Friday, April 07, 2006

Shaolin Master

Last week I was training at the Shaolin Temple.

Well ok not the real temple, I haven't been suddenly transported to mainland China, instead we visited the home of one of Nigels Martial Arts brothers, Master Wong, where he has built a fair replica in his back garden.

Master Wong is a small rotund man, shaven headed with a little moustache and a permanent grin. A grin that was still on his face when I last saw him a few years ago, standing on his head with two buckets of water hanging off his feet, while two of his students used a sledgehammer to smash a concrete block balanced over his testicles.

The temple is an impressive building. Built by Master Wongs own hands, it stands on the land next to his house. There is a large main training hall decorated with framed newspaper clippings of Master Wong and his students, behind this is a smaller room packed with a large altar, an impressive collection of weapons in racks on the wall and stacks of gaudy Lion heads for various Lion Dances. In the basement there is what one of our number described as 'the room of pain', it contains various training aids for strength and striking training. A large punch bag hangs from the ceiling stuffed with thin strips of bamboo, iron shot of various weights for grip strength lay on padded cushions and a large concrete ball with a rope handle sits on the floor for developing all over body strength.

After our brief tour we return outside and get down to the reason for coming here, push hands. For the next hour or so two of Master Wongs students do a round robin of push hands bouts with me (so they get to rest and I don't) across the bare concrete outside the temple entrance.

For those of you who haven't come across the term 'push hands' before, it's a form of controlled sparring common to Tai-Chi. It's similar(ish) to wing chun sticky hands or Judo Kumite, generally you can't punch or kick (though you can add that in if you want) but you can sweep, lock and push. The idea is that it trains close quarter fighting skills, working on speed, sensitivity and positioning to uproot and disrupt your opponent.

Master Wongs boys were strong, fast and pretty skillful but I was pretty pleased with my performance. I dumped one on his backside a couple of times and even managed to get another in a headlock using tiger returns to the mountain (a move in the Tai-Chi Form, Dave you would have been very proud :-)). Nigel seemed pleased as well, he commented that when I cheated I did it just like him.

After my hour was up, Master Wongs lads went through an impressive display of some of there forms and then we all sat and drank tea at Master Wongs special table come water fountain that he'd built at the other end of his yard.

Other training is going well, I've finished the fast form and have now moved on to doing it with weights (which hurts but makes you do it properly). Pak Zianal has moved from hitting me with sticks to using an axe (the blunt side of the head so far thankfully). We also had a fantastic Journey to a Malay Mystic mountain, but that will have to wait until my next post.


Blogger Hugh Crosland said...

I'm enjoying your commentary very much Adam. Looking forward to the next installment.

8:27 am, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous Pete Erlich said...

Glad (and maybe just a little bit jealous) you're having fun out there!

Can you drop me an e-mail (petererlich AT I could do with e-mailing you about some stuff....

8:55 pm, April 12, 2006  
Anonymous paul :o) said...

Nice one on the pushing hands mate, excellent stuff. Good to hear your art is more than a match for the locals and you're still coping with the punishing training schedule (axes!!!!).

The Shaolin Temple sounds brilliant, hey, Dave was wondering what to do with the bottom of his garden.....

8:44 pm, April 19, 2006  

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