Winter in Shaolin Temple, Henan Province

winter in shaolin templeWe set off from Shanghai and got the bullet train to Zhengzhou, from there it was a 2 hour bus to Shaolin. It was freezing, much colder than Shanghai and there was plenty of snow and ice around. This hadn’t stopped the tourists and the place was packed. We managed to do the usual tourist spots and look around the temple, visit the stamping room (the room where the years of monks stamping their feet had created dents in the stone floor) and hiked up to Damo’s cave. the highlight for me was hiking up to SongShan Temple on the other side of the valley. It was brutal in the cold and icy underfoot. Around every corner was a Chinese lady in heels so I did my best not complain.

Rather than training this time I was on a rush trip to buy stock for my Martial Arts shop back in the UK. So after the temple we popped into the town and found a shop that had all the things I needed. I got chatting to the owner. “Do you do martial arts?” I ask in my best Chinese. “Not anymore, I’m too fat now.” he replies happily “but i used to do 20 years of San Da [Chinese kickboxing].” Right, okay, I better stop trying to haggle this guy for a better price on the swords I’m trying to buy from him. “Where did you train?” I ask ” Here, right here in Dengfeng [Shaolin].”

DengFeng is the hub for all Shaolin Kung Fu, one massive road lined with gated compounds filled with huge apartment blocks and flat concrete grounds for Kung Fu practice. Thousands upon thousands of people training in Kung Fu, this is the place to be for Chinese martial arts. You want to get good, this is the place to be, but the training is brutal. Early starts, long hours, the injury rate must be massive. Good cardio is the key and you see the little monks running up and down steps, up and down mountains, sweating buckets in 0 degrees temperatures. This is not for wimps. So when this guy tells me he trained for 20 years in a fighting style, I’ll guess he was pretty good.

Stock bought, visit over, it’s back to Shanghai and looking forward to the next trip, hopefully it’ll be for longer next time and more Kung Fu

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