Shaolin Kung Fu, Lesson #1

Shaolin Temple — 2 November 2012 — Today’s post is going to be short. No fancy photos. No long descriptions. Nothing.

All I wanted to say is that I had my first Kung Fu lesson at Shaolin Monastery.

And it’s a miracle I survived.

In the morning, I showed up here:calligraphy shopIt’s the calligraphy shop at the temple. The courtyard beyond the glass door was where I trained.

First, I ran around the courtyard to warm up. Easy. Running is part of my regular exercise routine. Run faster? No problem. I can kick butt when it comes to running.

So far, so good.

Then my shifu (that’s Chinese for master/teacher) showed me how to do Kung Fu stretches. No sweat. And a few kicks and punches. Okay, lots of sweat.

But have you ever heard of ma buh — horse stance?

This is how to do ma buh:

1. Lift your right leg and plant your right foot to the right, as far away from your body as you can without ripping it out of its socket.

2. Lower yourself into a seated position.

3. Hold.

4. Forever.

It’s the basic Kung Fu position. Many moves come from ma buh.

Teng ma? In pain? I kept hearing this question.

Toei teng ma? Legs hurt? It was the other question I kept hearing.


I wanted to scream.

Then I wanted to cry.

But I hurried to the ladies room first. Everyone knows you can’t cry in front of a Kung Fu monk — they’re warriors, all of them, and any sign of weakness would most certainly mean more ma buh to make me stronger.

I didn’t see the ladies room yesterday when I was a tourist.

But I saw the ladies room now.

And it was the dreaded PIT TOILET. All of them.


After that, my shifu served me tea. kung fu teaAnd gave me a small pitcher of hot water to hold between my cold hands:my cup and a small pitcherI drank many cups of hot tea.

He drank many cups of hot tea.

Then he said that he will teach me for seven days. I will learn a lot in seven days, then I will return next summer and train for 100 days. He said he will teach me Shaolin Boxing and meditation, and that eventually I will become a Kung Fu-something, but I wasn’t sure what. A monk?

I didn’t want to be a monk.

I like my hair.

And seven days?

Do ma buh for seven days? Are you kidding???

I had plans.

And hotel reservations.

And only 12 more days in China.

But this was an amazing opportunity to put real Kung Fu in my next Alvin book.

There are no students, per se, at Shaolin, only monks. You can become a monk as young as six. Boys from all over China come and “audition” — show whatever Kung Fu skills they have — and hope that a monk will invite him to study, or he must go home. Most, in fact, are not asked to stay.

And they’ve never invited a woman. I am the first. It’s an all-male sect.

Why me???

I have no idea. He said something that sounded like it was my destiny — that I am the thirty-second reincarnation of Missing Whisker Fire Tiger Leg Sweeper and that they’d been waiting for me for 2,000 years, what took so long?

I nodded. It was better than asking for an explanation.

Sometimes, when you’re doing research, you just have to go with the flow.

Maybe I could stay and study for only five days?

I didn’t know what to say.

Worse, I’d run out of Chinese words for the day.

I was so tired.

Worse, I could hardly move.

How I made it back up the hill to my room, I have no idea.

But I did manage to take one last photo — of the sun setting on my first day as a Shaolin monk: sunset after first day of Kung Fu

5 thoughts on “Shaolin Kung Fu, Lesson #1

  1. Pingback: EVERYTHING HURTS!!! | a globby bloogie by lenore look

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