Contrary to our expectation of a great start to the year we had the worst possible beginning to 2011.
Most of you would have heard about the sudden and tragic death of one of our brightest and hardest working new black belts. Miss Penelope Lake had a headache and was taken to hospital that evening. However, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died that night of meningitis, inspite of emergency treatment. It was real bad luck as she had been vaccinated against meningitis but it was a for different strain of virus.
Penelope was only nineteen years old and was the youngest female to have achieved Black Belt at Chans Martial Arts. She was also an outstanding student at University of Victoria and was very talented in many fields. We know that because she was such a good student, she would unintentionally push her seniors and instructors to be better. She also inspired those who were at a lower level to her and was becoming an excellent instructor. Though Lower Hutt branch, Wellington and the rest of Chans Martial Arts have lost a very special member of the family, Penelope’s achievements, contributions and spirit will never be forgotten.
It has been just over two months since the deadly 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch. Though most of us in Christchurch have been lucky not to be killed or injured, I have been informed that a former Kung Fu student, Norman Lee, was among those who perished. He was only twenty five years old. It is a distressing loss for his family and everyone who cares for him.
Our Tai Chi student, Clemency, was on the 5th floor of the CTV building when the earthquake struck. She was knocked unconcious and pinned down and buried by debris. Fortunately she managed come around and signaled with her free hand to be rescued before the fire got to her. She has made very good progress and is planning to come back to Tai Chi training soon.
We were just starting the 42 Tai Chi Form in class at HQ when the earthquake struck. We got everyone down on the floor safely and kept the older members from getting too stressed by having our usual cup of Chinese tea before dismissing the class. It was obvious that our firewall had collapsed, but it was only when we went down into the street that we realised the severity of the quake and the death and destruction around us.
The building was cordoned off for a week before we had a yellow placard (limited access) placed on it. We started training under the canopy of the tyre yard across the road week on nights with Mr David Mc Queen jacking up halogen lights. We ran two diesel heaters to keep it a bit more comfortable.
Mrs Diane Ammar managed to get the use of the Canterbury Bowling Club to keep the Tai Chi day classes going.
University of Canterbury branch were training in the Ilam Park till one of our members, Mr. Packwood offered their church hall for our use.
All the other branches that were unaffected by the earthquake took in the ‘refugee members’ who could not train at their own centres. Spreydon and Parkland branch are expecting to resume classes soon.
In the last two weeks we had the use Mr Nic Morrison’s Canary Furniture showroom for our skeleton classes. It is a welcome return to training indoors. We are currently waiting for the structural engineer’s plans for the repairs to be submitted to the loss adjusters. We need the insurers to give us the approval before work can begin. It may be many months before we can get back to training at HQ.
In the meantime, we have to cancel the Christchurch SOTC student camp last month. We will have to conduct our Queens Birthday weekend seminars and annual tournament at the Rolleston Community Centre. We also had the Canterbury grading at the Lincon branch last month.
Many of our students and instructors had serious damage to their dwellings and have to move out. There were many members who offered to give temporary accommodation or help with the clean up for the ones who needed it. It is great that there is so much support from those who are not affected.
It is lamentable that Christchurch will never be the same again. The earthquake had not only destroyed many buildings and structures in the city. It also destroyed the belief that we can always have a safe and secure home, city, country or job. We are now more aware that all our materialistic possessions and everything else can be lost in an instant.
This realisation should point us to what is most important in our lives. Namely, the basics of life: safety, shelter, warmth, food, health, good relationships and purpose. We should be positive and plan for the future but must always live for the moment, not to waste time with trivialities. It is very much the philosphy of an enlightened warrior. If he or she were to die in battle, there should be no regrets. Therefore, we must be happy and productive everyday.
Our Kung Fu training should prepare us to be physically fit and healthy, as well as equip us with the mental readiness to deal with survival requirements. Regular training is useful in providing a much needed constant to our lives, particularly in times of severe stress. A good training session can also give us a very useful a mental ‘time-out’ from our problems in life. Moreover, we know that healthy exercise can stimulate the human body to release the appropriate neurotransmitters activating the parasympathetic nervous system that decreases stress. Do note that not all martial arts activities can be classed as healthy exercise. We must avoid aggressive, hard and tense activities, because they release the stress related neurotransmitters that triggers the sympathetic nervous system. They also wear out the joints and are biomechanically less efficient. There is a lot to be said for our “Stressfree Way.”
On a positive note, Mr Brent Drake and Mrs Averil Drake have started a Chans Martial Arts Burnham branch at their home gym, adding to Mrs Drake’s yoga classes. Mr Tama Aikman has also revived the Opotiki branch that Mr Drake had started many years ago. Mr Nic Morrison’s Papanui branch has continued to flourish with Mr Bevan Wilkinson’s assistance and so has Mr Tim Smith’s Sydney branch. Mr Anton Stevens has been working hard with his fledgling Tai Chi class in Melbourne.
Those attending Black Belts classes at HQ can be seen to be improving steadily with their fundamental skills. They are beginning to have some more insight into the finer points of our philosphy and how to gain from it. I hope all our Black Belts will continue to work hard on this and enter the true realm of the mastery of our Kung Fu system.
Another bit of good news is that Grandmaster/Prof. Leon Jay had informed me that he is planning the 95th Birthday Convention for the great Prof. Wally Jay for June next year. I assured him that we will give him good support as always. It will be an event not to be missed as it is five more years to wait for his centenary. There are very few other gatherings where there are so many highly skilled martial artists from all styles gathered in friendship to demonstrate and share their knowledge. Those who have been to previous conventions can probably vouch for the benefits of the incredible experience.
It will probably cost NZ$2000 for airfares. The convention with accommodation may be around NZ$500. A total of $3500 may be enough without any side trips or big purchases. We will have a application form and more information in a few months time.
As for this year, it is important that we take time to train regularly to cope with the tumultous start. With our tournament just around the corner, some emphasis on extra fitness and body shield work will be useful.
Whatever the training goal is, the quality of the practice and the number of repetitions, determines its level of success. Since everyone has limited time for training, the smart strategy is to focus on just a few techniques to forge them to a high level, instead of working on too many different ones. It is an example of the apparently paradoxical Tai Chi principle of “Less is More.”Therefore, each grade should just concentrate on their basics and techniques of their grade and no more for the best results.
Enjoy your training and we look forward to seeing you at Queens Birthday weekend.
May Chi be with you.