Odyssey Bali 2018. The Joy of Mud Wrestling

During ‘Week without Walls’ in February 2018 a group of our secondary students made the long journey across the Indian Ocean to the island of Bali on a trip of a lifetime.  This adventure, which was designed and led by Mr. Brooker, was developed to truly engage in what it means to be a Global Citizen.  During their week-long stay they immersed themselves in the indigenous culture of this Indonesian paradise renowned for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, pristine beaches and coral reefs.

However – make no mistake – this was not a relaxing holiday but an epic journey where they truly became Global Citizens in the spirit of the IB Curriculum.  In pursuit of a common goal of greater good they engaged in sustainable service, took action to preserve the environment, and developed cultural awareness and a sensitivity to the challenges that indigenous inhabitants face.

In a series of articles we will be covering their many adventures  . . . .

Today’s blog post has been written by Madysun Dobbs, 10A

Odyssey Bali 2018 was an experience both me and everyone who went will probably never forget.  For a lot of us it was our first international trip away from home, but we managed to make a home out of the people we met and places we saw – and we were treated as such.  The moment we stepped outside the airport in Bali, we were greeted by the fresh air – 26oC – it was drizzling rain and the humidity stuck to our skins.  We were greeted by our first instructor who was immediately kind to us.  On the bus, our experience began; we travelled from Denpasar up to Ubud.  The bus ride was filled with quiet chatter and us sleeping – we missed some of the great views there, but what followed was just as beautiful.  FOOD AND ROOMS!  We were exhausted from the flights and all we wanted was to rest, but not a moment of time was wasted when we arrived.


The morning with the Puppet Maker, though calm and relaxed, exhausted us.  We all just wanted to rest, but what came next for us will be the greatest memory I will take back. We arrived at Mepantigan, home of the Indonesian martial art, Mud-Wrestling.  The moment we entered our training grounds and walked across the bamboo bridge over the flowing river beneath, my heart and skin felt warm, like home, though I’d never been here before.  And I was right to feel that way.  We sat around a dirt open space waiting to be greeted by our ‘hosts’ but we never anticipated our greeting to be as spectacular as it was.  Men dressed in tree leaves, wearing white masks that covered their whole face appeared.  They drummed and sang a similar beat we had heard when we were at the Puppet Theatre, and they jumped and danced, as the drapes wrapped around their heads flowed with the wind and their movement.  A single man came around, asking us to copy his bizarre but brilliant rousal; he growled at us, sticking tongue out, challenging us. Then we were greeted with the people we would be fighting, and they treated like family, like we were home.  They wore, tied around their waist, a piece of fabric-cloth, checked with white, red and black, it hung loosely.  It was one of their symbols, and one we’d all wear, unifying us in the art we dove into.  We all gathered in lines, at another dirt pit, our newly added teachers stood in front of us, all of us barefoot, I could feel the dirt under my feet, and the red ants crawling on my feet, but I didn’t feel worried for their bites this time for some reason.  I could feel everyone’s spirit rising, as we learnt this adroitness.

We were taught the moves, where not to hit, how to enjoy and respect the fight between you and your opponent.  And we chanted the words ‘Sing Kenken, Cang Katos’ as a whole, meaning ‘No Worries, I Am Strong’.  We danced around our opponents, mocking them, but having fun.  We kicked and punched at the hitting gloves our instructors offered us randomly.  And some of us were called up to demonstrate our personal skills in front of everyone.  I was one who was called up.  I’m generally a shy person, I don’t like standing out or going beyond what I was comfortable with, but, on this day, my comfort zone expanding, and I had no hesitation walking up.  I jumped over one of the instructor’s heads with might, and prepared myself to fight, on this steady ground.  I was called confident in my stride by the men and woman who taught us, and for the first time in my life, I was filled with pride.  We were painted on our face with the tree colours that were on the cloth we wore on our hips, like war-paint on a warrior, and we marched to our arena.  It was a pool of deep wet mud, unsteady like the ground we trained on.  It stained our legs when we ran and raced through it, getting our ideal foothold.  We stood in a circle, after the group of wild drummers performed their Kecak, Balinese acapella, preparing us for our matches.  Two by two we went up and fought one another, as well as the ground we stood on.  I was the last fight, and though I won, I wanted to keep fighting, have rematches, even until I lost, then try again, because for once, I felt like I was doing something right for me.  Everyone who had been fighting was calmed by a blessing of having a duck stand on their head if they wished.  Then we went to wash ourselves, but before we went to the showers, we all washed together in to river we walked over.  And everyone felt so much closer than in the morning, even between instructor, teacher, guide and student.


We were presented with dinner after we showered, and everything tasted so much better from the atmosphere.  And when everyone became fully calm again, we were gifted with our instructors preforming a fire show about man vs. demons.  And all this happened to quickly, like the day couldn’t wait to be over.  And I regret the way we said goodbye to our new friends, it was so sudden, and our thank you could have been as loud as we yelled during when we fought.  I hope that one day, I might be able to go back there and do it over again, and if I could bring the art of Mepantigan to Dubai, I would –  I’d even teach if I had to.

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