And here we go ...
We, Martin, Alexander and Torsten, drove to the Kombatan-Camp in Italian Milan with Grandmaster Ernesto Presas Jr. and Senior Master Randy Remolin (Chief Instructor Italy).
Although it had worked out for each of us with vacation time, such that we could have left theoretically earlier. However, the rental car was ordered for 16 o'clock and unfortunately not more available. So we arrived punctually at the car rental and received the car, a new Ford Mondeo.
Our planned route was to avoid Switzerland in order to save the toll. But we found an unknown vignette for the year 2014 on the car and the first jokes that this was definitely the Swiss vignette became more and more. As a short internet search revealed, everything indicated that it was actually her! Thanks to the previous tenant of the car.
So a new route was planned in good spirits, which was no problem thanks to the built-in navigation device. After we had found out what the street in which our hotel was located was actually called, the navigation indicated us as arrival time about 11:30 p.m.. Since we didn't drive the route through Austria, we saved a little more than an hour and didn't need to buy a vignette. At least we thought so.
Martin got behind the wheel and we started - 20m, then stop and adjust the seats. But now ..., via the A14 and the A38 we went to the A9 heading south. The traffic was quite smooth and we made good progress. Of course we also had to test how fast the car can drive and what all the buttons in the "cockpit" are for. :-)
In between we stopped to consult the manual. The exact function of the cruise control was not immediately clear from the buttons on the steering wheel.
At Nuremberg we took the A6 and then the A7 towards Switzerland.
At some point we reached a border crossing where signs on vignettes were attached. None of them looked like our vignette on the car. To be on the safe side, we stopped to have a local official confirm that it was actually a Swiss vignette. The confirmation came and immediately after it the remark that we would need nevertheless a vignette. The question marks on our faces spoke for themselves, as we thought we were at a border crossing to Switzerland. The friendly officer then explained to us that we were in Austria. But the navigation system could have told us that as well. So we bought another 10-day vignette for Austria and Alexander was given the task of attaching it to the windscreen in accordance with the regulations.
Equipped with two vignettes we continued through Austria on the A14 until we reached the Swiss border. The arrival time had shifted according to navigation system approx. 1h later. However, the breaks and the refueling had to be done.
Over curvy roads it went first uphill, then again downhill in the direction of Italy. Sometime Martin stopped and said, he does not want to drive any more. So Torsten had to drive.
Super conditions for relaxed driving: darkness, numerous serpentines, regular construction sites, constantly changing speed limits and an unknown car, whose tires were already smoking and had only moderately cooled down during the driver change. At least this excitement caused a wide awake driver.
Slowly it went on through the mountains, which we could not see, up to a motorway. There the driving became more pleasant. Meanwhile the navigation indicated that we will arrive in Milan at about 2 a.m.. When we reached Milan, the nice voice from the navigation device sent us directly from a roundabout to a closed highway exit. Unfortunately there were no diversion signs and so we drove in about the direction we hoped would be right. At some point the GPS changed its mind from having us to turn around and finally calculated a new route. Missing main road signs and switched off traffic lights caused further excitement while driving through Milan at night. Fortunately there was very little traffic at this time of day and so we got through unscathed.
2:30 a.m. - Arrival at the hotel. Unload the car and go to the reception. Meanwhile we were quite exhausted and were looking forward to shower and bed. Alexander did the registration and got the room key. After it was clarified when and where we would have breakfast, we disappeared to the 1st floor. Torsten was the only one who used the small elevator, the two younger ones were allowed to climb stairs, but they were at the room faster than Torsten and could choose their beds.
7 a.m., the ringing of the alarm clock tore us out of our dreams and we peel ourselves out of the beds. The training should start at 9 a.m., at least that's what we understood from the announcement. So we went to the bathroom and then for breakfast. They had jam, nougat cream and honey, but only very small rolls that you could smear with it. Apart from that there were cornflakes and besides fruit also various other sweets that you would normally expect at a snack. Unusual, but still good. A little coffee or cappuccino from the vending machine afterwards and then it started. Since in the evening, uhm... morning, when we arrived, we had already entered the address of the sports hall in our navigation system, so we could leave right away.
Shortly before 8:30 we were at the street with the sports center, but suddenly we found ourselves in a weekly market. It did not go forward, sales stalls and people. Back didn't go either, because further cars were already behind us. So first of all signs were given, so that these also set back. During the whole excitement Alexander discovered a man in arnis clothes and with a stick bag, who passed us and clearly went to the hall. So we couldn't be completely wrong. The search for a parking place led us a little further away, because apparently everyone in Milan has at least two cars. Everything is completely parked.
Then we went back to the sports center and asked the porter for the way to the entrance of the hall. There we realized that we were alone. Only some sports bags were already there. We suspected that they belonged to the Italian organizers and they would show up again. Therefore we simply decided to wait and see.
So we looked around a bit and adjusted to the regional schedule. Then we saw a familiar face: Martin from Austria. We greeted each other joyfully as we had not seen each other for a long time. Unfortunately the others from Austria, whom we had met at the autumn camp 2013 in Langeleben and Himmelfahrtcamp 2014 in Leipzig, were not there. However, we got to know Martin's teacher GM Walter instead.
Gradually the other participants arrived. We registered and paid the remaining participation fee.
Senior Master Randy, Chief Instructor of Italy, was obviously delighted that representatives from Germany also took part. He asked us if we were from GM Wolfgang Schnur. We confirmed this and sent greetings, which he gladly gave back. Later there was the same procedure with GM Ernesto Jr., who gave us another present for GM Wolfgang.
Then it was time to go out and Master Randy called a representative from each country to the front. Participants from Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland, Moldavia and of course Italy were present, about 100 people filled the hall. Torsten was a bit queasy when he stood in the front row with the Grand Master and the trainers. Then the training began with a warm-up, led by the Italian instructor Michele. There was a harmless start with laps, steps and arm circles. Then we lined up in the hall and it alternated between push-ups, jumping and other strenuous exercises, followed by Mano Mano techniques in rapid alternation. We were totally done when the next unit was announced and we could drink something quickly when we got the sticks.
We continued with turning the poles and whirling in different combinations.
First without, then with movement. GM Presas Jr. impressed us with his enormous speed. Afterwards we should combine everything with each other. That was not quite easy and some found themselves with knots in their arms and legs.
Now followed double stick techniques and different Sinawalis in variations. GM Presas Jr. then showed us direct counter-attacks in the Sinawalis flow.
Lunch break, everyone was enthusiastic about the training so far, but also happy to rest a bit.
First blisters on the hands were treated and painful muscles were rubbed. In an hour it should go on and who wanted to eat something, could get it on the market directly before the gates of our training place.
As already at the start, the lunch break was laid outgenerously as well and after a renewed greeting, it continued with Senior Master Randy as a trainer. He showed different ways to counter in the Sinawalis, connected with different basic techniques which went over to techniques in application and culminated in the disarmament of the opponent.
Then the training was over and we said goodbye to each other. It should continue with the comfortable part of the evening, with a meal in an Italian Brasserie. That much we knew at least before, but all the details were negotiated after the training.
It was planned that we would be picked up at the hotel at 8:30 p.m. and brought back later, so that Torsten and Martin could drink a beer without any problems. After everything was cleared up, we took a relaxed shower and drove back to the hotel. There we used the time to relax and closed our eyes. Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Domenico arrived and we were driven to the restaurant.
It was already quite crowded and so we stood a little helpless outside of the restaurant. Then Martin and Walter from Austria arrived and we decided to drink a beer. We learned that the free tables in the restaurant are for us, but still had to be moved right.
Then the tables were released for us, and the participants from Switzerland joined us. This made communication a bit easier and we all got to know each other a bit better.
Walter told us about a planned camp, mid June 2015, in Austria with GM Ernesto Jr. and Senior Master Randy. Of course we immediately asked them to write us the exact date when they returned home.
There were different dishes from the Italian kitchen and each of us were full at the end.
Around 11 p.m. the general mood of optimism began to break out and so we decided to go back and let Domenico know. At the farewell of all an Italian participant said, if we organize such a camp in Germany, they are also present. But hopefully we'll see each other again in Austria before then.
We had learned and got up at 7:30 a.m. this time. The weekly market will certainly not take place today and we hoped to be able to park closer to the sports centre. After breakfast we packed our things and loaded everything into the car. Meanwhile Alexander arranged the checkout and the payment of the bill.
Thanks to navigation system we drove relaxed to the training place and could park not far from the entrance.
Inside the hall we already met some participants from yesterday and there were one or two greetings more than the day before. After the change of clothes there was an exchange about yesterday's wounds and as good as possible precautions were taken.
After the welcome there was another warming up, so to speak the second part of the day before, but this time instructor Michele only got ten minutes. Senior Master Randy must have felt sorry for us. You could clearly see that they were happy about this shortening, even if it was as exhausting as the first day. After a few harmless laps through the hall, we were allowed to do various push-up and strength endurance exercises.
A short drinking break followed before we continued. GM Ernesto Jr. showed us some sequences of shadow boxing in which he incorporated all Mano Mano techniques in combination and with movement. Then it was our turn. The tempo should be increased further and further. Everybody tried to the best of their knowledge and quickly we got out of breath again, to push us further we had to give everything again after GM Presas Jr. announced the last 15 seconds.
Then it went on with different Mano Mano basic exercises.
The GM emphasized how important it is to harden the forearms and not to hit blocks laxly. Real attacks take place with a lot of force and a block must also hold against it.
So the purpose of the next unit was to make our blocks more stable. One training partner hit as hard as possible while the other blocked hard. Of course, the forearms became redder and redder, which is why we soon went on to the next exercise: various applications of Mano Mano.
Afterwards we took two sticks again and several groups were formed, which stood in a circle. One stood in the middle and was supposed to defend himself against attacks, with or without disarmament. Then the one in the middle was changed. When everyone was through, we put a stick aside and repeated the whole thing.
Next followed a training session with GM Walter, in which he showed us various wrist liberations inspired by Hapkido as well as some levers derived from it and ground bringing techniques.
In the last training part Senior Master Randy showed us techniques of the Philippine knife fight. From different angles of attack we practiced counter-attacks and sometimes quite complex disarmaments. Our heads were already smoking, but we followed as well as we could and tried to imitate the movements. With some techniques we recognized also beginnings for a possible conversion on the stick defense.
As the last exercise of the day we went through the first 8 Espada y Daga techniques in quick succession.
At the end we competed again and Senior Master Randy again collected the country representatives. Also Torsten had to move forward again. Then Senior Master Randy held a speech in which he thanked us for our interest in the Filipino martial art and the Presas style. He stressed that there are different technique preferences with the teachers, but all within the Presas style family train and pass this style on. We are all part of this family, he said, and GM Ernesto Presas Jr. is the head of this family. He, Senior Master Randy, has been training since he was 9 years old. When he met GM Presas Jr. at the age of 16, it was his and GM Presas Jr. dream to spread this martial art all over the world.
Afterwards the certificates of participation were handed out. Some received also a certificate with thanks for the support with the spreading of the Kombatan.
On Friday before the camp some examinations had been carried out. Senior Master Randy used the opportunity at the end of the camp to present the certificates for the next Dan or appointment as Instructor.
After the farewell our long return journey began. In daylight this time we could enjoy the spectacular view of the Swiss Alps. As darkness began we passed through a Swiss village with a pizzeria, where we spontaneously stopped to eat. Alex was the first one to notice that we didn't have any Swiss francs with us. When we described our problem to the waitress we were reassured, we could also pay in Euro.
Full and satisfied we drove on to our home country. The trip was largely unspectacular, only shortly before Leipzig rain set in. About 2:30 a.m. we were then at home.
A great weekend had come to an end. We had learned a lot and met nice people. We experienced a grandmaster, who was very sympathetic and inspired us with the shown techniques and explanations. The trip was very worthwhile and we are looking forward to a repetition at the same or a different place, e.g. from 4 - 7 June 2015 in Austria.