Mandirigma Camp 2016

I had no idea what I was in for when I signed up for Mandirigma Camp 2016. I signed up for many reasons.

I am an adventurer and this looked like a great adventure to me. I’d had a small taste of martial arts and liked it. I had never been to Thailand before. The main reason was that my very inspiring friend Shannon was going (her 5 th year in a row) and I wanted to hang out with her!

As the camp approached, I got very nervous. It was the usual “pre-adventure” nerves. Shannon assured me that the Mandirigma family would look after me. I knew she was right when, on the flight to Krabi, I met someone with a Mandirigma t-shirt on. It was Michael from Norway. We got chatting and then I met his 3 travel companions (also from Norway) – Ivar, Ole and Simen. It was a good start.

I had a day and a half to acclimatise, find my way around and mentally prepare for what was ahead of me. I had seen Shannon and met many other camp attendees. They were all very warm and welcoming. They said I was “brave” as a newcomer to Kali Sikaran to jump straight into such an advanced camp! By this time, half of me was focused on how best I could escape!!! Thankfully the other half said – just do it! So I did.

The schedule for the next five days was crazy to say the least! 7 am was the morning run on the beach with stick work. Back in the hotel by 9 am. Recovery in the pool, shower and breakfast. Meet around 10:30 to take tuktuks to the Muay Thai gym for the ground fighting session. Then either physical conditioning or pool work. Back in the hotel by 2 pm. Recovery in the pool, shower and lunch. 1.5-hour leadership development session in the classroom at 4 pm. Then the next 2 hours were Krabi Krabong (with wooden swords) and Dos Puntas with either physical conditioning or a pool session to finish. Generally, we finished about 8 pm and then had dinner, got everything ready for the next day, did homework from the classroom session. Then bed! It was the hottest summer since records had begun so managing hydration was important (and required multiple trips to the 7/11 for more water!) as well as washing all workout gear after every session, a massage when there was time and making sure you ate well despite the heat!

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I am a 51 year old woman, with 2 injured knees and an injured wrist. I had never done Kali Sikaran before. Keeping up with the schedule was one challenge. Then there was the additional challenge of taking on board a whole lot of VERY new martial arts. I had never used sticks, swords or knives. I had certainly never done ground fighting (well maybe a bit as a kid). As new things were shown to me, my brain went into overdrive! BUT – I learned some very valuable lessons. Not to overthink things. And to do my best. (My knees and wrist were not an issue)

What were the highlights for me?
1. The teachers – Heikki, Johan, Peter and Matt. It was a real privilege to watch this team in action. All leaders in their field, they shared their knowledge and took us on a journey with care, empathy, spirit, humour and a little “hutzpah”! It was a real privilege to watch them in action – demonstrating their art. Their focus was to see each and every person achieve their best.

2. The camp participants – a highly diverse and motivated group of people from Australia, Scandinavia and the UK. I was blown away by everyone’s willingness and generosity to guide and support others. Each person I was paired with helped me along in their own way. I did not know most of these people ahead of the camp but now feel they are friends for life.

3. The leadership team – 6 guys who did a dedicated leadership course in advance of the camp beginning. They led our camp teams. I was on Team Lobster led by Topi and Mads. I loved this group – they were willing to do whatever it took to help you do your best. It was great to belong to a team and to be able to share this experience with them.

4. The personal development side of things was unexpected. It was really excellent and such good timing for me. I learned so much about me, my fears, my joys and who I am.

5. Breathing, centering, anchoring. I loved all of this. It was calming and very comforting. Easy to learn and practice at home.

6. Being in a magical place with magical people – it was my first time in Thailand. The Thai people are gentle and giving. They live a simple life. Much to learn from that.

6. Stronger, harder, better. The camp mantra! I did some really cool stuff during this camp. Stuff that I could never have imagined I would do. It was tough but the mantra just made me grit my teeth and get on with it. I am proud of myself for this.

The camp culminated with the wedding celebration of Shannon and Heikki. What a privilege it was to share this beautiful occasion with them.

This is just a taste of my Mandirigma Camp experience. It is hard to share how truly special this experience was. I am determined to always do my best and not complain. I feel like I have grown in body, mind and soul after this experience.