By Sami Kargupta
The sun was shining and there was a light breeze blowing, offsetting the heat and making the weather nigh-on perfect. We were to set off from Sutton, our destination being the seaside town of Weymouth. We had been there once before, and the scenery alone made the visit worth it. However, like our previous escapade, the main objective was to have a few days of pure, unadulterated training. The location was just a bonus, albeit a very picturesque one.
Shortly after 4pm we arrived at the Swallow’s Rest campsite. The sun was still out in full force, showing no hint of relenting. The waves twinkled in the distance and the luscious green blades of grass swayed at our feet. Various farm animals roamed around; we had made it at last.
We set up our tent and patiently waited for the rest of our group to arrive. There were nine of us in total. Everyone had bought some food from home, and we devoured most of the delicacies on offer. An early night was on the cards, for the following morning the training would begin in earnest.
The alarm rang at 5:45am. To most people, that would be ‘in the middle of the night’. But not to us. We were hardcore. And so we began a 2.5 mile run, involving sections of sprinting and hill running. It was hard and sweaty, but also oddly enjoyable in a sadistic way.
After getting back, we enjoyed the luxurious shower facilities and got to work preparing a hearty breakfast. After the run we were all famished, and descended upon the food like a horde of angry locusts.
Once breakfast was finished, we spent an hour going through the Eight Section Brocade with Heather, a series of exercises with painful stretching hidden within graceful movements. Most of us had not done the entire set of movements in one go before, and thus we began with the first three stretches. An hour passed by in the blink of an eye, and we found out that our flexibility was… lacking.
A short break ensued, during which Darren went and scouted out a location for us to train in. As it turned out, Darren had managed to find one of the best locations possible. High atop a mountainous ridge, overlooking a valley and into the sea, using the word ‘beautiful’ would be a severe understatement. There was a disused prison right next to us, overrun with years of floral growth. It only added to the melancholy atmosphere, and the training session that followed was enthralling.
We started off with Calling Crane exercises, and then transitioned into Chin Na (joint locking techniques). We took an hour off to eat lunch, a collection of amazing sandwiches which Heather had prepared for us all. We spent the next few hours practicing some more locking and grappling techniques, experimenting with takedowns and ground fighting. It was exhausting, but very interesting to try a style of fighting which we normally do not do.
Afterwards, we headed back to the campsite, stopping off to stock up on food for the evening barbecue. Darren was in charge of cooking the meat (a task he did fastidiously, lest he poisoned someone with undercooked food), but we all chipped in with the effort. A fantastic dinner later, we retired to our warm sleeping bags in the comfort of the tents.
Like the previous day, we woke up at the crack of dawn to go running. This time however, there were dropouts, citing injuries and sickness. Once the brave runners got back, we ate another wholesome breakfast and got ready for some more Eight Section Brocade. After training the next few movements, we took a small break and got ready for the next session of Kungfu.
In this, we worked on our patterns for a few hours, with Darren correcting any mistakes we made. To finish off, we worked on some two man drills involving punches, kicks and the associated movement and blocks required to avoid them. Heather had provided another feast for lunch, which we duly finished off in short order.
We then headed off to experience the most enjoyable activity of the day (and possibly the whole trip); Gokarting. It was entertaining. Very, very entertaining; a couple of hours of relentless fun, chasing each other through the corners, across bumpy roads, and the most exciting of all, crashing. One of us reigned supreme in this area (myself!), managing to crash into nine people and even shunting some of them off the track. After all, the karts all had bumpers, so it would be a waste to not use them. Unfortunately, crashing into others seemed more suited for Dodgems, and not perhaps posting a competitive lap time.
Darren, lacking the killer instinct required to brutally shove someone off the road, came first. Of course, he had been to this particular track before, and thus had an unfair advantage. Nonetheless, we all thoroughly enjoyed the time spent, both on and off the track. Several of us were nursing bruises from the constant stress of driving through tight bends at considerable speed, and we headed back to the campsite a little worse for wear. However, we would have gladly continued suffering the bruises just to enjoy the karting some more; it was tremendously addictive.
We got back to the campsite, exhausted but thrilled. Instead of training in the evening, we decided to relax and watch the football World Cup final. The owners of the campsite graciously offered us their spacious living room in the B&B, and it almost felt like home. Afterwards, we freshened up a bit and enjoyed another fantastic barbecue for dinner before retiring to our tents for some well-earned sleep.
All good things must come to an end. And so, on the last day, we awoke an hour later than usual (a treat from Darren). The usual run followed. Once the runners came back from a gruelling 3.5 mile run, we enjoyed what was to be our last breakfast on the amazing campsite. Afterwards, we finished learning the entire Eight Section Brocade, and then went through some more two person drills involving continuous striking and blocking with Darren.
Shortly after noon, we began to pack our tents up and bid our farewells to each other and to the amazing campsite. It was four days of hard work, sweat, pain and exhaustion. It was four days of excitement, knowledge and, above all, fun. None of us could wait for the next time.