May first. Labour day. We celebrate with the last day of Mandirigma camp.
Morning run on the beach, again. Basic drills with fighting attitude, again. Joe’s gym with resistance bands, again. A perfect Mandirigma morning. We are getting stronger-harder-better.
I have blisters in both hands, sweat profoundly so it’s hard to grip the sticks, but mentally tell myself: “nothing lasts forever!”
Mandirigma means warrior in Filipino Tagalog language. The camp is about building a warrior spirit and that starts from within. Remember the quote from the other day? “Your dreams are on the other side of your grit.”? That’s what it’s all about. So what do you have to do to achieve the goals you have? I’ll come back to that later in this post.
Like the other days we got into the small buses and drive to Emerald gym for Muay Thai training. I had a great workout with Greg. One of the few guys taller than me here. We did both techniques and bag work. Among them 100 knees on the heavy bag. That’ll get your blood pumping, let me tell ya.
We have been told to bring sticks to Emerald, which is unusual. And here I will pick up on the grit part again. We did tire striking. They use the tires for footwork training and hitting then with sledgehammer for conditioning. We picked them up and hit them with sticks. Hard. As hard as we could. Did I mention I have blisters? Holy cow, that hurt. But when the going gets though… Knowing you’re not the only one hurting helps. Everyone has blisters. Everyone hit as hard as they can. Then someone starts the rally call “STRONGER HARDER BETTER” and everyone joins in. Warrior spirit. Mandirigma camp at its best.
After this round we did a relaxation exercise with Joe. It worked very well for me with a guided “tour” to calmness and back, not so well for Katja.
Back at the hotel we get lunch and prepare for the final session and the Challenge. As part of the Guro team (black belts) I know what we will be up for, but the rest of the group don’t know yet. A lot of people will break their limits and go beyond today.
We catch a short lesson with Heikki on knife before we do personal leadership. We start on working on a description of ourselves and that is harder than I would have expected. Who are you? Can you answer that? Not talking about your personality or what you’ve done, but who you really are? It’s a tough question. We had a good group discussion about it and both Jonas and Shannon gave me valuable inputs by sharing their own thoughts. Then we get ready for the Challenge.
We picked up all training gear and drive to Emerald gym. We’ll use that this evening for the next couple of hours. We’ve trained in the different areas this week. Stick fighting, knife fighting and Muay Thai. Now it’s time to take it to the test. Everyone will do one round of Muay Thai, one round of stick fighting and finish off with a round of knife fighting. I should emphasize that we don’t call it stick fighting or knife fighting here. Suntukan games and survival game are better words as they describe the point. It’s no scoring and no losers only winners who face off a partner doing something that would scare the shit out of most people.
The Guros will have their main challenge in number of fights. We don’t know how’s many we’ll do each so it’s important to not waste all energy during the first two rounds.
I start by doing Muay Thai with Matt. He’s been doing Muay Thai for about twenty years. He just smiles at me before we get at it. As the best of us it’s his role to give me a challenge and keep things civilized. He’s a wonderful guy and we’ve had lots if good training together this week. Tonight’s no different. I learn a lot by facing him.
After that I moved on to the sticks and did two rounds there as the highest ranking of the students came through after they had been in the Muay Thai ring. Stress, adrenaline and a pumping heart can make you be a little “over-killy”, but the guys I met did good. I had to talk a little to one to make him realize he was almost hyperventilating, but he centered himself good, as we have practiced, and we continued on. These three matches and a knife round with Henrik was the toughest I did. But not the most rewarding.
Between the sticks and the knife I got sent back into the Muay Thai ring to go a few more rounds with the lowest graded. It’s challenging to give enough resistance for them to grow while giving them enough opportunity to feel mastery off their achievement. I had a good round with Tessa, Jonas girlfriend and then I got Nina in the ring. Nina is from Molde in Norway, but originally from St. Petersburg. Her eighteen year old son trains MMA with our friend Leif there and that’s how she came into Kali Sikaran. She’s shorter than Katja and stood there looking up at me towing over her with shin pads and big boxing gloves. It would be like me having to face off a guy at 2,4 meters, or there about. That’s an impressive feat right there. Three minutes. Ding ding ding…
That was the second most rewarding bout I did. Nina was all in trying to remember the things we’ve been traning at the Emerald. The Thai guys there, basically all Muay Thai trainers we’ve met, use sounds when hitting or being hit. We played on that and with cheers from the sidelines she kicked and punched at me.
Then we moved on to the sticks. She got a helmet on, MMA gloves to protect the hands and a stick. We have padded the end of the sticks to avoid injures, but it’s still sixty centimetres of rattan. Buddy was on the sideline coaching her as we set off. Going from scared to warrior in three minutes, Nina showed me what this camp is all about. Do the exercises as close to reality as you can, play with it and give your demons your best to beat them down. That was my most rewarding bout for the evening.
After everyone was finished we ended the camp by handing out the t-shirt. “The only diploma to be worn”, as Heikki exclaimed. You have to make it through camp to get it. There where badges to the veterans of three camps or more, and a special prize to Lucas as this year’s Mandirigma. With a full hip replacement and training at least as hard as anyone else it was a good call. He’s an inspiration for what you can do when you put your heart into it.
Then we partied. Hard! Nuff said.
“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel