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TCFE European Championships 2008,
Linkoping, Sweden
by Ben Morris
We embarked on our European adventure, the hopes and dreams of a nation on our shoulders.  Not since 1966 had we proved our prowess on the world stage....hang on...thats the English football team!
With aspirations of embodying the Tao, Zen thrown over our shoulders, and tales of warriors travelling to distant lands to seek their fortune, we embarked upon our journey with excitement and perhaps some nerves.  Were the past three months worth it?  Would we do our teachers and training partners proud?  Was the sacrifice of time and money going to pay off?  And then, like a right jab to the face, the words that seemed unthinkable to hear: "BING BONG...your flight has been delayed."
After some deliberation, we resigned ourselves to a delightful 10 hour stay at Amsterdam International Airport, courtesy of KLM - Royal Dutch Airways.  This resulted in us rocking up to our hotel at 11pm, ever aware that we had a 7am weigh-in the following morning.  Oh the joy!  There is, however, always a positive to gain from such an experience: we are now fully versed in correct baggage handling procedures in three languages - courtesy of the PA system in the airport!
The next morning came and, thankfully, we had both managed to catch some sort of sleep.  For today was going to be a busy day.
"About the size of a medium size corpse should do!"
Whilst selecting a fighting weight may seem like the easiest part of Tui Shou competition, as I will prove, it isn't that simple.  Given that Mike and I effectively fight at the same weight, I had elected to fight at one weight lower (-66kg), whilst Mike would fight at -73kg.  After a good month of being on a restricted diet ,with all the mood swings associated with it,I engaged in a final 15 hour fast in preparation for the weigh in.  Mike, being a man of great intelligence and common sense, comfortably achieved his weight.  However, the young, inexperienced whipper-snapper was 2kg over.  I was told to lose weight.  I replied: "that's what I've been doing for the last month and that kind of talk leads to eating disorders!"
Mike recalls memories of rushing off to find me a bin liner, trying to explain to a Swedish receptionist that he wanted a black bin liner - "about the size of a medium size corpse should do!"  Thankfully, Swedes speak really good English, otherwise I fear that this would have been the last we saw of Mike, this side of a police station cell.  Anyway, having returned with bin bag in hand, fashioned into a garment that I'm sure would not look out of place in an Italian fashion house, he proceeded to watch me skip, run and sweat my way down to the all-important weight.  With inspirational shouts from other GB members from the Long Fei Tai Chi club and Mike's fleece, which by this time was thoroughly soaked, I got down to weight and was officially entered into the competition.  By this time we were both hungry...for medals...and for a big breakfast!
Is it a bird?...Is it a plane?, it's two guys pretending to be a chinese lion.
At the opening ceremony, we met up with the other representatives of GB.  At first a little guarded, we got to know these really nice people over the course of three days.  Friendships were formed both in competition and through their continual cheers of support.  An interesting lion dance preceded a display of Hsing Yi and Bagua Deer Horns, followed by a procession of all competitors.  Flags were waving, children were playing ... oh yes, there was a fire-eater - apparently it gets really cold in Sweden and Vodka just doesn't cut it out there.  The sentiment was nice: it perhaps lacked something of the Olympian grandeur though.  You'll have to ask Mike about the detail, because dehydration had left me viewing the world in greyscale!
"From Russia with Luv?"
All competitors were warm and friendly, as I have come to recognise from the Tai Chi community as a whole, although there were perhaps some exceptions to this rule.  We are reminded that you can't have a good pantomime without villains, and one team particulalry obliged.  The Russians, not wanting to miss a chance for vocal retort, consistently explained to both of us that, although we may have beaten them on the mat, they would have beaten us in a "real fight" - clearly not being aware that we have undergone extensive Ultimate Combat Training (Trademark Yiheyuan 2008) and yes, we have the T-shirts to prove it!  Unawares to most people at the competition, we were in fact capable of defeating most nationalities, including well-watered Scots! - thanks Colin.
Mike recalls a verbal battering from one competitor who, after being put into an arm bar and thrown out of the arena, proceeded to argue the point, along with most of his supporters.  He apologised afterwards, saying that he gets a little carried away at competitions...I hear you brother.
"If in doubt, give the crowd what they want."
Unfortunately, entertainment and competition don't always go hand in hand.  An aspiration for trying Bagua on "Tai Chi guys" can sometimes backfire.  I told Colin that I would beforehand, but did he believe me?  As Mike will explain, on one less successful occasion, I managed to successfully uproot myself and proceed to head butt the floor.  Fellow competitors, referee and crowd were all somewhat confused as I had seemed to achieve this act completely unassisted.  Ahhh...advanced skill, you may say ... or perhaps once again Ben got too excited!  I fought on and won, and from that bout onwards, I seemed to draw a slightly bigger crowd.  Perhaps they wondered what the Yiheyuan boys would do next?
"I'm working my butt off here and you stood there with your flower."
Flowers and medal ceremonies are all nice affairs.  However, whilst Mike had just received one of his medals, I had just been informed that I was tied for first place with a Russian guy, so long after the close of our event that he had changed into his normal clothes and was reluctant to fight again.  I like to think that he didn't want another piece of "the Morris" but in reality he was probably just too hungry to be bothered!  We fought again after great drama - principally due to the Russian translator who seemed to want to fight me more than the competitor he represented - I won.
Long weekend
The three days were very tiring, intense and to some extent remarkably emotional.  We both enjoyed the time we spent in Sweden and with those individuals who chose to compete against us.
We would like to express our congratulations and thanks to Paul Silfverstrale, Mattias Nyrell who, in conjunction with the Tai Chi Federation for Europe, organised the event.
We would also both like to acknowledge the great time and effort expended by our teachers and those poor souls who chose to spend their Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons with us at fight club - "train hard - fight easy"... and we certainly did!
"Position Before Demolition"


Ben in the final
The Swedish and English Teams