Monday, March 16, 2009

VS Wushu Team: Beijing Training Trip (Day 4)

Today was our first day training with wushu athletes of the SCH Sports School. We were led by Coach Yang.
When we started out our warm-ups, I was already impressed with the dedication and self-motivation of the group. With hardly a word from Coach Yang, the youngsters started on a comprehensive series of warm-ups:

This to them is just basic warm-ups-- 基本功 but the level at which they do the basics is astounding. As they did their butterfly jumps and progressed into 540 and 720 turns, it was obvious that there is a huge gap between them and even our national team athletes. Just take a look.

But when the turn on the pressure, then we really, really see what 'professional' means. Our boys struggled to keep up but it is obvious that even for those in our team that have gone for selection at a National level in Singapore that we are no where near them. Check out their 旋风腿- this is a basic jumping kick seen in Changquan but look at the finese that these kids execute. Even our own VS warrior, Jingo was speechless:

But I haven't told you the whole truth yet- these athletes are 3 tier athletes.
First tier athletes are Beijing state representatives, 2nd tier athletes are vying for places in the first team and can compete if there are vacancies.
3rd tier athletes are not good enough to represent state for competition.
Yup. These are only 3rd tier athletes who are going through their daily routine.
You take any of these kids, on any day, blind fold him, send him for competition here in Singapore and he'll still 'own' all of the kids in his age group.

Lest I be seen as pessimistic and discouraging, I'm not. One of the most obvious difference between our Singaporean VS students and the Chinese here, is not skill. While that difference is apparent and obvious, what is really different is their attitude.
No need for Coach to shout, cajole, scold. Just a firm instruction and they literally 'own time, own target'.
No one tells their coach there that he doesn't feel like training cos no mood.
No one sits down on their backside and chat while Coach is training someone else- they are always moving and working
No one slacks. There was no single 'slacker' in the class

You know why?
Because first tier athletes have better living conditions and better food- you get the chicken breast and drumstick
2nd tier athletes stay in more crowded conditions and eat normal food- you get the chicken wingl
3rd tier athletes stay in bunk beds and eat...- well, they get the chicken backside.
Sounds funny? But it's true. You fight for everything you want here. You prove your worth because only then can you claim your entitlement. In a way, this is meritocracy at its best.

So what am I hoping and trying to say here? Boys, when you read this back in Singapore after our trip, know that while you envy your Chinese friends; it is you who are the priviledge lot-- you can always choose to quit wushu, because it is only a CCA. You have your parents to fall back on, to provide for you, to make it easy for you to pursue your interest in Wushu or any other pursuit.
But for these kids, wushu is their life- it is all or nothing for them.
So in the words of our ex-Victorian, President Nathan:
"Be Kind, Be Grateful and Be Engaged"

Be kind to your team-mates because you can never succeed alone
Be grateful to your parents, you owe everything you have to them
Be engaged in whatever you do so that you can be something more.

One day, when your achievements are embossed in stone for all the world to see, like Coach Di, I will be the happiest teacher in Singapore.
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(Can you find Coach Di Guangwen's name here on the Board of Fame?)

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