Red Jade Martial Arts students with medals earned at recent tournaments.

Red Jade Martial Arts students with medals earned at recent tournaments.

Creston’s Red Jade martial artists remain calm under pressure

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  • Apr. 11, 2012 10:00 a.m.

They didn’t have matching gym backs or hoodies or shiny track pants. They weren’t strutting around wearing sleeveless T-shirts or open-chest uniforms with coloured belts. And, as other students from various martial arts schools gathered in the foyer of Max Turyk Elementary in Fernie, they chose not to engage in silly mental games played by those who desperately wanted to appear intimidating by grunting like Cro-Magnons. Even though they were all clad in traditional kung fu dress, the students of Red Jade Martial Arts didn’t seem to be portraying the same intensity as their competition. Instead, they seemed to be calmly taking in their surroundings.

Among the semi-organized chaos of anxious participants fluttering to and fro, the students of Red Jade quietly practiced their forms or centered themselves on piles of jackets in one corner of the gym. Which is more than I can say for myself. I wasn’t calm. I was pacing. Although I don’t consider myself an overly nervous type of individual, I have to admit that my heart was racing as I watched the first few matches. I guess the grunting was having its desired effect on me. But I also had faith. I had faith in the students — not just in their fighting abilities but also in how they would show grace under pressure. More importantly, though, I had faith in sifu Neil Ripski.

Although I have no martial arts background, I have spent the last six months watching my boys and observing just how the philosophy of kung fu has played out during weekly classes. Nicholas and Adam, aged eight and 14, respectively, have enthusiastically followed the teachings of their sifu — not just in regards to self-defense but also in regards to self-discipline. They have learned that kung fu is not so much a sport but a way of life. It’s just as much about the art of preparing tea and the practice of meditation as it is about kicks and punches. It’s about centering the self, living without fear, and being in tune with the energy around us and the energy within.

Students first competed in forms and it was interesting to see just how kung fu differs from other disciplines. The movements of kung fu seem more natural somehow — there is a softness of flow — and while the grunting and bellowing from other competitors filled the almost claustrophobic atmosphere, the students from Red Jade moved almost silently, like the whisper of a butterfly (albeit a deadly butterfly).

Then they competed in point sparring and continuous sparring. And that’s when, quite suddenly, a sliver of doubt crept in. I was a little scared, especially when I realized that some of the Red Jade students who had only been studying kung fu for a year or two (or less, in Adam’s case) would be competing against black belt karate students. It turns out, though, I didn’t need to worry. The students of Red Jade were in complete control as they calmly thought through their moves, even against great odds and performed, in the end, with grace and dignity.

And they came home with an impressive number of wins. Within one week, the students at Red Jade competed both at Tiger Balm internationals in Vancouver and then at the Fernie tournament, walking away with a total of 44 medals. Back in Creston, the students gathered before their next class and congratulated each other. Then they all agreed to display their awards along the hallways of Red Jade. In the end, they decided that the medals were not so much about personal victory but about honouring the teachings of their sifu.

Red Jade members placing in the tournaments were Neil Ripski (two first place), Bryce Bergman (one second place, two third place), Darien Bergman (one first place, one second place, two third place), Nicholas Brauer (one third place), Jason Deatherage (one first place, one second place), Adam Ebelher (two first place, two second place, two third place, two fourth place), Lorna Foot (one second place), David Huscroft (one first place, one third place, two fourth place), Joel Mann (one third place, one fourth place), Zack Martin (two first place), Clyde Robson (one first place, one second place, one third place), Mickevory Sluz (two first place, one second place, two third place), Dion Viola (one first place, one second place, three third place) and Kevin Wallbridge (two second place).