So, another year, another FWC competition. I’m really pleased this has become an annual event, as, much like an upcoming grading, it gives me something specific to focus my training on. Plus I’ve been around a few years now, been to a few Sunday classes, Christmas meals and camps, so now there a lot of people I know in the club whom I don’t get to see very often.
The hotel in Yong Chun has been beautifully spruced up and could be called five star, with only minor drawbacks like having to ask for a kettle to make Dennis’ breakfast coffee (this was quickly remedied).
After a lazy morning we walked across the courtyard to the party venue, where as many as twenty tables for ten were spaced around a large room, with celebratory red everywhere and a large screen at the back showing a congratulatory message (can’t tell you what it said). All spruced up, we were ushered to two tables next to the birthday boy’s, and the walnut milk began to flow while we watched the other guests arrive. At some point the milk was supplemented by eight bottles of Jingjiu especially for our table, all of which seemed to magically congregate around Danil, and the party started.
While some patterns at the competition had been good to watch, seeing the key members of Su’s family demonstrate for his birthday took it to a whole new level. Fire and flow. The westerners were also asked to display what Yong Chun White Crane they had learned over the years, and Danil, Robin Hood and Maid Marion took the stage for a beautifully synchronous pattern, followed by AgentC leaping to the fore.
The food was amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Yum yum yum, mmmm – you get the impression. One of the birthday boy’s nieces is an English teacher, who became guest of honour on our table, and the Artist was designated her feeder, to look after her and make sure he plied her with enough food, a duty he took very seriously. Although I’m not positive her idea of enough exactly coincided with his. She didn’t go hungry.
After numerous courses, photographs and toasts, the Fuijan White Crane and Yong Chun White Crane students were the dregs left around three tables with the remaining brandy and wine, toasting each other incessantly. The visitors eventually decided that it would be rude to try to embarrass their hosts, and so left with further good will toasts (and a few looks of relief).
That evening we learned that the mime for someone throwing up is pretty universal. Su invited us around for a soothing meal of congee and vegetables and eggs, and explained with gestures and smiles that hidden in his back room was one guest suffering a few party after affects. We explained that we were minus two stalwarts from the FWC camp who didn’t want to risk messing up his home. Or walk all that way. The representatives of Russia and China had nobly carried most of the burden of toasting our counterparts and had succumbed to the aftermath. Temporarily.
On the flight from London I’m not sure if our ears were ringing from the cabin pressure or as residual from the deafening jungle drums in Heathrow – no matter. All calmed down and the flights were fine, despite only findingJapanese noodles in Beijing. Jingjiu and baijiu in a private dining hall in the hotel introduced us safely to delicious Chinese (but not proper Fuzhou!!) cuisine.
In the morning we ha a training session in their Presidential suite (reputedly not all in the sauna) while some people caught up on sleep. After an excellent REAL Fuzhou lunch, in a fit of benevolence, Dennis then agreed to accompany Agent C to the afternoon’s meeting by the competition organisers, leaving us to explore the old quarter and barter for the best incense at the cheapest prices (not sure how well that worked).
Saturday: competition day dawned! Nothing went wrong, apart from minor details like us finding out at the eleventh hour that we had ten minutes to pack and check out, and there not being enough space on the bus provided.
Those who caught a cab travelled at eye-watering speed while the driver juggled to see how many phones he could speak into at the same time.
Those on the bus advanced at a more leisurely pace while the driver stopped every quarter mile to ask for directions and make a u-turn. Amazingly we all ended up at the venue.
Dennis watched us warming up for ten minutes and told us not to show too much – keep the powder dry for the main event! Then after most of a morning watching colourful silks swirling in the hall, Danil, Richard, Robin Hood and Will Scarlet marched off swinging their swords. Luckily the woman standing at the top of the stairs was quick on her feet.
We did better than some: one of our competitors got half-way through, realised that leaving the name badge hanging around the neck can have dangerous consequences in sword pattern, and had to scamper forward to the judges to put it out of harm’s way.
Fifteen minutes later and they’re back, in time for another photo shoot before lunch.
Three Part Power
I remember once being followed through a field by a herd of curious bullocks who were trying to sneak close enough to chew the back of my coat, but would scatter sheepishly if I turned. Why did this day remind me of that? The Artist was a popular beacon for girls calling, “hello”, Little B was asked how old he was every time someone caught his eye, and many admiring fellow competitors developed cricks in their necks as Danil walked past.
Ten golds, three silver, three bronze, and we boarded the bus for Yong Chun tired but happy.
FWC Cambridge student Dr Yevheniia Mikheenko outside the window of Sir Isaac Newton’s study at Trinity College Cambridge. The apple tree behind her is said to come from Sir Isaac’s estate at Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire.
FWC Cambridge Student Dr Yevheniia Mikheenko has been awarded a prestigious 3-year Research Fellowship by Darwin College, University of Cambridge.
According to the College, the Fellowships are for “outstanding researchers” to provide a formal, supported starting point for an academic career. Darwin may not be one of the more famous of the Cambridge Colleges, having been founded in 1964 by descendants of the famous Charles Darwin, but it was the first college established exclusively for post-graduate students. Yevheniia started training with FWC in 2009 whilst studying for her PhD, which was granted by Trinity College in 2013 at a time-honoured ceremony conducted in Latin.
Whilst the initial focus of Yevheniia’s research was emotional resilience in elite sportspeople (her own is frequently put to the test by Instructor Karim Daoud and in Sunday sparring), it is apparent that her work has wider implications for how people in general handle stress and its impact on their physical health. The Fellowship is ultimately dependent on Yevheniia securing funding for her research, and given its potential for dealing with the modern curse of high-stress-living we hope she secures it, especially as the Fellowship has dining-in privileges (including occasional guests – don’t wear your tracksuit).
Dr Mikheenko (as she is known in the scientific world) will be presenting a paper in Washington with the snappy title, “Undifferentiated physiological responses to safety and unpredictable threat are associated with high trait anxiety and lower emotional resilience in competitive sport.”
We look forward to reporting further on this line of research, and will come up with a few (rather unscientific) tests of resilience in the meantime. Any volunteers?
On Sunday the 23rd March, FWC students, organised and joined by instructor Dave, took part again in the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile. If you’ve not sponsored the team, you can still do so at the FWC Just Giving page before reading all about their day.
Danil Mikhailov, head instructor of the FWC Muswell Hill Club in North London, has just been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The title of RGS Fellow is reserved for people who make a contribution to the shared body of knowledge about the world, whether through scientific study, cultural research or exploration. Famous past Fellows included everyone from Livingstone and Shackleton, to Sir Edmund Hillary, while present Fellows include Sir David Attenborough.
Danil signs his book “”The History and Philosophy of Kung Fu: An Introduction”
Danil’s Fellowship was awarded in recognition of his work in researching and writing about the culture of Chinese traditional kung fu. Danil has been one of the editors of Wushu Scholar Magazine for nearly fifteen years, travelling around China with Dennis, Sharon and the rest of the Wushu Scholar team to interview masters of rare kung fu styles.
In addition to that, Danil has studied and written about the philosophical aspects of Chinese kung fu, building on his MA research at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Best wishes for the Year of the Horse 2014! And don’t forget, all Members of FWC are invited to the Chinese New Year Celebratory Dinner on Saturday February 8th. Friends and family are welcome to join us in celebrating at the famous Joy King Lau Restaurant in London’s Chinatown.
Artwork by Setareh Erfan from a design by Sharon Ngo