I never had real experience in Chinese Kung Fu before. But this trip is truly worth it. I have learnt and see a lot in this one month time. And I have to say this place is truly ‘A home for martial arts lovers’!
Before you go, you need to know what you are looking for and what you want. Here are the 3 forms you can pick in order to learn during your stay.
Kung Fu Shaolin
If you wish to learn some kung fu moves with and without weapons. Yet prepared for tough training and stretching, this is exactly what you are looking for!
San Da is a sparring form of Chinese Kung Fu. If you wish to learn some practical moves for sparring and to self defense, here you go!
Many young people starts to learn Tai Chi form in both China and Hong Kong, it is slow yet strong form of Chinese Kung Fu, an excellent exercise for your mind, soul and body. You can also apply some Tai Chi moves into practical sparring situation.
The school in Yun Tai Shan now was a motel before. Therefore the room and bed even the toilet is ok. Except a little dusty when you move into new room, you would have to clean up a bit before you live in it if you wish.
And because the period I went was a non-peak season, so the school would not provide hot water, also temperary suspension of water during the day so we would not waste water. (Remark of the webmaster: The water problem was fixed. There were some problems regarding chinese new year.) There is a note in each room (in Chinese) saying the tap water is drinkable because it is from the mountain.. But if you are not comfortable you can always buy bottles of water (water machine provided) also daily necessities and snacks from the shop down stair. Wireless internet should be coming up soon.. There is no washing service whatsoever, you will need to hand wash your clothes and hang it on the roof. When it is sunny, it dries pretty quickly. By the way you can get hot water for drinking and instant noodles from the canteen.
There are class rooms, canteen and a shop inside the school building. Normally our training conduct outdoor, running around houses even up to the mountains. An outdoor basketball court and two table tennis. Get used to tourist buses in and out and people watching you training. Down the hill, there is an indoor training centre with different weapons provided, sounds like a great place to train when it is raining or even snowing.
The training is nothing easy at all, because you will be stretching the areas you do not normally stretch and using the muscles that you do not normally use. The first day I was so excited and I went all out, and the second day I could barely walk, but I continued my training. Within a month I have learnt one fist form and one stick form, also some basic punches, kicks, stances, jumps kicks and some acrobatic moves. Everyday we would do jogging and stretching for 2-3 times, we start at 6:30am and ends at 8pm. 5 and a half days training per week. And I believe my fitness level and flexibility has improved one fold at least after one month training.
Time for staying
Honestly one month is just an introduction, an experience. 3 months time you would learn a better stick and fist form. Half year you would learn basic ‘Dao’ (knife) form as well. The shifu mentioned that in 1 year time you would learn the basic of the 4 shaolin main weapons which are ‘Gun’ (stick), ‘Qiang’ (spear), ‘Dao’ (Knife) and ‘Jian’ (Sword). And after that you can pick whatever weapons you wish to learn to continue. If you wish you can even request for what you want to learn, the school will taylor made a syllabus for you, and once you learned everything you will receive a “graduate certificate”. But this is talking about minumum 2 years of training. You will still get a certificate for a 3 months stay.
You may expect the shifu (master / instructor) of the class might be monks or something like that. But actually the shifus are all young people! They start training full time since 10 years old, and start teaching since 15/16 years old. And just 20 years old, they are very experienced in both martial arts and teaching. Most shifus are fluent in English. In the training process we will switch instructors time to time, therefore you would have different advice and learning through out the training. You can always talk to the headmaster honestly if you wish to switch another instructor or preferring smaller group of training.
I am a Mandarin and English speaker myself therefore I do not have communication problems, and most of the time I am a translator even Mandarin teacher for the international students. You may not have problems during classes but it is rather difficult to communicate with other people of the school and especially when you go to the village / city. Of course it is better if you can speak mandarin, but otherwise the instructors and the principal is always willing to help when you have communication problems.
Few times a week there is a mandarin class for international students to learn basic mandarin speaking and to recognize some Chinese character. In order to allow international students to do some simple communication like ordering food, expressing and to understand the language normally apply in training. So prepare a pen and a note book and let’s learn some Chinese!
Yun Tai Shan is about 1.5 hours of driving from Zheng Zhou airport and Zheng Zhou train station. The school is happy to pick you up on your arrival, just give them your arrival date, time and flight number or train number. They would take care of you. However you would need to figure out your departure. It cost RMB 300 to call a taxi to travel directly from school to airport / train station. Yet it is not that complicated if you wish to travel by bus, total cost around RMB 50.
Closest Village and City
In school, by just RMB 8 you can hire a cap to go from school to a small village, which has food, internet cafe, shower, supermarket and mobile store etc … You can always travel with total 4 persons per cap, which will take around 10 minutes. However if you want to go to fancy big city with shopping mall and restaurant like McDonald’s, KFC, barbeque lamb meat and so on, you would have to go to big city during half / full day off. By cap would cost RMB 60 one way, again max 4 persons. Should take no more than 1 hour.
The school provides 3 meals per day. Mostly it is congee, rice, Chinese bun, tomato with egg, cucumber, and sometimes you would get meat like chicken, beef and pork. And if you are a Muslim, they will provide food with no pork and cooking in a separate kitchen. The foods provide enough energy and nutrition for each day, and of course it tastes not as good as steaks and McDonald’s.
Before you go you wish to do a lot of jogging, push ups, sit ups and squat thrust. Otherwise it is just simply too hard core or waste of time if you coming without any preparation. How much you do is how much you get.
The staying including accommodation, 3 meals and training is US$490 per month.
The school uniform would cost another US$10 (maybe the one for summer is cheaper, no idea).
And later when you start learning weapons you will need to buy them. But stick only cost RMB 6 (tailor made according to your height!) and knife would be RMB 15.
School trip is organised time to time, depence where you are going, my last one was going to Kai Feng (4 hours driving) to visit a temple. Including food, travelling and entry fee for temple and theme park was total RMB 200 each person. And certainly it was fun and worth it!
Try to exchange some RMB (Chinese money) as soon as you arrive. Because once you get to school, the only way you can get cash is to take 1 hour ride to the big city and exchange… or to borrow from your school mates…
If you wish to bring your weapons like stick [the length is the height to your own eye-brows] / knife by air, you may want to wrap it and tag it as “fragile” , so do bring tape and wrapper in case. It is allowed to bring on the train.
Enjoy and have fun guys! Top