Andrew at the Shaolin Temple…

Ni Hao again my friends,

I made it through the week! The training is awesome here, but VERY different from what I’m used to. What’s really astounding is the training they give to foreigners is nothing compared to that which they give the Chinese born here, or the “Shao Lin Kids” as we call them here. These children are incredibly adorable, and incredibly deadly! The youngest one here is seven years old, and I’m pretty sure he could take me in a fight. Pretty embarassing. But, I guess that’s what you get when training kung-fu is all you’ve known your whole life.Speaking of training your whole life, the teachers here seem to have done nothing else in life. There are four of them.They are:“Shao Lin” Shifu – He is about 23 or 21 (the chinese have a different calendar than us, so he has TWO ages! I guess everyone here does). During training he is as stern as a drill sargeant, but outside he is what we would call a “big softie”. “Shao Lin” is not his real name, but it is the style of kung-fu he teaches here. Most notable about Shao Lin Kung Fu is it’s emphasis on flexibility, speed/reflexes, and acrobatics. Shao Lin Shifu can easily leap 6feet in the air, deliver 3 kicks, and land like a feather.Jong Shifu – He is the same ages as Shao Lin Shifu. The only person more stern than Shao lin Shifu is Jong Shifu. He once beat one of the students with a stick until it broke! (Beating is common for the undisciplined, and like signs all over the academy say “follow the rules, this is not home, this is China!”) He teaches San Da (spelling?). San Da is Chinese Kickboxing, and it’s emphasis is on self-defense, and beating the crap out of each other. Having said all that, I don’t think Jong Shifu can stop laughing outside of training. he especially likes being picked up by the foriegn students and tossed through the air over-and-over again. He giggles like a schoolgirl as his 98pound body flies through the air and lands on the mats.“Baji” Shifu – He is a grumpy old man as far as I can tell, but I don’t know him too well. Baji is a style of Kung Fu that emphasizes smashing through your opponent. It involves a lot of shoulder charges, low blows, dirty tricks, body blows, and “rooting” your feet so you can smash through things. It is a very cool art form with lots of stomping of the feet! Once again, I don’t know too much about Baji Shifu, but he also teaches Chi Kung (standing meditation), and when he does that he becomes SO peaceful looking. The only time I see him with a nice expression. I’m sure he’s nice if you get to know him though.Wong-Shin Shifu- My teacher! I mentioned him in my last post, so I won’t talk too much about him. He teaches Tai Chi, and is proficient in dozens of different forms (of Kung-Fu), and knows 10 different weapon forms. What’s more, he is a student of the former Tai Chi Shifu here at the academy. I can only imagine the power his Master must have.I don’t really have any complaints about the training at all, and I guess the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is to stop fearing pain. I thought I was pretty tough, with a good tolerance for pain before I got here. I now realize how much more pain I can learn to bare. I think this lesson translates well into all aspects of life, too. The more I stretch the more it hurts, but the more I bare it the more my muscle grows, and the less it hurts the next time. what’s the point of baring pain at all though? Why not just avoid it? Well, you can if you want to, but I tried that once, and I eventually realized that there is no point to life without growth, and growth means change, and change (almost always) causes pain.Well, I’ve written a lot as usual, but perhaps knowing a bit about the teachers gives you an idea of what it’s like here.In one week, training about 7hours a day, I’ve learned about 16 out of 82 moves for my Tai Chi form. When I’m not being stretched, or working-out, I’m doing those 16moves over and over and over again, and the teacher won’t show us anymore until he feels we’re ready. It’s so different than how we train in Toronto.My favourite part of training: Learning the applications of the various Tai Chi movesThe worst part of training: Power-stretching!What is power-stretching exactly? It’s when your Shifu (teacher, remember yet?) “helps” you stretch your limbs FAR beyond what they are capable of on their own. During power-stretching it is not uncommon to hear screaming, yelling, and of course begging. Even I fell victim to screaming like a girl. I’m quickly learning how to keep my mouth shut during the session though, because the teacher really seems to like it when you make a noise. And, that is NOT a good thing.Well, that’s all for now. I’ll write again soon. Maybe next time I can post some pictures of the beautiful landscape. Or, I’ll tell you about the delicious roast duck I ate, and make you all jealous.Hope everyone is well back home in Toronto, or wherever you’re reading this from!