As always it was super last minute, Neil, my Uk Shaolin teacher, had arranged lessons with Shi Yan Ao at the Shaolin Temple for both of us and it was an opportunity not to be missed. I had wanted to train with Shi Yan Ao for ages and the last time we came to Shaolin he had been on a trip teaching in Germany. We had been promised next time we came we could train with him. So this was it, all confirmed and off we went.
Neil was flying out to Malaysia to meet me and then we’d fly together to Shaolin. An easy journey, this time flying straight into Zhengzhou airport and a taxi pick up straight to the temple. Why didn’t I do this before! So easy. A nice hotel this time, clean, not smelly and all feeling very familiar and we got ready for a week of training.
We met Shi Yan Ao the next day for our first lesson and he seemed pretty happy my Chinese wasn’t too bad. Makes it easier for him I guess. Someone to chat to in the breaks. Me and Neil are not really up for getting a hammering, we just like sensible training, nice steady pace and no risks of snapping anything. This is exactly what we got. We worked hard though. Shi Yan Ao set us to work on Xiao Pao Quan, a form I have seen others doing and we knew it was one he taught. It’s got a super traditional feel and suits me very well. As in my back can handle it.
We trained in one of the temple courtyards, called CiYunTang, which is the one full of the Stone Steeles. Some dating back to the Tang Dynasty. It’s a pretty special place and even being there without the Kung Fu is amazing. Tourists don’t tend to find it that often so you get to train, in the day, inside the temple, without being bothered that much. Shi Yan Ao had to shoo quite a few away though, now and again.
We were into the rhythm of the week from the get go, two sessions per day, interspersed
with eating, sleeping and walking to and from the temple. The steady training pace meant my body didn’t fall apart but I still ached most of the time. One morning Neil appeared looking like death, white as a sheet and not up for training at all. He’d eating something dodgy and it took him out for the whole day. He was fine the day after though and quickly caught up with the bits he had missed.
Shi Yan Ao pretty much kept himself to himself, talked a bit about the Kung Fu style he taught and some of his other students, some who I knew already. Asked a lot of questions about me and Neil and was generally quite chatty and friendly. Still there was no hanging around at the end of class, times up, done!
As quickly as it started it was over, we both had a new form to practice, my legs needed a break and it was time to head home. Back in the taxi, back on the plane and a great week of Kung Fu.