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A Guide to Teaching English Abroad & Studying Martial Arts

Do you have friends or classmates that have taught English in China, Japan, or Thailand and wondered to yourself, “How can I get paid to live in China,  Japan or Thailand and follow my passion for Studying Martial Arts?”  With millions and millions of people learning English in Asia, the demand for native English-speaking teachers is insatiable and virtually any native or fluent English speaker can gain employment teaching English abroad.  But like any great endeavor in life, moving to a foreign country to teach English and follow your martial arts path requires research, planning, initiative – plus a few tips from teaching abroad experts like those at StudyMartialArts.Org who have experience of combining English teaching with Martial Arts studies.  Take a peak at these 12 crucial tips and pointers for teaching English abroad to help you get started.

teach-english-in-china1. Know that virtually anybody can teach English abroad

With approximately 1 billion people learning English worldwide, the demand for native English-speaking teachers is insatiable and virtually any native or fluent English speaker can gain employment teaching English abroad. Remember this:

  • A background in education or professional teaching experience is not required to teach English abroad.
  • You do not need to speak a foreign language to teach English abroad.
  • Prior international travel experience is not a prerequisite to teach English abroad.
  • A college degree is not required to teach English abroad. But it certainly will help. As more and more people take the English teaching route to discover Asia the market is becoming increasingly flooded with job seekers. With this increase tighter controls are being applied. Visas require more often now those with experience and so a TEFL certificate is becoming more handy. Ultimately, the more qualified and well connected you are the better employment opportunities you will get. Because after all you are here for the most part to study kung fu so the last thing you need is to be stuck in a job that requires too much travel, too little work to make ends meet or too many hours.

Remember that hiring standards will certainly vary from country to country, so remember to consider what countries you are qualified to teach in.

2. Research your tail off

If you plan to move halfway around the world to teach English and Study Martial Arts, you owe it to yourself to research all aspects of your great international adventure to make it as rewarding and successful as possible. To start, focus on the martial aspect. Where is that Shifu you have dreamed of learning from?What styles are you interested in? Also check out this country chart which compares salaries, hiring requirements, interview procedures and visa information for teaching English abroad in more than 50 countries around the world. Also, check out our other articles for more information about teaching English abroad. When you’re ready to start diving into program options, be sure to read reviews and weigh all of the possibilities. Salary, livability, conditions, benefits, time commitments, and the potential for an incredible and positive experience will all play major factors in your decision.

05.brucelee3. Make sure to earn your TEFL certification

Even though you don’t need a degree or professional teaching experience, if you want to teach English abroad professionally, you need to take an accredited TEFL certification course, especially if you have no background in teaching English as a foreign language (our guide to TEFL helps lay this all out for you). An accredited TEFL certification course will provide you with the skills you need to competently run 4-6 classes a day, and will outline the best ESL teaching tools. TEFL certification will also provide you with a recognized qualification that most schools and language schools around the world seek when hiring new teachers. Remember, most schools around the world will not hire you off the street to teach English professionally simply because you are a native or fluent English speaker! One of the biggest difficulties that new teachers face is the challenge of creating fun, engaging, and plenty of activities for the ESL classroom. TEFL courses will give you insight on the types of games and lessons that are successful with different age groups. Get a head start by reading our tips for lesson planning or take notes of the 10 best games for ESL teachers.

4. Consider whether to go with an organized program or independently

Many TEFL training schools do provide job placement assistance and it’s definitely something to check for when researching your options, because quality assistance should insure that you don’t have to pay for a job placement. Many top programs provide it for free with the course tuition. Others may charge additional fees for placement or assistance. Teaching abroad through an organized program is a great option for first-time travelers to a new region, especially if the local language is one you’re less-than-absolutely-fluent-in. For most people looking to go abroad, there are enough jobs and plenty of resources in the way of free job boards, recruiters, and other resources, that there really should not be a need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a placement. Also, programs that guarantee or receive payment for placements will limit you to job options offered by the program, which are a drop in the ocean of the thousands of job opportunities worldwide that you may be qualified for. If you are looking to teach English in Asia, Russia or the Middle East, you may consider working with recruiters that interview and hire English teachers from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere on behalf of schools in these countries. Typically you should not pay such recruiters for placement. Working with recruiters can make the process of interviewing and lining up a position abroad easier though as they can provide assistance and guidance with matters like setting up interviews and arranging documents for your visa. The key, as always, is to research and work with reputable, well-established recruiters. But be aware, most recruiters who do this will then get paid by the school you work for so their payment could be coming out from your potential monthly wage.

5. Remember: hiring and interview procedures vary from country to country

Be flexible and open to new experiences

Remember demand is high in Asia so schools hire all year-around, nevertheless elementary and high schools recruit primarily during the spring, summer and winter for positions beginning in Jan/Feb and September. Many Asian schools will hire new teachers directly from their home country, this is good for a number of reasons one being securing that all important visa and having the right papers from day one. This means that if you want the security of having a job waiting for you when you hop on a plane to your teaching destination, you should concentrate your efforts here.

6. Plan to break even

This means that even as a first-time English teacher teaching you can expect to earn enough to pay your bills – rent, food, daily transportation, etc. – and live comfortably, though modestly. This means that you’ll be able to travel and go out on the weekends and engage in other personal pursuits like taking language lessons and martial arts. However, this will often be very dependent on luck, your color and whether you are a native speaker. You shouldn’t expect, at least at first, to be making enough salary to put money in the bank at the end of every month. This can take time and it is often 6-12 months before you start earning back on your initial investment, the money you spent on settling in job, hunting and securing accommodation and finding with the right kung fu master.

640x450_thai_boxing7. If you want to make more money, this is possible but very dependent on your qualifications and experience

Most people don’t go into teaching for the money, but if you’re looking to make enough to save for extra travel it is possible with the right qualifications and connections. English teachers can typically make enough to save 30%-50% of their income after expenses, and often receive benefits like free airfare and housing. Monthly savings typically range from about $400 a month in a nation like Thailand up to $1000 or more in South Korea. However, be realistic. More and more these opportunities are limited to those with experience, the right papers and longer term commitment.

8. Consider using a Martial Arts School as a springboard

The growing number of martial arts schools in both China and Thailand offer a great opportunity for the savvy martial arts adventurer to use the schools as a base from which to explore teaching opportunities and of course training with other masters outside the international kung fu school system. To make the most out of these opportunities your current school location or planned schools location will be the key.

Rural schools in the depths of the Chinese, or Thai countryside will not be the most suitable if you’re limited to weekend for finding a school or another master. The good news is that StudyMartialArts.Org offers a great Free consultation service. They can easily help advise you both on potential schools, masters near by and that all important teaching job or employment contact.

9. Set a realistic timeline and plan ahead

Getting a job and moving half-way around the world to teach English or Study is not like choosing which parties you’re going to hit this weekend or selecting what you’re going to wear to the gym – it’s not a spur of the moment sort of deal. While hiring cycles and procedures vary worldwide, you should usually plan on taking 3-6 months from the point when you begin your TEFL certification and job search to actually getting on a plane and taking off to go abroad and begin your teaching job. In some cases, as when applying for government public school programs like JET in Japan. Remember the process of applying, interviewing and making travel arrangements may take 6-9 months or even longer.

10. Be prepared for start-up costs

Teaching English abroad may be the most cost-effective way to live and travel overseas for an extended period, but like most major undertakings in life, it requires a degree of financial planning. Major start-up costs typically include:

  • TEFL Certification: $1,000 – $2,500 for a fully accredited online or in-person class – trust me, it’s worth it.
  • Transportation to your destination country: typically $300-$1000 for North Americans traveling to other continents.
  • Support in your new country until you start getting paid: even if you have a job waiting for you when you arrive, you won’t typically get paid on your first day of work. These expenses can range from $500, if your housing is provided and your job is pre-arranged, to even higher while you interview for a position, wait for the right job, rent an apartment or find a conveniently placed master that you want to study with.

Although start-up costs for teaching English abroad in Asia are typically lower because in many cases you can line up your job in advance, and many schools, particularly in South Korea and China, cover airfare and housing costs. But more than often these are not paid until a trial period has been complete or certain part of your contract. In addition to this as your purpose is not just to teach but also to study kung fu extra complications and few choices may be available to you. This is why some managed programs with initial costs are worth considering.

11. Engage your friends and family

You will need their love and support, and in some cases, their advice and financial assistance. At the same time, don’t let their fear of losing you stop you from going abroad – Mom will just have to understand that you’re going to miss a Thanksgiving or two. The good news is that thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch from all corners of the globe. Email, Facebook and other social media make conversing and sharing photos a cinch, and with Skype, you can enjoy video calls with friends and family as often as you like, for free.

Guilin12. Be open-minded and flexible

If you won’t even consider teaching anywhere but places that are just like the home, you’re only cheating yourself. The fact is that you are unlikely to get a job just like at home. This should not stop you from experiencing the adventure of living and traveling abroad, whether it be in China, Thailand, Japan or anywhere else. Also, bear in mind that you are not limited to one destination – you can always teach in one country or region and then move on to another and as in any field, the more experience you gain, the more opportunities will come your way.


Essentially the only way that you can’t teach English abroad is if you don’t have the initiative to make it happen – so let’s go! That means researching your options, getting a TEFL certification and putting together a timeline. Be realistic and organized, but don’t hesitate to broaden your horizons and take chances either. Moving abroad is meant to be adventure, so embrace it! Inspired by – Go overseas.

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The Spirit of Shaolin By Master Shi Yan Jia

Shaolin Kung Fu is technically speaking the martial arts system of attack and defense movements that uses forms (series of moves combinations:套路 taolu) as a basic method of training. Both the moves and their combinations are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine’s theory about the working of the human body. The cultural and spiritual aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu comes through its essential roots in Chan Buddhism, the first belief shared by practitioners. This is especially the case in regards to wisdom and strength; for wisdom, the Buddha Puti Damo (left) is worshipped to and for strength, the Buddha Jin Na Luo Wang (right) is taken refuge in.

A Typical Day For a Shaolin Monk

Early at five o’clock every morning, the monks of the Shaolin Temple arise with the striking of the gong. They join together to start the first morning class of the day, lasting for 90 minutes. At 06:40, monks mindfully join a line in the Zhai Tang (place where the monks have food) to have breakfast. Before and after the meal, monastic chanting is carried out. Every monk has his own alms bowl with food in it and is not allowed to leave anything uneaten. During this meal time, everyone is to keep silent. Between 08:00-09:00 the monks study Buddhism where dharma learning is taught to cultivate knowledge and wisdom. Between 09:10-11:30, there is study time to practice Kung Fu at the back of a nearby mountain., Lunch is then taken afterwards at 11:40 in a similar manner to breakfast, some grand masters and scholastic monks however do not eat lunch in order to enter fully into their monastic life and study. Afternoon training time then takes place between 14:00-17:30. After a short rest, members of the temple go to the monastery for evening chanting which lasts an hour. The final part of a day is a 45 minute meditation period followed by a period for self-study that lasts until the sound of the bell again at 21:30 which signals the end of the day.

Shaolin Kung Fu’s Nine Steps of learning:

1. 结缘 Knowledge: In various ways, begin to know about Shaolin Kung Fu and the Song Shan Shaolin Temple 2. 仰慕 Admiration: Feel moved by the sprit and character of Shaolin Kung Fu and so be naturally energised towards it. 3. 抱负 Ambition: Start to plan your life again after the feeling of your heart and making the decision to learn Shaolin Kung Fu. After setting a specific goal, set your mind to realize that ambition in your lifetime. 4. 痴迷 Enthusiasm: Make a self-affirmation of the goals chosen and pursue with a one-pointed determination of love and dedication. 5. 行动 Action: Adapt your goal to specific courses of action and start to practice Shaolin Kung Fu. This will be a hard learning process. 6. 认识 Understand: Come to rational knowing and the cultural connotations of Shaolin Kung Fu. 7. 信仰 Faith: Start to transform rational understanding into a deeper understanding about Buddhism. Shaolin Kung Fu is considered one way of learning Chan Buddhism (and so named “Wushu Chan”). 8. 感悟 Awareness: Practice Shaolin Kung Fu from a deeper self belief enabling practice to become not just a goal but an effective path to becoming aware and realising the essence of Buddhism. 9. 见性 Nature: From learning Shaolin Kung Fu, develop a full understanding about wisdom and strength, see the truth of life and the universe.

Master Shi Yan Jia

Master Shi Yan Jia (Wei Shifu) is a 34th generation Shaolin Disciple of the current Shaolin Temple Abbot the Venerable Shi Yong Xin, came to the Shaolin Temple to learn Shaolin Kungfu from the age of 8 years old and stayed there for a further ten years. He is currently ranked at level 7*. He has 8 years of experience in teaching Kung Fu to international students from all over the world and giving performances to many people. In the 1st national Shaolin Kung Fu competition Master Shi Yan Jia was awarded first place in traditional Shaolin Fist form and Shaolin Spear form. At the 9th Sports Meeting in Henan province, he also won first place for his Shaolin Staff routine, and in the championships of Zhengzhou, he came first in the Traditional Sword form category. Master Shi Yan Jia is the headmaster of Qufu shaolin kung flu school. The school has only recently relocated to Shimen mountain near the historic city of Qufu (eastern Shandong Province), hometown of the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius. If you would like to find out more about his school visit www.studymartialarts.org or Skype: studymartialarts.org for a free consultation on your martial arts trip to China.

5 Top Tips for Studying Kung Fu in China

Shaolin Students

The begining…

“The interesting parts are between the facts… “

In the summer of 2007 while on a break from my urban planning job back in Belfast I made the decision to travel to China and study traditional kung fu. I craved adventure and a change from the daily grind. Most of my friends had gone travelling between school and university or between university and work. I’d created a window of opportunity and felt this was the right time to use the money I’d saved. My martial arts experience at that time was limited to my regularly Jeet Kune Do classes. Despite my lack of sashes or belts I wasn’t worried. What I lacked in experience I knew I had in determination to work hard and learn as much as I could. Like most of you reading this article I’ve an interest and passion for martial arts as well as a growing interest in learning more about the spiritual and healing arts of China. As a teen I used to day dream about what it would be like to visit a land where a monkey could become a king.

China here I come…

Immediately I set to the task of researching kung fu schools in China. I craved being taught in a traditional way without distractions. I wanted to learn how to deal with confrontation effortlessly and improve every aspect of my life.

So I took action and found a school, got my visa and boarded a plane. 13 hours later I arrived in Beijing totally unprepared. I stayed the night in a hotel near the airport and the next day I boarded my internal flight to my end destination with high hopes. I was as green as the grass I’d left back in Ireland. From that moment until now it’s been one hell of an adventure.

Over the last few years I’ve visited a lot of kung fu schools and met a number of students studying at these schools. Some have come for martial arts, some adventure, some for health and fitness and some simply to create space for changing past bad habits. Your reasons for seeking this experience are your own. But what they should have in common is a desire to improve. Focus on your training and the experiences and other benefits will follow. So here are my 5 top tips for getting the most out of your training at a kung fu school.

Shaolin martial arts students
Shaolin martial arts students

My top 5 tips

  1. There are more schools than ever popping up all over China specifically to cater for the growing demand from westerners who want to study traditional kung fu. Make your decision carefully, not just in terms of your school choice and style but also in terms of what you want to achieve and get out of the experience. Schools now offer students more than just martial arts. They offer often offer additional classes in Chinese language, Buddhism and TCM for example. These are good and offer you the chance of dipping your toes in the water from which further learning can be sought.
  2. The importance of your fellow students at a kung fu school should not be under estimated. These students will be people you will learn from and have to live with.
  3. Be realistic. There have been occasions when I’ve received enquiries from students that are just damn right ridiculous or expect to be able to open their own schools after as little as 6 months to a year of studying.
  4. Be prepared for a culture shock and a different way of thinking or in some cases a total lack of thought. Remember that can also be part of the enjoyment too. You’re not in Kansas anymore so don’t expect it to be the same or constantly winge about it. We all go through this and at times have a love hate relationship with the place(s) we visit. When you catch yourself doing this stop! If it continues just go home. Don’t bring those around you down with a bad attitude or negitivity or disturb your fellow students training or enjoyment. Be patient, present and self aware.
  5. And remember just because someone is wearing kung fu shoes, a kung fu suit, or has some prayer beads it doesn’t mean that they are a good master or martial artist.

If you’d like to find out more or have any questions about studying martial arts in China this site is the pick of the bunch. www.StudyMartialArts.Org