Integrated Kun Tao Summercamp 2018
Since the nights are drawing in, let’s remember the summer...
This year’s Tai Chi Summer Camp was held in Peterborough, Friday 17th - Sunday 19th August.
The summer camp is where the old students and friends of Grandmaster Brian Jones, many of them now teachers themselves, come to visit and train with him and each other.
For less experienced students like me it’s a chance to learn from masters from all kinds of different backgrounds, from across Europe:
- Master Thomas Werkhaeuser brings over students from Bonn in Germany
- Master Tim Waterschoot visits from Belgium
- Master Ricky Crofts travels down from Scotland
- Masters John Morgan and Mark Corcoran from Peterborough
- Masters Jay Dobrin and Phil Chenery from London
- And my teachers Col Maggs and Rin Hands from here in Cambridge
Each one of them alone is reason enough to go.
We get to learn things we wouldn’t in an ordinary class - forms from other martial arts, weapons forms, different ways of training, different applications. It’s a chance to broaden your foundations, and test the things you already know in a new context: like how does your tai chi change if you’re holding knives, or if your training partner does jiu jitsu?
All the teachers are great at teaching, which is fantastic when the teachers outnumber the students. One of things I love about the weekend is the teaching happens naturally, and a bit chaotically - start practicing anything, and someone turns up to teach you. Then maybe someone else turns up and teaches you something totally different. It’s disorienting to get two bits of advice that look conflicting, but there’s usually some truth in both. Like with everything else, you take what works, and anything that doesn’t make sense yet, file away for later.
We train in Peterborough Central Park, on a big green under the trees. It’s a beautiful old park, and this year the air was full of dozens of dragonflies everywhere you looked. There’s a cafe we head to for lunch and cups of tea. It’s a laid back weekend - we start and finish the day together, but the rest of the time we train in small groups, or catch up with old friends. You work under your own steam - no one’s cracking a whip (unless they’ve decided to start training in whips).
I always learn a huge amount at these weekends. It’s a good chance to test out the basics - this year I got my grade 8 in tai chi, my first new grade in a while, and working through the grading with Tim, Ricky and Brian gave me plenty of new ways to look at things I thought I knew. And it’s a good time to try new things - this year I made a start on the narrow sword form for the first time.
I first went to a Tai Chi Summer Camp five years ago, and I remember my first day being pretty intimidating - there were lots of older, experienced fighters from tough backgrounds, and my background was doing gentle tai chi lessons in an office. But I found that as well as everyone there being great martial artists and teachers, above all they were kind. And that’s why I still go, and why I’m glad to know them.