Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: Thanks for meeting me today Neil Genge , tell us how you first got into martial arts.
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: I started with Karate with my brother when I was 13 and I carried on with that for quite a while, I only got to purple and white belt and I was just about to take my brown and they did a Lau Gar demo in town and that was it, I was hooked then and did both Karate and Kung Fu for about 2 years. Then I found I couldn’t really do the two properly, you’d get the stances mixed up, so I stuck with the Lau Gar.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: And who did you train with then?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Andy Nation and John Russell
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: And they are both still going?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: John Russell is the master of Lau Gar now, Jeremy Yau has handed it over to him so he’s the top boy.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: So can you tell us some of the styles you’ve trained in over the years?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Oh, I’ve done everything. bit of Ju Jitsu, Karate, Savate, , Jeet Kune Do, different styles of Wing Chun, seven star praying mantis, Ba Gua, Hsing-I, Tai Chi everything,
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: And when did you get into Shaolin?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: On the first trip, when China was first opened to Westerners in 1989, there was the first tour for martial artists. So I went with a group lead by Derek Pearson, a seven star praying mantis instructor. We were the first group, bunch of different martial artist, all Chinese styles and to train at the shaolin temple.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: What was China like then?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Completely unbelievable. Everyone was wearing green army uniforms, they’d never seen westerners before. We were the first, you know, the first ones there. People were running up to us, touching us, running away, screaming, running in different directions, it was like we were aliens.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: And how has it changed now, you’ve been going each year.
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Yep, been going every year. It’s completely changed now, it’s basically modernised. Everyone has an iPhone and they’ve got a lot of money. Mainland Chinese people now have a lot of money. Very wealthy, before they were living in caves in Shaolin, dug into the side of the hill with the cattle and their family, cooking on a stone fire. Basically like cavemen, but now things have moved on.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: You’ve taught a lot of people over the years. Have you trained anyone famous?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Quite a few ballet dancers, newsreaders, journalists, Jonny Depp, I taught him yoga, that was a good experience.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: Any good stories about any injuries you’ve had over the years.
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve never broke a bone. Never. The worst I’ve ever done is stuck a Rope Dart in my head, which really hurt. But that’s about it I’ve been very lucky.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: Do you think, that’s why you’ve been able to train this long.
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: I been very cautious, you see people who do full contact and do this and do that, I want to be teaching until I’m dead so I’m very cautious, I do train hard, but I am cautious, if something looks absolutely stupid and it’s going to wreck my knees, for example I won’t do it. I looked after my body.
Oh going back to injuries, the worst thing I ever did probably was when I was training with a fully edged knife, proper commando dagger, real sharp one and I managed to catch it in my Kung Fu trousers and stuck it through the artery in my leg. So I had to go to hospital in my full Kung Fu uniform, this was years ago when I was doing Lau Gar, with my thumb stuck in the hole. The nurse said if it had been another 2mm, I would have passed out completely and the artery burst completely and probably died. That’s probably the most stupid thing I’ve done.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: So you didn’t train with that knife again then?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: No, it just shows that you have to be very cautious and show respect.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: So you were the first UK disciple of Shaolin?
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Yes, I was the first English disciple of Shaolin, under Shi Su Xi, who’s dead now, grandmaster, so I was the first English person to be a disciple under him. But also the first person to teach Shaolin in England
I was teaching Lau Gar at the time, so I had to make a break. I just wanted to teach the Shaolin. I went back another 5 years and I was given permission to teach properly, given a booklet saying I can teach and I was a member of the Shaolin Boxers Association, life member, so you had to be a teacher to be put on the list. They wanted to promote Shaolin that early on, so they said go ahead , as long as you come back each year and train , get out there and try and promote Shaolin, try and make it bigger.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: Your still teaching in Bristol now, can you tell us times and location.
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Yes, We’re teaching at Bristol Hawks Gymnastics, our Shaolin Academy. We teach on Monday evenings 7.30 onwards, we do yoga before that. Thursdays from 7 to 8.30. Fridays 7.30 till 9 Saturday afternoons from 2.30 till 6.
Doug Swift Loves Kung Fu: Thanks you very much and see you soon
Neil Genge Shaolin Teacher: Thanks Doug
View the Bristol Shaolin Wu Shu Academy Website for all the training times and information