were doing Sanda ourselves Peter set up a ring and got the kids sparring. YES! Fighting kids with comedy sized boxing gloves…where can I place bets!!! As you can imagine, no real technique yet but some of them were flailing their arms so aimlessly, when it inevitably hit the opponent it knocked them down. What a time to be alive! Master Wang took a seat next to the kids to watch (blending in very well amongst the small chinese kids) and was trying to hold his laughter as the kids swung their arms everywhere! Sanda is Master Wang’s thing so I guess he loves seeing it in all forms.
The younglings are also learning the Maling Academy Group Fist Form. Seeing them learn Group form is very cute, especially when they shout out the commands and sounds in their innocent pre-pubesent voices. Maybe at the end of their learning it, we can all perform it together…now that would be very instagrammable (yup, that’s a word now).
As a group of us prepare for the regional competition, it’s been kind of refreshing to hear more voices around and a contagious energy in the atmosphere while we train, as well as the screams and tears which eases our pain (horrible…but true). These kids will comfortably surpass me soon, but until then…pass me a stick. Kuai! Kuai!