OLYMPUS 23.7 - 7.8.2011!!

One more summer training seminar/camp at Mt Olympus has come to an end….
Divided again this year into two groups each lasting 7 days, it has been once again a special challenge for students, new and old alike, to learn new things, to train in those that they have already learned but above all a rare opportunity to participate in an enriching experience in the heart of nature with the imposing ridge of  Mt Olympus accompanying all of their activities.
The schedule, worked out carefully from similar past experiences, was aimed both at the instruction of new material as well as at a general conditioning of the body. Always under the careful  instruction and encouragement of Shifu Dimitris Doukas and his most advanced students, it was structured in such a way so as to cover with balanced alternations the unfolding of each day.Waking up even before sunrise, all students would gather under the Tree amidst the quietness of an atmosphere engulfed by a sea of morning mist, in order to start their day by practicing the qigong of the Eight Treasures, as it was taught by our Grandmaster Lily Lau, a well renowned exercise for the development of one’s health and vital energy that has over time become our established way of welcoming each day.Immediately after followed a rather strenuous run along an uphill trail, a regiment beneficial for endurance and strength and at the same time a tough challenge for the body as well as an opportunity for students to surpass their own limits, to reach higher and higher everyday, an opportunity to seek out the next vista with a fresh view of the mountains, to experience each new small gain as the absolute reward of one’s tiredness or experienced difficulty.First practice session of the day, the sun at it's peak, our Tree offering it’s so precious shade, all of us dwelling deeper into the arts of Neijia (internal arts). Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, Tai Ji Quan, three arts transmitted to Shifu Doukas through the Master Niu Sheng Xiang and which according to tradition are to be taught and practiced all together. All students spent some agonizing time in the all demanding posture of San Ti Shi, the cornerstone of Xing Yi, with continuous corrections of the allignments of the body, coordination of the breath and steady persistence. Later on the five elements, the five basic fists were practiced with diligence.During this time, the mind clears itself from thoughts, activating one’s intention which in turns elevates the vital energy which can finally harmonize with Power. San Ti Shi, the three harmonies -  Heaven, Man, Earth - representing according to Daoists an unbroken unity, the study of body and the cultivation of Qi.
After lunch followed moments of relaxation and contemplation, just before the second afternoon session where emphasis was given to the teaching and practice of Grandmaster’s Lily Lau Eagle Claw Kung Fu Taolu, especially those involving a variety of traditional weapons. Students were taught, according to their level of expertise, Siu Lum Quan ( Shaolin Staff), Quan Yeung Quan (Shepherd’s Staff) Ba Gua Do (8 Directions Saber) Mn Fu Chon (Five Tigers Spear) as well as Taiji 24. At the same time Sticking Hands and Qin Na techniques as well as Pushing Hands were taught in order for students to see how the principles are actually applied when hands meet.
All so often advanced students as well as beginners would perform what they have learned  as these moments, apart from their educational value, are always a good opportunity to ‘make public’ and to openly show one’s progress, that is, to present one’s Gong fu as one’s own, as an individual and unique expression of one’s coordination of body and mind.
Besides the time spent practicing, the schedule involved other activities as well, ranging from the preparation of daily dinner, washing and taking care of hygiene up to the organization of the excursions during the day-offs. Ascending to Prionia, descending following the river Enipeas, our sensations captivated by the beautiful scenery and energized by the freezing waters of the river. Later on, swimming in Leptokarya, relaxing in a complete different environment by the sea, and then again back up to our mountain camp to resume training.
Even the unexpected phenomena, the sudden climatic changes, the occasional rain, the spectacular thunderstorms lighting up the distant horizon, the consciousness that arises from being in an environment that breaths and manifests in various ways, the realization that we actually share it with all other living creatures without always us being the dominant ones, are all valuable experiences of life, lessons of how one can cultivate real respect for things, something which might curtail, even for an instance, the domination of the various ‘ego’ which arise from an individualistic view of the cosmos.
It’s by nature impossible to make manifest in a few lines the total experience of the seminar at Mt Olympus, all those things that the participants take with them during the few days they choose to spent there. The way they discover, day by day, through continuous practice, the new abilities and powers of their bodies, the hidden manifestations of their will. How their mind and breath gradually coordinate following a more natural rhythm, usually much different from the one they are accustomed to. How they learn through their common dwelling in nature the value of community and solidarity, at a place where all activities serve as catalysts for the reinforcement of inter-personal relations and the creation of a common ethics that would be followed later on during everyday life.
Simply, the lesson of the Olympus overcomes the sum of all the activities that  take place according to schedule just as the spirit of the mountain rises beyond the sum of the words that describe it. It’s rather an affair as much personal as it is common. Above all else,  though, it’s the spirit that continuously, beyond all compromises, runs ahead always reaching new heights.