Shaolin Temple — 4 November 2012 — Ma buh is nothing.

On my first day of Kung Fu lessons, ma buh, horse stance, was a killer. You can read about it here.

But the real torture started today when I began to learn a series of high kicks that, if I can do them right, would make the Rockettes look like wimpy girls. I kid you not.

Here are the kicks:

1. Straight kick. Keep your leg straight. Aim for your face. Kick like this as you walk across the courtyard.

2. Inside kick. Keep your leg straight. Kick a big circle — right leg goes to the left, left leg goes to the right. Aim for your ears. Kick like this as you walk across the courtyard.

3. Outside kick. Same as #2, except you kick to the outside of each leg.

4. Hitting kick. Oh, I hate this one. Straight kick like #1. As your foot approaches your face, slap it with the hand on the same side. Hard. Make dust fly from your shoe. Kick and slap as you walk across the courtyard.

Worse, for kicks 1-3, you have to hold your arms straight out like chopsticks on both sides, in line with your ears, as you go. No flapping. No cheating. No crying.

But you can cry after class.



Worse, the weather turned freezing cold today and the wind bit right through my clothes.

So my shifu sent me do my kicks in the monks’ indoor training room:monks' gymIt’s an unheated building, but at least it cut the wind. There was no TV to watch like in my gym back home, but there was plenty of entertainment:come to my houseA bunch of very young monks (about Alvin’s age) built this house while I was huffing and puffing, then they all crawled inside.

I wished I could have crawled in too! It was that cold!

But I was sure glad I didn’t, because a few minutes later, a much older monk walked in and busted ’em!  Every last one!

It’s a good thing that when you’re an author, you know better than to be messing around when you should be torturing yourself.

And tortured I am! My training is three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. I’m on the same schedule as the boys, except that I don’t also go to Chinese class to learn about China and how to write a sqillion characters and read Buddhist texts written long ago.

Instead, I do squat jumps and single-legged deep knee bends. My shifu is super-duper bossy. He tells me what to do all day. And there is always something to do. Then we eat lunch together. And dinner together. And he tells me not to eat so much. He even tells me when to breathe in, and when to breathe out. And when to look right, left, up or down. And if I’m not looking exactly where he wants me to look, he’ll move my head himself.

The only time I don’t see my shifu is when I go to the ladies room.

Or when I finally go to my room at night.

But then he calls the lady at the front desk and tells her to tell me to go to bed!

I had no idea that taking on a Kung Fu master would mean just that — that I’d have a master.

The only thing that I like about having a master is that he makes me tea. my tea cupEvery time I’m thirsty, my shifu stops and makes a tea ceremony.tea tableteaAnd often, many monk brothers will suddenly appear out of nowhere and join us. many cupsThen we’d all sit around the tea table and talk about many things.

And laugh.

And joke.

And share the yummy biscuits from someone’s care package.

I love our tea parties. (I love it more than Kung Fu! – Shhh!)

If it weren’t for the tea, I wouldn’t like having a master at all.

It’s really not my style.

To make things worse, he’s only twenty-six.

I’m old enough to be his mother!

I can hardly stand it.

But I can stand anything for a few days.

This was my third day. I really don’t think that I can make it to Day Seven. My body is breaking down like an old car. Warning lights are flashing on my dashboard. Odometer’s malfunctioned. Spark plugs are missing. GPS is re-routing like crazy. Stuffing’s coming out of my seat. And in the mornings, I’m stuck in park.

When you’re twenty-six, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Worse, my room has no heat. I’ve been sleeping in my winter coat with my scarf tied around my neck every night since I arrived. Like I said, I can stand anything for a few days. But now that it’s icy cold, it’s impossible to sleep.

All good reasons, I think, to head to my next destination — Chengdu, where the temperature is in the high-80s, and where six new pandas were just born. After that, I will go to Lijiang, also in the Southeast Asia climate, to see the Naxi people and hike one of the steepest canyons in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge.

So tomorrow I will tell my shifu that I will leave early. I’ll stay two more days. A two-day notice is reasonable, no?

What would you do? Would you stay or would you go?

6 thoughts on “EVERYTHING HURTS!!!

  1. Is there more??? I need to read more! You’ve left me hanging. I think you should stay. Easy for me to say as I’m sitting in a nice warm office right now drinking my morning coffee. 🙂


  2. Normally, the Iron Guy would not back down from a challenge–but, then, the Iron Guy is 59 and welcomes any chance to get out of the cold! You’ve proved yourself and EARNED the right to warmth and comfort. Well, I’m sure you’ve done that by now and may even be back in the States. If not, you may be able to answer a question. I heard in Changsha (Hunan province) back in 2002 that some people in China were starting to celebrate Thanksgiving because the Chinese people love any excuse for a celebration. Is that true? Did you see any evidence of it? I’ve REALLY enjoyed reading about your adventures.


  3. Now I’m really confused–the post was posted December 6 but day was November 4. You probably got busy and had to wait until getting back in the States to make the post. As you can see, I’d never make it as a prooff reader!


    • Hey Carl, Yes, I’m back now, and catching up with my posts. I was unable to post from China — both WordPress and Twitter were blocked there. I managed to send some of my early posts as emails with photo attachments to my blog administrator, Bill, who then posted those for me. But the internet speeds were terribly slow and it took HOURS to send one email. After a while, I wised up and gave up. My time in China was passing quickly and I needed to be out having adventures, not waiting around for photos to upload. I kept a daily journal of my adventures and what you’re reading now are my entries, with a little bit of polish and editing, of course, for clarity and suspensefulness. Nothing has been embellished. Everything here is exactly as it happened. I want my young readers to see how I will eventually take all this raw material and turn it into an Alvin book. Please feel free to link it on your website if you’d like. Thanks very much for reading!!!


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