Saturday, March 14, 2015

Going Camping

Well, that's that.  The Bali Camp 2015 is over and life slowly starts to return to normal.
I am already thinking about the 2016 Camp --- every year it gets better and better...

If you were not there this time (first of all, shame on you!) then you have no idea what you missed.  It was CRAZY GOOD.  If you were there (Hurray!) then you know just what I am talking about.

We spent a week doing a variety of classes taught by some of the world's very best instructors, pushing ourselves and each other to the limit.  At the end, there was an emotional and joyous graduation for those who tested, and a warm feeling of camaraderie among all of us who had this wonderful experience together.  There really is nothing else like it.

Why do I love The Peaceful Warrior Camps so much (and why should you go next time)???

1) Curriculum
The curriculum is fabulous.  We cover everything from Kali to Pencak Silat to Bagua Zhang to Tai Chi, with yoga and meditation as well.  We have a great mix of Parkour-based conditioning as well. Over the course of the week we use single/double sticks, blades (knife/karambit), and spend quality time with our boxing gloves and mitts.  In prior camps we have gone deep into improvised weapons and the sarong for variety.  It's a great mix of styles and systems.  We are busy from 6am to 10pm so the days are pretty long, but the time just flies by.  In an instant, the camp is ending, and you are stronger and better than when you arrived a week ago.  You go home tired but very, very happy.

2) Intensive Study
Camps offer the unique environment for intensive study.  Our instructors often take a single theme and use this idea in the initial classes and then develop it and explore in detail throughout the camp.  This means we are able to experience an ongoing extension of the thought chain and have enough time to dig very deeply into the application.  In the 2015 camp we started with ideas in Kelit, Sinawali, and cross-body (right hand versus right hand).  Over the week we worked Kelit into empty-hand and karambit applications, and our Sinawali went into variations none of us had ever imagined before.  Cross-body empty hand led to cross-body applications of  knife/karambit versus knife, which brought us to some very unique (and effective) responses.  Every subsequent step builds on the one before, like a pyramid.

The instructors know what each other do so well that they are able to help even beginners connect the dots from concept to execution of any technique or style and help illustrate the contrast and comparison of different methods and concepts.

In the camp, we get just over 40 hours of mat time (not counting "secret trainings" and other ad hoc sessions).  For people going 2 hours a week back home, that is the equivalent of A LOT of training time (20 weeks for you math majors).  As well, since it is intensive, you really get a chance to burn in the muscle memory for the movements, and that helps even more.  Kali Majapahit cycles are 12 weeks long, and you could get the equivalent of a full cycle or more of training done IN ONE CAMP.  Yes, it's totally worth it.

3) Compare and Contrast
Unlike other camps, the Peaceful Warrior Camp is multi-style, multi-discipline.  The instructors all come from deep lineages in a wide range of Filipino, Chinese and Japanese systems (as well as diverse styles like Savate and Muay Thai) and even represent several styles of each.  This gives an unparalleled ability to compare and contrast various ways of thinking about distance, range, timing, entering, and moving.  Some strong similarities exist between seemingly different styles (circular movement in Pencak Silat Cimande and circular movement in Bagua Zhang, for example) and I am forever fascinated with the subtle differences and similarities between our Kali Majapahit and Guro Claes' Kali De Mano.

4) Forming New Habits
Camps are a great chance to break old habits and form new ones.  The Peaceful Warrior Camp is almost entirely vegetarian, and it offers a great opportunity to rest your body (and soul) from meat/animal products for a week while training.  It seems hard to do in everyday life with our structured work routines, but at camp you can use this opportunity to check out something new.
Guro Fred's deep background as a nutritionist and Sifu James' expertise in Traditional Chinese healing helps a lot, too.  Not to mention Guro Lila, who is probably the best vegetarian/vegan chef I have ever met (and always willing to share her incredible recipes!).  Going to camp is about "putting on the green glasses" as Guro Claes says and opening yourself to examining your life from a new perspective.  This can be the moment that changes the rest of your life (if you let it).

5) Conferences
Every night we gather for a special conference.  The topics have ranged from talks about nutrition and health to deep discussions of spirituality including Hindu/Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Esoterism and the Journey of the Soul.  Yours truly even ran a session on Financial Freedom and Investing.  There is a lot going on and plenty to think about.  Sifu James is a world-renowned expert on Taoism and just the chance to hear him and ask questions would be worth the trip to Bali.  The topics are presented in a very open and informative manner, and designed to help you develop the curiosity to explore further in conversation with the instructors or on your own after the camp.  These help us make the camp not just about training, but about learning and growing as well.

6) The Fellowship
I miss everyone so much already.
The camp has so many precious moments to connect with each other.  We had people coming from all over the world to be together, many old friends I haven't seen for a while, and many new people who brought their energy into our big family.  Our camp has NO POLITICS, NO DRAMA. Just good people and good times.  We train hard and support each other when the going gets tough (like Guro Lila's conditioning class!).  It makes us all very close.  By the end of the week I felt so connected to everyone, like we had known each other all of our lives.  I know Sifu James would say that's because our souls have met before, and I also believe that.  Still, it's such a great pleasure to see everyone and be together IN THIS LIFE.  We all go home knowing that we are part of something bigger; a collection of outstanding people all across the world who share and grow together - always welcome.  It is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

7)  Testing
Every camp has some people testing.  This time we were lucky to have people going not just for Kasama (assistant instructor) but for Kadua Guro (Black Belt Instructor) as well.  It gives the camp a buzz as we watch these candidates prepare body, mind and spirit and then go ALL IN to show everyone how good they can be.  They shone brightly and everyone was suitably impressed. These are unforgettable moments, key milestones on the path, and we are all proud to be witness to them.

8) The Laughter
There was hard training, yes.  That being said, it would not be the Peaceful Warrior Camp without the annual Belly Splash Competition, which always has some big surprises.  This year was off the charts with an unexpected win from Team Singapore --- Incredible Job!!
Work Hard, Play Hard, right? many great memories...Camp is just the best thing you can do.

SEE YOU IN 2016??

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