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.

 

 

 

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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.

Chinese-conductors-007

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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Etiquette for visiting Buddhist Temples

SMA bloggers

When traveling to Buddhist temples why not prepare yourself and learn about Buddhist temple etiquette?

While traveling its important to be respectful of other cultures and traditions. Being, humble and modest were travel is part of the journey to greater levels of awareness. We hope this information will be helpful to any www.StudyMartialArts.Org students wishing to pay their respects at the Shaolin Temple or any other Buddhist Temple they may visit on there journey.

Below are some top tips.

Buddhist temples

  • Take off your shoes and hats before entering. There will almost always be a sign outside of the temple pointing visitors to the designated area for shoes and hats. The many pairs of visitors’ shoes clumped together will tip you off.
  • Cover your shoulders. Since it gets very hot in Asian countries during the summer, many tourists forget to cover their shoulders and legs before entering places…

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11 Things Your Jiu Jitsu Instructor Won’t Tell You

Bunch of Manly Stuff

Instructors are instructors…they’re professional, they teach, they’ll give you attention and hope for the best.  Jiu jitsu instructors are no different…they teach, they’ll give attention and like any other teacher, they’ll get frustrated at times.  We are after all, human.  While I’m absolutely in love with jiu jitsu (shoo-shizzu if you prefer) and love being around my students, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to roll, teach or learn.  That being said, I asked 10 different BJJ instructors from different clubs and different skill levels to tell me things that they normally wouldn’t tell their students (or teachers).  While no disrespect intended on my beloved art, and on the promise of anonymity, here are the top-10 things your jiu jitsu instructor won’t tell you:

DISCLAIMER: These are quotes from various instructors from various gyms with minor adjustments (such as “we” instead of “I”) made for the flow of the article that has been…

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An Ode to the Bully

imageBeware the bully, his shoulders held high,

See how his chest puffs, his gaze holds your eye

Note now the lopsided lope of his stride,

Observe affectations that betray his pride.

He paces his habitat, the Friday night pub,

As he searches for victims amongst the hubbub

The shy the fearful, the innocent or weak

The wealthy the happy, the loner the freak

His gaze flits to and his gaze flits fro,

Scanning the crowds for that tell-tale show

He watches for clues, for evidence to stack

Until he finds the pup that strays from the pack

Predators, you see, never like their prey

To be tricky to taste, or to have to pay

With their own blood for their evening meal

Preferring instead to trick, trap or to steal

“For what good is a feast,” they seem to say,

“If it’s so hard earned as to spoil my day.

Or end my days or cause on me

The pain and suffering I intended to thee.”

And so they wait, and pick and choose,

Until they find a victim whose

Attention is spent on a phone or a book,

Too busy with text to take time to look

Above and beyond their own personal space,

Into the crowd for an unfriendly face

Or who’s defences are downed by a whisky too many,

As they stumbles alone off to ‘spend a penny’.

Or those who through their signals alone,

Declare their fear of the dark, the wide unknown

Or perhaps those whose bodily cues seem to say

That they don’t present a risky buffet.

The fidget, the hunch, the averted eye,

The mumbled words, the timid reply.

For the lost and the lonely, they serve such a rich

Juicy and succulent victim sandwich

image

But all this grand strategy, this plan of attack

Do little more than to point to the crack

In his armour, the chink, the fatal flaw,

The Achilles heel, the open back door.

The bully you see doesn’t like it when

The fox’s tail gets pecked by the hen

So more often than not the medicine, the cure,

Is little more than a good punch in the jaw.

The Art of Expressing the Human Body

SMA bloggers

Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do: A Philosophy of Physical Self-Perfection

by David Quigley

It is a safe assumption that almost everyone has heard of Bruce Lee.  He was and remains arguably the most famous Asian-American star in the history of film (sorry, Jackie Chan).  And anyone who has seen any of his films cannot help but notice his amazing physique, speed, agility, and flexibility.  However, what a lot of people do not realize – especially those outside the martial arts world – is that Bruce Lee was a philosopher obsessed with fitness, or what he called, the art of expressing the human body.  Indeed, Bruce Lee was a philosopher in every aspect of his life, and focused a lot of his writings on honest self-expression and self-perfection.  Even the martial art he developed, Jeet Kune Do (or, the Way of the Intercepting Fist), is in itself a philosophy.

Bruce lee Hd Wallpapers_8

JKD is not…

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Ouch.

image

Is it just me, or does anybody else out there associate colours with different days of the week?  Here’s how it goes for me: Monday is blue, Tuesday is kind of light grey, Wednesday is a decent orange – but not as bright as an actual orange, Thursday is dark brown, Friday is black, Saturday is white, and Sunday is kind of a ruddy red.

I don’t know why, but it’s been that way since school. Probably it was imprinted on me when I learnt them on colour-coded flash-cards, and everyone else in my class has the same associations whilst those down the corridor, with a different teacher, have different colours, or stripes, or cartoon animals.

So much of our world isn’t actually what’s really there, but a dangerous cocktail of our expectations and interpretation of reality.  We take input from our sensory organs, send it to the brain, and the brain decides what the most sensible interpretation should be.  We all carry our own little versions of the Matrix in our heads, telling us what’s happening and what’s probably going to happen next.

Take pain, for example.  I mean all it is, really, is your brain telling you something’s happening.  It takes an electrical signal, makes a decision that that thing is unadvisable or unwanted, and provides you with a cheery little warning.   Really, it’s the same signal that tells you you’re being stroked, or tickled, or gives you that random itch on the one occasion when you can’t reach your nose – just a little louder.

In fact if you want to find out which bits of you hurt and which bits of you don’t without going through the trauma of stabbing yourself all over with a compass*, tickling can be a useful (and if you bring a friend perhaps fun) alternative.  If it tickles, there’s a cluster of nerve endings.  If there’s a cluster of nerve endings, it’ll hurt more than a bit that doesn’t tickle.

There is, of course, a reason for this – nerve endings are clustered around areas of the body that need to be protected, to give the best possible early warning that they’re threatened.  Which is why you must escape a tickle.  And why palms, feet, belly neck and armpits are classic areas of child torture and cruelty for fathers everywhere.

But it’s not real, you know.  It’s the matrix.  And like Keano, you can break it if you know how.  You can manipulate that mix of expectation and interpretation and turn it into your best weapon.  I’m not talking about how to hit the bits that hurt, though.  That rarely works, particularly in the middle of an adrenaline fuelled, alcohol filled fight.  After all most fights include one of those things, probably both, and both are pretty effective pain-killers.

No, I’m talking about manipulating the pain response, the interpretation of pain signals, and using it as a disruption to turn things in your favour.  Playing your opponent on a string like a puppet master, if you will.  And so, without further ado, I bring you How Not to Get Hit’s patented three rules of pain.

imageOne – the brain can only process (give or take) seven things at any one time.  If you provide more than seven signals, or stimuli, when defending yourself (a series of relatively hard & committed strikes, slaps, or pushes will do) to as many targets as you can get to, it will become increasingly hard for your opponent to respond.  Anyone out there who grew up on eighties Manga, think the seven finger exploding heart technique from Fist of the North Star.  But manage your expectations – no hearts will explode in the execution of this technique.  What will happen though, if each strike is hard enough to send a disruption signal to the brain or is aimed at an area where this disruption signal is hard-wired (like the eyes, groin or throat), is that the attacker will find all the distractions a confusing fog of movement and will likely become less responsive to a) one big mother sucker punch to get them the hell off you and / or b) a hardy shove on the chest, away and slightly downward to break posture, create distance, and get out of there.

Two – the anticipation of pain is worse than the pain itself.  If you can get your attacker to fear pain, then it is likely their will to fight will be reduced in proportion with their belief in their ability to win without injury.  Your ability to fight will, in turn, increase with your belief in your ability to win.  To continue my eighties film analogy, this is the bit where they found the glowing green blood on a leaf in Predator: “If it bleeds, we can kill it”.

Now this can be tricky, since as we mentioned earlier the first thing to go when the adrenaline (or vodka) kicks in is pain sensation.  So instead of going for pain, go for the areas of the body which pain was designed to protect, the vital areas.  Attack the eyes, the throat, the plexus, kneecaps, groin, feet and hands.  Areas of high sensitivity, and areas that the body is hard-wired to protect.  Get a good shot in one of these areas and watch the pain cut through, as the bring tries to protect something it actually needs to survive this fight in the first place.

Also, threaten pain.  Now if he’s attacking you, waving your fist ain’t gonna cut it – we’ve already established that in his assessment of you he’s seen nothing he finds particularly scary.  However if you introduce something that will trigger that response, then the stakes are changed.  Normally I wouldn’t be the one to encourage a weapon since pulling a knife is actually a pretty good predictor that you, yourself, are going to get stabbed.  However if your life is in danger, then picking up something that your attacker fears will do them damage, and waving it about, can be a pretty effective means of halting an attack as self-preservation kicks in.  What’s around you – any ash-trays, chairs or bits of wood?  Get creative; I once saw a kid pick up a bicycle and wave it at his attacker – who stopped, perhaps out of confusion more than anything else.

Three – pain is worse than the anticipation of pain, if it’s unpredictable.  Fear of the unknown is our most powerful, and debilitating fear.  Apart from giant hairy spiders and, for some reason, the witch from the Moomins.  Or is that just me (last obscure 80’s TV reference, I promise).

Now, for the record, we’re getting more into control & restraint territory here than self-defence so if you’re just reading for personal safety purposes, you can skip this bit as it really isn’t relevant.  Still with me?  OK.

Now, what bugs me a lot in martial arts, is when somebody gets a good lock then uses it as an opportunity to test out their newest pressure points.  It’s normally junior grades who do this, as soon enough one finds out the hard way that the quickest way to get a badger to furiously break out of a cage is to poke it with a stick.

However in the process of manipulation, control and restraint giving someone a reason to expect a certain pain from a certain direction is very effective at reducing their resistance to pain from another.  Think of it as an attack on a castle.  You move all your forces to repel an attack on the East wing, which leaves you wide open when the sneaky force advancing behind uprooted trees to breach the West wing (Shakespeare reference that one – pat yourself on the back if you got it).  Get half a lock on, make a big show of a kick or a punch being brewed up in eyeshot, then get a sneaky one in out of their line of site from the other side in a wizardly example of misdirection.  You’ll find it a very effective way of breaking resistance, creating confusion and controlling direction.

So there you have it.  How Not to Get Hit’s introduction to pain.  I’ve barely touched the surface here really, you could fill a whole book with this stuff but at least here, with a bit of though, play and practice, you’ll find something that comes in handy one day.  Whatever colour, or pattern, or cartoon animal, you personally feel that day to be.

*You know, like you did at school to your friends in maths class.  A friend of mine, John, once was asked by another friend, Andre, if he could stab him in the hand with a compass.  Expecting a playful poke, he unwisely agreed.  What he was not expecting was for Andre to suddenly grab his write, pin his hand to the table, raise his compass high above his head like a talisman, and bring it down with all his might**.  It got noisy.  To the best of my knowledge he still can’t wiggle his little finger.

**He should have – this is a guy who once threw a wheely-bin through a classroom window, and took a box of Rice Crispies onto the school bus only to, in turn, throw them at people and shove them up his nose screaming “set the crispy bits free!” at the top of his voice.  Unpredictable, is what I’m saying.

Why The Modern World Is Bad For Your Brain And What Shaolin Monks Do About It

shifuyanlei

yellow mt3-00085 Most of us love our smart phones. I use mine all the time to keep in touch with my family in China. But the constant multi-tasking of texting, emailing, social media and apps is over stimulating our brain and increasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol according to Neuroscientist, Daniel J Levitin, who has written a new book about his findings. So does this mean we have to throw away our smart phones? At The Shaolin Temple we tread the middle way, using Zen techniques to keep us tranquil and focused while still being a part of the modern world. Here I share with you seven Shaolin tips to help you stay calm in a crazy world IMG_0815

  1. Take Small Regular Vacations  Turn your mobile phone to aeroplane mode or switch it off completely two hours before you go to sleep. The same goes for when you workout…

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Tibetan White Crane: Needle in Cotton

The Wandering Fist

Here’s a performance of the Tibetan White Crane (白鶴派) art, Needle in Cotton.

The set is performed by Luk Chi Fu at one of the demonstrations that Chee Kim Thong adjudicated in Singapore in the 1960s. As such, it offers an insight into the richness of Singapore’s martial-arts heritage at that time. At a guess, Luk was probably not actually a contestant: the masters present were also asked to demonstrate for the audience.

Tibetan White Crane is a very different art from the Fujian White Crane styles such as Wuzuquan. In fact, it’s difficult to identify any significant commonalities, suggesting either a relationship in the distant past, or a completely separate art with its own adoption of certain crane characteristics.

At least two groups still practise this art in Singapore. Tibetan White Crane (Baihepai) is an art one hears mentioned frequently in gongfu circles. It’s worth…

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All You Need to Know About Buying & Using Train & Bus Tickets in China

This article puts together all you need to know about buying and using bus and train tickets in China.

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1. Buying Tickets

Whenever you want to buy a train or bus ticket in China write down what you want in Chinese (or take a photo), then show it at the ticket booth, hopefully you won’t get asked any questions.

I’ve had locals try to help me and mess it up. They start talking to the person assume they know best and things get messed up along the way. If you’ve written down what you want, details don’t get messed up.

Buying tickets in advance is another way to ensure things don’t go wrong. This is especially important for long and/or infrequent journeys (infrequent being less than 3 a day). There’s lots of people in China, and a lot of them travel, its best to book ahead!

If you’re a techno geek smart phones are a big help for getting around in China and much more, they make getting around, communication and buying tickets that much easier. China has a number of excellent and cheap smart phones that might be worth buying here due to their cheap price, high specs and overall solid build quality. Xiaomi’s are the best of these that have a limited distribution in Europe and North America and are in many ways outperforming established brands like the Samsung Galaxy and even the iphone in terms of specs and value for money.

All these smart phones will have a number of great apps that you can download that can help with travel, translations, shopping, weather, taking pictures and even dating.

I’ll put together an article specifically covering this topic in the near future.

TieLuDaiShouDian
These train ticket office are dotted throughout cities and are easy to use. The advantage of these are that those are often less packed (although it’s not rare to see a small queue during busier hours, especially around peak travel seasons around Chinese New Year). The main disadvantage is that, unless you book early, you risk not getting a ticket, as the railway ticket allocation system gives only so many tickets to a particular booking point. Alas, you are also not able to get some high-end seats: it is known that Deluxe Class seats on the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity trains (C trains) are not available through these channels at all. You will always be charged CNY 5 for a ticket — all ticketing here comes with an obligatory surcharge.

TRAIN TICKETS

Here are a few ways you can buy train tickets:

  • train ticket offices (queues vary depending on time of year) – these are convenient to use, you can pay cash and there are lots dotted throughout the towns and cities.
  • automatic ticket machines (at all high speed rail stations; PRC 2nd-generation ID card required)
  • authorized train ticket offices
  • by telephone (voice-guided ticketing system)
  • online (at 12306.cn)
  • on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad (special software needed)

The classic way of getting your ticket — and the way most migrant workers do it — is to wait in line (or maybe not, as it might seem!) at a train ticket counter at the departure station. You, of course, being the martial arts student will, want to get it done quickly, so make sure you have all info (see below) ready in Chinese and English.

At the largest departing stations and transport hubs there will be foreign ticket offices. Don’t expect a lot from these but you are likely to get a person with enough English to get you what you want. The following ticket counters have services in English and/or specially for non-Chinese riders:

  • Beijing Railway Station: Ticket Counter 16
  • Shanghai Railway Station: At ticket office near South Square
  • Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station: Look for “English spoken” ticketing window
  • Hangzhou Railway Station: High speed railway tickets sold at Ticket Counter 3 (outside the ticket hall full of ticket machines)

A few more useful words:

Chinese words you’ll need to buy a train ticket:
Train ticket :火车票 huoche piao
Train number: 车次 che ci
Soft sleeper:软卧 ruan wo
Hard sleeper: 硬卧 ying wo
Soft seat: 软座 ruan zuo
Hard seat: 硬座 ying zuo
First-class seat:一等座 yideng zuo
Second-class seat:二等座 erdeng zuo
Business-class seat:商务座 shangwu zuo
Window seat:靠窗的座位 kaochuang de zuowei
Pathway seat: 靠过道的座位 kao guodao de zuowei

For intermediate language learners who already have a bit of Chinese this video is fairly helpful.

BUS TICKETS

When Buying Bus Tickets there are less options. If you want to buy a bus ticket you should buy them at the relevant bus station. China’s bus stations are organized very simply.

1. Local Bus Stations 本地公交车站 – All local bus services

2. Long Distance Bus Stations 长途公交车站 – All long distance intercity bus services

FOR ALL TRIPS & TO MAKE A PURCHASE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING FOR BOTH BUS & TRAIN TICKETS :

  • Date and time of departure/return (日期, 时间) (for some journeys single ticket journeys are only allowed to be purchased)
  • Train/Bus number (车次)
  • Departure and arrival (exit) stations (发站, 到站)
  • Class of travel – Soft sleeper, Hard sleeper, Class of seat (席别)
  • Optionally: your seat number (席位)
  • Your passport (动车组实名制 – 护照)

2. Using Tickets

Reading High Speed Trains

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Reading Normal Train Tickets

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A lot of people only have standing tickets for the slow normal speed trains, so if there is a spare seat they will just sit in it. Don’t panic people respect the ticket system. So if  there is someone sitting in your seat, simply show them your ticket and politely ask them to move.

Nín hǎo, zhè shì wǒ de zuòwèi. 您好,这是我的座位

Reading A Bus Ticket

Read-a-Chinese-Bus-Ticket-Survive-Travel