Xinglin Traditional Shaolin Kung fu Academy – Reviewed

by Bianca Houtzager

My experience here at Kung Fu Xing Lin Academy has been more amazing and rewarding than I expected, and one that I wish wasn’t ending so soon. Within a week of arriving here, I felt very comfortable, happy, inspired and peaceful, and had already began dreading having to leave.

The environment of the temple complex is amazing and so beautiful. It is very special to live and train in a Buddhist temple and be a part of the daily life here. The monks, nuns and residents of the temple are always so friendly and welcoming. I really enjoyed being apart of the ceremonies and events at the temple, as well as eating with the monks. The location is stunning! I appreciate Sikong Mountain every day, and the view from my front door every morning. The school’s remote location makes for a perfect atmosphere to train gong fu and to focus on internal development. The mountains, the forests, the flowers, the insects and the temple buildings make this place so beautiful, I love it.

The living standard is good and I have felt very comfortable here. The food is really nice, healthy and delicious, (especially when Shifu cooks!) and the accommodation is good, comfortable, with good sized rooms and bathrooms. I love the view from the top floor!

The training is great and feels very authentic. It is hard, but only as hard as you make it. The harder you train, and the more you focus, the more rewarding it is. Shifu is a very skilful teacher, it has been a pleasure to be taught by him. He has such an in-depth knowledge of Chinese martial arts, history and Buddhism and it is very interesting and enjoyable to learn from him. He is good at creating training plans unique to each student by giving them forms that match their strengths and/or challenge their weaknesses. I felt like this particularly with my spear form, its suits me but also challenges me a lot. I had to really think about the movements and techniques and try not get discouraged when I found them difficult. I like how when Shifu gives you a new form he tells you some information about it first, including the name and history, and during the learning process explains movements and applications. But all of this would not be possible without Cindy, who does a great job of translating for Shifu, as well as managing and communicating with students and helping us when we need.

I like how the training week is structured and I like the variety of skills we are taught. The Shaolin gong fu is the main focus, but the wing chun, qi gong, and jumps class are all really interesting, especially wing chun, and they all compliment and help in other aspects of training. If I was here for longer I would include sanda into my training too… maybe next time. All these different styles and practises train different areas, but all benefit each other. I understand more now that the reason I enjoy practising martial arts is because it trains every part of myself, physically, mentally and spiritually, and it applies to all aspects of my life. I have found learning qi gong to be very beneficial and enjoyable. It has helped me understand the importance of having a quiet and focused mind when practising forms and techniques, and to develop more awareness of my body and its energy. It is also just a relaxing thing to do on a Thursday morning, to be peaceful and soft and listen to the birds and the leaves.

Overall this school provides students with such an enriching cultural experience that I imagine would be difficult to find in other places. Shifu and Cindy have created a wonderful school and place for foreign students to experience traditional Chinese martial arts, Chinese culture and Buddhism. I have enjoyed my stay here so much and gained a lot from it, and I cannot wait to come back!!!

Thank you Shifu and Cindy.

To read more reviews of the school visit the school profile page on the StudyMartialArts.Org site.

Training at Dragon Muay Thai, Phuket

Recently I went to Thailand to meet my first BJJ coach Paulo Tavares do a little training, relaxing, and catch up. For this experience I met up with Nano and a few other guys from Big King Muay Thai & BJJ, Beijing and stayed at Dragon Muay Thai, Phuket.

Phuket Top Team Schedule

As a training option its in a great location within walking distance to a number of other top rated gyms such as Phuket top team, Tiger Muay Thai which can be very helpful if you are looking not only for Muay Thai but for other training options like BJJ, MMA or Wrestling. This whole are of Chalong is packed with fully equipped gyms, cross fit centres, great eateries for health buffs, as well as places those looking for protein laced ice-creams, or shakes to fuel oversized muscles. All of which are very affordable and of very good quality. The only downside is the distance to a good beach or place to walk, or run. For that a scooter is essential. At only 800 Baht per week and 35 or 40 baht for a bottle of petrol, transportation under your own steam is the best option providing you can ride a scooter.

Other fun things on offer in this part of Chalong within walking distance include access to a reasonably priced sensor deprivation chamber, ice-baths, and massages a plenty starting from 300 Baht.

Accommodation at Dragon Muay Thai was basic, and is similar in nature to the single accommodation on offer at other gyms. What you can expect is a clean double bed, shower, large fridge, satellite tv with plenty of channels and air-con.

The closest quality beach to Chalong for swimming or other water sports is Kata Beach. To get there quickly take the 4028 over the mountain. For a quieter vide Kata Noi is much nicer than Kata beach. My favourite beaches where Nai Harn and Karon beach.

If you’re up for some scuba diving I chose Andy O’Callaghan’s Dive Centre, AoK Diving. Not only does Andy have the best coffee in Phuket he has the knowledge, and skills to not only make you feel comfortable, in good hands. But really makes a positive effort to teach you the craft of diving.

On this trip I signed up for a night dive at Kata beach, my first time diving at night and also to go to Koh Racha Noi. Although I very almost signed up to do the Advanced Diving Course. Maybe next time. Phuket is definitely worth a second trip not only for the top quality training available but also for abundant activities available for relaxation and fun.

THE INVENTION OF TAEKWONDO TRADITION, 1945–1972: WHEN MYTHOLOGY BECOMES ‘HISTORY’

For those interested in the historical development of martial arts mythology this article by Udo Moenig is an interesting read. Udo Moenig states:

Taekwondo’s popular, historical narrative presents an excellent example of nationalistic attitudes in South Korean society toward portraying historical accounts in a favorable light, regardless of empirical evidence. This article explores various historical accounts regarding the origins of taekwondo, as presented by early taekwondo pioneers. After Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, taekwondo’s earliest and most central historical source became the hwarang myth, which dominated, due to its promotion by the government as a symbol of South Korea’s military might, martial traditions, and nationalism. Only over time, did a variety of additional events result in an ‘official’ martial arts narrative for taekwondo. By 1971, the accounts became consolidated and unified with taekwondo’s emergence as an internationally known Korean national sport, with all references to foreign influences omitted from the official record. This article demonstrates how the creation of taekwondo’s historical narrative represents a classic case of, ‘the invention of tradition.’

UDOM OENIG & K IM MINHO THE INVENTION OF TAEKWONDO TRADITION, 1945–1972: WHEN MYTHOLOGY BECOMES ‘HISTORY’ (ACTA KOR ANA VOL. 19, NO. 2, DECEMBER 2016: 131–164)

Here is a link to the full article on Academia. You can sign up for a free account and get loads of great articles on martial arts and lots of other subjects. https://www.academia.edu/31248928/THE_INVENTION_OF_TAEKWONDO_TRADITION_1945_1972_WHEN_MYTHOLOGY_BECOMES_HISTORY?email_work_card=abstract-read-more

THE ROOTS OF KICKING

by Phillip Starr
In karate, taekwondo, and various forms of gong-fu, we can easily observe many different types of kicks and you may wonder about where they came from and/or why they were developed. We’ll start at the beginning…

In general, gong-fu styles don’t emphasize a lot of kicking. Many, perhaps most, of them tend to direct their kicks at lower targets, such as the ankles, legs, and groin. This is especially true of southern styles. In the south of China, living conditions were (in the old days) much more crowded than in the north and there was little room for high kicks or jumping and spinning kicks. Fights would erupt in small (and I mean SMALL) alleyways or even on houseboats (which are much smaller than you’re likely to imagine) and maintenance of balance was critical. Moreover, attempting to kick high exposed one to quick counter-attacks, so such techniques were eschewed in the south. In the north, living conditions were less crowded and styles that developed there often included kicks into the body.

Okinawan karate, which was derived from Chinese forms, likewise didn’t emphasize a lot of kicking. Self-defense was the primary consideration. Traditional Okinawan kata featured frontal kicks (never very high) and side kicks…but high side kicks and roundhouse-type kicks weren’t employed because they felt that such movements left the groin open to quick counter-attacks.

Once karate was taken to Japan, things changed. Initially, they practiced kicking in the same way as the Okinawan styles but with the advent of karate as a sport, high kicks became more and more popular…instructors noticed how much audience appeal such techniques garnered and some of them began to have students practice these techniques in sparring. The roundhouse kick, as we know it, was developed during this time (the 1950’s) – by an instructor of the Japan Karate Association – mainly for use in competition. It was very effective.

And the Japanese, being the perfectionists that they are to this day, dug into the mechanical aspects of kicking to see how and why they worked and if improvements could be made. They found that, yes, improvements could be made and they developed very quick and powerful forms of kicking.

When karate was taken to Korea and re-designed as taekwondo, kicks changed even further. In an effort to make taekwondo look different from its Japanese parent, kicks became heavily emphasized and as competitions became more and more popular, newer forms of kicking were developed (primarily for audience appeal). Jumping and spinning kicks became the bread and butter of the Korean methods and many practitioners of taekwondo and tangsoodo developed a very high level of skill with them.

It began in the 1950’s; in the West, practitioners of various martial forms were exposed to other forms and practitioners. Ideas and techniques were compared and ideas exchanged. For instance, practitioners of Japanese forms of karate (many of whom were very competition-oriented) were impressed with the Korean methods of kicking and utilized them within their own styles. Systems began to borrow from each other. This process continues to this day with instructors of various styles and arts providing instruction via seminars.

DON’T SIT IN YOUR STANCE!

By Phillip Starr

The legendary Tadashi Yamashita (10th dan, Kobayashi Shorin-ryu karate) once said that one of the great “secrets” of karate was in the correct training of stance, but very few people do it anymore. And he is 100% right.

First, we must determine just what is the purpose(s) of a given stance? Think about it for a second, I’ll wait……

First and foremost, a stance is a stable platform from which we can deliver powerful blows (bearing in mind that the platform must be capable of withstanding the force of said blows). Secondly, some stances are stable positions from which we can move quickly and easily in a firm, contolled manner. And that’s it. They do not exist for purposes of aesthetic appeal.

In so far as issuing power is concerned, we must consider the proper (leg) tension that is to be used and there are only two; inside tension and outside tension. Inside tension involves contracting the adductors (muscles of the inner thighs) to “lock” you into place. Styles such as Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu karate as well as Chinese forms such as Wing Chun (should) utilize this principle a great deal; they are “in-fighting” styles and as such, they must be able to lock themselves into place when delivering close-quarters techniques.

Footwork is what happens in between stances, moving from one to another in various ways. It must be balanced and controlled. But footwork and stances are two separate subjects…

Additionally, stances such as the empty-leg stance (aka., cat stance), the sancai stance found in internal forms of gong-fu, the pigeon-toe stance, and hook stance use inward tension to stabilize the stance.

Outward tension involved tension in the legs in opposite directions. This is used for longer strikes and thrusts. For instance, in the forward stance (aka., zenkutsu-dachi, bow and arrow stance) the front leg presses forward while the rear leg thrusts down and back – opposite directions. This helps stabilize the position and even adds some impetus to the blow.

The only stances that don’t use either inward or outward tension are those that involve standing on one leg only. To create inward or outward tension in a stance, it’s necessary to have BOTH feet planted on the ground.

In any case, you must not simply “sit” in your stance, leaving it devoid of proper tension. I call this a “dead stance” because once you assume such a position, you can neither move as quickly nor strike as powerfully as you could from a properly “loaded” stance. And in a life and death struggle, that can mean the difference between life and death.

Why There Are No Successful Wing Chun Competitors in MMA (or How to Stop Caring and Just Do Your Own Thing)

by Steve Grogan

PHOTO 1Unless you have had no TV or internet for the last 25 years, then you have heard of the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournaments, which began on November 12, 1993 when the first Ultimate Fighting Championship aired.

Back then, a “mixed martial art tournament” meant something different than it does now. You were exposed to matches that featured a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner versus a Shotokan Karate person, Muay Thai versus Sumo Wrestling, and so on.

I’m not sure if all those styles were paired off in that way, but they are meant to be examples of what MMA used to mean: it was a practitioner of one style versus a practitioner of another style. End of story.

These days it means something different. It means there are two competitors in the ring whose styles are a combination of various arts. Each man is a smorgasbord of styles unto himself.

Many years after the first UFC, Donnie Yen starred in a series of movies based on the life of a gentleman named Ip Man, who was previously known only by his identification as Bruce Lee’s teacher. Thanks to Mr. Yen and these movies, he also became known as the last undisputed grandmaster of Wing Chun.

The caused a spike in Wing Chun’s popularity. People came to it with great curiosity, but they left with nothing but disgust, contempt, and countless dismissive remarks.

The reasons for that are many. It doesn’t look like any other martial art. Most practitioners are not massive brutes. Instead of hitting someone with one killer punch, Wing Chun practitioners rely on the cumulative effect of many short, rapid attacks to overwhelm the opponent. Oh, and they also engage in this silly little “patty cake” game called Chi Sao.

When most people are faced with something new, they react by making fun of it. Wing Chun was no different. Eventually, a few people who practiced this style got sick of all the armchair debates and decided to do something about it, so they started entering themselves into MMA tournaments.

This did not help matters. 98% of the videos you can find on YouTube that say “Wing Chun in MMA” show the so-called Wing Chun person getting trounced. (Honestly, I may even be underestimating when I say 98%.)

Why is this? If this style is so effective that it charmed Bruce Lee into being devoted to it, then why aren’t Wing Chun practitioners cleaning up in the ring?

There are many reasons. Being someone on the inside who has done Wing Chun since 1995, I feel I can offer some real insight into what might be a more coherent answer. Forget all the armchair warriors who just watch a video and say, “Yeah, that wouldn’t work.” This is in-depth, real world analysis.

“It’s not martial sport, it’s martial art.”

Many Wing Chun people (both teachers and students) use this line. In fact, it has been overused.

This is what they mean when they make that statement: since Wing Chun includes dangerous strikes to help a weaker person overcome a larger opponent (finger jabs, groin strikes, etc.), and these things are not allowed in MMA tournaments, that there is no way a person would really be using Wing Chun in the ring.

Well, weren’t all the styles we have already seen in MMA considered “martial arts?” Then why is it okay for them to be used in the ring? Why is it someone who practices Muay Thai for self-defense is NOT accused of “not using Muay Thai” when they go into the ring? Many people have criticized this statement, and for once I have to agree with the haters: it’s a copout.

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Also, many of the Wing Chun strikes that are not allowed in MMA are ones that wouldn’t be used all that frequently anyway. Think about it: if some alpha male oaf confronts you at a bar because he thought you were looking at his girlfriend, are you going to bust out the eye gouges and throat strikes? I mean, you might use a groin strike, but not the others.

There are ways Wing Chun could be trained so it is MMA tournament-friendly: just do what those practitioners from other styles did and leave out the techniques that the rules say you can’t use. (Of course, that’s a discussion for another article.)

“Wing Chun is meant to be used in a narrow hallway or something like that, not on a football field.”

This is sometimes switched out for the phrase, “Wing Chun has no outside game.” It implies that if an opponent is more than arm’s length away, the Wing Chun practitioner would stand there, passively waiting for them to get close enough.

The sad thing is, it isn’t only Wing Chun haters who utter this statement. Wing Chun practitioners do it too, which is a tragedy. It’s like they’re mocking the style they claim to love.

I am going to pose two questions now that will blow your mind, and they will make almost anyone who thinks Wing Chun can’t work in MMA rethink their stance. (I say “almost anyone” because some people will still cling to the party line.)

So here are the questions:

Question #1: Isn’t it true that grappling arts like Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are styles that have to be done up close?

Answer: Of course. You can’t grapple if you can’t grab.

Question #2: Isn’t it also true that, in the early days of MMA/UFC, grapplers like the Gracies cleaned up?

Answer: Again, that is a resounding “yes.”

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If a grappling style like Jiu-Jitsu (which is in a closer range than Wing Chun) can succeed in MMA, then it stands to reason that Wing Chun could also work.

Also, let’s not forget a few other facts about Wing Chun:

  • It has low-line kicks, which can be used to distract AND bridge the gap to your opponent.
  • There is a pole form, which is loaded with long-range techniques. It’s true that a student isn’t taught the pole form until they are several years deep into their training, but they are still there.

I could go into an explanation as to why so many Wing Chun schools hold off on the pole form but, just like with the first issue we discussed, the answer could be another article, so now we will move on to the next concern.

Lots of training at Chi Sao Range

For those of you who don’t know what Chi Sao is, it’s a training tool used specifically in Wing Chun to develop the student’s sensitivity, as well as to develop their reflexes at such a short range. It starts by two practitioners standing less than arm’s length apart and touching their arms together near the wrists. This is known as the Chi Sao “roll.” From here, the practitioners will attempt to strike each other.

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While Chi Sao is an indispensable tool for learning how to react in such a small space, there is one flaw in it: the students have already bridged the gap. They miss out on the opportunity to learn how you can get to this range while taking little to no damage as you make your approach.

A good way to eliminate this training flaw would be to have students start from outside the Chi Sao range, so they have to learn the footwork, timing, and defensive skills they will need to get this close without getting pummeled on the way in.

Not taking full hits

Here is another flaw of Chi Sao, although it could be alleviated if the school also made the students spar.

Although Wing Chun people develop the ability to hit hard in short ranges, it’s still nothing like taking the brunt force of a boxer’s right cross. To compete successfully in MMA, the students must get used to being hit.

A lot of “weekend warriors”

The majority of Wing Chun practitioners I’ve met are not prime physical specimens. I’m not talking about rippling muscles or six-pack abs; I’m talking about stamina. If you get winded going up one flight of stairs, you won’t last in an MMA fight.

How can you solve this problem? You are already devoting so much time to Wing Chun that you don’t have the ability to do one of those six-days-per-week, 60-75-minute workouts. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of overtraining.

Well, you don’t have to. The exercise routine I recommend to all martial artists is called “high-intensity training.” This is not to be confused with “high-intensity INTERVAL training.” The latter is cardio exercises, while the former is all about the weightlifting. I wrote a more in-depth article about it:

High Intensity Training: The Martial Artist’s Answer to the Exercise Conundrum

Also, for those of you who still believe the myth that weightlifting will make you too tense to do well in Chi Sao, check out my interview with Jay Primarolo of BioFitNY:

Does Weightlifting Keep You from Being Relaxed During Chi Sao?

You don’t see pure ANYTHING in MMA anymore.

No Muay Thai, no Karate, no Judo. As I said at the start of this article, all MMA fighters grab techniques from different styles. Granted, there are certain styles they favor over others (as discussed in this article here), but the point remains the same: the days of someone with one style are no more.

This raises the question: if the early days of UFC did feature fighters who professed to have only one style, then why were there no Wing Chun champions popping up back then? I can’t speak for every Wing Chun practitioner all over the planet, but my guess is they adhered to the “martial art, not sport” line.

Even when you see Wing Chun in an MMA fight, it is not recognized as such.

Having said all this, one might think I’m knocking my own style. However, that’s not the case. How is it not? Well, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Wing Chun has been used in the ring, and it has worked.

If that were true, then why didn’t anyone see it?

Simple: because it wasn’t recognized as Wing Chun. However, fighters like Anderson Silva, Tony Ferguson, and Alan Orr (plus his stable of fighters) have all used Wing Chun in MMA and won.PHOTO 5

We run into an interesting case with Alan Orr because, even though he does in fact identify as a Wing Chun practitioner, people look at how he fights and say, “That’s not Wing Chun.” On the other hand, if you put someone in the ring who fighting style looks like traditional Wing Chun, and they get pummeled, then people say Wing Chun doesn’t work.

What is the lesson to be learned here? There is no pleasing some people.

PHOTO 6And the other lesson?

Sometimes when people make up their minds to believe something (for example, I’ve gotten into many arguments with people who still believe you have to register your hands as deadly weapons once you reach a certain rank), it’s like trying to wake someone up who has been inside The Matrix too long: their minds just don’t want to let go of that belief.

PHOTO 7

In Conclusion

Wing Chun is to martial arts what the Smashing Pumpkins are to music. The Pumpkins were massively popular, winning awards and gaining critical praise. However, being well-known and being well-liked are two different things, and despite all the records they sold, you’d still be hard-pressed to find a fan of theirs.

To this day it is still very much in vogue to hate the Pumpkins, and this is also the case with Wing Chun: millions of people know about the style, and the majority of them bash it.

It is sad to see people so dismissive of Wing Chun because it is a beautiful, intelligent system. However, unless there are adjustments made to the training methods that will produce some consistently dominating fighters, it is unlikely you will ever see Wing Chun get any credit in the MMA world.

Even when Wing Chun has been successfully used in MMA, it doesn’t get any credit. Therefore, the only thing we can do is ignore the ones we can’t please and focus on training that at least pleases us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steve Grogan has been practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu since January 1995. He is the founder of Geek Wing Chun, a website (with accompanying YouTube channel) that provides free tips on how someone can create a training routine at home, should they be unable to make it to class. He is the author of The Lone Warrior, which collects some of his greatest tips in one neat little book, and the developer of The Lone Warrior App, which helps people keep track of the daily goals they set for their training (available for both iPhones and Androids).

MAIN SITE: http://www.geekwingchuninc.com/

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/c/geekwingchuninc

LONE WARRIOR (BOOK): http://www.geekwingchuninc.com/TheLoneWarrior.html

APP on iPHONE: https://apple.co/2MaBNpp

APP on ANDROID: https://bit.ly/3ceiZQv

 

 

 

 

Latest School Review – Xinglin Traditional Shaolin Kung fu Academy

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This review from a student highlights why the services provided by StudyMartialArts.Org are so vital when booking the right intensive martial arts experience. With so many kung fu schools to choose from it’s easy to get lost in romantic notions of hard training, and great martial arts masters like Pai Mei.

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“I went for a month and a half and It felt more like a kung fu themed holiday at times rather than a training trip but that may be down to the group I was with. Training was interrupted with snacks and drinks frequently, we were taken to a spa and taken for meals, drinks and karaoke. Many in my group enjoyed this aspect of the trip but if your primary goal is to train hard and improve significantly this may not be the best choice Favouritism is very apparent (he will only learn the names of favoured students) and usually based more heavily on the lightness of your skin/hair than training ethic or character. I have met others who received good quality teaching from Xinglin and come back with greatly improved skill.

I would recommend traveling solo and taking several months out for the best training experience and not asking to learn a particular weapon or style. The food is home cooked and very good, accommodation is comfortable and air conditioned so don’t expect to live like a Buddhist monk.

Translator Cindy is extremely friendly and kind”.

If you would like to read more reviews for this school or other schools in China, Thailand and Japan click this link to learn more with StudyMartialArts.Org.

Yuntai Shan International School Review

Check out this latest Kung fu School review posted by Des from the Philippines. She studied at the school for 1 month this summer.

I studied at the Yuntai Shan International School for one month.

Training begins at 5:50 am and there are four to five compulsory meetings everyday. Students can only leave the school on Wednesday mornings and Sundays OR if you have a valid reason to (e.g., visa renewal in the city center). I begin with this information because, for potential students, this might be something worth considering. During my time there, we did have some people come in from Shaolin Temple who thought that Yuntai Shan was maybe a bit too strict. In my opinion, however, it was just right. As someone who considers myself a complete beginner, I thought the training was very good. The shifus and the rest of the staff are very welcoming and helpful, and that goes a long way towards creating what I felt was a very supportive culture within the school.

Food and accommodation weren’t that great, but they were decent. I was there during the summer break, so I’m not sure if there are more food choices at the canteen when the regular school term is underway. In any case, if what’s offered at the canteen isn’t satisfactory, you can always try the restaurant right across. Every room has its own bathroom and for non-Chinese students, if I’m not mistaken, you’ll at most be two people per room. Rooms do have air conditioning, but they can only be turned on at certain times of the day.


For those who want to sneak in some sightseeing, one of the benefits of the school’s location is that it’s located very near the Yuntai Geo Park, which is classified AAAAA by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (that’s the highest rating they give). I highly recommend asking for a day or two off training to go see it. You can also ask the Shifus to help organize trips to nearby Shaolin Temple or Luoyang.

All in all, if you’re looking for value for money, you can’t really go wrong with choosing this school. I had a great month there and if I ever go back to China for martial arts training, choosing Yuntai Shan again would be a no-brainer.

Booking with StudyMartialArts.Org – I liked how much information there was and that was instrumental in helping me decide which school to attend.

36th Chamber of Shaolin

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, also known as The Master KillerShaolin Master Killer and Shao Lin San Shi Liu Fang, is a 1978 Hong Kong kung fu film directed by Liu Chia-liang and produced by Shaw Brothers, starring Gordon Liu. The film follows a highly fictionalized version of San Te, a legendary Shaolin martial arts disciple who trained under the general Chi Shan.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is widely considered to be one of the greatest kung fu films and a turning point in its director’s and star’s careers. It was followed by Return to the 36th Chamber, which was more comedic in presentation and featured Gordon Liu as the new main character with another actor in the smaller role of San Te, and Disciples of the 36th Chamber.

Lengfan – ‘eating cold rice’

by Phillip Star

sunlutangSun Lutang (1860-1933), renowned founder of the Sun styles of both baguazhang and taijiquan rose early each morning in Beijing to walk to his baguazhang practice with the famous master, Cheng Tinghua. Upon completing his bagua training for the day, he’d immediately set out to walk to the other side of the city where he’d train in xingyiquan under the tutelage of the legendary Guo Yunshen (the “Divine Crushing Fist”). That must have been a really arduous task; even in those days, Beijing was huge. The foot traffic had to be all but impassable, but he walked the route every day, in the blistering heat of summer and the snowy days of winter.

In 1938, Masutatsu Oyama left Korea (being a native Korean named Choi Young Li, and he would later adopt the Japanese name, Masutatsu Oyama) to apply at the Yamanashi Aviation School. He had high hopes of becoming a pilot but was refused because of his nationality, so he managed to find a menial job driving a small truck through Tokyo in the wee hours of the morning. After studying karate under Gigo Funakoshi at Takushoku University, he went into the wilds of Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture where he trained outside of the small hut he’d constructed. Eventually, he stopped living in the run-down structure and when he no longer received supplies of food from a friend who had been bringing them to him regularly, he lived outdoors…even in the winter! He noted that he’d sleep on the snow-packed ground and hunt for berries and other foodstuffs to sustain him during the nearly 3-year period he spent on the mountain. He would go on to found the Kyokushin school of karate.

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Morihei Uyeshiba (founder of modern aikido) often allowed his most senior disciples to live in his home and he’d wake up in the middle of the night, having dreamt of a new technique. He’d wake his pupils, who would act as his uke (receiver) although they were still half-asleep and bleary-eyed.

And today…students ignore the aches and pains of daily training, push aside the concerns of a day at work or school, and do their best to resist the urge to settle back onto the couch and watch a movie or settle in with a good book. On certain evenings they venture out to class, where they’ll be thrown about and be attacked with a variety of puches and kicks…for reasons that are a little difficult to verbalize. They’re bright enough to understand that practicing their chosen art will likely never land them a Hollywood contract, turn them into invincible super-heroes, or enable them to enjoy a wealthy lifestyle. But they endure through the humidity of summer and the ice of winter to continue travelling their path where the reward for suffering through the phsical and intellectual maze of technique and form is to have more of the same heaped on. And the further they travel along this path, the more demanding it becomes.

Errors and lapses in attention might be forgiven when they are beginners, but illuminated in a harsh spotlight by their teachers as they progress. And finally, as they approach the level where their teachers have no more to teach or even criticize, they may think their journey is nearing the end. Not so. At this advanced level, the practitioner must turn inward to re-examine his technique and lifestyle to seek out weaknesses, impose upon himself even more hardships, and searching for a level of the Way that is increasingly severe.

This is sometimes referred to as “lengfan” or “eating cold rice.” Unless you eat rice as a part of your regulat diet, you may wonder about this expression. Well, the next time you find some leftover rice in the refrigerator, try a mouthful before you warm it back up. You’ll probably find it a bit less than palatable. Very different from the freshly steamed variety. Soldiers in the field would eat cold rice because they lacked the equipment and time to heat it. Bachelors are known to garf it down in the morning when there’s nothing else available for breakfast. A bowl of cold rice can make us appreciate that even the most blessed and fortunate among us will suffer from time to time. Not every meal will be just as we like it…

Eating cold rice puts eating in a new perspective. If we’re hungry, it sustains us. The austere training of the martial will fill our bellies even though it’s not as tasty as we’d like. The austerity of practce in the martial Ways is a lot like that…they are disciplines that are stripped of self-indulgences and ego decorations. To follow them requires a certain amount of stoicism and an enduring spirit. The true martial artists doesn’t mind cold rice; he sees it as an essential means of improving himself and perfecting his spirit.

He doesn’t prefer cold rice, but he accepts it; he knows that true contentment is not gained through acquiring things. If one cannot be happy or content unless they have hot rice (or that new car, or the latest fashionable shoes…), one is probably going to live a very unsatisfied, unhappy life. But if you can be content with the rice – hot or cold – chances are that you’ll find contentment in everything life offers.

The masters of days past ate cold rice many times in their lives; they endured and moved forward. Their lives weren’t centered pn material goals; they’d accepted a different path – one that requires accepting some hardships. Without such a stoic outlook, they’d have learned much less than they did. One well-known author said that all of the valuable lessons he’d learned in life were learned through suffering. So those who have chosen to follow the martial Ways must determine in what direction they want to go. But they must be prepared to eat a bowl of cold rice from time to time…

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