Yes, you read that right:
And now for a taste of things to come –
(and yes, in case you’re paying attention, the mortal kombat movie quote was intentional)
When we figured out we would have a month and only a month to experience the massive, well, everything that is China we knew we would have exactly 2 options –
1) Whistle-stop tour where we scratch the surface of a lot of stuff.
2) Spend the majority of our time in one place to get a feel for at least one piece of this massive conglomeration of cultures and peoples.
For us, the second option was the one that made sense but what cultural immersion program could we get into that would actually be interesting and fit into our exacting schedule with time sensitive visas from both China and Russia?
Then one day, while looking online to get some travel insurance, Greg saw a review of an insurance that started with the phrase, “I used this insurance when I attended a kung fu school in China…”
Greg’s initial reaction, as remembered by Tiffany,
“Holy *&@! You can do that!?”
At first it was a joke between us because no way would a 3 week kung fu intensive school fit into our budget, much less our tight schedule. But the more we looked at it, the more it actually did.
Internet? It’s a little extra, but pretty reasonable.
Dates? Completely flexible. This shocked us but really, they’re happy to accommodate.
When it came down to it, the numbers worked and one day Tiffany and Greg just looked at each other and said. “You know what? We’re gonna go learn kung fu in China.”
(Dude, saying that NEVER GETS OLD in case you’re wondering)
So we did and it was everything we wanted it to be.
We’re going to go more into this once we get to China in the blog but in case you’re someone who, like us, is looking for an amazing and genuine Chinese experience but is quite frankly a bit intimidated by the language, the culture and the remoteness of parts of this country; let’s break down why this was the perfect experience.
It’s genuine –
This place is not a tourist experience; it’s an actual kung fu school for locals that also has an “international branch” (which would include you). Your teacher is a senior student of the school’s master, not a tour guide. You are not here to watch or to play around. There are about 6 hours of class per day and you are expected to attend and learn kung fu. Yes, this includes physical development. You will be eating with other local students and you will be eating real Chinese food, as in, food that normal Chinese people eat.
While it’s good food, it isn’t what you expect when you hear the words “Chinese food”.
Aside from training in what we would consider “martial arts” there are also opportunities to study meditation and arts that promote your health like Qigong: something we learned a little about that at a basic level revolves around improving the health of internal organs.
These people aren’t interested in giving you a packaged “cultural immersion” experience. The cultural immersion just happens when they teach you kung fu the same way the Chinese have been learning the art for thousands of years. And by thousands we mean that literally because over here, they measure things that way. While we were there the temple we studied at celebrated its 660th anniversary.
…and yes, we studied kung fu in an ancient Chinese temple at the foot of Wudang Mountain which you may remember from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and is also the birthplace of the art of Tai-Chi…
Our classroom’s front door
Really people, the awesome just doesn’t stop.
They are accustomed to Westerners –
As we said, the school has an “international contingent” which is what you will join when you get there. As “internationals” go we were extreme short timers and would recommend your stay be longer than ours. Western students come for as short as a few days to as long as 5 years (!!). To get a genuine experience we would recommend half a month as a BARE MINIMUM and really, we wish we could have put a full month into the program just to get the polish on the basic forms we studied. As for your visa, the school’s staff is very knowledgeable on how to get extensions based on the fact that you are studying in China. If you want a longer stay, contact them ahead of time and they will be glad to help you with the details.
What all this translates to is that while you are immersed in a school of primarily Chinese speaking students, they are kind of used to you and there is a group of other westerners / English speakers around to show you the ropes. Also, the staff is accustomed to the quirks and eccentricities of westerners.
By that we mean we had a sit-down toilet. A fact Greg was immensely grateful for.
Master Yuan himself is a real value add in this particular aspect. Not only is he accessible and in possession of a strong understanding of the English language, not only has he visited several western countries and has many students from those countries, he is also well versed and interested in the differences between Eastern and Western cultures.
Kung fu masters use smart phones. Which, once you stop to think about it, makes sense – Kung fu masters still need to make phone calls and would appreciate the convenience of the many uses of the modern smart phone. Heck, we called him once or twice to make sure we had the directions to the school right. Still, kung fu master on his smartphone…took a little getting used to.
Some of our favorite memories of our time at the school were when Master Yuan would take the time to explain to us why things were done a certain way or why something we did was considered strange or how he was able to bend and move his body in ways that seemed to defy the laws of logic and human bone structure (it has to do with stretching and breathing).
Oh yeah, and for the rest of your life you can say “I studied kung fu in China.”
Telling you, it never sounds less awesome.
So if you’re planning a trip to China or wanted an experience of the East that is at the same time authentic, very accessible and ridiculously amazing, check this place out.
*little piece of disclosure – Master Yuan did do us the courtesy of giving us a discount in that he charged us the daily rate for a longer stay than we actually stayed. So it’s not like you can’t get the same discount we did, just hang around for a full month and you’ll get the same rate we did. Seriously, check out the prices, they are quite reasonable when you realize you’re paying for room, board, cultural immersion, language immersion and 6+ hours of intensive physical conditioning mixed in with learning a martial art that has been handed down for literally thousands of years all from an instructor who is in the line of direct disciples of the people who invented the stuff.
Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!