High up in the mountains of China lies a place called Shaolin Si – a small village where monks invented Kung Fu. The village is full of thousands of kids, aged from about 5 to 23 practising in their various kung fu schools. All of them are in their specific schools colours. It was a mesmerising walk around the village, watching some of the things that these guys were able to do with their bodies! I stupi.jpgdly enrolled at apparently the original and most established kung fu school in the village. There were apparently 13,000 students at ‘our’ school, including me.
I awoke on my first day at 5.15am (very hard) in order to meet with the ‘coach’, who was basically a meaner version of sensai out of karate kid! We commenced our running at 5.30am, then did our stretching and basic moves in front of the actual Shaolin temple. We then retired back to the school at 7am in order to have some delicious watery rice porridge. I was almost sick! Disgusting. After resting until 8.30am, they went to work on us again in the ‘training room’. Stretching in ways I didn’t think were possible for my Western body, I was sure my groin was never to be the same, and I swear I heard something snappi.jpgng on a number of occasions!!
I learnt various kung fu stances – basically the real beginners stuff. We did that all through until lunch at 12. Then in the afternoon, we did some boxing until 5.30pm. That was day one over with and boy did I know it! I left our coach, hearing him say ‘we work you harder tomorrow!’. I don’t think we slept very well that night through pure fear!
The next day I woke up and went on a longer run at 5.30am. We did pretty similar training in the morning as we had done the day before. In the afternoon we learnt how to cope in a one on one situation. That was really good! The coach was just awesome. He could kill a man with his little finger. I now know various death grips etc, but he wouldn’t show us how to rip a mans beating heart out of his chest!! (had to ask!) He did however let the group loose on some weapons as a special treat at the end of the afternoon.
When I woke up and wobbled out of bed on the third day, I realised my body had never ached like that before. I felt as though a group of at least 30 rugby players had jumped on me and just kicked me solidly for an hour! I was a broken man after just two full days.
I had seen some incredible sights – things that really do defy what we believe the human body to be capable of. Two days was enough for me. The kids there are doing that routine and more day in, day out. They even practice in their lunch hour. The reality is that for a select few, it may just lead to fame and relative fortune. For the rest, I’m not so sure. I hope it brings them something.
The Shaolin monks are currently touring the UK (update: expired).