Contact Us
Chinese Swords Blog
Warm-up Stretches
Basic Sword Training
Sword Techniques
Sword Fighting
Test Cutting
Taiji Sword
Wooden Swords
Real Chinese Swords
Make it Yourself
Featured Artisans
Martial History
GRTC Australia
Women with Swords
Kids Swordsmanship
Swords For Sale
Books and DVDs
Site Search
Privacy Policy
Site Map

[?] Subscribe To This Site

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My MSN
Add to Newsgator
Subscribe with Bloglines


Best Martial Art
Training in Australia - 2006-07

Enjoy this slideshow of the best martial art camp in 2007


The tales of the Scott Rodell Taijiquan Seminar and Chinese Sword Camp -
The best martial art training in 2007

By Fflur Collier

The Beautiful Blue Mountains

At 4.15AM on 3rd January, Rich, Marc and I (Fflur) set off on an early start for our adventure to the best martial art camp for 2007, in the Blue Mountains. While I got out of bed, Rich and Marc hadn't slept more than an hour each, still in NYE party mode and/or pre-travel excitement. After 15 hours, near constant rain, many coffees, V drinks, rest stops and nine-hours-of-naps for Marc, we reached the misty mountains top village of Katoomba, and the comfort (?) of the Mountain lodge backpackers. To celebrate being on holidays Rich and I went out for a meal and beer at the pub, while Marc went to bed early or after setting a new camp challenge of eating 2/3 of packet of banana lollies in a short period of time. We declined to take up the challenge when he announced the feat at breakfast the next day.

We spent the second day soaking up the beautiful scenery of the Echo Point lookout and the Three Sisters, we went for a very short walk down the Giant's Staircase and decided it was better to save our legs for taiji, plus there were so many tourists we could hardly get up and down the stairs. Up for afear factor challenge, we then went for a trip on the 'Scenic Railway', the steepest railway in the world, originally built for the old coal mine in the valley below the escarpment. The slippery boardwalk in the lush and lovely rainforest in the valley also seemed a challenge for me, but was good for practicing 'snake creeps down' instantaneously. We caught the 'Scenic cable' car back up to the top of the mountain which was a little freaky, but so packed of tourists we thought we could be cushioned from impact should the cable fail.

Best martial Art Training in Taijiquan

Michuan taiji Form.
Alt Text--best martial art taiji form
On day 3, we began training at 7pm at night, so we again spent the day delighting in the sights of the Wentworth Falls Lookout area and exploring the Undercliff Pass walking tracks. We deliberately organized to have these days off to see some of this majestic area and rest a bit before training, but by the end of the day we were eager to begin, and also excited to get our hand crafted wooden jian swords from America. We commenced learning the first section of the Yang Family Michuan (secret or hidden) Open Hand Taijiquan form, in the park as the sunset. The first 2 hour session of was spent with history, learning basic posture, and we moved quickly into the form. We spent 14 hours in total, with a full day of 7 hours training on Day 4, and five hours on Day 5, focusing on the first section of the hour long form, maintaining body structure and moving the body together as a whole, leading from the waist.For this Taiji seminar part of the camp, we were joined by just three others from the Blue Mountains, Linda, Tashi and Yeshi, who had been learning the system already. It was great to be in a small group, as it allowed us more personal attention from Laoshi Rodell, and more opportunity to ask questions and correct our form. The best martial art training happens in these rare small groups.

We practiced Taiji outside in a lovely park, had mostly warm fine weather, and good long rest breaks which helped our brains absorb the learning. Keeping shoulder, hip and toe in line when moving. Some of the best martial art pearls of wisdom we gained were "No hollows, no protrusions" in relation to keeping a strong structure and defending your space; "Allowing the thief in the house" yielding to your opponents energy so they are then in the best position for you to strike; remembering to keep your get away room space between your feet; and Laoshi's favourite saying from the Yang Family transmissions "Pummel the soft flank mercilessly". The nights we spent oiling our new swords, scribing and remembering the form, and trying to sleep despite the best attempts of the other backpackers to imitate a boozy herd of elephants.

Best Martial Art Training in Applications

Shoulder Strike.
Alt Text--best martial art shoulder strike
Having had some experience in Taiji and with the more advanced students present we were able to progress in the form quite quickly, and so before the end of Day 5 training we had some time for practicing some applications.

We practiced in pairs, and drilled just a few of the applications. Laoshi showed us 'Carry Tiger (in this case- Richard) to the Mountain', which is a double leg take down that basically spears your opponent (duifang) into the ground headfirst (although thankfully Tashi caught Rich). Laoshi also demonstrated 'Grasp Sparrow's (this time Tashi's) Tail' and 'snatch his beanie' while flipping him about. Learning the applications of the Michuan form some of which are quite vicious, reinforced the martial power of this ancient art, which as Laoshi says "Ain't your grandma's taiji".

At the end of Day 5 we were running low on energy, but most of us we had dinner together and got to experience more of Laoshi Rodell's stories mostly about swords and we got excited about the best martial art training still to come -five days of sword. In anticipation, Rich started to teach us basic cuts in the rather small room at backpackers, and also tried some flashing nunchaku moves, with the light off and with the fan going (and me covering my face with my arms).

Best martial Art Training in Push Hands (Tui Shou)

Alt Text--best martial art pushhands
Day 6 was another enjoyable day of rest before a push hands training session at night. We slept in, did some shopping, and stumbled upon a sweet sugary bonanza, the traditional The Candy Store at Leura village (quite possibly the secret headquarters of the Martial-mallow Arts). We could only think of how Sifu was missing out on the Santa lollies with 2ft long marsh mallow legs, or the marsh mallow hot dogs and hamburgers. (Sorry for all those mallow eating champs but these just looked too gross to eat so we didn't bring any back for you).

Push hands training occurred at the Katoomba gym squash court. We first revised the importance of body structure in being rooted into the ground, the finer points of yielding yet always being ready to counterstrike, and being fang song - relaxed with unclenched muscles, while at the same time being strong in structure and 'rooted' securely into the ground, to be like "steel wrapped in cotton". We practiced 'willow bends', with one person pushing and the other yielding, then tried some free play, during which some people were almost pushed into the walls. I found that to succeed I needed a lot more practice at sticking and following slowly (listening with your body to your opponent), before trying to use power and speed.

Day 7 was the beginning of our sword training and we got up super early to pack up and shift again up to the Blackheath Christian School which would be home for the next week. Our group was joined by two more Blue Mountaineers, Matthew, a student of the high school, Michael, and Tony who had come all the way from Perth.

Best Martial Art Sword Camp Begins

Chinese Swordsmanship.
Alt Text--Chinese Swordsmanship
We began inside due to cool weather, with correct way to holding the jian sword, a double edged blade, correct posture (always so important), and how to use your free hand as the sword talisman, for counter balancing, move fluidly and not over extending.

We starting basic cuts and drills with Dian and Ci (thrusts), and also deflections) before beginning the Yang Family Michuan Taiji Jian form. For this we split into two groups, with the beginners working to complete the first two sections of the 9 section form, and the advanced students, including Rich, working on completing the complete form over the course of this 5 day training.

On Day 8, the weather began to warm, we continued form work and more basic cuts (Pi- split, Tiao- upward spring and Duo - chop ) then started sword play in pairs, with only one person armed and the other practicing moving out of the way as in 'willow bends'. A most important part of sword practice is to move to where the sword is not, avoiding the sword by moving the whole body out of the way, leading from the waist just as with the open hand form.

On Day 9, the third day of sword training, I was feeling particularly stiff and sore, we moved out onto the oval over looking the mountains to work on more form and more cuts - Hua (slash) and Mo (wipe) (arm killers!), later migrating inside to escape the increasing heat of the summer sun.

We commenced two person free play and earned some bruises, and learnt the advantage of cricket gloves in protecting the thumbs (or one thumb at least).

We had about 6 hours training a day with good rest breaks and a luxurious 2 hour lunch breaks, during which we had many an interesting conversation and also practiced the open hand form to make sure the new stuff we were learning didn't push the old new stuff out of our brains.

Best martial Art Fun with Swords

Michuan Jian Form.
Alt Text--best martial art jian form
Rich and Marc got in the best martial art training they could by cramming more into their lunch breaks and learning the Miaodao (long two handed sword) form. This sword has a longer range and enables more powerful strikes and than the jian, and the form originating from the Chinese military academy, is much shorter. Practicing with two kinds of swords highlights the strengths and weaknesses of both weapons and soon after this Rich was running around challenging the rest of us with his miaodao, a bit unfair really.

On Day 10, Tony showed us (Rich, Marc and I) the benefits of doing yoga stretches in the morning which helped limber up our stiff muscles. It was a very humid hot draining day, and we did more form, cuts (Liao upward slash and Zha - poke downward), combination drills, and some slower free play which of course progressed into faster bruising free play. Laoshi encouraged us to 'Show in your eyes that you are like hungry tigers about to strike'. Tony showed us some Iron Shirt Qi Gong techniques from a different system, which were a little freaky yet fascinating.On Day 11 our last day of sword, the weather was thankfully cloudy and a lot cooler. We did some more yoga, finished off the form work and then practiced alone work on the moves we got stuck on.

Tony had to depart after lunch, and then we all went out into the oval under the shade of the pines for one-on-one bouts where the rest of the class would watch and then offer a constructive critique so we could better our play.This was a highlight of the sword seminar for me and we were all were excited and a little competitive, which is not ideal when you need to stay calm and focused so you don't get whacked in the face with the heavy wooden sword. One of the big traps we got caught in as beginners was lack of point control, and dealing the opponents sword instead of their whole body, and getting tied up with defense instead of counterstriking.

Free Sword Play with Jian.
Alt Text--best martial art jian swordsmanship
It was all going well for me until in my first bout with young Matt, whose 6 months of practice gave him speed and agility that made him a fast little fighter. With my slower tired arms, I copped a smash on my right thumb and fingers that took my hand out of action for the rest of the day and night. I had cheerfully been injury free for the entire camp until this last hour of the training, but learnt the useful lesson don't let your duifang hit your sword hand. Rich and Michael gave each other a run for their money, and Mark matched against Tashi and then against Matthew stealing his hat (ha ha). Rich played again against Linda, and I also had a short left handed bout with Linda, my other hand behind my back safely out of sword range. Luckily there were no other injuries other than bruises, which is to be expected really with sword play, although Rich did manage to end up with someone's blood on his sword (??).

On the last night we all had dinner (a feast) together at the Chinese restaurant in town, where they had the super hot hot-and-sour soup and delicious deep-fried ice cream that most of us couldn't resist. Sharing lunch and dinner together as a group over the camp helped create the enjoyable friendly experience, and allowed us time to hear some of Laoshi Rodell's many humorous tales of his best martial art experiences through the world, and time for us to ask the many questions that arose about extensive knowledge of the Yang family Taiji system.

Is This the Best martial Art For You?

The best fun of all.
Alt Text--best martial art of all.
We had all worked hard during all the camp training, and although it was tiring physically and mentally, it was a great challenge and really rewarding to have such a collection of new, different, and enhanced skills at the end of it. Laoshi Rodell signed my copy of his Chinese swordsmanship book, with the advice "practice everyday and reach the highest level" - I think very sound advice for any practitioner of a martial art of any form.

It was a bit sad to wake up on the last day and not have any training. Marc and I packed up for the long trip home over two days, and Rich spent another day with for his sojourn to Melbourne. I found the whole seminar and camp was a very exciting and invigorating way to start off the year and great motivation to really get stuck into a good training regime and advance my skills in taiji, in open hand forms and with my lovely new jian sword.

I encourage anyone with an interest in swordsmanship to attend the next seminar that happens. It's the best martial art experience you can get. With Laoshi and Linda Heenan attending the international Sword festival happening in Estonia this year there probably won't be a sword camp in Australia for a couple of years, but if any one wants to practice let me know!

Leave best martial art camp of 2007 and return to GRTC Australia

Return to Chinese Swords Guide Home

footer for best martial art page