Kung Fu in Thailand Day Two: The Training Begins!

Today was an awesome day! I was up about 5:30 a.m. and we started a little before sunrise with Chi Kung and Sam Chien, crescent moon shining with mist hanging off the jungle. We trained with the group this morning from 6-9 am and in the afternoon session from 3:30 until a little after 6 p.m. I did 2 hours of solo instruction focussing on Chi Kung and Sum Chien. Sum Chien is a series of moves that forms a basis for the Southern Shaolin Tigre-Crane form we are learning. I also got to begin weapons training with staff and starting on Chinese Sabre using a stick. I thought staff would come more easily to me than sword but I probably did better with the sword technique. I worked on weapons with the head student who is also an instructor. The hardest part is probably the footwork. All in all I would say we spent about 2.5 hours today in stretching and conditioning, lots of stretching.

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In the evening we focused on special breathing techniques that apply to Chi Kung and Sum Chien, which Sifu said were actually quite advanced. I did well with my prior yoga and Chi Kung training. Then we worked on punching drills into heavy cloth sacks filled with sand hung from the rafters. It makes your knuckles pretty red but is very instructive on technique and really fun!! The idea is not to swing the sack but to be able to dent it by sending your chi into the target. One of my favourite times of day is the break in training when Sifu call us up to the veranda where we sit on teak stools and he pours special tea in all our cups on a table shaped like a dragon. He then delivers teachings about technique principles, tells stories and dispenses wisdom. Like I said, you can tell a lot about Sifu by how his chief students treat him: with utmost respect and admiration, hanging off every word with the rest of us. Sifu spoke about Kung Fu as a way of life; the martial aspect is part of a bigger picture and no one part is more or less than the other. Kung Fu prepares us for meditation and the pathway to enlightenment.

At afternoon tea Sifu spoke about the tendons. I had mentioned that I felt where an injury in my shoulder was really being stretched when being corrected in some technique for practicing one of the slow punch forms early in the morning. At first it hurt but I stayed with it and then it started to open. Sifu said that such body awareness is the first step to Kung Fu. He said one’s tendons have a grain like wood. When you get injured it forms a pattern in the tendon, like a knot. As you develop your awareness you can use the Kung Fu forms to go into the tendon and open it up taking out some of the scar tissue and re-patterning the tendon. He said something else that was very profound which reminded me of Sequoyah. Speaking about training and repetition, for example of a simple movement like a step or the most basic punch over and over again, Sifu said that you could never get board of anything that is done with deep intention and full awareness.

Life here has a rather monastic feeling. We train before sunrise and retire a little after sunset. Two meals a day are wholesome yet simple, rice with vegetables and a clear, tangy vegetable soup, prepared by our cook who is mostly blind and comes from one the tribes originally on the Burmese side. Accommodations are comfortable yet spartan, the bed being a heavy, handcut bamboo cot. It is surprisingly quite chilly in the morning and I really missed my fleece pants for the first couple hours but had to put on a good showing as a Canadian while everyone else was quite bundled up.

There are several people training, all male from young to old: two other Canadians, a Dutch fellow, a Belgian and a Brit. The Belgian and Brit are senior students. One is already a teacher and the other well on his way, very dedicated, lovely young men. Tomorrow we have a rest day and are going to see some remote hill tribes with whom Sifu is connected. I’m pretty sore in many places with a nice, large bruise on my arm from yesterday’s push-hands activity, and very happy.

Love and Blessings
David

David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount  Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.

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Kung Fu in Thailand Day One: Arrival

Steve-Website-Photo1I have arrived in Pai, Mae Hong Son Province for two weeks of traditional Shaolin Kung Fu training in northern Thailand. After a flight delayed by fog we flew a short but spectacular journey over forested mountains and I’m now at Nam Yang Mountain Retreat, International Martial Arts Kung Fu and Meditation Training Centre. Although my work contract allows for 6 weeks of holiday, this is the first real vacation I’ve had since our honeymoon 8 years ago. I really need it.

It is very special here. Nam Yang was created by Sifu Iain Armstrong and his wonderful Thai wife under the guidance of Grandmaster Tan Soh Tin with whom he has studied 30 years. Grandmaster Tan’s master brought southern Shaolin (Tigre-Crane) Kung Fu out of China after Mao’s ascendancy when the Shaolin martial artists were being executed. Nam Yang is near the town of Pai in northern Thailand about 30 km from the Burmese border. They grow most of their own food, including the rice, pineapples and bananas. The architecture is beautiful in the local traditional style giving the whole place a Shaolin Temple like quality. It is an extraordinary achievement! They have a large kitchen and open eating area, an office, Buddha House for meditation with two great Nagas (Dragons) descending the stairs, two training octagons, one which is covered and one open-area, plus the living quarters. Accommodations are simple, almost spartan, but we have what we need to get by and it is lovely!

I had a great sit with Sifu Iain over a special tea to review my training goals surrounded by the beautiful landscape and sprawling grounds of Nam Yang Retreat Centre. Afterwards I joined in the evening’s training. We did about 1.5 hours stretching and prep before doing push-hands and some basic drills. Sifu Iain is so authentic. You can tell a lot about Sifu by how his chief students treat him; that says it all. There are several people training, all male from young to old. Two other Canadians, a Dutch fellow, a Belgian and a Brit. The Belgian and Brit are senior students. One is already a teacher and the other well on his way, lovely dedicated young men. We went to Pai for supper tonight as one is leaving tomorrow after having been here some months. The other pretty much lives here training every day all day and sometimes teaching. Tomorrow we start at 6:00 am with Chi Kung for the sunrise. Wednesday is a rest day and we will go to town of Mae Hong Son on the Burmese border visiting remote hill tribes with whom Sifu is connected.

Kap Kuhn Kap (Thank you in Thai),
David

David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount  Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.

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.

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.