July saw our inaugural 5 day Shaolin Temple Experience, and what an experience it was! We knew it would be a unique adventure for all involved, but little did we know how much of an adventure it would turn out to be, and how much both participants and guides would learn and benefit from our first week inside the Shaolin Temple.
Beginning at 6am on a Monday morning, everyone was surprisingly awake and chipper, eager to get the journey started. No one on the program had met each other before, but sharing a common interest of wanting to experience something new certainly helped everyone to quickly become acquainted and comfortable in each others company. And considering how much time we would be spending together over the next few days, that was certainly a benefit to all.
After a smooth express train ride, slightly less express bus ride, and somewhat strenuous walk, we arrived at the hostel just in time for lunch to be served. This was the last time the two gentlemen, Gonzalo and Xavier, would be comfortable served food for the rest of the week, so we wisely advised them to enjoy it as long as they could.
After settling in, we walked down to the Temple to begin their first training session. Neither man had practiced any kind of martial art since childhood, so neither knew exactly what to expect. And considering the gruelling week that was to follow, that was perhaps for the best!
Our first training session with Master Hao Nan Chuan, a warrior monk who told us he had been training in the temple since the age of 4, was held in a small open area, hidden amongst trees in the countryside around the temple. There, Master Hao put the two men through a series of exercises to determine their level, and at what speed and to what intensity he could teach them over the next 5 days. These exercises included seeing how well, and for how long, they could hold the foundation ‘horse stance’, how well they could coordinate their stepping, and how quickly they could pick up on the first few moves of the Tongbeiquan form they would be learning.
After gauging the men on flat ground, we were lead further into the hills, to be presented with the intimidating sight of a full set of plum blossom posts, some rising 5 feet in the air. He then commanded his new students to take to the posts and practice the same stepping and stance exercises they had only just learned minutes before, but this time atop the posts! And to their credit, both men did, no doubt whilst wondering what the hell they were doing in a place like this!
And to be sure, it was good the week had gotten off to such an intense start, as the men then started getting an idea of what was expected of them in the coming days. On our website, we stress many times that while our programs are open to everyone, no matter their experience or fitness level, this is a traditional Shaolin training program, and participants will be pushed both mentally and physically. As Xavier said at the end of his first day, “This is not a vacation, it’s a boot camp!” And who would expect anything less from a training program held inside the the legendary Shaolin Temple?!
The next day, both gentlemen were already feeling the effects of training the previous day, but having slept at 9pm, they were ready to face whatever training this new day would throw at them! Everyone got up at 5am, as we wandered into the hills surrounding Wangzhigou for our first Taichi class. While the Yang Style Taichi they were learning was of the martial variety, it was agreed it was much more relaxing than the Shaolin training, and “definitely a great way to wake up and start the day!”.
The next few days went very quickly, with the guys picking up the Tongbeiquan form quicker and quicker. Of course, as their ability fast improved, so did the intensity at which Master Hao was pushing them. Cardio, stance training, grip strength, and impact conditioning all featured heavily in the hours of daily training inside the temple. It was hard, but productive training, though at one point Gonzalo asked if perhaps Master Hao had been hired by one of his ex-girlfriends as a way of punishing him! But despite the heat, schedule and intensity, both men kept going without a word of complaint, giving all they had each and every day we were there.
By the time the weekend rolled around, everyone was certainly feeling muscles they never knew existed before. Two men, who arrived with almost zero martial arts experience, were now healthier, stronger and able to perform the entire Tongbeiquan form that they had started only a few days previously. It was nothing short of an amazing accomplishment! While they had only come on the Experience to try something new, both declared they would most definitely continue to practice the form, and didn’t want to lose what they had gained from the experience. In his 5-Star TripAdvisor review of the experience, Gonzalo summed up the program very nicely, saying “Every thing there is prepared to train Kung-Fu…..If you want to improve or start in Kung-Fu, or you want to experience how is living in a real Kung-Fu Chinese school, this is the right place.”
As our first trip participants, CK Martial hearts were very proud to have dedicated and hard-working individuals like Gonzalo and Xavier. It was an honor to have them on the Experience with us, and a pleasure to teach and train with them every day. We wish them both the best, and hope they will continue with their training and perhaps join us next year for the Shaolin Temple Advanced Experience!
As for this year, we still have places available on both our 5 and 10-day programs in September. For more information, please see the itinerary page, or contact us directly if you’d like more information or to book your place.
Looking forward to training with you all soon!
Yours in martial spirit,
Looking for more information?