From May 28 to May 30, Edmond, Philip and I accompanied Sifu Ralph Haenel to visit our brothers and sisters of Calgary Wing Tsun, the school of Sifu German Ferrer. This trip was my first experience of visiting a fellow Wing Tsun School. Philip almost could not make this trip as he injured his right knee a week before our departure while playing ice hockey. It must be mentioned that Philip incurred his injury while scoring a goal for his hockey team. True to his Wing Tsun warrior spirit Philip ignored the pain of his injury and showed up for the flight as scheduled (a thank you to Gordon Lee, who is Philip’s younger brother for driving the three of us to the airport).
On Thursday May 28, the three of us boarded an 11:30 am late morning Westjet flight to Calgary. The flight was about an hour long and it was very smooth without any turbulence. Sifu Ralph had already flown to Calgary earlier in the day and so we were going to meet up with him at the Calgary school later that evening. Our flight arrived at Calgary airport around 1:30 pm in the afternoon. Our first order of business on arrival was to rent a car and check into our hotel. We booked a hotel very close to the airport; however, I don’t think we would have found our hotel very quickly without the aid of a portable GPS device that Edmond had brought along. The GPS was very useful, but not infallible. We still got sort of “lost” while following the GPS because the hotel was hidden behind a taller building and the device itself does not seem to adjust quickly enough to our driving patterns. If I had been driving under Vancouver traffic conditions, it would have been more difficult as I found Calgary drivers to be less aggressive and more courteous than our drivers back home. So, it was rather easy to make lane changes. Calgary drivers really do seem to follow the posted speed limits no matter which part of town. After we checked into the Calgary Super 8 Airport Hotel, we headed over to Chili’s restaurant for a late lunch, followed by a short trip to the local Real Canadian Superstore for bottled water, fruit and snack bars. We met up with Sifu Ralph and the members of the Calgary school around 7 pm at the Trail Squash and Racquetball Center which was a short 10 minutes drive away from the hotel. The ball courts were of a older design, unlike the current ones with the glass walls and doors. As I never played those sports before, I did not know what to make of the small doors leading to each court. Each door was just over 4 feet high. So, anyone with second thoughts wasn’t going to be able to easily bale out of the room. (Philip standing next to the door of the torture chamber)
Plus the fact that we were the very first arrivals, the facility was very quiet and the high ceilings of each court produced a lot of echoes from our foot steps. The words “Torture Chamber” flashed through our minds when we walked in. Thursday night was the Calgary school’s regular evening class. One by one, the Calgary students arrived after us. The first person we met was Lloyd Skelly from Edmonton. Lloyd was a former member of our own Vancouver school from way back in the days when Sifu Ralph was teaching in a Burnaby Church. I think the only person from our current student roster who would remember Lloyd Skelly is our own Dai Sihing Chris Chinfen. After the class ended at 9 pm, we met with some of the students at Nixx’s pub down the road from the Squash Court for beer and food before we retired for the night.
On Friday morning, the three of us woke up at 8am and had breakfast at A & W’s. Yes. A nice hearty greasy breakfast for we had expected to be a very long day. We drove to German’s house on the other side of town and arrived about 10:15 in the morning. We chatted with German while we waited for Sifu Ralph to finish his private lesson with Aura Pon, who is one of the Calgary students. About an hour later, we commenced lessons on the biu-tze form applications in German’s back yard.
I think it was shortly after 1 pm in the afternoon that lessons ended and we all just lounged under the shade in German’s back yard and observed the birds, the “foxes” and the maybe the odd “cougar” that flew and ran past the little trail at the back of German’s house. Philip wanted to go chase the foxes but his leg was not fully healed yet and Edmond did not look like was in any shape to chase them as he took over the role of stunt man from Philip. Poor Edmond took quite a few of Sifu’s fak sau’s in the backyard. Yes. This was all captured on film by the way by me, the camera man / driver.
The five of us had lunch at the Vietnamese Village Restaurant. The previous restaurant at the site must have previously been “the Italian Village” at one time in the past. You’d know what I mean if you saw the remnants of the previous décor.
After the late lunch, Philip, Edmond and I headed straight to the Trail Squash and Racquetball Center to just chill out before the beginning of the first part of the main event. Friday was a very hot day. It did not help that Calgary’s climate was particularly much drier than Vancouver’s. I remember just drinking a lot of water while we waited for the others to arrive. The main event started at 5 pm. Philip, Edmond, German and I continued on our exercises with the biu-tze forms applications while the Calgary students were taught the parts from the Blitz Defense program by Sifu Ralph.
Sifu Ralph put the Calgary students to quite a work out. A true testament to intensity of the work out was difficulty that Evan Kwong experienced from trying to hold a water bottle with two hands to drink from. Evan’s hands shook so badly that you’d wonder if he would drop the bottle (that was also captured on film by the way). I should mention that there was a twenty three minute intermission where Tony Tam of the Pan Nam Wing Chun style gave us a brief lecture and demonstration. German had invited Tony Tam to the seminar. Not only was it a treat to personally witness a different Wing Chun style but it was pretty amazing to watch an old guy in his late seventies move so smoothly. You can see that Tony had structure behind his moves. The evening ended at 9 pm. After four hours, we were pretty exhausted. The three of us skipped the pub and headed straight back to our hotel to clean up and have dinner at Chili’s as we expected Saturday’s seminar to be just as grueling.
The last day of the seminar began at 11 am on Saturday. Of course, prior to that the three of us loaded up on coffee and a greasy Denny’s breakfast. The Vancouver students did not have an opportunity to work with the Calgary students, but we could easily see and hear them at the other end of the squash court. We could see the smile of “love” that Sifu always points out when everyone does the group chain punches for 20 minutes. Of course, we weren’t slacking off at our end either. I think Edmond put it best, “ I don’t think I ‘ve been wacked as often as in regular class”. So, “yes, Calgary colleagues…….we felt your pain, just as much if not more”. Seriously, I got the impression that the Calgary school is a very enthusiastic group. They are a good group of people. I found their enthusiasm inspiring. The seminar ended at 3pm. We all met later that evening in Chinatown at the Regency Palace Seafood Restaurant and Lounge for a $20 all you can eat buffet. At the restaurant we met Simo Wanda (German’s wife). Oh yes… Brian, we were “interviewed” by Simo Wanda as well and she was asking why you were missing. So you are going to have to come along next time to explain your absence. Near the end of the meal, Sifu Ralph presented all the participants with certificates for their participation in this seminar. A wonderful surprise for us three Vancouver WT guys was the presentation of two cloth patches and an engraved metal badge adorned with Wing Tsun symbols and wording by Sifu German. As Sifu said, this now makes us “Full patch members”, I guess. Thanks again German for the patches.
I really enjoyed my first outside Wing Tsun seminar. If the opportunity came along, I would do it again. For others who are contemplating in going to the next Calgary outing, the overall costs for the airfare, hotel stay, food, seminar fee, car rental and drinks/snacks was just under $700 per person. Sure, Las Vegas maybe cheaper, but where would you get the opportunity to go on a trip and still partake in your favorite hobby? But on the next trip, I think we’ll probably spend a little more on a better hotel because the one we stayed in had a really noise air conditioner. Maybe on the next trip we’ll try to visit the dinosaur museum in Drumheller too (a 2-3 hour drive away from Calgary).
A picture is worth a thousand words they say. Well, here are a series of photos of one of our team members that best illustrated the progression of the events.
1. Happy Edmond.
2. Edmond all ready to go in fighting form.
3. Edmond after taking a few fak sau’s to the neck.
4. Edmond after even more fak sau’s to the neck and with possible double vision.
5. After group class, instructor class & 2-day seminar; Edmond passed out on the airplane.