It’s Sunday night, our last night of PAWMA camp, this year at Sonoma State University.
I never laugh so hard as when I’m with this group of women from my kung fu school. We have eight women altogether in our group this year and we drove down from Portland in two vehicles. This is my annual martial arts retreat.
The trip down.
We left 4:35 am Friday morning from Portland, not bad for a planned departure of 4:30. Immediately we had to detour three miles to reach I-5 as the closest exit was closed. Foreshadowing.
We made great time to Ashland where we stopped for breakfast. We played musical vehicles and I got in the car with Sifu Patty,our kung fu instructor. She was amped to get on the road and gave up waiting for our second vehicle to get going. Right away we got separated, despite constant communication with walkie-talkies. After a few minutes on the road we realized they were ahead of us. So naturally we had to overtake them. We met up at a gas station in Yreka. That was the last time we were actually at the same place before we made it to Sonoma State.
S.Patty had picked up a map in Yreka and handed it to me to navigate. We decided to take the exit at Winters and cut over to Hwy 101 at Napa, cutting off a major chunk of road time. We rolled through Napa (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) until we came to a fork in the road. It looked from the map like we should go straight so we did. The road got narrower and more rural. Road signs were non-existent. After a few miles S.Patty said this doesn’t feel right, so we backtracked to take the other fork. That road looked much better – for a couple miles. Then the road narrowed and went up into the mountains. I thought we were going in a Möbius loop. I was sure we had been over that one-lane bridge once already. Still, the road had to come out somewhere, even if it wasn’t on the map. Just as we were beginning to despair we came upon a line of cars – a sign of civilization! The line was stopped. Not moving. S.Patty got out of the car to ask for directions. Yes the road we were on would come out to a state highway – after the tree that had fallen across the road was cleared in 20 minutes. We figured we could wait twenty minutes.
After twenty minutes a guy comes walking along to inform us that the highway patrol said it would take an hour to clear. We had already lost enough time meandering on nameless county roads so we turned around. I kept staring at the map trying to figure out where we were and how to get where we wanted to be. I realized I had misread the map. The road we came into Napa on butts to a highway, then picks up again a little north. I thought that the road went straight through Napa. I berated myself endlessly, much to the annoyance of my carmates. We got back to the freeway and resigned ourselves to taking the long way around. We made it to Sonoma hours later than we had projected.
I was dog-tired Friday night so I decided to let myself sleep as long as I needed. I woke up at 6:27 Saturday morning, threw on some clothes and joined the 6:30am Qigong class led by Jan Parker. I forgot how cold and foggy Sonoma can be in the mornings but I had my fleecy vest. For first morning class I assisted S.Patty with her Harmony Sparring class and took photos. After lunch I considered a sparring class but it was so hot. Instead I took a Push Hands class from Sana Shanti. She is one of the best teachers out of an outstanding group. I thought I was good at this sort of thing, but I learned so much from her about the subtleties of structure. I keep sticking my butt out which makes my lower back a weak point in my structure.
Sunday I almost overslept breakfast. We were up late the night before laughing ourselves silly. I spent my morning floating between classes taking photos and discussing photography with another camp participant. For the second morning class session I took The Flow with Gabrielle Roloff. Gabi is a Master under Professor Remy Presas, who awarded the founder of our system his professorship. We learned new stick disarms that we have to practice and remember to bring back to our school.
I had planned to help at S.Patty’s next class after lunch, but I crashed. I had a raging headache from staying up to late and drinking a beer. A single beer. One. Pathetic. I couldn’t even eat lunch. I just went back to our dorm suite and hit the rack for the next three hours. I slept too late for the second afternoon class even. I did make it to a web site seminar for promoting your dojo web site, where I got plenty of good info for helping our web site rank.
We’ve all been to college. We’ve all eaten our share of cafeteria food. It sucks. We bagged dinner and explored the local restaurants. We arrived so late Friday night we found the only restaurant open for the next fifteen minutes and grabbed some takeout Mexican. We found a great Indian restaurant across the street where we ordered take out for Saturday night. Tonight we went back to the Taqueria for a more relaxed meal. I heard from another camp participant that hardly anybody was at dinner, so I guess other people shared our opinion of the cafeteria food.
For past few months we’ve been working on our demo for Saturday night. Carol proposed Cirque de Soleil music with a solid beat. We worked out a complex demo that highlights our system with forms and street fighting. Carol and I choreographed a fight sequence that opened with open hand (and feet) techniques, transitioned to single stick attacks and counters, then culminated in two-stick attacks. S.Patty and Laura choreographed their fight sequence with practice knives. I sewed a leather double knife holster for Laura to wear for the demo.
Before the demo we were all tense. Carol kept wanting to practice our sequence and S.Patty kept telling us to not overpractice. I had a couple disarms I wasn’t confident with. We put on our purple shirts and sprayed glitter in our hair. We lucked out – we went on second. Carol forgot the form she had known for five years after five moves and faked it until she got back in synch. I was a half beat off in our synchronized sections. All of us were out of synch in our final form which we had not practiced enough. But I did nail my roll on the hard gym floor. We were awesome! We got big big applause.
After the demo we cut loose. We gorged ourselves on Indian food we had got before the demo. We drank our beer and decompressed. We made up anti-themes for next year’s camp. We laughed so hard our guts hurt. I stayed up way too late.
- Extinguish the flame.
- Train hard, die young.
- Lose your balance, break your harmony.
- Our bosoms are our weapons.
- Why sweat? Rest instead.
- Learn ancient Chinese secrets.
- Draining spirit, diminishing strength.
- No limb left behind.
- Adversity breeds happiness.
Back to the real world.
I’m having too much fun here. It will take us at least twelve hours to get home, provided we don’t take any short cuts.