Last year ( 25th April 2017) I made a very spontaneous decision, to follow my passion of martial arts and head to the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu – The Shaolin Temple. Located in the Song Mountains of the Henan Province, Dengfeng City. Growing up I was obsessed with Bruce Lee, I watched all of his films and read his book The Tao of JEET KUNE DO. This was what sparked my love for martial arts.
I Began Studying Wing Tsun Kung Fu a couple of years ago, reaching up to 1st Technician. After learning a lot about the history and culture of Kung Fu, I decided to trace back to the roots of where Wing Tsun Started. It was a refined system put together using a mixture of different Kung fu Styles. After searching the internet I found a place (http://kungfushaolins.com/original-shaolin-temple/) which allowed international students to go to the Shaolin Temple and study Traditional Kung Fu with real Shoalin Monks! So I booked my place, sorted a Visa and hopped on a flight to China.
After a Long Journey I arrived at the Temple at about 1 o’clock in the morning and was told by my Shifu that training would start at 5:30 that morning. It was then that I knew it was going to be an interesting experience.
Having only had 4 hours sleep I woke up the next morning not really knowing where I was or what to expect. The other students there were very helpful and friendly with filling me in as the day went on. I was glad to start the morning with Tai Chi and then breakfast to help re energise and get me going.
As someone who loves food and is vegan I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard many stories about the food in China not being great, and being in the middle of no where I didn’t have any high expectations. But that couldn’t of been further from the truth. Most of the monks are vegetarian so catering for vegans was not difficult. The food was Great! And is based around the Yin and Yang principles making sure the students get enough of the right nutrients to support the lengthy days of training.
My Breakfast, lunch and dinner would usually look something like this:
- Bean Milk (Don’t be Put off by the name its basically the same as soy milk but a lot more authentic then what we drink out of a carton.) I would often add oats that I bought from closest town to make porridge.
- A mixture of Chopped carrot and cucumber. (Random I know but what usually satisfying first thing in the morning.)
- Fried Bread (another traditional chinese bread. Although I avoided this most times as I’m not a fan of very oily foods.)
- Sticky Purple Rice – Or White Rice (This would sometime be leftovers from dinner the night before or made specifically for people with gluten intolerance) You need serious carbs when your training around 8
Hours a day!)
- More Rice!
- Tofu and vegetables
- Glass noodles
- Stir Fried Veg
- Lentil/Bean Soup/Broth
- Dinner wouldn’t vary that much from lunch but it would be different.
A lot of it might not sound great but the ways which it was all cooked it was full of flavour and you really appreciate it after training for long periods of time. You could also buy fruit such as bananas, apples and watermelons across the streets which was always nice.
Anyway onto the training. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, and if it was, I don’t feel I would of benefited from it that much. Kung Fu does mean hard work after all! A day of training would usually look like this:
6am – 7am Qigong/Tai Chi
7 – 8:30 Breakfast
8:30 – 12 Forms/ Weapons Training
12 – 2:30 Lunch/Rest
2:30 – 6 Strength & conditioning / Sparring / Forms etc..
6 – 10 Dinner/rest/explore/practice etc..
They were long days of training in 30 degree heat but I learned a lot within the 2 weeks I was there!
I managed to learn 2 of the basic empty hand forms ( Wu Bu Quan and Tong Bei Quan.) I also learned 24 Yang style Tai Ji Quan form, Sanda (Chinese Boxing), Qi Gong and picked up a few other things from the general training. We didn’t train on the weekends so it allowed time to rest, explore and soak up the whole experience.
We were surrounded by mountains to explore, Including the late Da’Mo’s cave. Which was one of the highlights of my experience. There was also the incredible pagoda forest and not to forget the Shaolin Temple itself. Spending a lot of the time training and living with other students was great and after being there for a week its basically like a Kung Fu family. Nothing was too serious, even when we trained there was always people smiling and having a laugh which made the experience all the more worth while.
I could go on and on in more detail about the trip as there was so much too it! But this blog post would never end. I also travelled on to explore Australia, but thats a whole other blog post. My only advice would be to go and experience it for yourself! Its a truly unforgettable experience and I know I will be heading back there very soon!