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Destined to Diabolo

Taiwan is the central hub of everything Gong Qun. As part of my trip to Taiwan, I joined Zong Gan Junior School’s diabolo camp in Taipei County. The camp was led by two amazing Gong Qun coaches, who significantly boosted my skills.

The day that I set off for my first diabolo session, I was excited. I had already attended a one-week session prior to this current trip. I had seen what it was like, and (regrettably) I saw that all the children half my age had twice my skill. However, due to the attainment of my two-diabolo skills (among other things), I was once again ready to humbly face against the skill of the children. Of course, this trip was still similar to my last trip in that payments for the camp courses must be made in order to fully enjoy them.

Zong Gan offers and hosts many day camps that keep the students mentally and physically fit over the course of summer break. With cheap prices starting from about ten dollars (Canadian), the students can enjoy one week of lessons for their selected activities. There were choices like piano camp, Chinese table-harp camp, and diabolo camp. For students like me who wished to be in the camp for two weeks, a double amount of payment was required. Regardless of the double payment, it was relatively cheap. To top it all off, there were excellent coaches teaching the courses.

The two awesome coaches

The two awesome coaches

Upon arriving at the courtyard of the school, you could already see the blur of colours flying up and down to indicate the acceleration of many Gong Quns. Surprisingly though, there were not as many ‘pro’ kids there as the last time I went. Of course, that could only mean they’ve moved up to the level of ‘School Team’.

Yeah, they're all doing Chinese acceleration

Yeah, they're all doing Chinese acceleration

At the beginning of each school term, the diabolo coaches exclusive to their own schools hand-pick the most outstanding diabolist children to join among the ranks of the ‘School Team’. Once the children have made it into the team, they are put into a frequent training schedule, equivalent to the amount of training a school sports team receives. As if that wasn’t hardcore enough, the top members of the ‘School Team’ get to compete in nation-wide competitions. It was in this way that the majority of recent Taiwanese diabolists were made.

After a couple minutes of waiting, the coaches arrived on their mopeds. On their first day, they wore “I [heart] Diabolo” MHD black t-shirts, which was interesting because that emphasized the fact that they were hired professional instructors dedicated to teaching diabolo. Hauled along with them were two huge bags of new ’shiny’ (version two) Taibolo diabolos and a lot of spare wooden sticks. After taking attendance, they immediately began to separate the big gathering of kids (including me) into two groups: the first group was the beginner’s group, and the second was the group that have had previous experience of diaboloing, but still needed practise. I, of course, was isolated — not really a ‘group’ of my own. That was due to the fact that Huang, one of the hired coaches, had already had me as her student before, and she knew that I had steadily grown in skill over the years. However, not wanting to miss a thing, I told her I knew nothing of the most basic tricks, like leg orbit combos and such. Hearing that, coach Huang immediately asked me to demonstrate how much I DID know. My humble performance to her consisted of tosses, single-handed leg-orbits, followed by a suicide out, and a bit of other basic one diabolo tricks. It was at that point coach Huang knew what I had to work on: leg orbit combos.

Who wouldn't?

Who wouldn't?

Taiwanese diabolo, with its vast potential brought out by recent popular diabolists like William Ling, isn’t without its own basic sets of tricks. At the start of the camp each participant would receive their own list of tricks that must be known off the top of their heads, beginning from ‘beginner’s’ tricks to ‘intermediate’ and finally ‘hard’. It was in this way that the two aforementioned groups were formed. When a student has reached the ‘hard’ level they were eligible to be a potential “School Team” member. The leg-orbit combos that coach Huang decided to teach me laid in between the ‘easy’ and ‘intermediate’ levels.

A couple of painful yet rewarding practice reps later, I became quite proficient at the combos. I later found out that the combos that I was taught were used by Zong Gang and MHD – a group of professional diabolists – as leg orbit combo standards. In other words, the combos that I learned were basic leg orbit forms that consisted of all the basic leg orbit variations. As an analogy, learning those basic leg orbit combos were like learning your basic mathematical operators before learning algebra.

After that, all the time at the camp seemed to just melt away; day after day I toiled at the tricks I had assigned to myself to complete for the day, in the two-hour time span. Every day I arrived at 9:30 and left long after camp was over, so as to get the most out of everything that I’ve learned. This does not mean I did not have time to flaunt my skill either. As the kids (and coaches) watched in awe, I semi-successfully pulled off a fan and right side sun. Upon seeing that, a little kid from the School Team decided to diabolo with me and flaunt HIS perfect fan and sprinkler to me. Of course, I was more in awe at the sprinkler than the kids were at my two diabolo skills. That helped drive my ambition even further. As the days were slowly siphoned away with my sweat and bottled water, I came to learn not just leg orbit combos, but also arm orbit combos and the long-awaited unwrapped infinite suicide. Unfortunately, I did not have time to fit the genocides nor the vertax genocides into my training schedule; my two weeks were up.

Unable to cope with the absence of the coaches’ guidance, I asked them whether they had any more classes to teach in the following weeks. It turned out that they did have two more weeks to teach, and on top of that, the week after they finish teaching the camp they would start with the School Team’s training. Thus, even if it was only once a week, I tried to go to those remaining sessions as much as possible. My chances to soak up the last of the knowledge my coaches held were not much, and I took advantage of their teachings as much as I could.

After the long wait of the rest of the two weeks, the School Team’s training had finally started. As I stood aside and watched their training, I was amazed at what I saw…

To be continued in Part II.