The time has come! Blood, sweat, a bit more blood, and tears have lead me to the final part of my journey at the Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy. Before you leave the academy you have a chance to grade anything you have been training, and it is a great chance for the masters to give you some final feedback for you to train when you return home. I had 8 forms to grade; Shaolin Broadsword, Tai Chi Broadsword, Baji Black Tiger Fist, 7 Star Fist and 4 Wing Chun dummy forms. This was the culmination of my training here, so I wanted to give it maximum effort, more speed and definitely more power!
One thing I remember when I watched those classic Kung Fu movies of yester year, was that at least one fighter was using their fists in an immitation of an animal. Whether it was a snake to strike the opponent’s throat, or a Tiger claw to rip out their rib cage. Dragon. Snake. Tiger. Leopard. Mantis. Eagle. Crane. The animal forms are a big part of Kung Fu and I was thrilled to be learning more about them here. My nickname has been Tiger throughout my life for a multitude of reasons; I bare a striking resemblance to golfer Tiger Woods, I’m born in the Chinese Zodiac year of the Tiger…and…erm…I like the cereal ‘Frosties’, so it is fitting that I start to live up to the name by learning a form in Baji called ‘Hei Hu Quan’…Black Tiger Fist!!!
I get so caught up in my training here I sometimes forget the rich heritage that comes with the study of Kung Fu. I am lucky enough to learn from my masters who are all from The Shaolin Temple, which is the 1500 year old monastery that is the main temple of the Shaolin School of Buddhism. To educate myself on the compelling history of Kung Fu, to understand what my masters went through in their traditional training, and to motivate myself to train as hard as possible in my last few weeks, I planned a school trip to the Shaolin Temple! Headmaster Bao and Master Du were also going to see their Kung Fu brothers there at the same time, so this had all the hallmarks of a great trip!
Children EVERYWHERE! Kung Fu Camp (or KFC as I like to call it) has started at the academy. For 40 days in the school summer holidays, approximately 30 children are getting trained by Master Bao and Peter. The place is filled with a different, refreshing energy, as well as the pain of the youngling students training, which we cannot take our eyes off of!
A wise Scouse man once told me when you wake up you should “start your day on a 10”, meaning always be optimistic. Begin the day with enthusiasm, drive and positivity at its maximum, so that if it decreases you can still have something left. Alas, I woke up on the Monday, tired as hell, missed Tai Chi, missed breakfast…and that Monday was a grading day! Oh Lordy…I think I started my day on 2!
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5 months have flown by! Sometimes there is so much going on here it is easy for me not take time to reflect on what I have achieved, or think about my next steps…I just take each lesson and training sesh as it comes. But even in the short time I have been here I have seen some improvement in my speed, my power, my control…and most of all I have progressed to using weapons in my forms. I don’t want to learn just one form for each weapon and therefore try to get as many weapons “done” before I get home, but I want a good set of basic moves for each, a Tai Chi form and a Shaolin form in them so I can practice enough to really stand a shot at being very competent with them. This takes time, and a lot of patience…
Friday morning. I ambled down the stairs reeling from Master Wang’s bitch of a leg power training session the previous day, reluctantly ready to warm up and go for the usual 2km run. To my surprise Headmaster Bao was there and asked us ALL to line up together. We all knew it would be some kind of important message since now we line up in separate groups…he had my curiosity, then he got my interest.