It was a great weekends training with 7th Degree Black Sash and Guardian of Lau Gar, Sifu John Russell.
The weekend was a mixture of the hard and soft, Tai Chi (8 Step routine) and relaxation techniques mixed with Chi Kung and Ging exercises, some discussions around the 8 powers and a smattering of syllabus master classes and Q&A sessions. It was also a chance for members of the club (and a few of our UCD cousins who attended) to have an indepth overview and critique of the parts of the syllabus they were currently working on and as always John was a very engaging host and only too willing to answer any questions put to him. I'm looking forward to next years class already.
Huge congratulations to Simon who passed his Brown sash grading yesterday. It was a massive mental as well as physical effort, especially as he'd just completed a tough 3 hour training session but Simon really put his heart and soul into it and showed just how much hard work he's put into his training over the past few months! Well done Si!!!
Following several tortuous weeks of squad training the BVMA crew went to the BKFA Nationals and came back with a pretty impressive trophy haul!
Results as follows
Juniors Points - > 5' Intermediate & Advanced (4th grade up) Jake Patterson 1st Place
Mens Intermediate Points - Dave Eagers 3rd Place
Mens Continuous Points Under 69Kg - Ian Lafford 3rd Place
Following gradings held at the Master Yau course in Wexford at the end of March, Derek last Thursday presented sashes to all of those who passed their gradings. Its been a pretty momentus start to the year with the clubs celebrating their 8th birthday and having two new black sashes brings the total number in the clubs now to 7 - 2 x First Degree, 3 x Second Degree, 1 x Third Degree and 1 x Fourth Degree. Given it takes at least 6 years of continual training to gain a black sash this is a very high number and testament to the level of instruction in our clubs and to the dedication of everyone involved, so well done everyone.
Our new 1st Degree Black sashes (Catriona and Frank) have been training almost since the start of the club and underwent a physically and mentally gruelling grading, conducted entirely in Chinese under the crtical gaze of Master Yau. The grading takes about an hour and Master Yau can ask the participants anything from the syallbus. Ian, John and Stephen received their 2nd Degree Black Sash and Niall received his 3rd Degree Black Sash. Special mention goes to Catriona who is the first female to grade to Black Sash level in Ireland for over 30 years.
The review of the weekend below was submitted by Frank Burton who graded for his black sash on the same weekend, it gives a great insight into some of the thoughts that go through the head when preparing for a black sash grading, thanks Frank!
The Annual Pilgrimage to Master Yau’s Wexford Training Camp took place between the 25th & 27th March this year and the BVMA Pilgrims consisted of Derek, Niall, Stephen, John, Ian, Catriona, Frank, Simon & Carly.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and once settled into our accommodation we headed up to the gym for some light training in preparation for the task ahead. Now…, when I say light - it was a short session circa 1 hour, but intense. Niall was working away with the UCD crew on the Dual Stick Form in one corner, Ian, John and Stephen were running through the Sword Set with gusto in the middle of the hall and in the far corner Frank and Catriona were waving knives, staffs and generally going through the entire syllabus. It was light in so far as Sifu Dawson was not standing behind you watching every move and you were not trying to read his po-faced reactions ….. it was intense and woe betide anyone who happened to stand in the wrong part of the hall, space was at a premium and a misplaced step could have led to an evening in A&E.
Once the training session finished we headed back to the hotel. A quick swim and then down for dinner. Our nervous excited energy was palpable and must have been plain for all to see, especially when the restaurant staff put us in a room away from all the rest of the diners, and quite rightly so – dinner was a blast and the jokes flew around the table hard and fast – just what was needed to get our minds off the impending task.
After breakfast, some of us headed back to the bed for some more shut eye and the rest of us headed down the town on a shopping spree. Again, spree is probably the wrong word as it mainly consisted of Frank checking out bread displays and Simon getting a new toothbrush. We did have one giddy moment, when Frank threw a ball to Niall in the local sports store and walked away just as Niall was throwing it back…..clatter – shoe display all over the floor and one red faced Niall (in my defence I have zero memory of this but hey-ho - Niall)…….Once back at the hotel, and after ensuring Simon was fully satisfied with his purchase we headed back to the gym.
This session was much lighter – it really was just a case of walking through everything in preparation for tonight’s crescendo with everyone now getting a little bit more into themselves and focused on the hours ahead. Again, we spent circa an hour at the gym, then back for a swim, sauna and lunch. Lunch came and went too fast, indeed I cannot even remember it now – all I can remember is the walk up to the hall……like a team of gladiators heading into the coliseum, not knowing if tonight we would be victorious having trained so hard or would we become lion fodder?
Training commences – the doors are closed. For those of us grading we know it will be about five hours before we leave the gym and the last year of training - all the aches, the sprains, the toil, the family support, everything…literally everything we have focused on in the last three months in particular - now boils down to this next few hours.
3pm – 6pm
Master Yau and Pete Hornby are introduced by Bobby.
Bobby warms up the class.
Master Yau speaks about demonstrating Fighting Spirit.
The mind is on fire – is he speaking to us grading tonight, or is he talking in general?
Do I display fighting spirit? Do I?
Yeah I must …. Derek would have mentioned it……
Tick tock, tick tock….it is now 4pm.
We are in groups practicing Sticking Hands and the applications of same. Mater Yau stops us occassionally and highlights examples of how to develop the application.
Tick tock, tick tock…….it is now 6pm and Bobby is getting the hall ready…..What has happened to the last two hours?
Master Yau takes his seat, Pete Hornby sits to his left as you look at them.
Grading for First Degree last the guts of an hour and that hour flies. All is through Chinese, and whilst you are on the floor with two others, you are facing Master Yau and Pete Hornby and there are about a further fifteen people sitting in the bottom of the room, Derek included, I saw nobody but Master Yau. The heart is pounding, the ears are fully tuned into his voice, your mind is a riot of thoughts and self-commands – don’t let him see that you are tired, fighting spirit, bring it on – I AM DOING THIS……
The First Degree Grading is over – we sit with the rest at the back of the hall – my shoulders loosen, I smile, a proper smile…..it is over, now I can relax and watch the rest of our crew perform.
Ian, John and Stephen perform their walks, kicks and sword set with a professionalism and style that I aspire to. Their poise and composure is remarkable and truly set them out as Lau Gar Warriors.
Niall and the UCD crew are now on the floor and Niall clearly demonstrates the skill and personal composure needed to attain the lofty levels of Third Degree Black Sash. Few could display the mental balance demonstrated in front of Master Yau – truly our Kung Fu Panda is a master.
Forth Degree grading has just finished and Master Yau is giving us a general summary – but no hints…Time to hit the shower, the bar and the evening’s banquet with the entire group.
After a hearty and relaxed breakfast we headed for the gym. The mood is very different now – the die is cast, we have given our all and all we can do now is enjoy the session with Master Yau.
We spend the day working on the techniques and fighting spirit of the Five Animals, gaining insight and inspiration from Master Yau and Pete.
The time passes quickly again – but for a different reason, the mind is now open again and is sponge-like.
This has been a great weekend – one that will always be with me for many reasons. To be graded by Master Yau is almost akin to that first grading almost 7 years ago with Derek back in the rugby hall in Navan. To get to the stage whereby we are graded by Master Yau is a personal achievement, but also a testament to the spirit and friendships within the club, to the effort, guidance and teaching instilled into us by Derek and, of course, to the unswaying support and commitment of our personal families.