YMAA Retreat Center Camp - Part 1

Our training camp at the YMAA Retreat Center was a success! The beautiful locale, seeing Dr. Yang, training in-person, and spending time with wonderful people was the summer trip we needed.

The idea for the camp was born after Dr. Yang cancelled his seminars due to the lack of available staff. Add the uncertainties of COVID and no one was sure how many would end up attending. Our students who’d already registered questioned whether it still made sense to visit the center, which would have remained open with a less structured schedule. After some back and forth, Dr. Yang decided to reoffer the seminars in conjunction with our 2-week camp. To our pleasant surprise, more of our students registered and several friends made adjustments to join us.

Michelle leading class | Photo: Jonathan D. Chang

During regular seminars, typically there is a full time chef (the fabulous Lindsey Hardin of Sol Kitchen) and at least four Retreat Center students to assist with teaching, cleaning, driving, landscaping, and miscellaneous tasks. We’re grateful for the three long-term visitors who were able to handle the specialized tasks. For the rest of the chores, I created a schedule with rotating teams. They smashed it! After the morning lecture, visitors went straight to prepping for breakfast, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping patios, and asking how else they could help. Only a few brave souls volunteered to lead the cooking team. Cooking for 25+ people in an unfamiliar kitchen is no easy feat and while there were a few minor mishaps and delays, no one got hurt or starved. Everyone else was just grateful to not be in that position and to top it off, most of the meals and desserts were delicious!

Sweeping in the morning mist | Photo: Jonathan D. Chang
Rollback | Photo: Lance R.

Our days were packed with tasks and tons of information to absorb. At 6:30am, Dr. Yang lectured about embryonic breathing while the still cool air flowed through the windows. At 7:15am, visitors got a head start on chores before enjoying breakfast at 8am.

From 9am - 10:30am, Dr. Yang gave lectures on the seminar topic of the week. Afterwards, visitors would review or get some training in before lunchtime.

After lunch, we had little more than an hour to rest before teaching from 2pm - 4pm. With the sun beating down, we hid under the shade of the giant madrone tree while practicing pushing hands, martial applications, or White Crane drills.

With COVID having relegated us to mostly online classes, it had been a long time since we taught partner drills. The students were also craving the interaction, especially those without practice partners at home.

Michelle & Tye Pushing Hands | Photo: Jonathan D. Chang
Almost Watermelon Time | Photo: Jonathan D. Chang

Inevitably, we had to step out of the shade to train the Yang 108 form.

Despite all the in-depth qigong and martial arts teachings, some folks deemed Dr. Yang’s daily watermelon offering to be their favorite time of day. I can’t blame them when the temperatures reached the low 90s on several days. Some say it tastes better when he chops it.

Then at 4pm, Kathy started her medical qigong classes and at 5pm we went back inside for Dr. Yang’s Q&A sessions. He ended up teaching more hours than he initially planned, which was a good sign of his health and energy.

Add the redwoods visit, demonstration, and talent show, and the two weeks truly felt like a camp.

To be continued...

YMAA Retreat Center Camp - Part 2