Pan Yilin from Singapore sharing her experience training at the Yuntai Mountain School in China.
The legendary Yuntai Shan International Culture and Martial Arts School (YSICMAS)
Going to Yuntai Shan International Culture and Martial Arts School is an experience that keeps on giving and giving. No words can express the amount of gratitude I keep in my heart from this short but superbly beneficial week in the great land of China. It is an experience which I wish to repeat over and over again and keep anchored in my soul forever. No money can ever repay all the kindness I have received in my life in this one week stay at Yuntai Shan International Culture and Martial Arts School.
First and foremost, my husband and I were picked up at the airport by the school’s very own chauffeur who works exceedingly hard as he is on standby at odd hours in the morning and night to ferry students from the airport or train station to the school. He has to drive a total of four hours per journey and sometimes consecutively. All these early morning sacrifices were just a prelude and testament to the purity of service embedded in the hearts and minds of the school’s culture, Kungfu teachers and staff who take note of every single detail that can help a foreigner or an international student in their YSICMAS Kungfu journey.
We arrived at about 7 a.m on the first day of school and lo and behold were greeted by a large and technologically superior television signboard which carried our names. (even their classrooms have a hidden television panel each). Such pleasantry is usually only reserved for important guests in top star hotels in other countries, but in China, at YSICMAS, even an ordinary student like me is made to feel welcomed, honoured and special with a courtesy given only to important people in other countries. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where such an honour is bestowed so unstintingly upon arriving guests (they also recognize their own local students in such a gracious manner).
The teachers greeted us at the gateway and even helped to carry our two gargantuan luggages. We were shown to our very own room by the teachers. They were energetic and lively and welcomed us with many questions about our flight to China. Soon after, we were introduced to the General Office where polite and efficient staff attended to our every need. We were initiated to the water card (no fee water is very abundant in the mountains of Yuntai Shan and we were blessed with fresh and cold water at every meal) and to meal times. We were even lent two free aluminum bowls and wooden chopsticks which we held dear. There was even drying sanitisation racks for the bowls and chopsticks in the canteen but we didn’t need it as there were strong jets of water with which to wash our bowls.
We were invited to partake in a hearty breakfast and then join the rest of the international students later. We were introduced to our own separate groups depending on whether we wanted to learn Shaolin Kungfu, Tai Chi or Sanda Boxing etc. I chose Kungfu while my husband chose Tai Chi. The teachers for Kungfu and Tai Chi were able to assess our physical agility, stamina and flexibility very accurately. More importantly they were extremely attuned to our goals and what we wanted to learn and experience while at YSICMAS.
Then we began our genuine, honest to goodness Shaolin training. There was no space for my mind to wander or get bored during training. Bouncy running, jumping with arm stretching, crab crawls, star jumps, high kicks, round sideways kicks and so on were some of the stamina, flexibility and strength drills taught to us. The drills were like a dream come true in terms of combining all aspects of physical training that an athlete should be familiar with. They posed a lot of fun and excitement. Our teacher or Kungfu Master (Yuan Shifu) as he is rightly called, expected us to put in our best effort and those who lagged behind received loud calls and shouts of encouragement from the fellow students who cheer and yell loudly “Jia You!” 加油which in Chinese means “Don’t give up!” Team spirit is just around the corner at every turn. Not being an athlete myself, I was surprised by the fact that I could complete these drills without hesitation and physically prosper so much through the exercises. Even for physical tasks that we were not confident doing, if Shifu says that we can do it, and we attempt it, we see proof that Shifu is right! Every change in tasks ensures that there is no dull moment and every task is full of simplicity and yet challenges one to the betterment of self. All throughout our exercises, we never forget our comrades and fellowship and bonding is developed the right way – by encouraging one another. I could see that the longer we students stuck at what we did, the more improvement we showed. One of the students who trained adhoc in Chinese Kungfu for two years can already touch her feet with her head while bending down.
Then comes Forms Training where students learn a set of movements passed down for generations in Chinese Shaolin Kungfu. It may come with a weapon or no weapon. As we trained, reminders from Yuan Shifu to correct our stance and put in effort abound. Shifu always explains to us the motive and purpose behind each step in order to cultivate our understanding of why we adopt a certain stance or exercise.
Yuan Shifu is an extraordinary teacher. Besides being motivated and hardworking, Yuan Shifu walks the talk. At his age it is a surprise that he can still perform Shaolin high turn kicks and does so to exemplify the agility and grace of Shaolin Kungfu to new students learning the move. Such is the testament to the power of Shaolin Kungfu training – that its healthy effect lasts for ages. It is also surprising and touching how masterfully Yuan Shifu teaches young children to do difficult tasks. There is even a video of one of my fellow mates Alex learning a triple sideways flip while shown the way by Yuan Shifu, who clutches his t-shirt to turn him. As a result of this spectacularly personalised genius training, Alex learnt a magnificent triple turn in a jiffy! And Yuan Shifu applies this logic to everyone under his care and many of his students have received competition medals.
Looking through the many Kungfu schools online, it is rare to find someone who has truly graduated from the Shaolin Academy lineage and is willing to impart the values and training of Shaolin Kungfu. Yuan Shifu is firm and kind and never scolds or chides unless danger is present, such as when little children run across the weapons training area. He takes time to get to know each of his students well. And, by the grace of Yuan Shifu, a never-say-die attitude is fostered amongst students there.
Yuan Shifu also peppers his teachings of Shaolin Kungfu with Buddhist wise sayings such as “If the mind is alert, there will be spirited eyes and powerful fists, if the eyes do not gleam with spirit then the fist will be lackadaisical.” 眼睛无神拳头无力(Yan Jing Wu Shen, Quan Tou Wu Li).
Other famous sayings such as one intention can make one a Buddha but another intention can make one a demon also imparts some character teaching and development to all, there. These precious wisdoms never grow old – people ought to travel to the ends of the earth to gain such knowledge and yet such teachings remain readily available in this humble but life-saving, life-giving school YSICMAS.
I have never elsewhere seen a passion blazing so bright for martial arts teaching as in Yuntai Shan school amongst its Shifus.
I had the initial goal of weight loss which is why I joined my home country gym however 长痛不如短痛(chang tong bu ru duan tong) (short pain with results is better than long effort without any results) and I can safely say that one week at Yuntai Shan school is equivalent to 9 months of heart-aching, ineffective weight loss at my local gym.
I thought that I had eaten alot (thrice a day) at YSICMS and yet I lost 3kg in one week! Even when I reached home, I continued to lose weight with sensible eating and mild exercise. Before that, no diet worked for me. I never got injured in any training during my stay at Yuntai Shan school because warm-up was very proper but I get injured in beginner’s Muay Thai training (without sparring) all the time! What an irony that something so difficult should be so safe and something which looks easy is actually unsafe.
Get ready to be amazed at your physical change. This is a once in a lifetime experience. I was struggling with HIIT exercises in my home gym but they suddenly became extremely doable and even easy after I returned home from stamina training at YSICMAS. Yuntai Shan School’s training had conditioned my body. Parts of my body which never sweated before, like my stomach, started to sweat, even with tempered exercises. I knew that at the end of the day my whole body received a holistic workout unlike in the gym where I wasn’t sure what exercises were good and even my trainer wasn’t sure what was good for me and in any case my body never ached.
The food at YSICMAS is better than I can cook and way healthier than any so-called Michelin restaurant food and affordable food I find back home. There isn’t a day which goes by, where I don’t yearn for the dusted peanut noodle dish, the healthy baby rice gruel with Man Tou (white dough bread), healthy baby corn or yam gruel, Ma Po Dou Fu (tofu in chilli), fine cabbage with tiny shreds of beef, winter melon, chicken slivers, long bean and mouth wateringly good red bean sweet dessert without worrying about calories. All of the school’s food is finely diced and shredded for digestion. The varied list of food goes on and on and students’ taste buds are spoilt for choice The diet is easily digestible and takes into consideration health and taste. This food was the healthy wind beneath my wings which fanned the fire and burned my fuel for exercises.
YSICMAS rooms are neat and cleaned by self and guests are expected to be mature and independent. There is no Auntie to take care of you over there but the togetherness of people who feed the same, exercise the same and sleep the same, burns the wick of determination to live wholesomely.
I have never seen students so well taken care of, in non-luxurious but meaningful terms at YSICMAS where you know that everything you do means a great deal to yourself and to the people around you. This is what life should be like for anyone every day.
YSICMAS is amazingly generous with rest time and 3 hours of rest time is given to students every day after lunch. For workaholics, I can assure you that there will never be another experience in your life where you are told to rest for 3 hours.
The Kungfu Shifus and subject teachers are always available and glad to answer any questions. They always ask after their students’ welfare. They are concerned about not only the wheres but also the whys of what a student is doing and not a moment is left to waste away without knowledge of a good purposeful plan.
The price of taking a plane trip and lodging is insignificant compared to the benefits received after training at YSICMAS. I can guarantee that no place on Earth is more an embodiment of the human spirit and its limitless potential than in China at YSICMAS. Your stay at YSICMAS will move your heart and soul in more ways than you can ever imagine, to reach enlightenment of the mind and body.
If you are suffering from the ills of an affluent society, this is the very place for your recovery where you can spend every minute doing something good for yourself and others around you.
The valleys and mountains are one of a kind and all one needs to do to relax is look up or look out of the window. We have many unforgettable memories traipsing around the surrounding mountains of Yuntai Shan during the weekend. There is not a day that goes by, where I don’t miss its scenery.
At night, the school television is abuzz and put to good use, showing English films and Chinese variety shows for everyone to immerse their minds in a movie escapade. The sound system for the televisions are world class and students and international student foreigners come together as one in humour and speech.
One will never again find such an environment where one does so many good and righteous things for oneself.
Never before has a school environment been so well planned out in terms of wholesomeness and holistic development. Drinking of coffee and tea is also discouraged as the lights go off at nine.
Never again will your development be so rapid and your exercises count towards a plan beyond all expectations and comparisons.
You will grow in confidence and stature as you master self reliance, control, attitude and energy. You will feel like a conqueror of your goals and ready to do anything you set your mind to.
Just prepare yourself for the magic of YSICMAS and the nobleness of the people of China.
Pan Yilin, Singapore