A friend of mine was living and training in Shaolin Temple China for quite some time, so I thought I’d piggy back on his trip and do a week of training myself.
My main worry was whether my back could take it, I was fairly soon out of a back operation and didn’t want any relapses or injuries. Still the opportunity for some good Kung Fu training was there and I went for it. I did my research and found some forms that I could physically cope with and of I went. My Chinese has now promoted itself from awful to average so was pretty confident I could explain my back issue if needs be and what I can and can’t do.
It was lovely to be back and after a 18 hour journey and about 800 miles, I was pretty whacked but excited. I met my buddy and he took me shopping for robes. IT never makes sense to take that much stuff with yo as everything you can buy when you get there. Especially weapons if you’re using them.
Just being in Shaolin Temple China is a great experience, everyone’s pretty chilled out and people take it very easy and carefully around the intensive training. Many people have a good few hours sleep in the days and you’ll see people having a cheeky nap in between sessions. We arranged some lessons for the week and I was all set up.
Being a westerner that’s just turned up, you don’t train with everybody else. Instead you get a monk to yourself who teaches you what you asked for. I think if you go for several years it’s different. A week isn’t much time to learn, so you tend to do just one form in that time. Also I was taking it pretty easy, and making sure my back could handle it. I had a bit of a stand off with my teacher when he insisted I run up and down the hill, which is a paved road. One thing my surgeon said, was no running, especially in anything but running shoes. I did my best to explain but it went back and forth. Basically him saying, “everybody runs, you run” and my saying “I’m not ruining my back to run up that hill when my Doctor told me not to run” After about 5 minutes the foreign liaison guy walked past and bailed me out. After that the lessons were a bit frosty. Apart from that slight issue the trip was amazing and just being the Shaolin Temple China was amazing and to be training out the back around all the other monks and foreigners was something I’ll never forget.
What was clear is that the focus is on performance Kung Fu, so me coming in asking for the softer side of Shaolin is probably not that common. They all know the forms but the main emphasis isn’t on those softer depths. Having said that, all the monks practice Qi Gong every day and the Shaolin Temple China has a dedicated area just for medicine inducing a full herbal dispensary. Very cool.
It was over very quick and I’m missing it already, I can’t wait to go back and in the mean time I’ll practice what I learnt and hopefully be slightly fitter, stronger and less injured next time.