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

porters2

Locks on Huang Shan

Campsite

Porters

Crowd at sunrise

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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)

满江红

怒发冲冠,凭栏处、潇潇雨歇。

抬望眼,仰天长啸,壮怀激烈。

三十功名尘与土,八千里路云和月。

莫等闲,白了少年头,空悲切!

靖康耻,犹未雪;

臣子恨,何时灭?

驾长车,踏破贺兰山缺!

壮志饥餐胡虏肉,笑谈渴饮匈奴血。

待从头,收拾旧山河,朝天阙!

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.

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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.

 

How to Stream the 2015 Rugby World Cup for FREE with a VPN

Wondering where and how to watch the world cup while in China?

Maybe you’re out in the sticks and there’s no way for you to scrum your way into a crowded bar for some overpriced Guinness to watch your favourite teams beat and bash the living shit out of each other. Maybe you’re in a secluded kung fu school and the closest city just doesn’t cater to showing western sporting events. Despite this, its still possible for the savvy www.StudyMartialArts.Org student to watch your favourite sporting events. You can do access this or footballing events via illegal streaming sites or our preferred method, with the use of a VPN.

Watch all your favorite sports all the time with a VPN!

Here is a link to our list of reviewed VPN providers. Below you’ll find out how we do it using our most reliable VPN provider to date.

Stream the Rugby World Cup directly on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s how:

  1. Sign up for an ExpressVPN account.
  2. Install ExpressVPN on any device you want to watch the Rugby World Cup on.
  3. Connect to a VPN server location in the UK to bypass content regional content blocks.
  4. Stream the games on ITV! (Note: You will need to register with ITV Player in order to access ITV)

connect to one of our servers in the uk to watch rugby

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Why Do You Need a VPN?

You need a VPN to access georestricted content.

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With a VPN, you can use different IP addresses to access content in different countries!

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Rugby World Cup Fixtures

Last updated 24th September 2015, based on information from ITV:
(all times are in British Time)

Thursday, 24th September 2015
20:00 New Zealand v Namibia on ITV

Friday, 25th September 2015
16:45 Argentina v Georgia on ITV4

Saturday, 26th September 2015
14:30 Italy v Canada on ITV
16:45 South Africa v Samoa on ITV
20:00 England v Wales on ITV

Sunday, 27th September 2015
12:00 Australia v Uruguay on ITV
14:30 Scotland v USA on ITV
16:45 Ireland v Romania on ITV

Tuesday 29th September 2015
16:45 Tonga v Namibia on ITV4

Thurs 1st October 2015 ITV4
16:45 Wales v Fiji on ITV
20:00 France v Canada on ITV4

Friday 2nd October 2015
20:00 New Zealand v Georgia on ITV

Saturday 3rd October 2015
14:30 Samoa v Japan on ITV
16:45 South Africa v Scotland on ITV
20:00 England v Australia on ITV

Sunday 4th October 2015
14:30 Argentina v Tonga on ITV
16:45 Ireland vs Italy on ITV

Tuesday 6th October 2015
16:45 Canada v Romania on ITV4
20:00 Fiji v Uruguay on ITV4

Wednesday 7th October 2015
16:45 South Africa v USA on ITV
20:00 Namibia v Georgia on ITV4

Friday 9th October 2015
20:00 New Zealand v Tonga on ITV4

Saturday 10th October 2015
14:30 Samoa v Scotland on ITV
16:45 Australia v Wales on ITV
20:00 England v Uruguay on ITV

Sunday 11th October 2015
12:00 Argentina v Namibia on ITV
14:30 Italy v Romania on ITV
16:45 France v Ireland on ITV
20:00 USA v Japan on ITV4

View our current article on the best VPN’s for China.

Who Will Come Out On Top?

Will New Zealand defend their 2011 win?

COME ON IRELAND!!!

Leave a comment and let us know your top picks and predictions!

How an American Dancer Introduced Tai Chi to America

In 1954, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a 51-year-old woman in loose, comfortable clothing moved through a series of movements. A crowd gathered amidst abstract paintings to watch her. With the grace of a dancer, she slowly raised and lowered her hands, shifted her weight from side to side, and bowed her head. Her face was calm and serene.

The woman’s name was Sophia Delza. She was a dancer of some renown in the world of modern dance. When she first performed solo at the Guild Theater in New York at age 27, the New York Times called it “a distinguished debut” that “revealed her as an artist of individuality and authority.”

Although the woman’s slow pace would have bored a concert hall audience, her practiced movements radiated power. She moved like a coiled spring, full of harnessed energy. To the MoMA audience in 1954, Delza’s demonstration was a novelty. Today, many Americans would instantly recognize that she was demonstrating tai chi, the Chinese martial art.

Americans often don’t think of tai chi, which is commonly practiced by senior citizens in public parks, as a martial art. Although many variations exist, tai chi fundamentally involves moving slowly and fluidly through postures with names like “The Snake Creeps Down” and “The Golden Cockerel Stands on One Leg.” Tai chi often looks more like slow yoga than judo or karate-two martial arts that involve kicking and grappling. For this reason, many people practice tai chi as a gentle exercise, without any interest in its martial component.

Photo by Jakub Haiun

Yet tai chi has been translated as “supreme ultimate fist” and “great extremes boxing.” As practitioners like Sophia Delza understood, tai chi’s slow pace represents control-not weakness. Mastering the movements allows devotees to develop strength, balance, and a unity between mind and action. This is useful for both longevity and self-defense-and tai chi training that involves sparring and weapons.

In the 1950s, Eastern martial arts, and particularly tai chi, were not well known. Sophia Delza’s 1954 performance at the Museum of Modern Art was likely the first public demonstration of tai chi in the United States. Delza had studied tai chi with a master of the Wu style while living in China. When she taught, demonstrated, and wrote about tai chi on her return to the United States, she was one of the first, if not the first, to do so extensively outside Chinese-American communities.

This makes Sophia Delza a pioneer of American tai chi. Although she never achieved the fame of martial arts legends like Bruce Lee, she is worth remembering. Like tai chi, she had a gentle side that hid a powerful will. Delza loved dance, wrote academically, and de-emphasized the martial applications of tai chi. She was also one tough lady: Although American women did not have the right to vote until Delza was 17-years-old, she engaged in radical politics that made her a federal person of interest, and burst through barriers to forge a career in dance and, ultimately, as a mother of American martial arts.

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Long before Peggy Olson broke the glass ceiling at the Sterling Cooper ad agency in Mad Men, Sophia Delza lived the mantra “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Delza was born in Brooklyn in 1903, an environment likely to produce an artist, but not a martial artist. She majored in the sciences at Hunter College, a women’s college, but pursued dance due to the influence of her older sister Elizabeth, who became a professional dancer and Sophia’s first dance teacher.

When Sophia followed her sister’s footsteps, she had to compete for a limited number of professional dance opportunities. She took a variety of jobs in plays and films until she triumphed with her successful solo performance at the Guild Theater in New York. When she next performed a series of original compositions, a New York Times reviewer praised her “strong feeling for visual line” and “general good taste.” Delza also developed a performance style that mixed monologues and dance, studied composition in Paris, and traveled to Mexico to study folk dances.

Her career was remarkable in an era when less than a third of women worked. It is downright daring when you consider that her work was very political-and that she kept at it despite the risk of rabid anti-communist backlash.

Delza did not study folk dance in Mexico merely out of artistic interest. According to scholar Ellen Graff, Delza associated with a close community of artists who supported socialist and communist causes. Delza studied folk dance to make a proletariat argument for embracing traditional dances by describing them as “mass dances” that could unite communities. When civil war broke out in Spain in 1936-and became a cause celebre among artists and intellectuals-Delza created and performed works that criticized the fascism of General Franco and raised money for the leftist forces in Spain that opposed him. Later in her life, Delza donated time in her dance studio to radical dance groups.

Today communism and socialism are only associated with the failings of the Soviet Union, but in the 1920s and 1930s, they represented progressive politics. The American Communist Party organized marches of tens of thousands to advocate for the unemployed. Nearly every intellectual, including George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway, admired or supported socialism.

The 1920s was also the beginning of the Red Scare and apocalyptic fears over the spread of communism in America. Both Sophia and her sister Elizabeth were the subjects of reports for the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated “disloyalty” and “subversive activities” among American citizens and leftist groups. Sophia’s brother Leo Hurwitz (Sophia had adopted Delza as a stage name), an award-winning documentary filmmaker, also appeared in the reports and was blacklisted by the film industry in the 1950s due to his political views.

This opposition to radical politics does not seem to have stopped Sophia or her siblings. In an interview, Sophia’s nephew explained that Sophia and his father Leo “felt… that they really could change the world.” The Communist Party in America, he continued, “spanned progressive causes like the desire to fight Fascism as it was growing in Europe, the growth of unions, the desire to stop people from being evicted from their houses, and the movement for racial justice.”East Meets West

In 1948, at age 45, Sophia Delza was married and moved to Shanghai with her husband, Cook Glassgold. China was recovering from its occupation during World War II, and Glassgold had a diplomatic posting as Director of International Refugee and Relief Operations. During the couple’s four year stay, however, Delza did much more than appear on her husband’s arm at official functions.

Delza engaged in a vigorous cultural exchange. She taught modern dance, which was novel in China, and studied and learned Chinese dance and theater. Her zeal for exploration changed her life during a trip to Beijing, where she discovered tai chi. Delza later wrote about the dramatic scene she stumbled upon at dawn in T’ai Mizo Park:

Dozens of people, young and old, were each doing his exercise, each clearly centered on himself. No outside sound of voice or instrument directed the movement. The slow, continuous flow of form and the impeccably even tempo seemed to come not only from some mastey within each one but also from the intrinsic nature of the action itself.

Delza was fascinated. “Looking amazingly light and stable at the same time,” she recalled, “each person’s movements seemed effortless.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 22.04.55

In context, it seems obvious that a modern dancer would be one of the first outsiders to appreciate tai chi. When Delza described her “first unforgettable impression” of the Chinese Theater in Peking, she wrote, “The colorful creatures moved so quickly that it seemed the stage itself were revolving.” Her recollection of the next scene marvels at the same slow, graceful aspects that struck her when she saw tai chi:

A simple, elegant figure, entering from the upstage right corner, quietly took a deliberate pose. He balanced himself on one leg, and extended the other in easy lightness, head high. Then replacing his leg in slow motion, he moved diagonally across the stage with the restraint and simplicity and… grace of a fairy-tale god.

At the Beijing park that morning, Delza quickly realized that “it was not dance [she] was seeing.” Yet she wanted to know more. She was introduced to Ma Yueh-liang, a famed teacher of tai chi in the Wu style, and his wife Wu Ying-hua, his co-instructor. She convinced the couple to teach her, and took up regular practice.

As Ben Judkins notes in a blog post about Sophia Delza, this put her in the unique situation of receiving several years of training “directly from one of the most talented martial artists of his generation.” She came to appreciate how, in her words, maintaining “a consistently slow tempo” in tai chi “is an indication, not only that the body has acquired strength and control, but also that the mind is in harmony with the action.”

When Delza and her husband returned to New York in 1951, she had trained for years with a foremost authority on Wu tai chi, and knew more about the practice and philosophy of tai chi than almost any American.

Bringing Tai Chi to Manhattan

In the 1950s, the practice of Eastern martial arts existed in the United States, but it was not widespread.

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Chinese immigrants passed through San Francisco’s Angel Island from 1910 to 1940, bringing with them martial arts like tai chi and judo. American soldiers stationed in Japan after the war returned to open dojos. Gene Lebell-who is now a mixed martial artist famous for teaching Chuck Norris and allegedly choking out Steven Seagal until he soiled himself-won an amateur National Judo Championship held in the United States in 1954.

But Americans like Lebell-who learned Eastern martial arts despite being outsiders to Asian communities-were rarities. Choy Hok Pang, a well-known, early teacher of tai chi in 1940s America, taught almost entirely Chinese students until the 1960s. It was not until Bruce Lee and Hong Kong “kung fu” films exploded in popularity in the 1970s that Americans widely adopted martial arts training. Some casual histories of tai chi simply write that it was introduced to the United States in the 1970s.

When Delza returned to New York from China in 1951, it was in this environment in which martial arts, and particularly tai chi, were known but relatively unfamiliar outside Asian communities.

The cover of Sophia Delza’s book, the first tai chi book published in English

Delza acted as a cultural emissary on her return, lecturing, writing, and teaching tai chi and Chinese theatre. Ultimately tai chi became her main focus.

The initial response was modest. One early student at the tai chi school Delza opened in New York regretfully recalled that her classes were poorly attended. When Delza performed tai chi at the Museum of Modern Art, it was the first demonstration of its kind, but also seems to have been a minor event. The demonstration does not turn up in the MoMA’s archived schedules from 1954, and one author credits Delza with giving the first public demonstration of tai chi in the United States two years later at the United Nations.

This did not deter Delza, who kept teaching and writing. In 1961, she published the first English language book about tai chi. As the popularity of tai chi and martial arts increased in the 1960s, partially thanks to her efforts, she appeared on television and her tai chi school thrived.

Her influence can be seen in a 1960 Popular Mechanics article about tai chi that is unmistakably a trend piece. The author-who breathlessly writes that “In Shanghai, where matches have been held, no Western boxer has yet beaten a boxer who trained on T’ai Chi to get balance and power”-makes Sophia Delza the focus of his article. He notes that her television appearances result in hundreds of inquiries from around the country, and that her students include “stage and screen stars.” Another article from 1963 relates that tai chi schools are overflowing with more students than teachers like Sophia Delza can handle.

If Bruce Lee-who more than anyone popularized martial arts in America through karate competitions and action films-was a Hollywood blockbuster or comic book, then Sophia Delza was an art film or New Yorker article. Delza taught from a studio in Carnegie Hall, which members of the Actor’s Guild could attend for free, and instructed celebrities and famous actors. In a move that foreshadowed Americans’ adoption of yoga purely as an exercise, Delza de-emphasized the martial aspects of tai chi in favor of its health and concentration benefits. Yet she always retained her academic bent, writing about the philosophy and history of tai chi in journals and books.

Sophia Delza’s role was to be one of the first advocates for tai chi, and to translate it for a non Chinese-American audience. At a time when articles marvelled at an exercise that did not involve barbells, medicine balls, or even sweat, Delza told her students that “We in the West are apt to overexert ourselves in exercise and sports, believing that a hard, tense movement indicates strength.” In tai chi, she continued, true strength, energy, and balance comes from exercise that does not strain the muscles or leave one winded.

Delza also lamented that “Too often I am asked no question other than whether this or that movement will make one thin.” She challenged her American students to appreciate other benefits of exercise, including the mental challenge of perfecting the tai chi postures.

Despite her academic inclinations, Sophia Delza is remembered as a teacher more than a scholar. Today, former students leave warm comments on blog posts about Delza that praise her instruction. One man who studied with Delza when she was in her eighties remembered her as “a tough lady” who taught tai chi “the same way a ballet master would teach.”

In 1996, Sophia Delza passed away. It had been almost 50 years since she first saw tai chi performed at dawn in T’ai Mizo Park, and she had spent over three decades as an instructor. When Delza published her first book in 1961, she had to explain every aspect of tai chi. The year she died, the State University of New York Press published her final book on tai chi. By then, it was almost impossible to imagine an America where people did not know about tai chi or martial arts. Few people know it, but that is Sophia Delza’s legacy.

A guest post from www.udemy.com – We’re the world’s online learning marketplace, where 8 million+ students are taking courses in everything from programming to yoga to photography–and much, much more. Each of our 32,000+ courses is taught by an expert instructor, and every course is available on-demand, so students can learn at their own pace, on their own time, and on any device.

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Tibetan Sky Burial

by Kerrie Henderson

“Separation of the body and soul”

photo 1(2)This morning, in the hostel in Kangding a Chinese guy asked me whether I’d been to Sida or not. For a lot of young Chinese people it seems to be this years ‘In’ destination… “and did you see the ‘tianzang’ (i guess he didn’t know the right words in English…) ?… I really want to see…” I did, but at Sida I wasn’t that comfortable with it.

I’ve seen one before, 2-3 years ago whilst biking through Gansu province. A body was carried up a hill and a gathering of Tibetan relatives and lamas stood or sat watching. There were a few foreigners there too, but we all knew that our cameras were to be kept inside our bags. We stood watching for around an hour or so… in awe of the birds, their size, their grace and the way they sat on the hill silently, waiting for their turn to pick at the remains….

In Sida its very different. Around 12.00 a handful of drivers stood outside the hilltop hotel yell ‘去天葬吗 ?and Chinese tourists haggle over prices or ask around to find others to fill up their cars. Around 12.30 most of the cars have made their way down to the bottom of the monastery complex and are beeping at each other as they negotiate their way through the muddy bumpy truckstop village at the bottom. The beeping and racing continues as the cars go down the road, turn and go up a smaller narrower mountain road. Its raining but the car park is already half full and its hard to see the end of the line of cars still making their way up the mountain. There are already around a hundred or so tourists, all Chinese stood behind a rope when I arrive. A couple of lamas and nuns (maybe real… maybe tour guides dressed up… I’m really not sure now…) were telling people to stay behind the line and not to take photos of the body or of the people surrounding it. I pointed my camera at the birds, as awesome as I remembered sat waiting patiently on the top of the hillside, looking for the right moment to make their way further down.photo 2(2)

I have no idea when the ceremony started. There was a nun singing ‘o-mani…’ and lots of Chinese people talking. I guess the ceremony wasn’t quite what the Chinese were expecting as most had left within 1/2 an hour or so. I stayed watching the crowd thin, and staring at the line of vultures sat on the hill above me. I couldn’t help wondering why the the vultures were more interested in watching their friends than eating lunch, and then realised I was doing the same thing, not really watching the ceremony and the proceedings but the behaviour of the crowd, and the way the Chinese people reacted to what they were watching. There were a lot of ‘i’m very cold’ and ‘I’m hungry’ ‘s… There were people taking pictures of the birds squabbling over the body (the very thing the monks told them not too…. and, yeah I know I shouldn’t have taken 2 of the pics. here but my iPad doesnt have the same super sized zoom lenses that many of the Chinese photographers cameras do…) A few Tibetan people were gathered around the monument at the bottom, near the pit where the body and vultures were and a few more groups were scattered around the hillside sat quietly. I wondered what they thought about what they were seeing… their relatives death being turned into a macabre tourist attraction, and how westerners would react if a group of Chinese tourists turned up at a church burial wanting to watch when and how the coffin was lowered into the ground and to take pictures of it.  photo 3

I can’t help thinking that death and the ceremonies that surround it are a personal thing, for the families and friends of the person that died. In western culture funerals are usually sad events, but in other cultures (and sometimes in the west, but not often), they are happier occasions, a celebration of the deceased’s life… and that being invited to watch the ceremonies associated with it is a privilege, not something that people should expect to see when they go to a Tibetan tourist place.

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I wonder whether the monastery is deliberately encouraging the tourist crowds. The sky burial site has a large white monument and construction is underway to make it and the car park alongside it bigger. In Gansu, the ceremony and the place where it took place was simple, the surroundings natural. There was a weird beauty to the proceedings. In Sida there was nothing ‘natural’ about it. 10 minutes or so later when a young boy took my ipad off me to look at my photos I realised that the tour guide/nun had stopped singing and had disappeared. A few minutes later I saw her lead a group of people across the grass, one of the places where were told not to go. The people in her group were pointing their cameras at the vultures and the body below and no one was stopping them. By this time the crowd had thinned out. Horns were beeping as the cars were pushing past each other to make their way out of the car park. The vultures were still picking away or watching and waiting. I stayed a while longer, watching the birds, the snake of cars slowly making its way down the hillside and the small groups of Tibetans sitting in the distance. I couldn’t help wondering who were the vultures. I don’t think the monastery intended to promote this type of tourism, but now that seeing a 49 day old corpse being pulled apart by vultures is one of the latest ‘in’ things for Chinese tourists heading to Sida to see I don’t think it will be easy for them to control.

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But back to the story… I asked the guy why he wanted to go and see one. ‘because… because everybody talks about it. It sounds good. I really want to see. People say Sida is the best place to see it.’ ‘Maybe you should see it.’ I told him ‘It might make you think…’ but, judging by the group of tourists I watched 4 days ago… I doubt it.

The Tibetan sky-burials appear to have evolved from ancient practices of defleshing corpses as discovered in archeological finds in the region. These practices most likely came out of practical considerations, but they could also be related to more ceremonial practices similar to the suspected sky burial evidence found at Göbekli Tepe (11,500 years before present) and Stonehenge (4,500 years BP).[citation needed] Most of Tibet is above the tree line, and the scarcity of timber makes cremation economically unfeasible. Additionally, subsurface interment is difficult since the active layer is not more than a few centimetres deep, with solid rock or permafrost beneath the surface. (Wikipedia)

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The Best Pictures from the 2015 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Every year, in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, the city of Harbin hosts the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, featuring massive ice and snow sculptures. At night, the sculptures are colorfully illuminated and visitors can climb and play on some of the structures. The festival officially opened on January 5 this year, and will ran through until the 5 February. The winter festival draws several million tourists each year, from China and from abroad. All brave -10 degrees celsius  or more freezing temperatures to enjoy the atmosphere and fun.

Here are a selection of the best pictures from this years 2015 festival.

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Tickets for the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and the Ice and Snow World in 2015 are sold according to two time periods: a.m. and p.m. Afternoon tickets seem better value for money (if staying over 6 hours), but few stay for the full nine hours in the cold. Children under 1.2 meters go free.

Morning Tickets (9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)

  • Adults: 150 yuan (25 USD)
  • Children (above 1.2 meters accompanied by an adult): 120 yuan (20 USD)

Afternoon and Evening Tickets (12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.)

  • Adults: 300 yuan (49 USD)
  • Children (above 1.2 meters accompanied an adult): 160 yuan (26 USD)

Harbin and the ice festival, definitely offer the opportunity for a winter break with a difference.

 

 

 

10 Mistakes Foreign Martial Arts Students Make in China

China awaits! The Great Wall; steamed dumplings, Shaolin monks and Qingdao beer. Already your mind is racing with wild expectations. However, before you leave home, remember this is a chance to immerse yourself in a strange new culture. This is not just any trip. This is a journey! By Studying Martial Arts you will interact with local communities more deeply than a traveler passing through.

Whether you experience a culture shock or not, there will be moments when you realize you’re doing something “wrong”. It might be small things like explaining you’re learning to sleep (Shuìjiào) instead of Chinese Wrestling (Shuāijiāo) or raising your glass higher than your elders when toasting. Then of course there are the obvious blunders like behaving like an ass on weekends away from your kung fu school or incessantly bitching about the fact things aren’t the same as they are back home.

China is a country made up of 22 provinces and 56 ethnic minority groups many of which have very different cultures, languages, dialects, customs and peoples. It has a population equivalent to the population of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and all of Western Europe combined. Its bigger than an entire continent, so its not surprising that its developed differently to other counties you may be more accustomed to.

Each  province and city will have its own speciality that you’ll learn along the way. You’ll make mistakes and discoveries but its all part of learning, but there are some no-no’s that foreigners before you have commonly committed. Learn from their blunders and avoid these common mistakes made by foreign martial arts students who head of to study martial arts in China month after month, year after year.

1. Not making the most of National Holidays and Weekends

In order to make the most of your weekends and time off from training you’ll need to put a plan together. Spending a little time at the local bathing center on the weekend can be a welcome treat allowing the body rest and recuperation. However, there is a distinct difference between the mighty Roman gladiator and spending hours plodding around in the dark like the walking dead.

If you want to sight see or travel, tickets need to be purchased in advance, planning and preparation is the key. As will be your willingness to travel alongside millions of other travelers. Last years golden week saw half a billion Chinese make various trips and journeys. That’s a lot of pot noodles and chicken feet, so don’t underestimate the need to plan ahead. The Travel China Guide has always been very helpful for trip planning and site seeing information. Here you’ll find The Chinese Public Holiday Calendar for 2015-2017.  

 “Last years golden week saw half a billion Chinese make various trips and journeys”

One of the best things about the school consultation offered through Study Martial Arts is the travel advice and support you can get. It will help you get the most out of sight seeing opportunities both near and far. Plus its all good stuff and FREE for SMA members and those who have booked their experience through StudyMartialArts.Org.

2. Assuming You Can’t Get By on the Basics

Does everyone speak English? No. Do a lot? Yes. The number of English language learners in China has risen over the past decade. In tourist areas and capitals, its easier to find English speakers, but you shouldn’t expect it. Being open friendly, smiling, and using gestures as well as interesting ways to get your message across in a friendly way will do wonders for you. When I first arrived in China many of my friends who had much more experience speaking the language than me would be amazed at how well I would do with the most basic of Chinese. The only difference was my playful disposition and imagination. 9 out of 10 times I would not only get what I wanted but often get much more in return. This ranged from free lifts, meals, KTV invites and of course lasting friendships. Treat English like a welcome surprise, if you find it be happy, but if you don’t remember there was no promise it would be given to you anyway. Remember not to make your martial arts adventure in China a duplicate of your life in Europe or the USA etc.

At the sometime don’t assume no one speaks English either. There are approximately 400 million English learners in China so it shouldn’t be used as a language to insult people stealthily. English comprehension is often much higher than speaking ability due to shyness and how the language is taught.

If you want to get a head start on your language learning the SMA Welcome pack offers students who book through StudyMartialArts.Org $400 usd worth of language learning and martial arts materials pre-trip all at no cost!

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3. Drinking the Wrong Way

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. 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 its own blog entry 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.

4. Failing to Address People Properly 

In China much of how you address or interact with someone will depend on your relationship to that person. Just like the rituals associated with drinking and food, failing to address people properly can be a hinderance to building good relationships, gaining favor or simply getting the information you desire. The physiological fact is that when you start calling people auntie, uncle, brother or sister you should in most cases have the inclination to treating each other better and like family. This is good news if you join a good kung fu family.

Here are the most common ways to address people that are not directly related to blood relationships and can be applied generally.

Auntie (阿姨 a-yi) given to any woman around the age of your own mother.

Uncle  (叔叔 shush) given to any man around the age of your own father.

Big brother ( 大哥 da-ge) given to any male older than you.

Little brother ( 弟弟 di-di) given to any male younger than you.

Big sister (大姐 da-jie) given to any female older than you.

Little sister (小妹 xiao-mei/妹妹mei-mei) given to any female younger than you.

Grandma (老奶奶 lao- nainai/老婆婆lao-popo) given to any female around the age of your own grandmother.

Grandpa (老爷爷lao-yeye/ 老公公lao-gonggong) given to any male around the age of your own grandpa

Teacher

老師 老师 lǎoshī Teacher “Laoshi” may sometimes be used as a polite reference to a more highly educated person, who may not necessarily be a teacher.

Master

師父 师父 shīfù Master See Sifu for further information.
師傅 (skilled worker) 师 傅 shīfù Master See Sifu for further information.

Driver (司机si ji) General term for a taxi or bus driver.

Buddy (哥们儿ge men er) A term used between men when being friendly

Beautiful girl (美女mei nv) Often used when addressing young women who work in the service industry.

Mr (先生xian sheng)

Ms (小姐xiao jie)

Mrs (女士nv shi)

Thankfully the general terms above is likely to more than enough to help you get by day to day. If however, you’d like to learn more you can watch this short video highlighting the staggering amount of different words for family members in China.

5. Not Making the Most out of China’s Vast Bus & Train Network

China has an abundance of travel options for the intrepid martial arts traveller. From low budget airfares to high speed trains, bus services and slow trains.

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Elong and Ctrip are two of the best airline ticketing companies in China. Both companies handle domestic and international flights and their websites are easy to use. Often it’s going to be worth comparing domestic flight prices with high speed train tickets as they are pretty competitive in comparison to the high speed trains. The cheapest way to travel is normally by long distant bus and depending on the journey can often be faster than long distant trains.

“If you want to buy a ticket travel or book into a hotel you’ll need your passport.”

If you do choose to travel by train you can easily pick up tickets from one of the many ticket offices near stations or dotted around cities. Simply search online for information and go prepared with train numbers, dates and useful phrases.

Traveling overnight by train can be both fun and enjoyable. If you’ve got money to spend go for the soft sleeper. Soft sleepers are (4 birth cabins) and idea in a group of 4. If their are non available or you are on a budget then the hard sleeper will do (6 birth cabin).

Seated or standing options for long journeys is something you’ll want to avoid. It will be an experience but it usually doesn’t make for a fun journey. If you’ve no other choice and there are no tickets left you can often ask to be upgraded. So use your relationship building skills with the conductors and service staff to gain favor.

As an alternative when no seats are available the dinning car can offer some welcome rest, however you will be obliged to buy overpriced food and drink throughout the journey if you wish to remain in the seat.

The last option of course is to bring your own stool and tea flask like the seasoned local traveler you are becoming. NOTE: Definitely bring your tea and flask. 

For both trains and buses you should plan to be at the stations 30-40 minutes before they leave. With stations being so big , walking time, confusion and queues mean you’re likely to miss the train if you cut it too fine. Most importantly, if you want to buy a ticket travel or book into a hotel you’ll need your passport.

Here’s a more in-depth article on all you need to know about buying and using train and bus tickets in China.

6. Not Making the Most out of the Cheap Internal Flights 

China has two great, reliable budget air travel companies. These are Ctrip and elong. Both have English website versions and don’t charge foreigner site users more for flight purchases. The only downside is that they no-longer offer their cash and delivery service, purchases must now be made by credit card.

So plan your internal flights ahead of time. Check for deals and book well in advance of Chinese holidays. If you follow these rules it could be that flying will be very competitive in comparison to purchasing train tickets when you consider the potential time you might lose during transit, money spent while traveling and of course the convenience of plane travel.

7. Clinging to Western Comforts and Society as well as Westerners themselves and Not Embracing your New Found Freedom. 

Martial arts students in China have a much wider range of opportunity than tourists. You not only have a real chance to experience another culture. You have a chance to leave any previous cultural trappings and personal baggage behind you and start afresh. Affectively, you can drop out of both western and the modern Chinese rat race and return to a simpler way of life without the negative influences of celebrity, trash tv, news or politics. After all you are paying for the opportunity to live a unique way of life and train. Don’t waste that opportunity by hanging out every rest period online or by spending time with westerners who are a negative influence, simply because they are western and familiar.

Tourists come to China to see the sites, but you are a martial arts student. You have specifically come to learn kung fu in China! You have signed up to experience a way of life that allows you the space and time to train martial arts day in day out. One of the side benefits of this training is that you will be able to find the space and time to breath literally and metaphorically. You can’t do this if you seek every trapping and convenience from the West that you left behind.

Studying martial arts in China offers you a much wider range of opportunity than many other potential activity. You can discover not only the real China but more importantly the real you. Don’t waste this by clinging to familiar crutches.

“StudyMartialArts.Org will even pay their SMA students for articles.”

Whether your reasons for coming to China have been to study martial arts or simply for travel and adventure. The fact you decided to become a martial arts student changed all that. Your focus for the time you are at the school should be mastery and reaching new levels of skill, whatever they maybe. This is the reason you became a student, not making training your priority defeats the purpose and is annoying to the students who are doing just that. Your behavior has the potential to be either positive or negative. Students with a lack of discipline or demonstrating a lack of effort aren’t likely to be warmly welcomed. So if you’re not truly dedicated get ready to get the cold shoulder from the long-term students in your class. Skill level is not as important as attitude.

In short.

1. Focus on your training nothing else matters. It’s your priority now, so train hard and be honest with yourself.

2. Drop negative influences and old crutches.

3. Don’t spend longer than you have to on Facebook or social networks. Keep it to an hour or two max and at the weekend.

4. Leave news, politics, opinions and celebrity to others. Drop all negative influences and only keep what is essential.

5. Pick up a good book, you know the ones you’ve been planning to read and never have. Begin studying and focus on your own mind, body and spirit.

6. If you feel inspired write and journal your progress. This will allow you to keep track of your progress and your discoveries. If what you’re writing is good and you have a story to tell www.StudyMartialArts.Org will even pay their SMA students for articles! 

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 8. Not Practicing Your Foreign Language Skills

Maybe part of the experience for you is learning the language. You’ve spent months in preparation using the free language learning resources from SMA or you’re taking classes for Studying Chinese and preparation to actually use it, but now you hear it everywhere you’re too intimidated to use it. The biggest mistake would be letting all the work go to waste because you’re shy. Another big mistake would be thinking that the Chinese language classes at the kung fu schools will be of any real help. Usually, these classes offer a token introduction and are not structured. The quality is generally low and is interrupted by new arrivals. My advice is to make the most out of the SMA language resources. SMA provides language learning materials for our students that actually work. Some are free and some we will order in advance of your arrival at the school. Which means that when you arrive you will have a HKS (Official Hanban language learning materials). These include a text book, workbook and accompanying audio CD’s. Here is the StudyMartialArts.Org list of Kung fu Schools and Universities in China that actually can provide students a  quality martial arts and Chinese language learning experience. 

If you’re in a country where the language interests you, you are in the most ideal classroom and take full advantage of it. Whether it feels scary or not, take every opportunity to practice. Here are 5 Hacks for Learning a Language Abroad, even eavesdropping on stranger’s conversations is an opportunity to learn something new and test your language skills!

9. Forgetting the RMB has a Value 

Sound strange? Think again. As a previous long term martial arts student and now resident I have to admit I get tired of having to haggle. However, this is unavoidable, therefore it’s important to know the value of your money and what things cost not in comparison to your respective country but in terms of the cost in China. When fresh faced martial arts students arrive at a kung fu school your first job when outside the school will be paying for things and learning the subtleties of a good haggle.  If you’ve got the right attitude your fellow kung fu brothers and sisters at the school will help keep you right.

Foreigners in China getting ripped off or paying over the odds for things is not a new phoneme. Don’t reenforce that through ignorance or lack of care, after all you may have lots of money or might only be there for a short time but others at the school will be there for longer and on budgets. Don’t make that harder for them by allowing yourself to be taken for a ride or paying silly prices for essential items in and around the school.

10. Handing Over Responsibility for Your Own Learning

Ultimately you must be mature enough to take responsibility for your own learning, development and progression. Yes you are paying tuition and you will be taught, however without hard work (kung fu) you will get little in return. The most important aspects of any martial art training is in the development of the foundation. The bitter pill of training, overcoming pain, repetition and boredom through persistence. This is up to you and can’t be put on anyone else.

“The most important aspect of any martial arts training is in the  development of the foundation”.

If you’ve decided to study martial arts in China, you will make a few mistakes. Don’t let this scare you off though. Instead, remember you chose this journey for a reason, and make sure to take full advantage of the opportunities. Immerse yourself in your study and the experience and grow with each mistake.

When you do mess up, you might not know why right away, so ask your martial brothers and sisters, locals or friends and when you look back, you’ll probably laugh when you remember the wrong things you said or did!

It’s not about how many times you fall its about how many times you dust yourself off and pick yourself up!

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