The first time to go to travel to Shaolin Temple last year was a little disappointing. Tourists everywhere, I didn’t see any Kung Fu at all. Every other person wanting their picture with you, as the face of a westerner is still rare for many Chinese. It was all a little fake and just felt like something that used to be special. The magic felt like it had been sucked out of it.
I actually wasn’t rushing to get back there, however I had a reason to go as two friends were visiting both massively into martial arts. One an old Ju Jitsu buddy who nows trains in Hsing-I, who was on a holiday visiting us. The other my old Kung Fu instructor, Neil Genge, who was doing his yearly pilgrimage trip to Shaolin temple for a few weeks of training.
I also had another friend of mine who was already there, training for the last few months on a 3 month trip. So off we travel to Shaolin temple for only two days training actually in the grounds. It’s a twelve hour train followed by a 2 hour bus, so it’s not a short journey, however it’s made much easier by the sleeper trains, which I love.
We arrived in Zhengzhou at 3.50am and looked at getting a bus. There first didn’t leave till 7am. We got offered a sensible price for a taxi there so we chipped in a got a taxi there. Easy!
The last time I travel to Shaolin Temple
I stayed outside of the ‘zone’ but this time learnt from my mistake a booked a room in the ‘Shaolin Village’. A place where the tourists aren’t. It’s pretty rough and ready. We arrived in the pitch black and hung around for the sun to come up. Before that though bells were going off everywhere and kids in robe started appearing from everywhere. They all started warming up, practicing and few having gentle fights and mostly jogging around.
What was this place, I didn’t see any of this last time, and for good reason I guess. Chinese tourist would go crazy if they were here. There’d be no space to train in. We finally booked into our hotel and popped in to Deng Feng, the local town to buy supplies to send back to the shop. It will take a while to arrive but watch this space lots of lovely Shaolin stuff arriving soon, including the wax wood staffs that are so hard to get these days.
Having met up with my friend Charlie, who’d been there a while, we had two days of getting taken round all the back parts of the temple. Neil Genge having been there in the 80’s told us all about how things used to be and the changes over the years. We ate great food, saw so much and even fitted in a little bit of training. It was an amazing time, so different from the tourist tour.
I caught the bug, I’m back next month doing a full week of training and hoping it’ll be a similar experience. I’ll write when I’m back.