There is so much to say about The Martial Camp 2020 that I’m dividing it into several postings. This posting contains a general overview of the camp, in the next postings (haven’t decided how many yet) I’ll describe the masters and what they taught. Since there were so many other fellow martial artists at the camp I hope they’ll also chip in in the comments to provide a more complete picture of the very enjoyable experience.
There were 43 of us who had made our journey to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai from all corners of the globe for a two-week Martial Arts camp.
One came all the way from Chile, another was a woman doctor from Kirghistan. There was a young man from Egypt, a logistics professional from Panama and a Chinese healer from Madrid. There were Europeans, Australians, Brits, Americans and Asians.
We were varied. We had different skills and learned different types of martial arts whether they were Taiji, Wing Chun, Shaolin, Xingyi or Systema.
We had one thing in common though: the fascination and love for the spirit of the martial arts, which, when you get down to it, is about self-cultivation, or getting the mind to be able to command the body to do exactly what we want it to do.
Most of us had seen the YouTube interviews that Martial Man Kieren Krygier had made of martial arts masters, mainly based in Asia. Some of the masters were seemingly capable of mind-defying feats such as sending people reeling with a touch or gentle push. They looked too good to be true, yet we’ve seen others do it or heard of such incidents from friends.
So when the prospect of not only meeting but getting to touch hands with not one but five of these masters presented itself, we all couldn’t resist but to see and feel for ourselves if these feats are real. And if they are, how we can get close to replicating these abilities for ourselves.
Moreover, it was a great opportunity to learn and experience first-hand the abilities and philosophies of masters other than our own, so that we had a better basis of judging the soundness of the styles and trainings we had chosen.
Some of us, to me, were skeptical pilgrims, seeking the Holy Grail of the soft martial arts – the ability to activate our internal energy in our practice of a martial art. We want to believe that these feats are possible but won’t do so unless we can validate them for ourselves. Others were less skeptical and more New Age, already believing in chakras, healing, energy work, auras and blue pea tea before they got to camp.
Regardless, we all signed up for The Martial Camp that was organized by Kieran and his Thai partner, who goes by the nickname of Soda.
This is the second year that the Martial Camp is being organized and it was located at Belle Villa Resort, about 45 minutes drive from central Chiang Mai. Set in the hills it was cool (about 15 degrees C in the mornings) and surrounded by lush forests, a perfect setting for the trainings we were about to receive.
We arrived via different flights to the camp on January 9 and had a great time getting to know the different participants, some of whom had flown over 30 hours just for this event.
Over the next 13 days we would get to listen to and receive instructions from the five masters Kieran had curated for the camp: Adam Mizner (Yang Style Taiji), Nima King (Wing Chun, of the Cho Shon Ting lineage), Yap Boh Heong (Five Ancestors Fist and Wu Mei), Liang De Hua (also Yang style Taiji) and Huai Hsiang Wang (Prana Dynamics).
The masters had their own take on things but a common thread to their teachings was the importance of posture and relaxation of the muscles and joints to ensure a free flow of energy, whether it be called Chi, Prana or some another term, throughout the body. They also delved at length into activating the fascia as opposed to the muscles for powerful movements. They also spoke about Daosit beliefs and philosophy.
This is not exactly new stuff to someone who had read widely about martial arts, especially the soft styles (as opposed to the hard ones like Karate and Tae Kwon Do) but the value in their instruction was in providing greater nuances and dimensions to our understanding of how to go about activating the internal energy.
To their credit, the masters were responsive in answering questions and most of them were very hands-on, allowing us to touch hands with them to feel the power. (I’ll get into the details of each of thee masters in subsequent postings but in this post I’ll focus on an overview of the camp).
We had two days of instructions and training with each of the masters. There were break days in between to give us some variety and to see a bit more about Chiangmai and we spent a couple of days exploring temples (what else in Thailand?), listen to a funny monk explain about Buddhism, visit an elephant sanctuary, Chiang Mai’s Night market and attending a Muay Thai fight night.
In between we had great conversations with each other and the masters. Many of us, knowing how political and petty martial arts circles can be, marveled at how so many martial artists can be in one place and get along so well. There was no up-manship, or chest thumping, only convivial and warm exchanges of experience and information. many of us made friendships that may yet prove resilient against time and distance.
The resort we stayed at was clean, well kept and apart from some lousy WiFi connection in the rooms, was ideal. The buffet meals got a bit monotonous though but it was inevitable, given that the chef had to cater to so many different cultural palettes for nearly two weeks. Relief, however, was at hand in the local restaurants nearby where we lapped up the Tom yum, som tum and other local dishes. On the final night, we were treated to an outdoor barbecue, complete with fireworks.
The Camp was definitely worth traveling to and paying for (not that much, considering that all food and lodging was catered for) and everyone I spoke to felt that we had gained something valuable, either a new exercise, a new perspective, new friends, or a deeper understanding of what we needed to do to make our own training more effective and to become better martial artists.
As hosts Kieran and Soda were always on site and attentive to our needs or questions. I think that anyone who’s serious about their martial arts and who possess an open mind that there are always valuable things to learn from other masters should go for at least one of these camps.
In my next postings I’ll discuss more about the masters, what they thought and whether they are able to walk the talk when it comes to channeling their internal energy onto others.
Note: All photos taken from The Martial Man Facebook page with the gracious permission of Kieran.