Sep 09th 2017  

 Training, Travel diaries

Dennis Ngo, Chief Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts Club, training in Crete

Following another successful training camp in Crete this Summer, Carmine Pariante was tasked with writing about his experience – you can spot him in the photo listening intently. Rather than a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, he has decided to throw down the gauntlet to everyone else…

“I am too busy. I am too old. I am too young. I need to spend time with my family. I need to study. I need to work. I don’t like the heat. I don’t like the food. I can’t swim. I have not trained enough yet. I have trained too much already.

Have I given you enough excuses not to come to the Crete camp? Good! Now let me give you some real reasons why you should come to camp, directly first-hand from someone who has just had his first Crete experience. In a nutshell: strenuous physical training coupled with a warm nurturing environment. Not only a training camp, but a life-changing experience for personal growth.

Come to Crete if you know your patterns. Or if you want to learn them.

Do you think you know your patterns? Think again. Because there is something special about dissecting every aspect of every movement, from the use in a fight, to the historical origin, from the effects on the internal energy, to the relationship with the rest of the body. And you learn this by listening to our Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo, while sitting cross-legged on a beach, in the shade underneath a tree. Or you learn them by tracing your footprints in the sand, drawing your pattern so that you can see it from above, as if you were flying.

Come to Crete if you are a fighter (or wish you were).

You learn how to spar. You learn how to fight. You learn that there is an invisible space around you where nobody is supposed to enter uninvited. You learn that your strike is faster than your brain. You learn that you choose to punch but that you must block when you are attacked, and as strongly as you can. And then you learn how to help the other students to improve their skills, while you act as a target or a punching bag. And you learn how to internalise this teaching into your daily life: how to protect yourself from bullies at work, and how to strike (even by email!) when you are disrespected. And you are taught by Instructor, Sharon Ngo, in an olive grove, amidst the sound of the cicadas. Using ping pong paddles and swimming armbands. What an amazing boot-camp!

Come to Crete if you are a wimp

Not a physical wimp (although you should come for that reason too) but a general wimp. If, for example, you have never camped, never slept in a youth hostel, never shared the bedroom (and the bathroom) with people that you do not know Carmine Pariante, student of the Fujian White Crane Kung Fu and Tai Chi Martial Arts Club, taking a nap after a hard morning's training in Cretewell, that’s the opportunity to learn. (I guess there must be other students like me out there?). Because you will find funny, kind, caring and easy-going roommates that will share space and time with you in a respectful way. They may want to keep the air conditioning on when it is freezing in the room, but they will prepare coffees for everybody at 5 a.m. and will join you in the 500 sit-ups or in the plank exercise just to support you.

Come to Crete if you are romantic

Resting your pained muscles watching the dark skies and the brilliant stars. Running uphill while the rising sun colours the mountains in pink. Swimming in calm waters to cool down after a morning of training. Going through the pattern movements with your eyes on the blue horizon. Dining while the sun sets on the sea and the waves break on the bank. And of course, our Greek friend who greeted us every morning for breakfast with the same romantic words… “Beautiful full moon last night… Frank Sinatra…”. Regardless of whether you are in love or not, this is the place to feel romantic (while sweating).

Come to Crete if you are hungry. Or vegetarian. Or both

Lamb, chicken, rabbit, minced meat… heads, legs, thighs, eyes, testicles… roasted, baked, barbecued… ok, if you are vegetarian, you may have to put up with watching other students eating all sorts of (local) meat. But there are wonderful vegetables: aubergines, cucumbers, okra, zucchini, giant beans, chickpeas, fava. Fresh fried potato. The freshest salad and tomatoes. Amazing olive oil and honey. The sweetest fruit. Creamy yogurt and tasty feta. There is a lot of nutritious food in Crete, for everybody, vegetarian or not: and it is more than just great taste, it is what gives us the ability to train intensively day after day.

Come to Crete if you want to become Schwarzenegger

Yes, my body was seriously unfit for purpose. So, I had my individualised prescription: 500 sits-ups per day, with 90 push-ups and 90 squats. But all of us had our fair share of 6 a.m. sprinting uphill… running forward, backward, sideways, circularly … bunny-hopping… duck-walking… jumping on one, two, alternate legs… But: the air is fresh and pure, the sun is shining, the mood is great and you have lots of friends around you. There is no better way to get fit.


Come to Crete if you are an intellectual

Are you a journalist, a writer or an historian? A philosopher or a scientist? A lawyer or a theoretical physicist? Do you have a PhD? Then come to Crete, and you will be constantly reminded that your mind might be great but your body is weak and disappointing. Of course, when the going gets tough, the tough get going – and so the intellectuals are called upon to solve all sorts of difficult problems, such as how long it takes for a litre of vodka to diffuse in a watermelon, how to plan a fake kidnapping of one of the instructors, and how to cure a skin rash in an intimate part of the body that nobody has seen. And Crete is where you have time to talk about strategy, Chinese culture, medicine, philosophy, and  you often come back  with a reading list! So, everybody is an intellectual in Crete.

Come to Crete to push the reset button

Are you tired after a long year of work? Are you aiming to start something big and new in your life, but can’t find the motivation? Are you stuck in a routine that you feel unable to change? Do you need to defragment your mental hard-drive, refreshing for a new year of efforts and creativity? Crete really helps to get the mind-set right. One week focussed just on one thing: training. Dive deep inside you to find what you are made of. And when you emerge, you leave your old self in Crete, and come back as a different person.


Thank you to Yevheniia Mikheenko for your comments on this blog”Yevheniia Mikheenko, student of the Fujian White Crane Kung Fu and Tai Chi Martial Arts Club, training on the beach in Crete