China’s Confucius Institute

confucius_institute_logoWhat is the Confucius Institute?

The Confucius Institute is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Since its founding in 2004 it has been the main educational organization tasked with the job of promoting Chinese language and culture to the world outside the Middle Kingdom. It seeks to do this through Chinese language courses, and cultural exchanges. These cultural exchanges normally focus on language music, calligraphy, and martial arts.

Due to its status as a non-profit the course and cultural exchanges offered through the institute are not only affordable but often include the chance for student participants to gain free scholarships.

These scholarships allow high school level Chinese language students, college level Chinese students, self-taught Chinese language students and Chinese language teachers and researchers to go to China for a specific period of time and have the chance to choose from more than thirty different destinations from the most well-known and “obvious”, like Beijing and Shanghai, to Harbin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, and Qingdao, which are less known to the general public. There aren’t yet any scholarships from the Confucius Institute that go to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Confucius Institute Locations throughout the world

Confucius Institutes’ can now be found all over the world, and through its educational programmes links and relationships are fostered through the promotion of Chinese language and culture. The aim being to promote China, its culture history and language to the world.


Scholarships are awarded for exceptional knowledge of Chinese culture by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (HANBAN) through Chinese Bridge. These scholarships are checked on this site and generally fall into four types.

1 – Brief program of 4 weeks

Financial contribution from Hanban with complete coverage for lodging and the price of the course. Minimum requirements: having completed a HSK exam and not have previously studied in China (that last requirement is decided by the individual Confucius Institutes).

2 – Six month program

A half year in China completely covered by Hanban. Minimum requirements: having reached the HSK at level 3 or greater and the HSKK of any level.

3 – Year Program

Completely covered for a year. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 4 and the HSKK intermediate level.

4 – Graduate course for Chinese language education

Complete coverage for two years. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 5 and HSKK intermediate.

A few partner universities with the Confucius Institute also make Masters available in conjunction with universities in China mainly centred on production, to put it briefly, two degrees for the price of one. Quite appealing!


Standardised testing

The Confucius Institute organizes Chinese language exams recognized throughout the world. The most important when applying for a scholarship, are HSK and HSKK.

HSK is an acronym for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试, Chinese language level exam). The HSK is subdivided into 6 levels. To pass this exam, the Chinese language student must have a strong knowledge of Chinese grammar but above all, Chinese characters. In fact each level requires the knowledge of a certain number of words:

  • HSK 1 – 150 words
  • HSK 2 – 300 words
  • HSK 3 – 600 words
  • HSK 4 – 1200 words
  • HSK 5 – 2500 and more words
  • HSK 6 – more than 5000 words

The HSK exam consists of various tests that require just the spoken and written language.

The HSKK, which stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi (汉语水平口语考试, Spoken Chinese language level exam), is an exam that mostly tests the ability to read out loud and speak the Chinese language.

The HSK and HSKK are the minimum requirements to be able to apply for a scholarship in China. The exams are open to all, just go on the site (or directly on the site of the closest Confucius Institute), enrol in the exam with the Confucius Institute you prefer and show up on the day of the test with the document and admission ticket you can print on the site.

The prices for these exams are:

HSK 1 = 20 USD, HSK 2 = 30 USD, HSK 3 = 40 USD, HSK 4 = 50 USD, HSK 5 = 60 USD, HSK 6 = 70 USD.

HSKK basic = 20 USD; HSKK intermediate = 30 USD; HSKK advanced = 40 USD.


Chapter 2 – Eat right, be tight

by Bryan Balandowich

It seemed fitting that with the first chapter being about starting the New Year right, and hint: this writing is full of many metaphors, a New year is not just Dec.31st, but can be any day, only you can tell yourself what day it is so to speak. Time in the grand universe is relative.

Body Back Guarantees

One of the biggest topics during this time of year is getting in or back into shape. Gym memberships sell hard and customers go for broke to get that beach body. Problem is that unless you’re living in the tropics, summer isn’t coming around the corner for a few months and therein lays our first predicament. Just as smokers keep on smoking even though the stats couldn’t be more clear, put a chimney in your body and you become the chimney and drinkers keep on drinking, drink too much vodka and you’ll become the vodka. Not that it’s a fact that all smokers get lung cancer and all drinkers experience liver failure, game set match, but if you don’t play with fire you won’t get burned in the first place, right?

Shaken Not Stirred

conneryThe reason? Psychologist’s attribute it to time. Like Pavlov’s experiments, the dog is only trained if the conditioned stimuli and response sets are timed in close proximity to one another. Smoking a cigarette and sipping a martini feels good today, but could have dire consequences down the line. So yes, doctors cannot say smoking or drinking definitely gave you your unfortunate situation, but by logical conclusions, it must have been a contributing factor.

Location Location Location

In real estate, it’s location, location, location, in movies its about the actors and actresses and distribution, when it comes to getting that six pack, it’s all about the diet. In fact, no matter how many sit ups you do, if you don’t count your calorie input and output ratio, then tough luck, it isn’t going to happen no matter how hard you try. A

general consensus is 10-12% body fat ratio to see your abs. Once you’re at that body fat ratio they pop naturally, the more crunches you do the more defined and sculpted they get. It’s also up to genetics; everyone’s different, so again, one person who has an eight pack does not mean that he is stronger than the one pack.

Mr Olympia

Tip, never underestimate the one pack. Like an idiot savant, weakness in one area usually implies strength in another, usually, not always, my digression is more towards yin-yang and the idea of opposites and more specifically a balance of energy. So let’s use your energy right.

“Frank Zane, three time Mr. Olympia did 1,000 abdominal reps pre competition, so once you get your body weight down, you chisel your body, with the chisel being hard work, sets and reps.”


Tight shorts and a fitbit

Most people when they first start to want to get in shape, run over to the local fitness store and load up on the latest fashions, trends, supplements and so on. However, when you see the big guy at your local gym, he’s usually wearing clothes that look like they desperately need a wash, however not always the case, but to make my point, they don’t care about the clothes, in fact these guys are usually more than happy to take their shirts off. They have painfully learned the truth, which is that it’s all about sets and reps and hitting the gym week in and week out. It’s about going when you don’t feel like going, getting in that extra training session, that’s what it’s all about. That’s when you see results and feel good about yourself and your achievements.

An Ongoing Quest

So in the ongoing quest of creating good habits I encourage you not to buy anything. Instead, try a new approach. Throw out all the crap, the sugars, the chips, carbonated beverages; all the stuff you know is bad for you. Now once the foundation has been set, you can start to build and stock your shelves. With minimalism comes the idea of a bottom up approach, the problem we have herein discussed is that most people want to start from the top from day one, and hence buy all the clothes to “look good and look in shape”. Spanx makes a lot of money let me tell you. So instead of wasting your time and money, drink water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and the river will run its course. And the great news is that once you look and feel good, you don’t want to go back to the old you. Habits build habits. You are what you eat, we all know that, it’s time to stop knowing and start doing.


Do or do not, there is no try

When I first started training there was this man at the gym with crazy arms, I mean fully ripped, cut, lean and muscularly massive. I asked him how long he’s been working out for, and he said casually, as he chatted to the cute girl on the treadmill, 16 years. Hannibal the calisthenics king has been at it for about the same length of time, which draws us back to the first article regarding habits and the 10, 000 hour rule, which is approximately ten years. This is why most athletes become legendary at one point in their career, their “hey day”, a combination of being at the top of their craft, both mentally and physically in addition to little bit of luck, and opportunity.

So you say, some athletes are amazing at 16 or 18 years old. I reply to that, they probably started practicing around 2-4 years of age. The point here is this, whether it’s Martial Arts, Body Building, Calisthenics, or any kind of training, as Bruce Lee once intimated, a punch is first a punch then not a punch then a punch again. An exercise starts out easy, gets hard, then it becomes easy again.

Socratic Method

Socrates would start philosophical inquiry with inducing doubt, not knowing, accepting one’s ignorance. Socrates would for example, approach and ask a poet on the streets of ancient Athens, what is beauty? The poet would answer quickly, “beauty is a baby asleep in their mothers arms, the daily dance of the sunrise and set, a flower in bloom, and so on . . .” Then Socrates would point out that these are examples of beauty and not answering the question, begging the question fallaciously in fact.

Thus the poet realizes that they do not truly understand what beauty is. They sit in quiet meditation on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast blue oceans of the Agean sea. Only then do they realize that no words can express beauty, because of its breathless connotation, and only then does the dentation become clear in their heart.

Relevantly speaking, you get muscles fast when you start working out, then it lags after a year, the gains are less visible, then after 10 years of day in and day out exercises like sit ups and push ups start paying off. Start with the basics, pull-ups, dips, pushups, both horizontal and vertical plane to work chest and shoulders. Add some squats for your legs and your set.


Eat Right, be Tight

Back to diet. Another thing to keep in mind is portion size and not eating until one feels fully satiated. Raisins and Chia seeds are great for tricking the body to feeling full because they absorb water and expand in your stomach. This will mask the hunger, so it’s a good snack idea.

Snacking in general is a good idea. Eating 6 meals, 3 staples and 3 snacks is the best way to dance all day. It keeps your metabolism busy. Therefore, eating more often is better than eating less and less often. A lot of people like to skip meals and replace them with feasts later on. Remember, your body is a habitual routine based machine. It also has a memory, muscle memory. This has an inherent pro and con.

10,000 hour rule

The more you do an exercise, the better you get at it and the better your muscles adapt to it. You get used to it, as with anything else in life. This is why having desires and needs for material possessions having fleeting happiness, we get used to the new house, car, wife and husband. Because the muscles get used to the exercise and they don’t tear and fatigue as easily, if your goals are strength and growth, you need to trick your body and throw some curve balls, workout at different times, different lengths, conditioning vs heavy weights, and the same goes for Martial Arts. The goal is to get super conditioned automatic reflexes, but there’s a reason that there are multiple training drills, forms, and exercises to strengthen the same muscles . . . My friends and I once discovered a Martial Arts group run by a lady and all they do is kick trees. One move. That’s it. You must imagine how many kicks thrown and broken forests lay in the wake of 10 years, 10, 000 hours of shin kicking practice. Treat your body as a temple and a weapon and the forces of ying and yang and the river will steer you clear.

Have you eaten?


The problem for most people starts with how they eat and what they eat. Starting the day with a coffee and bagel, salad for lunch and then a big t-bone with fries for dinner is not the way to get it done.

The first time I came to this realization that diets were a very cultural and arbitrary thing was when I went to my Korean friend’s house in Toronto for breakfast.

His mom asked me what I wanted for breakfast and I replied some cereal or the usual bacon and eggs would suffice. She said, “we don’t no this stuff”. How about some kimchi, with fried beef and rice? I was excited, authentic Asian food at 8 am, I didn’t have to wait for dinner!

For 20 years I had only eaten the usual, yogurt, cereal, bagels, croissants, bacon and eggs, the staples, sandwiches, fruits, pancakes and so on. This was the first time I was eating dinner food for breakfast and I felt normal about it because it seemed normal to them. I even put hot sauce on it to be compliant with the house culture. Now, you don’t have to have steak for breakfast everyday, because too much red meat is not the best coronary medicine, but you might want to have it before a rugby match like my Korean friend used to do.

Whose ready to tackle in the morning scrimmage, oatmeal or t-bone?

The lesson here is not forgoing pancakes and all that stuff, but to realize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Food is really about calories, which is literally energy. There is thermal energy, electrical energy and so forth and all forms of energy can be measured in Jules. A calorie is X Jules. So in essence, as far as science and your body is concerned, all energy is energy, 1+1=1, if it smells like water, and tastes like water, then it must be water.

The average person needs around 2,000 calories a day to get by. The guys and girls who look like they belong on a magazine cover have figured it out. After years of not caring about math, they can count calories upside down and inside out. It’s not that hard. After all, just like we wear the same t-shirts over and over while we keep the others in the closet, we usually eat the same brand of cereal since we were 5 and as pointed out, we are habitual creatures, some much more than others. Some people eat exactly the same thing everyday. And there is nothing wrong with that.


A lot of people are trying to be healthy but they buy way too much

Chlorella, algae, is said to be the one food you can eat, nothing else, and be totally healthy. As one of the first simple forms of life, it contains all of life, only life can give life to life, 1+1=1. Now, nobody wants to eat algae everyday, but the point is valid. Again, a lot of people are trying to be healthy but they buy way too much at the grocery store and then throw most of it out. I need to eat this because I saw it on this show, and my friend says this is good for you, and oh, this is great for my new yoga class, etc . . . but truth is, there are no superfoods, no be it all.

First off, if you’re happy eating algae everyday, do not read on. For all others who enjoy life and live to eat, foodie or not, and you want to be in shape, first off you don’t need to eat anything special. Just like the neighbour who is always inviting you over for dinner and they use 20 spices to prove they are a chef and then it tastes like ass. A true chef, can create a dish of beauty and simplicity. The perfectly poached egg, the filet of sole fried to perfection, the spaghetti, al dente, not to hard and not to soft, just right to the taste.

You don’t have to eat concentrated foods

Goji berries, kiwi fruits, lemons, grapefruits, oranges all have vitamin C, so does spinach and broccoli. You don’t have to eat the one with the highest concentration; they all got what you need. Buy seasonal so that it’s fresh and budget friendly. So not only is it important to keep it simple in terms of ingredients, it’s also important to keep it local and fresh. If it’s about nutrients, crops begin to transpire the second they are harvested. Farm to table is what it’s all about. So if you live in New Zealand eat Kiwis, if you live in Florida, have an orange, if you’re in China, have a goji berry, and have the others when available and when you can. The superfood buying health nut is not going to have a better body or mind frame, just a smaller bank account at the end of the month.


When you get sick, people always have suggestions for you, you should do this or eat this or eat that, my cousin or friend swears by this and so forth. Sometimes there is merit to what they are saying but other times it is folklore passed down from the stone age. Our concern here is to strictly speak in reference to studies and their link to advice. Everyone knows that the above fruits have lots of vitamin C, etc . . . First off, its because these fruits have had a lot of studies conducted, secondly they have had a lot of studies about that particular vitamin and other fruits and vegetables are not being studied, or studied less or in different ways.

This means, what’s good today may not be good tomorrow and what’s bad now may no be good later. Just look at prohibition laws and one will see the absurdity. And the funny thing is, adults are just like little children and Eve in the Garden of Eden, everyone wants to bite the forbidden fruit and everyone knows that the snake in the apple will bite them as recourse. Just like you know that the fast food option was not the best course of action, it was your choice, you’re the idiot, no one else to blame. Unless drugs or aliens are controlling your mind, you always have a choice which movie you want to watch.

Don’t give up on life to have a six-packscreen-shot-2017-02-15-at-12-00-05-am

You don’t have to give up on life to have a six-pack. Most athletes have a cheat day, and the more habitual your training, the more cheat days you can have. So the chocolate cake is not the problem. Ask Hannibal from YouTube what’s up? The man is absolutely shredded and admitted on YouTube that he eats whatever the hell he wants. He however also does his Calisthenics for 3 hours a day (morning and night), 7 days a week!

Happy Rooster!


Chapter 1 – Start the New Year Right, Make it Tight

by Bryan Balandowich

“The martial arts are ultimately self-knowledge. A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell out of your ego, your fear or your hang-ups” – Bruce Lee

Sit down. Close your eyes, and reflect on this past year. Are you the person you wanted to be a year ago? The only constant in life is change and in more practical terms and better to set a stage for our discourse, the great Director Steven Spielberg once intimated, “All of us every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all of our lives”. In the ever constant discourse between you and the ego enters the epitome – “could’ve, should’ve and, would’ve”, the three characters of regret. I could have done something, I should have done something and, I would have done something . . . are one of the many ongoing conversations between you and your ego. In order to take him, the ego, out in the backyard and shoot him between the eyes and then drown him in cement boots down the river, requires a shift in consciousness, meaning how we use our mental energy. Think about all the things you wanted to do but didn’t do? What was stopping you? Holding you back? With the New Year fast approaching it is a good time to reflect, digest and then set new goals and ambitions. What makes you happy? Take a good look in the mirror or even better take a look at your books, or music collection, hobbies etc. . . Who are you and what is it that will make you happy? Not happy for one day, like the cyclical problem inherent in material happiness. Happy everyday, not like the happiness you get from opening your birthday present. I’m talking about your first kiss, memories with family and friends, what do all these events that we so often recall and give us a sense of happiness have in common? We can all point and say, I was so happy then. You can often hear people echo, “The day I got married, or the day my son or daughter was born and so on, was the happiest day of my life. What do all of those events and memories have in common? Money? No. Family and friends? Yes! The natural world (animals and plants), the environment, such as is represented by a beautiful sunset or diving to the depths of the sea to find Nemo, a concurrent and definite yes. What I am saying is everyone wants to be happy but is like a chicken without a head trying to figure it out. I’m not preaching anything here, just giving my two cents on something everyone thinks about every second of every day, unless you’re not thinking about it, which means, congratulations, you’ve done it! You can study karate, taekwondo, or whatever art you like, the body can only move in X amount of ways. One way or another that fist is coming into the face. Depending on the discipline, it may arrive there via a different path. Therefore, pick the martial art best suited to you, your body type, temperament, and so forth. Listen to your heart and let it guide you down the right path as in the Dao. Often today, many people are watching YouTube videos of people doing this or that, living this or that life, and you have to realize that what makes them happy and what works for them may not necessarily work for you. For example, there are countless diet programs and fitness regimens all claiming to give the best results. The bottom line is, there is no best, no champ, if the training is legit, you’ll get there. You don’t have to be a gymnast or a swimmer and a biker to be in shape. Pick one discipline that suits you. If you like running, start the New Year off running. If you want to bulk up start lifting weights. If you have bad knees, try riding a bike. Some people are big boned some are not. Some are tall and others short. All the girls always say, “we don’t like that super ripped guy”, inherently because it is true that looks are not important in a ten-year marriage. But that is not to say that your girlfriend or wife doesn’t want a buff boo. She just doesn’t want someone walking around like they don’t have a neck and are unable to take their shirt off on their own accord because their biceps are so huge they can’t lift their arms anymore. Big muscles are a “no, no” if you want to be a true master. In fact, some experts say that Bruce Lee’s pipes were too big for Martial Arts. Again, don’t compare apples and oranges. Nothing is to say that a body builder or strong man can’t have big arms, but it’s of not much benefit for the Tour de France cyclist. No way is the way, which in plain English means, find your own way and that way will be the right way for you. Sentiments like that can be attributed to Bruce Lee who was adamant that being able to flow like water and adapt to your opponent is the way to secure a sure and quick knock out.


“When I look around, I always learn something: to be always yourself, and to express yourself, to have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee

Find out what works for you and then embrace it with all your passion. Is that clear enough? Sorry, where were we. Oh right, everyone wants to be happy. And what is the definition of happiness? Living in the moment, with a disregard for time and much of anything else other than the task at hand. Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi denoted this experience as, “flow”. From a Taoist perspective, it connotes the sentiment of being in sync with the Dao, “life energy” “Qi” and can be represented and manifested in Taji Quan (a Taoist Martial Art). The beauty of martial arts and what attracted me to it in the first place was the blending of philosophy and it’s expression and manifestation in the real world. Anybody who first takes a Karate class quickly realizes that they don’t know how to do simple things. The teacher says hit the bag and it feels like a mouse gave the teacher a kiss on the pad. You feel embarrassed and your ego is racing, you tense up your muscles and give it a good rip, this time you either hyper extend something or your knuckles are getting bloody from the bag. You quickly realize that you don’t know what’s going on, humble yourself, and get back in line and back to class the following week and the week after, until one day, another you (beginner) comes into the class, and you are the one showing them the ropes and you can’t understand why it’s so difficult for them, while it’s now so seamlessly effortless for you. With that being said, it’s time to grab life by the balls and start living the life that you want by understanding this concise quotation. I have amended the original quotation to edit a sentence of my own. Everything is truly captured by the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi in its fullest essence.


“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values,Your values become your character, Your character becomes your destiny.”

I have added the phrase “your values become your character” with the following connotations in mind. Character is who you are and who you are will define how you interact with the world. If you value socializing and are a “people person”, it is highly likely that you will have a big social circle or if you read a lot of books, chances are you will be smarter (book smart) than those who don’t. A lot of people don’t like to read because they can’t sit still and focus. This is in large part due to bad habits, watching too much TV and other digital media thus shortening one’s attention span habitually. Therefore, if you want to achieve something this year, set a goal and outline the steps (and their implied habits) needed in attaining the goal. What characteristics do you need to succeed? Once you’re done making your list, start doing it immediately. Don’t wait! That’s the secret, “just like a band aid, take it off in one brisk motion”. Or as smokers and alcoholics put it, “cold turkey” that’s the only way, or so they say. What I mean by that is obviously, if your goal is to take a test and you need to study some books, and you just ordered them, obviously you have to wait for them to be delivered before you can start studying. You can however make a shift in consciousness and become that which you want to become now, in an instant. Everyone knows about the glass half empty and full, the pessimist and the optimist. If you set yourself up for failure, that’s your first failure and it builds on itself from thereon in. Just as every guy knows, the toughest part is going up to the girl and saying, “hello”. After that it seems like the worst of it is over, nothing happened, “she didn’t slap me, or yell or run away”, and then suddenly you realize, “I’m in the game baby”!

So there are two elements to success, one psychological and one physical. Just like quitting a substance addiction, it is both a mental game of chess with the ego as well as a physical battle of withdrawal symptoms. If we take a minute and digest the quotation from Gandhi, for its literal denotation, we see that what we think becomes our characteristic behavior (character) and defines our values and who we are. Once you make a decision and start acting on it, following through on your thoughts, the endless conversation in your mind stops because there is no more analyzing, only doing, and living in the moment, “carpe diem”. present-moment

It takes time to form a new habit, some say seven days (as for jet lag) and twenty-one to sixty-six days, to half a year to a year and on, depending on the person, habit and other nature and nurture elements involved. Thanks to neural plasticity, the brain can form new neural synaptic connections. Imagine for a moment if you would, that your brain is full of roads and highways and even superhighways (each one representing a neural network). As you start new habits, new roads are constructed. The longer the habit persists, the stronger the connections become. That is why to become a “ninja” you need to throw one hundred or more kicks a day. This will create a strong neural bridge. When your body encounters stimuli, such as aggression from another person, your body goes into a “fight or flight response”. This network does not go by the prefrontal cortex, which is the root of rational thought; rather it goes via the amygdala, which is the center for emotion, which means you react without thinking. Therefore, if you practice a move over and over and it becomes automatic, a part of you.

You literally become your habits. Start by laying a good foundation now, just like we know is true of children; your habits will become whom you are. Therefore, just as it is important to set a good example and right habits for children, as adults we too, “can learn a new trick or two” and we are not just ready to crawl up and die. A lot of martial artists never really get deep enough into the Art to really gain all the benefits. That is because holding a Horse Stance for hours at a time, doing Qigong or Meditation for three hours a day is beyond most people. But ask any Master the secret of their art and they will all point to the basics, the foundation as being the most important. Why then do people not do it? First off, simple things can become boring and it’s a long process. You don’t become a Qigong master after a week of practice. It takes years and that puts people off. We are in the era of fast results, tanning beds, diet pills, steroids and the like. People will forgo their health just to get results fast, which ironically in most cases is counterproductive. So people are getting unhealthy while they think they are getting healthy. A six-pack can’t mask a liver or kidney problem. People go too hard too fast. Take for example a gym newbie. The newbie goes to the gym everyday, has sore muscles, keeps exercising even while fatigued going in for that extra rep, not giving the body the time it needs to build muscle and recuperate, walks around all day with sore muscles, back aches and gets injured and then can’t workout for six months. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to workout a little bit everyday for six months? And again, instead of overkill, training eight hours a day (if you’re young and got the energy and time, then go for it), but for most people who have jobs, families and other time constraints that’s not happening anytime soon. For a simple example, we can all agree, I hope and think, that push-ups are an all round good exercise for all ages and fitness abilities. Gym memberships love this time of year, so instead of giving them your hard earned cash, get out of bed and do ten push-ups everyday. Then do ten more push-ups before you go to take your evening shower and go to sleep. That’s 20 a day, 140 a week, 560 month and 6, 720 a year. After that, if you’re still into working out, get that gym membership and walk in with a tank top on day one looking good and ready for the next level. The point is that gradual consistent training is best. Don’t have time to meditate for 3 hours a day? No problem, start with something as easy as deep breathing. Sit still, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths from your Dantian. After some time, you may want to set a timer and do it for 2-5 minutes and go from there. Even this small amount of practice will start building your neural connections and start making you calmer throughout the day and sleeping better at night. Do not not meditate or exercise because of time constraints! If you want to get something done, then just do it and stop thinking about doing it. Same goes for yoga, kungfu, skipping, swimming, running or what have you. In China we have an expression, “bu bu gao sheng”, which one offered translation reads as, climb one-step at a time. Soon enough, you will reach the top of the mountain (your goal). And of course one you reach the top of the mountain, you snap a few pictures and head back down. It’s all about the journey, as in life. Once we get to the top we intrinsically plateau, therefore as good business managers know, change and keeping things fresh is integral for a productive team and organization. Those that adapt thrive, and those that don’t perish, the examples are endless. The same goes for the gym analogy. After a certain time the body will get “used to” the daily routine, which means its time to change it up. In addition, the more and longer you work out for, the less you have to work out in the future. Muscle memory and muscle loss are all more persistent and all depending on your persistence. Which means if you stop working out or have a drink or two your six-pack won’t disappear overnight. So what this again translates and amounts to is that one way or another, if you exercise 1min or 1hr a day you’ll get there. Just as in the fable. “The Tortoise and the Hare”, the moral of the story here is don’t just do it as Nike said, stick to it!


“There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10, 000 hour rule” it takes about 10,000 hours on average to become a master at something. Don’t have that feeling again of regret, that you should’ve done something. Where would you have been now if you had started a new habit last year? Don’t make the same mistake twice. Make this year count, make it right, and value your time because every second, every minute your getting one step closer to the buzzer. Think about it, then relax and get shit done! You’re never too old too start; the only thing holding you back is you. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; Mastering yourself is true power” – Lao Tzu. It’s time to stop posting memes and quotations and as Nike said it best, “Just do it”! That’s the first step. Be the warrior you aught, should, would, can and will be today! It’s all up to you. You are the author, it’s your story, and you and only you hold the pen, so get your brush out, hold it up high, and make the first stroke today. The real moral here is to keep writing the story and one day, sooner than you think, you’ll wake up one day, say the timeless cliché, “Oh heavens, where has the time gone?” And you’ll have written a book, a book about your life.

“To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.”


Chapter 2.

Improved ExpressVPN

I’m continually being asked which VPN I use to blog use, access youtube, facebook, all the other commonly used social media sites. I always tell them ExpressVPN. Having trailed all the brand leaders Express is still the most consistent. And now they have improved ExpressVPN further. Here is how.

ExpressVPN’s New Device Policy Means More Connections and Less Restrictions

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Steam Rugby or Football.


The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.


Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.


University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 22.44.23

One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say


Huang Shan – China’s famous Yellow Mountain

The Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan, 黄山) is among the most visited and notable mountains in China. For those looking for a unique natural landscape and don’t mind having to compete for it with swarms of other tourists, this is the place for you.

You might have to use the new martial arts skills you’ve been learning at your Kung Fu School in order to fend off the other tourist that will be fighting for rooms and places to stay on this mountain. This is not a joke nor an exaggeration. Tensions can get pretty high over the last rooms when the alternative could be a cold sleepless night on this huge rock.

Once your rooms are secured you have two options to get to the top of the mountain. The first is to hike up the mountain stairs. This is the best way to get a good view of the landscape. The other is by Cable Car. The earlier you get the cable car the better. It’s not unknown for their to be kilometre long lines of people even at the break of dawn. If you successfully get on the cable car, expect more hiking.

Once at the top book into another hotel (this should be done in advance). That way you can relax and enjoy both sunset and sunrise the next day. In terms of the hotel quality, expect them to be overpriced, and rough. Prices range from 200 rmb to 1,000 rmb. For the 200 rmb range think refugee camp conditions.

Here is a link to some of the best accommodation options for Huang Shan.

To avoid disappointment I’d recommend you plan to visit off season, defiantly not on a Chinese holiday. Pre-buy and take with you any expensive food items. Whether expensive snacks or a cheeky bottle of rice liquor everything will be way more expensive at the top.

Huangshan, is a mountain range in southern Anhui province in eastern China. Vegetation on the range is thickest below 1,100 meters, with trees growing up to the treeline at 1,800 meters. Wikipedia
Address: Huangshan, Anhui, China
Elevation: 6,115′
Highest point: Xuelian Feng
Province: Anhui
Country: China
Phone: +86 559 558 0033
Listing: Ultra-prominent peak
Mountains: Tian Du Feng, Xuelian Feng, Guang Ming Ding

Top tips for visiting Huang Shan & Detailed Guide

  1. Plan ahead, check the weather and make sure its off season.
  2. Book your accommodation in advance
  3. Expect lots of people and cues
  4. Bring your survival and luxury rations
  5. Expect things to be more expensive

How to get to Huang Shan

Huang Shan is located in the western part of Anhui province. Below are a couple of options by train from either Shanghai or Beijing.

  • Shanghai (5 hours on the G1509, leaving in the morning at 8.27);
  • Beijing (there are fast trains from 8 in the morning to 15.30, and the trip lasts a little under 7 hours) and on the same line, Tianjin;

From the city of Huang Shan, where long distance options arrive, shuttles depart for Tangkou (汤口), adjacent to the entrance to the Park, at the foot of the mountain. If you choose to climb on foot, the climb starts at Tangkou. If instead you’re going for the cable cars, there are shuttles that connect directly to the station, airport and the city of Tangkou obviously. These city buses don’t cost more than 20 Yuan for the longest trip. Even taxis and tuk tuks are available if you arrive from the airport or station, but to get to the cable cars you can only use designated buses.

Pictures of Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan, 黄山)

Yellow Mountain


Locks on Huang Shan



Crowd at sunrise


From Dali to Shangri-la | Off-the-beaten tracks itinerary in Yunnan

The road that links Yunnan’s three main backpackers haven from Dali old town (大理古城) to Lijang (丽江), the former capital of the Naxi Kingdom, and the ancient Tibetan town of Shangri-la (香格里拉) a…

Source: From Dali to Shangri-la | Off-the-beaten tracks itinerary in Yunnan

Top 5 tips for surviving drinking in China

You owe it to yourself not to be the drunken foreigner and more importantly the wrong type of drunken foreigner and let yourself down. Remember the purpose of your journey is to Study Martial Arts. Heavy drinking won’t help you reach your aims and objectives and may cause you, your hosts or school and Shifu to loose face (embarrassment).

Drinking in China and smoking is common place. With cheap alcohol and cigarettes everywhere, this is not the best place to run away to if you want to change these bad habits. This must start at home.

Most social drinking in China is primarily associated with eating. Most drinking takes place around the dinner table and meals as a way to cement relationships and do business. As a topic this subject could easily have a series of blog entries but that will be a story for another day.

Here are my top 5 tips for surviving drinking in China in brief.

1. Showing respect when drinking is probably one of the first things someone will explain to you. When drinking tea or when drinking alcohol with a superior clink your cup/glass lower. Its super simple and easy to remember. But its much appreciated by your elders, fellow guests, shifu’s. The rest of the customs and rules need not be learnt straight away and are things you’ll pick up on or learn as you go. As a foreigner you’ll not be expected to know them or everything.

2. When inviting or being invited out for dinner or meals in China. The standard rule of thumb is usually the inviter pays unless stated otherwise.

3. When drinking follow the lead of others at the table in terms of speed quantity and times. Whatever you do avoid mixing baijiu and beer. You should remember drinking in China can start very slowly but once the individual toasting starts it can be rapid and all those small cups will start catching up on you especially if you’ve insisted on drinking out of turn.

4. If you don’t want to drink have an excuse prepared in advance or warn your host of this. Excuses related to health tend to be the best. Having tried many over the years these where best received by hosts and guests. If you’re not going to be drinking much but still want to show respect have tea ready in your cup and don’t empty the cup (ganbie) just drink as you wish (suiyi).

5. Eat, eat and eat. Show appreciation and be a good guest.

If you would like to learn more about how to survive in China why not check out my post on 10 Mistakes Foreign Martial Arts Students Make in China.

Manjianghong Fist

This modern wushu form in the video below was created by Jet Li in 1989 and is based on one of his favourite poems Man Jiang Hong.

Mǎn Jīang Hóng (满江红; literally means All are red in the River) and it is the title of a set of lyrical poems sharing the same pattern. If unspecified, it most often refers to the one normally attributed to legendary Song Dynasty general and Chinese national hero Yue Fei.

Man Jiang Hong

My wrath bristles through my helmet, the rain stops as I stand by the rail;

I look up towards the sky and let loose a passionate roar.

At age thirty my deeds are nothing but dust, my journey has taken me over eight thousand li

So do not sit by idly, for young men will grow old in regret.

The Humiliation of Jing Kang still lingers,

When will the pain of his subjects ever end?

Let us ride our chariots through the Helan Pass,

There we shall feast and drink barbarian flesh and blood.

Let us begin anew to recover our old empire, before paying tribute to the Emperor.

(Traditional Chinese Original)











An interview with Marc Meyer the writer of Taichi: The Story of a Chinese Master in America

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Meyer a writer, martial artists and musician about his latest book Taichi: The Story of a Chinese Master in America.

Marc’s novel tells the story of a man who leaves China in the early 1960’s to open a T’ai Chi school and reconnect with his Asian American family in Chinatown, New York City. The main character in the story was once the bodyguard of Mme Chiang Kai Shek. It’s bright red cover below spells out the words T’ai Chi Chuan in Chinese pictograms. And the novel is a must read for lovers of tai chi  and Asian American fiction alike. It was inspired by the legendary T’ai Chi grandmaster Cheng Man-Ching and his American students during the period of the 1960’s in New York City. It tells of a time, years before the advent of Bruce Lee movies, when the Kung Fu art of T’ai Chi Chuan was first introduced into the United States and was secretly practiced only in small enclaves of America’s Chinatowns.

Marc can you tell me little about your book? And some of the Characters in it?

Allow me to reiterate my book is a work of fiction.  As you are possibly aware, authenticity when it comes to T’ai Chi Chuan in and of itself is a murky business, due mainly to the fact that much of the teaching we have was passed down to us orally by it’s forebears. Very little about it was actually written down. Many of the forebears of T’ai Chi chuan were illiterate and its origins go back several thousand years. This makes the art form somewhat mysterious which is actually what I like about it. I’ve found Douglas Wyle’s books to be one of the more reliable sources of reference when it comes to the origins and practice of T’ai Chi Chuan, specifically Yang style which I practice and one that I draw upon recurrently in my book. Specifically on the subject of Yang style T’ai Chi which I’ve been practing and studying for the past 18 yrs. Let me stress that study and practice of T’ai Chi should occur simultaneously and continuously for the dedicated teacher.

In the book, a T’ai Chi master named Kuo Yun San leaves mainland China in the 1960’s for what he thinks is the last time. His goals are simple, he envisions opening a successful T’ai Chi school and strengthening the bonds between himself and his Asian American family in Chinatown with whom he has had little to no communication in years.  The results are surprising as Master Kuo finds himself trading one Cultural Revolution for another and his newfound friends and family members, thinking they were going to educate him into adopting an American lifestyle, find he has more to teach them.

From some of the details in your book its obvious you have a solid martial arts background. Can you tell me about your own martial arts experience? 

I came to T’ai Chi Chuan through the back door in a sense. A dining club my girlfriend and I belonged to offered lessons in T’ai Chi on the beach where I live in Naples Florida as one of the perks of its membership. Fortunately for me, though I didn’t know it then, both instructors who taught this class had been students of Bob Amaker, a resident of Florida who co-authored books with Cheng Man-Ching. Cheng Man-Ching was one of the main proponents of Yang style T’ai Chi Chuan in this country. I subsequently went on to receive what’s known as form correction from Lawrence Galante, a student himself of four T’ai Chi Chuan grandmasters, Paul Guo, Yu Chen Hsiang, TsunTsai Liang and Chen Man-Ching. I received final instruction from a first generation student of Professor Cheng as he was called, from Maggie Newman, one of his last living pupils in 2006, then in her mid eighties.

In your book you discuss the student teacher relationship. Can you tell us a bit more about where that inspiration came from?

It’s my firm belief that every teacher involved with T’ai Chi has something to contribute to the student’s education, although many times the approaches can be radically different and often make a student doubtful about the quality of instruction that he or she is receiving. If you are getting instruction from someone in Taichi you’re unsure about, my advice is to be patient and hang in there. Looking back you may find what they had to teach gave you useful insight even if you didn’t think so at the time. For example one of my teachers had a very holistic and somewhat esoteric approach but I learned much from him about some of the more mystical aspects of T’ai Chi I might not otherwise have been privvy to. Another was very “nuts and bolts” about his approach but taught me the kind of accuracy that is absolutely essential for the study and practice of the art. I actually recommend that if you intend to take up T’ai Chi as a practice, that you go out of your way to learn from different teachers because you can often come away with a rounder and more beneficial education from doing so. Remember if you take up the practice of T’ai Chi you’re in it for the long haul. It can take up to a year to learn just one single form properly and up to ten years to learn it as an applicable martial art. “It’s all about the journey” sounds cliched but in the case of T’ai Chi it’s absolutely true and ongoing. You’re constantly perfecting and polishing that stone every day week, month and year of your life, which for me has turned out to be a blessing and one of it’s most cherished aspects.


The book mentions a number of important martial arts milestones. Can you share a few of the most important ones?

Another one of the more interesting perspectives of this fascinating, mystical and multi-faceted art is its tendency to tailor itself individually to the practitioner. For me it has offered something of use from a health standpoint at almost every age related juncture of my life since i began practicing it in my early forties. In my forties I struggled with the onset of tinnitus, a horrible and constant high pitched ringing in the ears. T’ai Chi helped to calm me down, calm my anxious feelings about it and sleep better. After I found I could sleep more easily, the problem didn’t seem to bother me so much during the day and has finally faded into the background to the point where I don’t even notice it anymore. Another more serious problem developed when I turned sixty called Neuropathy. Another constant painful nerve related chronic disease which had equilibrium problems as one of it’s symptoms. It has taken a full year but thanks in part to Taichi I have been able to manage my symptoms and get them under control. When the doctor later asked me if if I wanted to take a class in learning how to keep my balance to prevent myself from falling I was happy to tell her “I TEACH balance!”.T’ai Chi Chuan is literally the gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, what’s next for Marc Meyer?  Do you have other books in the pipeline?

I have at least three more novels in me that I have begun working on simultaneously. One is a memoir, one is about an elderly batchelor who finds his way toward the end of his life and one is a young adult novel about five very unusual preteens in the possesion of individual healing powers. Of course getting ideas is easy, setting them down in a readable form that will capture an audience’s interest is very hard.

You can find Marc’s book here by clicking the amazon link  to the left. Any purchase you make via the affiliate link we will put back into www.StudyMartialArts.Org in order to help more students connect with genuine Master of Martial Arts.