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Published: June 16th 2011
To achieve perfection, one has to be one with mind and body. There has to be a perfect balance between what is natural, and what appears to be supranatural...a whole level beyond super-natural.
...that, or a good start toward that would be to take a trip to China and start learning Kung Fu from a group of 34th Generation Shaolin Monks in Qufu!
In the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you'll welcome the sunrise with some Tai Chi, aimed to increase and maintain flexibilty, bring balance, and generaly is a good way to wake those muscles up from a hard nights sleeping. And i mean hard. Those beds are something else.
After an hour of that, you'd have some healthy breakfast and off to clean the rooms for inspection (twice a week). Then the students will line up and start the day's training in earnest with a couple of warm up laps around the lake, and some gentle stretching. After a few more minutes of more warm up exercises you'll find yourself doing a number of things. More often than not, you'll put that stretching into good use by practicing Shaolin Basics. Kicks, punches, sweeps and Fist Forms. The latter
Tai Chi in the mornings
The early bird and all of that
being a combination of stances and strikes, developed to look as you're fighting an invisible enemy, making you more accustomed to the eventuality of the real thing actually happening!
In this session is where you'll train in Traditional Shaolin Weapons such as the Staff, Broad and Long Swords, Chain Whip, Spear etc.
On quieter mornings you'll find yourself doing some Qi Kung, a combination of movements not designed for fighting, but for calming the mind and increasing vitality, if done properly and for thousands of times over many years.
In less than quieter sessions, you'll find yourself attacking trees with your bare hands, the floor with your head, or in fact eachother, in a Conditioning session aimed to accustom the student to the physical repercussions of landing or taking a strike. (otherwise known as pain!) It will also make your skin hard enough to achieve amazing feats such as breaking a brick or three!
Other sessions can be training for Jumps and Rolls (acrobatics), Take downs and Wing Chun, a seemingly boring art to the untrained eye, but quite devestating in its use.
By this time you'll have had at least two training sessions and it's half eleven,
Cleaning the room
"Quick! It's five to 8!!!!"
so time for some rest and lunch at twelve at the call of the whistle, and relaxation until 15:00 where the fun and games begin again.
So some combination of all the above ensues, mixed in with some Power Training on Thursdays and Power stretching on Fridays. Power being the key word. You reach you limits during the warm up section, then you start training for real until you go numb, then you realise you survived another week and all is good.
Of course it's not all fun and games, there's a lot of time for some serious socialising, hard relaxation and deep and meaningful conversations in the marshes behind the school, in each other's rooms, the steps of the school, or in fact in the city of Qufu, where the socialising HQ is situated at the International Youth Hostel. In fact it is there where various birthdays and leaving Do's where celebrated... Or lacking a special occasion, it's where you might get some internet time, and a soft sofa and a cold drink!
It's a combination of every single thing mentioned in the above that makes this place so special to the traveller. It's the hard training,
Minutes before training starts
the learning of something so special from special people, alongside some very special people indeed. The memories and the friendships created there are indelible. If you are open enough, you can make so many connections with yourself, your teachers and most importantly the fellow students who you share so much of your time and your experiences.
And that's why, despite the occasional pain, exhaustion, blood sweat and tears and tests, the hardest thing I had to accomplish was actually leaving that place, my Master and my new brothers and sisters.
Can't wait to see each and every one of you again!
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