• Esteban Solano

Red Jade Martial Arts' Kung Fu Summer Camp. An experience in Creston, Canada that changed Everything

Updated: Mar 5


If I had to say which is my biggest passion, what is the thing I'm most knowledgeable about in the world I don't think I could make it into one thing. Many interests and activities have been an integral part of my life since I can remember: travel, comedy, cooking, but the one that has been a constant throughout all has to be martial arts.


I've been trained in different disciplines from a very young age, from Tae Kwon Do when I was in elementary school to Kung Fu and MMA in High school. But there was one time when two of my passions collided into one of the most incredible experiences, one that would go on to change my life forever: the one time I traveled all the way to Creston, Canada to attend a Kung Fu Summer camp.


How it all Started


First let me explain how this happened since I'm sure most people wouldn't think Kung Fu at the first thought of Canada. At the time I was still living in Mexico City going to Kung Fu classes in a place called the Fa Men Chuan, but I occasionally trained with a master that owned a Chinese restaurant close to my house, his name was Sifu Chen. I also spent my weekends in a place called the Shaolin Temple of Taxqueña, where I also trained in forms and was taught a lot about Buddhist philosophy.


All these lessons were taken after I was done with my shift at the travel agency and my school duties. Anyhow back to the story, the style of Kung Fu I was very passionate to learn was one called the Zui Quan, or as is commonly known the Drunken Fist, and finding someone proficient enough to train me in it in Mexico proved to be difficult yet the internet had a solution as it often does.



I found a video on YouTube from an extremely talented Zui Quan master that taught a particular style (the Ma family) of Zui Quan all the way up in Brittish Columbia, Canada. That master was none other than Sifu Neil Ripski. I kept consuming his content and training some forms he showed in his videos until I did my research from his channel (which you can find right here) and to my excitement he was open to accepting new students!


I communicated with Sifu Neil via email back and forth for a month until I got an invitation letter to attend his Kung Fu camp, at the time Mexican citizens still required a visa to enter Canada, so I went through the proper channels to get it. Some weeks later I was on my way to Red Jade Martial Arts, to train in something I had been looking forward to for a while.


Getting to Red Jade


Creston is more of a town than a city, at least where I was is, connecting to it with a flight from Mexico City proved tough. I had to fly from Mexico to Detroit, Detroit to Calgary and then Calgary to Creston Regional Airport. Once in the airport I got picked up by Chris, a senior student of Sifu Neil. After a drive of two hours or so we arrived at Red Jade.

I can still remember my feelings when I entered: excitement, nervousness and fear. I came inside and some disciples were already training whilst Sifu Neil was giving them some instructions, I put down my backpack, shook Sifu's hand, and he offered me a cup of tea to which I accepted. We talked for a while about Mexico, my training and what previous knowledge I had about Martial Arts.


That same day I started my training, at the time I didn't know this but this camp, this experience, it would completely change my life.


Let the Training Begin


Our lessons took place inside the "dojo" where we were also sleeping. Training was on a strict schedule, every morning we would wake up, warm up and prepare for the day. Sifu would arrive and training started, he would give us forms or exercises, and we would try our best as well as help each other out where possible. After a couple of hours we would go out for breakfast and then come back to finish training, some exercises changed then we would go into soft sparing.


I want to point out that every disciple had a special training schedule depending on what we needed or wanted to learn. My friend Clyde would train pole and Crane style, Warren did Wing Chun and butterfly knives, David was a master of Monkey style, Lorna was great with the close self-defense, and in my case: Zui Quan form one every day. It sounds like something common to do but martial arts today are more like an industrial line where everyone learns the same with no regard if they need it or even if they learned it correctly.


Any who, the afternoons we were free to explore Creston and honestly, it's a sight to behold specially if you're a person that enjoys nature. There's an enormous forest around the whole town and a wild river in the middle of it. In Mexico, we hear about Canada as this huge forest nation covered in snow and maple syrup and while I was there on summer and I don't particularly like maple syrup the forest part was absolutely correct. The sheer beauty of Creston's surrounding nature makes it worth a while for a fun camping trip.


Lessons that will follow me The Rest of my Life


It might sound like a "fun summer camp activity" but in reality my time in Red Jade changed everything, it pushed me forward on the path for immigration. The love and camaraderie I felt from Kevin, Warren, David, Chris, Lorna, Sifu Neil are the real reason I choose Canada to be my home. I wasn't "just trained" by Sifiu Neil I was also heard when I had a problem to share, taught about life, given advice, overall I felt accepted.


I went to use this knowledge poorly I must confess, finding fights and conflict everywhere, in time it was that same knowledge which took me back to the path of peace. If you are a Martial Arts enthusiast then you need to go up to Red Jade and experience the Kung Fu summer camp by yourself. I can't promise it would be a "coming of age" experience such as mine but the knowledge will be worth it. This trip started a whole tendency for me, to keep traveling to different locations in order to train and learn different disciplines and languages.


From the Bottom of my Heart


I can't thank Sifu Neil and Red Jade enough, at some point I shared my goal of immigration to Canada with Sifu Neil, he wrote me a letter vouching for me to become a landed immigrant in his country. This is one of the best moments in my life, I keep that document with me to the date as it shows me that acceptance comes when you are decent and truthful. More than this, the family sentiment I got is still strong in me, I'm sure if I were to visit after this pandemic I would be welcomed with the same open arms.


To this I can only say thank you, thank you for everything. I will like to dedicate this words directly from the heart to my kung fu brother David who passed away some years ago. May you rest in peace brother, thank you.



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