By Sami Kargupta, student, Southern Crane Kungfu

“Stop playing video games and do something productive!”

The dulcet tones carried into my room, disrupting my epic session on World of Warcraft. The voice belonged to my father, who was clearly jealous of my superior skill in the art of playing computer games. Me, being the generous individual that I am, decided to pay heed to his plight. Wrapping up an emphatic victory, I went on to Google and began a search for ‘Martial Arts clubs in Sutton’. Several results immediately popped up, and I spent a good while perusing through the offerings.

A myriad of choices presented themselves to me, each vying for my undivided attention. From taekwondo to tai chi to capoeira, several distinctive styles were on offer. I had heard of all them (owing to the many hours spent playing Tekken,) but had never had the urge to try any of them myself. After a detailed search, I found myself gravitating towards the club nearest to me, which turned out to be Southern Crane Kungfu. Until that point, exercise was as foreign to me as a Frenchman. However, the New Year was almost upon us, and thus I decided to take the leap. Usually, I am not one for undue modesty, but there are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the magnitude of this decision.

Monday came, as it always does, and with it came the woes of a new working week. However, I was on my Christmas holidays, and for me the first kungfu lesson was just around the corner. Literally. I walked in through the door, slightly nervous, only to find an elderly lady practicing some movements one usually associated with those tai chi movies. She told me the instructor, a certain Darren Trottman, was not here yet. I took a seat, and watched events unfold with rapt attention. The man himself walked in a few moments later, bulging muscles straining to escape from his shirt. We introduced ourselves, and my first impression was “Oh, what a nice man!”. Slowly but surely, more people walked in through the door, signalling the start of class. I didn’t know what to expect, and thus I lined up tentatively for the warm-up exercises. In truth, I forget the exact details of what transpired during the lesson. It is a blur, and my only abiding memory is that of leg lifts. Lots and lots of leg lifts.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I am still doing the dreaded leg lifts. I like to think my limbs are more flexible now than before, but the disapproving looks I often get from Darren lay waste to those thoughts. The room has changed, some people have changed, my ideology on what ‘real’ kungfu is has changed; but some things remain constant. The sheer enthusiasm for the art remains a binding point for all members, and there is an amazing core of people at the heart of this club in Sutton. I may not be the best practitioner (yet), but my journey has only begun. What started off as an endeavour to do more exercise has morphed into something much more meaningful, and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.


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