2 months in China learning Kung Fu from Shaolin monks, and then on to Japan to see my little sister!

Asia » China » Shandong » Yantai April 11th 2009

When I say that this week has been a hard one, in many ways it's been no harder training-wise than any other week. What has made this week tough is the sudden change in weather. In the UK I'm used to Spring coming on fairly gradually. Last week, it was snowing, the trees and bushes in the farmland surrounding the academy looked worryingly bare and dead and I still wore several layers to train in. Roll on this week, and we've had temperatures that rarely fell below 22 degrees C, the plant life has erupted into beautiful blossoms and greenery, and we've been absolutely sweltering. This is pretty much as hot as British summers get, and it's the first taste of Spring here. I'm kind of glad I'm not staying here for the summer. Wong Shifu ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping April 7th 2009

At the weekend two of the newer guys, Paul and Greg, decided to go to Muping by bus - which was certainly an experience (although the experience being an hour standing pressed up against chinese men and women for not much less than a taxi ride - one I don't intend to repeat). Greg had a "wonder open-eyed at the market" view of China, which I must admit I hadn't looked at since I'd arrived. Apparently, the Chinese eat chicken feet, chicken heads (you eat both whole) and skewered baby chicks (skewered whole - about 3 to a skewer) as street food. Greg tried some of the less exotic stuff on offer, though I demurred and Paul opted for what he described as a "greasy Chinese pancake", though it tasted more like pretzel bread. The weekend ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping April 3rd 2009

I must add to last week's litany of injuries a broken arm - this came from a guy doing Mantis called Tom who finished sparring last week with "my hand's hurting a bit". He then walked around all weekend and even trained on Monday before his shifu made him go to the hospital to get an X-ray - we were all very surprised and impressed with his broken arm. This guy is seriously hard. Mantis has since gained some respect from the other styles... This week we've had an influx of new people who have alternately provoked an "ah, being a newbie" response in me and "dammit, they're already better than me". I've decided that the fact that I run more slowly than anyone else in the academy (I set off first, I get back one ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 27th 2009

Week four has been a relatively uneventful one in many senses. That is to say, it's Friday and I have no major injuries and no immense pain in any part of my body to report, so it's quite unusual in that sense. My torn ligament seems to be repairing itself happily enough, and after a week of not stretching or kicking high with that leg it seems almost up to full strength again. We'll see. However, there is exciting news in the form of all the photos I've taken since being here being uploaded! I've tried to upload some videos of me doing Tombei and 5 step poorly, but it's been an hour and a half and it's not up, so I'll try again with the next blog. Monday and Tuesday saw a nice, uncomplicated couple ... read more
Forbidden City from outside
Forbidden City
Me in Forbidden City

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 21st 2009

First of all, happy birthday Hannah! Sorry I'm not around for your birthday. You'd better be reading this. Last I blogged was Wednesday, which was a lovely, sunny day in which I was very upbeat and singing a lot. A new student arrived called Antonio from Brazil - he's 16 and staying for 5 years and speaks not a word of Chinese or English. This makes communication fun, and him turning up to the Mandarin class meant that learning the Chinese for various animals turned into animal noises and drawings. We didn't learn as much as we have in the past, but damn if it wasn't the most fun. Unfortunately the weather on Thursday was appalling - it went down from 24 degrees to around 8 overnight, and it was overcast and drizzling. We started the ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 18th 2009

At the weekend a group of us headed to Yantai which I must say was great fun. We ate at a nice Japanese restaurant (the food here isn't spectacular, I often crave fresh fruit and vegetables and food that tastes different to what we have day in day out) and then went to the "cake shop" which has a good reputation at Kunyu Shan. I must say it did not disappoint; next time I go I'm taking pictures because this place was like it was out of Faye's dreams. I've decided that I need to do some training at the weekends - I haven't so far and I don't entirely regret this decision as I've needed the rest to recover. However, at this stage I'm getting fit enough so that I can manage an hour or ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 13th 2009

So this week started quite well, I got started on my first form, wasn't aching too much, and this led to me stating on Tuesday afternoon "I think I'm getting used to it". Fool that I was, of course. I'd forgotten that aches build up here, and while you may not be in pain on the Tuesday, by Friday you've had 5 days of hard training breaking down your muscles. So here we are on Friday, and I can count 11 bruises on my body, and 5 cuts on my knuckles from all the punching. Oh and it's agony for me to lift my arms above my head. There are different levels of pain here that I've never encountered before. I am used to muscular pain of course, but I'm not used to unrelenting and increasing ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 9th 2009

So I'm starting to get used to life here. The weekend was good fun, very relaxing and I am thrilled to say that I can now crouch and go down stairs without wincing in pain. I'm slightly concerned that Wong Shifu is taking it easy on me because I'm a girl, and that's not cool with me. I have no interest in half doing this stuff. If he's hitting the boys with a sword for not doing things right (seriously, he did that today, he made Shaun get into a press up position and then smacked his bottom with a sword for forgetting his form) then I want to be hit too. It's not masochism so much as wanting to show I'm capable. The good news is that my sweeps are coming along nicely - I'm ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 6th 2009

So yesterday afternoon we had power training, which consists of an unrelenting series of weight lifting, frog jumps and punching and kicking the pads for an hour and forty minutes. There was something serious in Wong Shifu's eyes when we came in, and he didn't disappoint. Even though he took it easy on myself and the other Catherine, we were still pushed hard. Frog jumps are particularly tough - we jumped what consists of maybe half a football pitch 6 times. This seems to have destroyed my quadriceps completely. So much so that when I was doing Tai Chi later than afternoon I was completely incapable of the graceful movements I'd managed a few days ago - I was barely able to stiffly lift my leg and swing it around to drop it heavily. Eventually Sarah ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Muping March 5th 2009

So yesterday we climbed Kunyu Shan (one of the mountains) to get to the Taoist temple up there to do some training. The climb is spectacularly steep and paved with flagstones (which I can imagine are practically impossible to climb when wet) so it was a great workout for the legs. When we got to the temple it was in a traditional Chinese style, inspired by the Forbidden City. Above the temple is carved into the rock a series of walkways, steps and little areas that were paved and set with benches. It's absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. In one of these little areas, we stopped and after the normal warm up did some Qi Gong for an hour led by Master Wong. It was completely different to doing it in the hall first thing in the morning ... read more

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