Hey guys, this is my first time on this forum, but I plan to hang around! After spending a summer in China I am now completely obsessed with Chinese martial arts! Anyways, I thought that a good first post would be to talk about what I’ve been doing for the past few months and some of the training I’ve had.

I’ve always had a passion for martial arts and tried judo and taekwondo when I was younger, but never found something that I really loved. Completely randomly about a year ago I joined a kung fu class in my hometown and thought ‘wow, this is awesome!’. In one class you had people practicing with swords, staffs, whips and of course bare-hand forms. There were people of all ages, so my biggest impression was that Chinese martial arts really are for everybody, I’ve never seen anything else like this in any other martial art.

Anyways, long story short I decided one day that since these martial arts come from China, the best thing I could do, would be to go to China! After a bunch of searching online I found at least a dozen schools in China offering classes to foreigners that don’t speak any Chinese. How to decide? A couple were ruled off straight away, if you can’t design a website which is easily readable to a foreigner I’m not going to send you my money in the mail! A few schools also didn’t answer my e-mails for two or three weeks at a time, which kind of put me off. Eventually I found one that had videos of students and teachers online, answered immediately and was half-based in China, half in Switzerland. Switzerland sounded reliable enough to me wink

The only problem was… it is in Beijing. If you’re going to go study kung fu in China you want to go to a monastery on a mountain and live with monks! Learning in a city with millions and millions of people isn’t really the ideal option… At least that is what I thought before arriving! After spending a few weeks in Beijing I can seriously say that that was the most important and best choice I made. Staying in Beijing was perfect! The best coaches in the country are not in fact monks or even in the countryside (I went to a couple monasteries and even Shaolin on the weekends to train) but are in the city. Why? Because they are the ones coaching the future national champions. All of the national and international champions come out of a few professional martial arts schools, most of which are located in Beijing. Jet Li graduated from an academy in Beijing, and his coach was also from a Beijing school. There is NO doubt, the best teachers are in the city.

To add to that, I soon discovered that spending two months in the countryside would have been extremely boring, MUCH more boring than I had imagined! In Beijing the atmosphere was great, we lived in a little park with trees around us and old men practicing tai chi outside us every morning. I felt like I was in the countryside, but if I wanted to go to a bookstore, there was one closer than 50km away. When I got sick of Chinese food (it happens!!) I could find a good Western meal for very cheap nearby.

As for training, it was simply AWESOME. We practiced for 4 hours everyday in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoons as well. The first half hour was warm-up, then some SERIOUS stretching, ouch! That said, I can almost do the splits now… Next we would go over very short routines and combos, small series of about 5 movements. At this point we would be split into Tai Chi, modern Wushu and Sanda (sparring groups). The Wushu group would practice forms and acrobatic movements while the sparring group would practice punches, kicks, takedowns and throws with punching bags, mats, and on each other.

Its worth saying that the coach of the Wushu group was Zhao Qingjian. If you have never seen this guy, look him up on youtube. Incredible. He is known in China as ‘the new jet li’ and can fly. Seriously… It was an absolute honour to train under him and I learned a ton.

Finally advanced students would practice sword, broadword, spear, staff, 3-section staff, etc…

After lunch we would either go out and enjoy the rest of the day or go in for extra training, one-on-one with a private coach. I studied praying mantis, but other students did Wing Chun, 5-animals, or even Qi Gong and meditation. This would go on into late afternoon when we would go get dinner and sleep or go out and have a few drinks in town.

It was an absolutely incredible experience, I spent just over two months training every day and honestly learnt more than I could have in 2 or 3 years back home. I was challenged, some days I really did not want to get out of bed because I was exhausted, but most I would jump out, ready to go push myself. It was hard but it was fun, and in this time I learned one fist form very well, dabbled in a few others and picked up the basics of four new weapons. Incredible!

I highly recommend the experience. It was nowhere near as expensive as I had imagined (living expenses are almost nothing in China, and you save on paying for rent and food back home, $$!) and I will not be forgetting it any time soon. You can always learn kung fu or Chinese martial arts back home, but anyone that has been to China to do it will tell you that it really just isn’t quite the same.

For those of you that are interested I went to learn Kung Fu in China with Bridges to China, http://www.bridgestochina.com - If you are interested there are also a dozen or so schools in the countryside, but like I said… I wouldn’t really recommend them. I met students that had studied there and every single one that I talked to said they regretted not coming to Beijing to learn. If you’re still interested in the countryside you can find a bunch of schools by doing a bit of googling!

Hope this was an interesting first post, I look forward to seeing everyone around the forum.

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