The Life of Pai

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Stepping of the plane in Chiangmai, I instantly liked the place. The warmth of the air was somewhat different to the dry February cold of Beijing.

Rather unwisely though I failed to print of the directions and contact number for where I would spend the next 3 weeks training. “Mai Pen Rai” with a single step I’d quickly adopted the Thai go with the flow attitude like a natural, after all I was in Thailand and what better why to honor my hosts.

I’d only just touched down in Thailand and the journey was already exceeding my expectations and I felt completely relaxed about the weeks ahead. What I love about traveling is meeting people. My experiences to date have shown me that people vibrate on different frequencies depending on their state of mind. When people are on similar frequencies it’s natural for them to attract and connect. With my mind on exploration, discovery and anticipation for the journey ahead it would be this energetic principle that had drawn me to meet a fellow martial arts traveler.

Energetic principle or fait I met Dr David Lertzman at the boarding gate at Hong Kong international airport heading for Chiangmai. Both of us where surveying the room for a suitable plug socket to charge our respective apple products.

David a professor from Calgary University in Canada was a man who’d spent the last 7 years working with indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest. He was traveling to a place called Pai for 3 weeks of Shaolin training in order to follow a passion for martial arts that remained with him from his youth.

We rearranged our seats on the plane and from Hong Kong to Chiangmai the professor and I swapped stories and enjoyed the back and forth of good conversation.

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Walking Street

An instantly likeable and approachable man he had a way of making people around him feel comfortable. I pondered the thought of how this character trait would be one that would serve him well in the rain forests of the Amazon where he would have to communicate with numerous indigenous peoples. I pictured him bounding through the rain forests like Sean Connery from the medicine man.

We parted company in Chiang Mai with the intension of staying in touch to share our separate training experiences. He set off for the Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat in Pi and I to meet and train with Sifu Mark Rasmus.

Arriving late at Susan Pailomn it was dark but with a warm welcome and smile I was greeted by Sifu Rasmus. I could feel I was in a good place geographically, mentally and spiritually. Mark showed me to my chalet and we headed out to grab some food.

We talked about our respective martial arts journeys, about the training ahead, about life in Chiangmai, places to eat and places to visit. I new I was in the right place studying with the right master. When we finished it was late.

My first night in Chiangmai my plan ahead of arrival had been to make it to base camp familurize myself with the area and get a good nights rest. Mission accomplished.

Nestled among bamboo groves and trees I woke up from my first nights sleep to the morning chants of Buddhist monks and bell chimes, refreshed and ready to begin my training.The days ahead in Chiang Mai would be filled with excellent tuition under the supervision of Sifu Rasmus.

In addition to this there would be amazing temple visits and location based training, delicious local food and one or two healing Thai massages.Each evening as part of my training regime I would journal my progress. Likewise Professor David Lertzman had also been chronicling his training experience in Pai and was emailing the details of what would become a great blog for those thinking about training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu School. This is a blog I will post at a later date on the SMA bloggers wordpress site.

 

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The School

Before we parted company in Chiangmai I’d told David about the Study Martial Arts project, about our mission statement and company ethos. I also explained how I was always on the lookout for quality schools and masters to work with, so any insight he had about the school would be much appreciated.

With David’s regular up dates and emails filling my inbox with detailed accounts of his experience I knew that if an opportunity presented itself I would head to Pai, visit the school and catch up with my fellow martial arts adventurer.

On the second week of training a Thai national holiday fell on the Friday. Intuitively, Sifu Rasmus a keen motorcyclist proposed the idea of a road trip to Pai. With his help I rented a scotter and followed Sifu Rasmus along the beautiful, and somewhat infamous winding road from Chiangmai to Pai. We arrived in Pai dropped off our bags then headed out to explore Walking Street.

Walking Street Market in Pai is located on Rungsiyanon Road. It is a shopper’s paradise offering a wide range of souvenirs big and small, unique handicrafts, lacquerware and hand-made clothes some of which come direct from highland villages or local artists. Along with these gift stalls and shops I delighted in the sights smells and tastes of the authentic street food. Thai, Chinese, Western in such variety all fresh and delicious. The Thai street food experience was living up to the hype. The following day a Saturday would be a day off from training for the students at Nam Yang, so I explored Pai a little soaking in the Friday night before returning to my hotel. After breakfast I headed out to the school to meet David and also one of the instructors Eddie.

The school a ten minute bike ride away from my hotel is on the outskirts of Pai close to its small airport. David met me and showed me around the school and introduced me to some of his fellow students.

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Mork Fa Waterfall

Some of these students were beginners studying martial arts for the first time, others had been students who had studied in China and were somewhat jaded of the experience and some were seasoned and experienced martial artists. After David showed me around he demonstrated one of the forms he’d been working on, then we sat and took tea with Eddie who at the time was one of the schools instructors.”Out door training areas”Normally the journey from Chiangmai to Pai takes 3-5 hours depending on your pace. I’d recommend taking it slow and taking in the scenery. The road itself is super fun but beware, those that get carried away and go to fast might end up as one of the roads numerous casualties. Both experienced and inexperienced drivers have cut short their holiday on this road which snakes it’s way up and over the mountains to Pai.

We stopped midway for lunch on the journey up and on the return I cooled down with a swim at this amazing waterfall at Mork Fa. For more information on martial arts training at this school or training experiences throughout China and Thailand visit the http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org website.

The StudyMartialArts.Org website has discounts on martial arts training and travel experiences as well as exclusive offers only available to those who book through SMA.

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Taiji Fajin, Hermetics & Metaphysics

The following modest wooden house is where I stayed in Chiang Mai, Thailand when I trained with Sifu Rasmus. Sifu Rasmus teaches Taji Fajin, Hermetics and Metaphysics in this idilic setting nestled at the foot of a mountain and within ear shot of a buddhist retreat.
Leaving the cold and smog of Beijing behind I headed to Chiang Mai for 1 month of intensive training.Sifu Rasmus courses run from 1 to 12 weeks or longer depending on the content. His students tend to be instructors or masters who are looking to add greater depth to their knowledge or a more internal flavour to their art.
During the training period Sifu Rasmus would from time to time hold his class in the grounds of some of Chiang Mai’s most spectacular temples. In this visual blog I share three of my favorite. Below you will see a picture of an impressive nagga (Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology).

Wat Umong

A place were I began training the air element, metaphysics and meditation.

Wat Umong was built in 1927 by King Manglai of the LAN dynasty underneath the stupa above there are caves and shrines, and in the grounds you can find a garden of broken sculptures and a fasting bodhisvista. A place of tranquility where resident monks provide willing students a meditation retreat.
“Where talking trees have words of wisdom”
The hidden jungle temple of Wat Palad below has a special energy and was overall my favorite temple in Chiang Mai.
“The monastery at the sloping rock, visited by the God of the Earth”

3 transformations at Wat Chedi Luang.

“Please, come to the monk chat”
The ancient temple of Wat Chedi Luang in the centre of Chiang Mai’s walled city is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai. It houses the ashes of the 14th century King Saen Muang Ma’s father. The big stupa is guarded on each of its four sides by two mythical serpent naga’s at the base and further up by rows of elephants. Peaceful in the evening the stupa vibrates with energy. Monks and nuns chant sutras and welcome conversation with travelers.

Climbing to the top of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

“Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s Emerald Buddha overlooking Chiang Mai”
I visited this temple on the festival of Makhachkala Bucha. The festival honours the event when 1,250 of Buddha’s disciples congregated to hear an important sermon.Buddhists carry flowers, lightened candles and joss sticks while walking around the stupa three times on the day and night of the full moon in February.
Although this visual bog focuses on the temples I visited while training in Chiang Mai. It would be a miss of me not to say something of my training time with Sifu Rasmus. So I’ll keep it short and simply say that training with Sifu Rasmus was an excellent decision that helped demystify some of the secrets of Taichi fajin, as well as principles and themes explored in hermetics and metaphysics. Overall the course has been a great help for my own practice and I’d like to say a big personal thank you for Sifu Rasmus, guidance, welcome, coffee and of course friendship. Sifu Rasmus’s YouTube Channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/SifuMarkRasmus

Muay Thai in Chiang Mai

On our latest scouting trip to find you the best martial arts schools in Thailand I visited Chiang Mai in north Thailand. Chiang Mai is thee largest city in north Thailand and is a city packed full of culture, beauty and of course temples, but in addition to practicing martial arts and seeing the temples maybe you’d also like to see a Muay Thai fight?

Seeing a Muay Thai fight is usually on the to-do list of everyone who visits Thailand, and Chiang Mai has three very distinct venues on offer. Most tourists will encounter touts and posters pointing them towards the two most convenient locales, where the fights may arguably be less authentic. The third place is an old stadium where local Thais go to see the fights, and it might take a little more work to get there.

First off, the cheapest fights in town can be had at the Loi Kroh Entertainment Complex with its assortment of lady and ladyboy bars surrounding the arena. It’s possible to sit at any of the bars and enjoy the fights, being solicited to tip out some of the fighters occasionally after their matches. Tipping around 20 baht is appropriate, and considerably cheaper than what it costs to see a match at the other two popular venues. Keep in mind that the fights are generally not much more than training sessions between rival schools, and the bouts are not so serious, though some nights you might catch some good action. The Loi Kroh Boxing Arena is the cheapest, most relaxed route to go, but you also get what you pay for.

Another venue that is quite convenient for visitors, but which hosts arguably more ‘real’ fights, is at the Thapae Boxing Stadium right behind Thapae Gate on Moonmuang Road. Because of its central location, fights are often fought before a well-packed crowd of mostly foreign tourists. Look for a tout on the sidewalk to point you in, or let the noise coming from the back guide you as you take the stroll down the narrow alley entrance. Admission is about 500 baht, with a higher price for VIP seats closest to the ring. This is a place where visitors who feel uneasy about the sport, or who don’t wish to go out of their way can sit in relatively familiar comfort surrounded by a good number of fellow tourists. The fights may be Thai on Thai or Thai on Westerner bout, and can be quite exciting. There is plenty of alcohol available as well, as the boxing area also contains a small grouping of bars. The celebratory atmosphere of so many young holidaymakers enjoying the fights over drinks makes this a fun venue and a good night out.

For those that are inclined to find the most ‘realistic’ fighting venue, it’s necessary to hop in a tuk-tuk and go across the river to the old Kawila Boxing Stadium. This place gets less press, is less convenient, and the fighting events are longer. The price is about 500 baht per person, with a chance to pay more for ringside seats, just as at the Thapae arena. Fights in the older and well-worn Kawila Boxing Stadium feel much more authentic than at the two tourist-drag locations. General admission bleacher seats give plenty of visibility, but the people at Kawila are also generally ok with people coming down from the stands to crowd closer to the ring. One small word of advice: As this place is the real thing, in case you do witness any gambling over the fights, it’s advisable to simply look on and not participate. Have fun, enjoy the show, and take a tuk-tuk back to your hotel or guesthouse – the Kawila Stadium is further than you think, and there’s a good chance you’ll get lost otherwise.

Check out full-time martial arts training schools in Thailand here www.StudyMartialArts.Org