Experience report – International Kung Fu Training Center
I have been in the International Kung Fu Training Center (http://www.trip-to-china.com/ ) for one month, from 22nd March 2011 until 18th April 2011. This is a time where the climate is quite ok. It’s still a little bit cold in March and not too hot in April.
You will get fetched from Zhengzhou airport. If you not already have, you should get money there from an ATM, to be able to pay the fee of 440$ or the equivalent in Yuan. They also accept Euros. Best is, to have it in cash because not every ATM works.
Probably the driver won’t speak any English, and you will drive around 2 to 2.30 hours until you reach the school. You get your first impressions about crazy driving style and sometimes bad road conditions. The school is located exactly HERE:
http://maps.google.de/?ie=UTF8&ll=35.415215,113.411093&spn=0.016333,0.038581&z=15 (Wujiatai Village)
It is a small village just before the Yuntai Mountains, a big national park, begins. But it is not really IN the mountains. You have the mountains around, it’s a nice view. But you have a lot of tourists that go to Yuntai Mountains, because most of them stop in this village and then they will watch you practicing. You’ll get used to it. Sometimes, especially weekends there are so many busses, that they occupy the training space, .e.g. the basketball-field. You’ll learn to ignore it.
You get your room, and if you’re lucky you have a nice room neighbor who shows you everything and helps you getting along with your culture shock J. If you don’t have one, you will get one later. Don’t be shy to ask the other international students how to do this and that. Your Shifu will show you the school, but won’t explain everything.
First (or when you arrive late, in the next morning) you will do the administrative things, filling out forms. You should have 3 pass photos, and you have to pay the money.
You will start with training slowly. You don’t have to be able to do all the things the other can do. Don’t exhaust yourself, accept starting slower, it will get hard enough. You will have a lot of muscle aching pain, really a lot!
The meals– as everything there – takes time to get used to. You’ll get rice in the morning, lunch and at dinner. There is a pot with stuff in it, don’t ask what it is (cabbage, glass-noodles) . You have tasteless bread rolls in the morning. Sometimes they have mushrooms and cucumber. Just try everything. Sometimes they have a tomato-egg-mixture, tastes nice. Better don’t try the meat at the beginning. Try out what your stomache tolerates. My one did tolerate a lot, but not the meat. Be sure you have Immodium or similar with you, for me this did work fast. In this one month, I only had one time really problems.
The training times are 1.5h in the morning before breakfast, 3 hours after breakfast with a 20 minute break after half of the time, the same in the afternoon. In the evening mostly is free training time, or just walking around the place. You must be on time – you line up 5 times a day, when the bell rings. You will do push up’s, if you are late, even if you are only some seconds too late. Better be there before the bell rings.
After one week of getting used to, the trainer will treat you as hard as the others. In free time training in the evening let the others teach you how all those moves and kicks work.
Give your best in training. There is no “more is not possible”. You can do more! You will be surprised how much you can. Never stop or give up, continue until the trainer says it’s enough.
Your muscles will pain as you never had it in your life. You nearly won’t be able to move your legs. For me, none of my creams (cooling leg gel, arnica, Voltaren and so on) did really help. Just stop thinking, clench your teeth and continue. It will get better in a week, but it will never cease completely.
It does not matter how fit you are now. Of course it is better to get fitter before you go there, so it will be easier to adapt, but you can also go there if you are not fit – you will just have more pain in the beginning…
You can choose to switch to learning Chinese in the afternoon, if the training is too much for you. If you are not too fit this is better. You will be glad about this training-break. But think about this decision wisely, you only can switch one’s a month.
The Chinese lessons are not really good. The teacher is nice, but her English is not that good, and her didactic methods are just – let me say somewhat communism-like. You will understand what I mean, when you are there. You won’t learn much, but at least a little bit. It’s somewhat boring, but you can make it more interesting by asking her a lot of things. You will learn poems and sing songs (really!). You don’t sing? You will!
It’s China. You’ll get a communism-like feeling: everything is regulated! You can’t just go out! You can go out only on the free day on Tuesday, and on Friday half the day. And everyone who wants to go has to sign out. But you don’t need more going out. And if you really want a holiday break, a week of Shanghai or something like that, it’s ok to ask the Shifu, he will allow it. The nice thing is, they really care for you! You are student of this school, so they feel responsible for you! They care about if you’re ok. But they never accept moaning.
The 2 days outside are enough to get warm showers (you don’t have warm water in your rooms) and go shopping for food, that makes living more enjoyable – coke, cookies, potato-chips, chocolate cream, marmalade and so on. You can take your own food to the lunch room. Most of the international students are doing this.
Most of the training consists of running. You will also run a mountain at least every second day. So it’s a good idea at least to practice some running before you go there.
The quality of training I would say is mediocre. I think in Germany you will have a better didactic, better explanations and you will learn more forms, but you never have this intense. Your whole day consists of training, but it’s mostly conditioning and running. Every 3 or 4 weeks there are tests, you can watch yourself on video (if you find some space in front of a little TV).
In my time there, we were 2 groups – 2 different trainers with 6-15 international students. The Chinese kids (which are somewhat cute) have their own trainers. And there is also a Sanda group (when there are enough students that want Sanda) or Tai Chi.
During the Kung-Training in that month we never had kicks to some sandbag or something different. You will just learn basic moves and forms – one basic form without weapon (you will learn it in around one month) and then you will start a stick-form. We had some self-defense-techniques, but they were nothing special, you can learn self-defense better elsewhere.
Training is outside or in the training hall, which is quite ok, but of course also dusty and dirty and shabby. There you will also practice acrobatics (which I liked most).
Depending on the Shifu you get, it will depend on his mood, how much he will teach you. Give your best, never say it’s too hard and always be early to bring him in a good mood. And never stop to ask him, that you want to continue learning the form. It’s a good idea that everyday some other student asks, to continue form.
Sometimes I had the feeling that our shifu does not think about what to teach when. In my opinion this lowers the quality of education. You need to remind him to explain new steps. And you don’t get a lot of corrections. My shifu did not explain a lot to me, mostly he was very inpatient and angry, because I was not able to correctly repeat his demonstration fast enough. In fact, I learned most of the things from the others students. If you don’t ask, the shifu will only show you one time, and then in the test he will be angry with you, that you did not performed well…
But with the other international students, you can be a good team, you learn from each other, it can get family-like.
One word about this Buddha-class: Don’t misunderstand “class”. It is no lesson, there is no teaching. You just go into a room with a shrine with a Buddha-statue and then you will get an incense stick, you will knee down and bow, meditate some minutes, work in a circle with the others while muttering some Chinese sentences (which nobody understands). And that’s it. It takes one hour. Maybe you’ll like the Meditation to calm down. I think you can ask Shifu to skip it, explaining that it is not your religion. He will have to accept it. But if you want to respect them and their religion, you join!
In school there is one PC with internet, you can use. But it’s not really enjoyable. You will have a very very very slow connection. Mostly it is ok, to get some emails, but it will not work every time. On Tuesday and Friday you can go into a better internet-“café”. Sometimes they want your pass.
You can get a local mobile phone, a prepaid card (but they don’t understand the word prepaid), it’s cheap. Good luck when trying to do this in English… And if you have your local phone number, a good way for cheap phoning is, when the others use Sipgate – its 1.6 cent per minute!
Laundry – there is only one washing-machine for laundry. And mostly it’s broken. You just wear your clothes longer (who cares there?), do handwashing, complain at the shifus that they repair and then and be fast to get your clothes washed before its broken again…
Things mostly won’t get repaired there. If your TV or climate control or even the toilet is not working – bad luck. Try to complain, maybe it helps, maybe not. So, be gentle to everything, you will have to pay if it gets broken. Also be gentle to the socket-outlets, if you are from Europe you don’t need an adapter, but it somewhat tricky to get the plug in.
Some more tips, info, facts:
- You will do a 2-day-trip to Yuntai Mountains. It’s really beautiful. If you like, you can get some lucent orange Shaolin clothes and take cool posing photos here.
- For women: there are a lot of women there, so, no problem. Everything will be same for you, sometimes in power-training he will reduce the amount of sit-ups or other things for us, but only sometimes. Just do as much as you can, it will be ok. Please mail me for some more personal hints.
- The toilets: don’t throw any toilet paper into the toilet! You don’t want the experience of a blocked toilet.
- Everyday they trim the water for some hours. So it’s a good idea to have a big can filled with water. You can buy one there.
- In the school is one place, where you can get boiled water. If the light there is green, it is drinkable – really.
- The hygienic conditions are not that good. It’s somewhat disgusting. Maybe you have some hygienic spray with you for your room. But as I said, you will adapt…
- Sometimes the shifu will practice with you in the fields at the backside of the houses. There is a lot of waste, excrement – just don’t think about it…
- Strangely it is not that much smelling in- and outside, maybe because you’re adapted very fast. But it’s often dusty.
- Shifus says often do 200 sit-ups or push ups and so one. Don’t try to bargain, he will rise the number. Just start and COUNT for yourself (he will ask you often), sometimes he will stop earlier…
- One more example of this regulated-communism-like: after 10pm you have to stay in your room. Sometimes the shifus will check this.
- In the morning you will repeat one more or less senseful Chinese-sentence, like the Chinese kids will do in English.
I can suggest the stay for the experience. it’s worth the experience, the quality is medium, but if you stay at least 3 month and can cope with the food, you will get really fit and learn a lot of Kung Fu.
You’ll have to adapt a lot, but if you really want to learn kung fu, you can do it. Just try to have fun with all those odd things.
It is possible that there are better schools, with more dedicated teachers. In this school, you have the advantage, that there are enough other international students, so you can suffer, help each other and have fun together, which will make the experience a lot more enjoyable. It’s like a residential school. Everything is regulated strictly, not much time to do own things, no possibility to go out for fun. You are in an entire different world.
Don’t forget in your luggage: your favorite chocolate, immodium, hygienic spray, pegs, pain reliever, dictionary, crèmes (air is dry and dusty, creaming helps)