Dec 02nd 2016  

 News, Travel diaries

Team of competitors from the Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts Club for the 2016 Shaolin Invitational Competition

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series 2016 Shaolin Invitational Competition

By now, oh faithful reader, you know that we sent a team of Instructors and students to the 2016 International Wuzu Association Traditional Southern Shaolin Invitational. You even have the results. But here comes the backstory from a novice Kung Fu competitor.  Boris Kalmykov trains with Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo. Several months ago Boris decided that he could not resist the opportunity to train harder than he ever had in his life, subjecting himself to withering (but ultimately constructive) criticism, plus everything the British weather could throw at him in his outdoor training. Followed by a long-haul flight to a country he had never visited and where he does not speak the language. What could possibly go wrong? Let us read his dispatches….

Dear Sharon,

Here is my report:

15 /11/16 – 7pm – Heathrow, terminal 3.

All in black, the FWC team sits at the best restaurant of the terminal. Surprisingly, not many people are impressed by the fact that we all are dressed alike look cool. Have they got used to us travelling? Or are people just ignorant? On the other hand,b maybe it’s me, who is not noticing 100 pairs of eyes staring at us – all I can see is my glass of red wine from Chile? Rightfully so. Super-relaxed is my mind and body. 20 hours of journey ahead? Just give me a bit more wine and I will be ok. Cheers, brothers and sisters, for our enjoyable journey!

15 or maybe 16/11/16 – unknown time – somewhere in the air.

… I open my eyes. Darkness… Rows of sleeping people… Occasional promenades to the toilet… All these things remind me of a nighttime hospital. I have never been in a hospital overnight, however, it is what I imagine it to be. Anyway, my back and my neck are so stiff – I need to do some stretching. A fellow student from our club has once told me that she practises Kung Fu whenever she does long flights. Lets try! I close the toilet door and look at my reflection in the mirror. Kung Fu in the toilet? Fine. Crane blocks one, two, three… Hmm… I need more freedom of movement. Should I jump off the aeroplane and attempt to fly? Hah. Let’s go back to sleep.

16/11/16 – 11pm – a noodle shop close to Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

It’s really late and we are all tired. Regardless of that, some of us order seconds at a street noodle shop. They say – it’s delicious. I say – it’s new and bearable.

17/11/16 – 9am – somewhere close to Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

I love that stark difference between cultures. We are training at a park square not far away from our hotel and Chinese people come really close to watch and film us. No questions asked – all communication is done through smiling at us. Small kids, usually accompanied by their grandfathers, are quite interested in what we do. Grandfathers, on the other hand, encourage kids not only to watch, but also to try some kicks and punches. One of the grandfathers goes as far as to take my staff (without asking, obviously) and play with it in front of his grandchild. What can I say? This behaviour is so different from what we are used to in the West, where personal space is sacred, that I can do nothing but observe with pure interest. Chinese watch Westerners do Kung Fu. Westerners watch Chinese being themselves. Fair deal.


17/11/16 – 1.30 pm – Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

A dilemma. I know that everyone from our group has been training a lot. We are constantly overcoming our personal deficiencies, striving for something greater. What do we really strive for? Competition Gold? Longevity? Spirit? Wisdom? Immortality? It’s different for all of us. Nonetheless, we all continue to train under the guidance of Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo.


To be continued …






The 2016 Shaolin Dispatches continue:


Here is my part 2!


17/11/16 – 6.30 pm – Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

Boris Kalmykov, at the 2016 Shaolin Invitational Competition representing Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts

Boris warms up as his fellow team members get on with their lives…Gold is on its way

After an afternoon of training in front of our loyal Chinese audience in a park close close by, we are ready to dine and listen to the opening speeches. Dressed up in our stylish black uniform we feel hungry. Hungry to eat and hungry to win. Finally, we see competitor teams. Like any predators we start to analyse the level of danger they pose to our success. There are teams from UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaya, Philippines and more. Hmm… Food arrives and confidence starts to build up.

In the meantime, Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo is sitting together with other instructors and honorary guests. It seems like he is enjoying their company – well, he smiles a lot.


18/11/16 – 12pm – Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

Morning greetings have left us only the afternoon to train. Should be enough – after all, we have been preparing for months! However, nap first… at least for an hour. Those meets and greets are a lot more tiring than training.


18/11/16 – 4pm – somewhere close to Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

I absolutely love the attention that we receive from locals while we are training. There is a stage performance happening at the same time and the audience is struggling to keep attention on any one group. They dance. We fight. “Strong men” they kept saying to us.


18/11/16 – 9.30pm – a noodle shop close to Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

There are only a few dedicated late eaters. Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo is with us again. We sit at a street noodle shop, close to the one where we ate during our first night at Quanzhou. I must say, I couldn’t resist those noodles. This time it was more simple – broth, noodles and beef. Very tasty and yes, I am a peasant at heart. I like simple things.


19/11/16 – 5.45am – somewhere close to Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

Still dark. I would expect morning to come earlier at such a hot and humid place. I come to our favourite park to train. It’s the competition day and I feel the need to stretch and do a bit of training prior to competing.

A few Chinese people are warming up and stretching. Everything starts to move a bit more. The sun starts to rise as well and it’s beautiful. Buildings get new colours and all statues look more alive in the rising sun. I have a vivid memory of cockerels singing in a Russian village where I used to spend my summers. Here they have dragons singing to the rising sun.

19/11/16 – 8.45am – Competition stadium

We stand on mats of the competition stadium. All teams are organised by country. Russia seems very lonely – no one representing my home country… a few members of our team suggest that I go and stand there. But no – I represent FWC and we are a British club! My allegiance is not to a country but to the FWC club.

19/11/16 – 8.45am – Competition mat

Boris-Kalmykov, student of Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts, competing at the 2016 Shaolin Invitational in China, November 2106

Boris gives it his all

I salute and walk out on mat. Ready. Steady. Argh! Argh! Argh! … 1 minute later … Aaaargh!

Salute and run off.

That was a lot of shouting. Although, I must say, they were coming out naturally. As if I was just a baby crying… No. Bad analogy. A bear roaring – that’s a better one.

19/11/16 – 10.30am – Competition hall

Filming Instructors and seniors. They are good (in my personal opinion). Something to aspire to!

19/11/16 – 14.00 – Competition hall

We have had our lunch and are back to the competition hall. One of the senior instructors is doing his performance first. Then we have to wait for 175 Chinese children to perform and we are up again. What to do? Practise and stretch outside.

19/11/16 – 16.00 – Competition hall

Still waiting… Surrounded by 6 or 7 kids I struggle to believe that I am a human. They try to talk to me and all I can say is “ahhh” or “rrrr”. Thats what it’s like being a foreigner who doesn’t speak the local language.

19/11/16 – 9.00pm – Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

The competition is over and it’s time to rest. Whilst my comrades are enjoying fine whiskey next door, I feel like I am dead meat, hence, in bed.

(Half conscious state of mind) We got loads of gold… Mmm… I got gold… Mmm… Doesn’t mean much – I still have a long way to go… Mmm…  Very proud for our club – FWC is the best worldwide… Mmm… Which weapon do I want to learn… Mmm…


20/11/16 – 3.00pm – somewhere in Yongchun

Yongchun is magical. The city is famous for White Crane Kung Fu and vinegar. Both of these things are everywhere. However, if you would want to fight it out and decide what is more important – vinegar would win. Let me explain why.

Kung Fu is revered by Yongchun citizens – there are statues of cranes and warriors everywhere in the city; the government supports local clubs and masters; tea pots sold in town have cranes drawn on them.

On the other hand, you have vinegar. Yongchun vinegar is served in every restaurant together with your food. It is also considered healthy to down a shot of vinegar every day – I would imagine every household has local vinegar always available for consumption.

So far it’s a draw.

What really makes the difference and puts vinegar above Kung Fu is the smell. The whole town smells of vinegar. Kung Fu masters of the town realise that vinegar is winning and battle it through constant consumption. They go as far as to rub vinegar into their bodies when they get bruises. Additionally, some practitioners are in a constant attack mode. The hall where we train in Yongchun is built directly opposite the Yongchun vinegar factory. It is a real battlefield. Vinegar smell intrudes the hall, whilst Kung Fu practitioners always run to the shop next door to destroy some more vinegar.

Let us see who wins.

By the way – about Kung Fu – learning Yongchun White Crane is a lot of fun!

20/11/16 – 8.30pm – somewhere in Yongchun

After a fantastic dinner, we decide to pop into a teapot shop. FWC is a regular customer. It seems that the shop has many pots to sell, however, the majority of them contribute to the personal collection of the shop owner and are not for sale. All of us sit down and the shop owner prepares us tea. We chat, look at teapots and other antiques on display, and drink tea – that is what I call shopping.

Shopping with soul. It really doesn’t happen too often in my life, but when it does it a pure joy. In fact, it has only been once before when I have had such a good experience. It was in a Dolce and Gabbana store in Knightsbridge – champagne and chats about Italy, followed by the less important choosing of clothes.

21/11/16 – 1.00pm – somewhere in Yongchun

After a morning of training we are dining at a fantastic restaurant in Yongchun. We have been coming here for every meal and it has never failed to amaze me. Superb quality. Superb taste. Superb service. The restaurant is definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Today we celebrate friendship between FWC and Mr Su Ying Han’s White Crane Club in Yongchun. His family is here as well. On that topic, his family is an example of a family I want to have one day. All of them live close to each other and all of them do Kung Fu. Isn’t that amazing? Something to aspire to.

21/11/16 – 9.00pm – Quanzhou Overseas Chinese Hotel

A woman in heels doing Kung Fu! That is something. I am definitely showing a video recording of this to my wife.

We are at the closing ceremony of the competition. Finally – all done, all won. After a mediocre dinner (oh Yongchun, I miss you), we watch Kung Fu demonstrations done in the the restaurant hall by anyone who dares to come up on stage. Some of the performances are beautiful (women), some are strange. Oh well. We have come to end of our trip and I am enjoying every bit of it.


The end…almost


P.S. 22/11/16 – 6.30am – Xiamen airport

“Excuse me, sir. Can you please come through for a security check?”  asks a guy, after x-raying my bag.

I pass through and I see an x-ray image of my bag with a huge stone right in the middle of it. Oh yeah – a 10kg stone to strengthen your fingers. Come to camps and you might be able to try it out!

Over and out.


Boris Kalmykov

FWC Covent Garden & West End


The Judging panel at the 2016 International Wuzu Association Traditional Southern Shaolin Invitational

“So while you talk about me, someone else is judging you.”