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  1. ZenMMA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 2:48pm


     Style: Muay Thai

    2
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Shaolin Camp In China - My Experience

    Hi guys,

    a story for you here about my last couple of months.

    Basically after a year of saving I quit my job and headed to a shaolin school in China, I had researched the school thoroughly and every day at my lunch hour I had daydreamed about going, the school appeared to be well regarded and the websire had a bunch of testimonials from previous students, it took a lot of courage to leave my well paid job and follow my dream, at 26 Im not a kid anymore and I dont have parents around to get me out of trouble. The school taught a number of martial arts including Wing Chun, Baji, Mantis and shaolin...I had decided I was going to stay for a year and study Wing Chun and Sanda (Shaolin seemed like too much gymnastics and wasted energy).

    Anyway, after a long flight, an even longer train journey and a taxi up a mounatin I arrived, first impressions were as I expected, it was kind of like a really **** boarding school, communal showers, dorms, place was pretty dirty, it was -15 degrees and there was no heating...pretty ****, but I was expecting as much, the basic lifestyle was ultimately what I was after.

    One thing that did worry me was that all the students were western, from my training in Thailand I have come to the conclusion that if you go to a camp in another country the best camps are the ones with the most native fighters and the worst are the ones with teh most westerners...this one was exclusively western students.

    The website had said that you can train for 7 days and then decide firstly if you want to stay and secondly what arts you want to train...I was however prompted to complete all the paperwork and make payment within the first 10 minutes of arriving and it felt like they couldnt get me registered and paid up quick enough. The total for the year was a touch over 3000.

    Over the following weeks I made a number of observations, and here they are -

    Training - This was generally split into 3 sessions a day, a 2 hour session in the morning, a 1 hour session in the early afternoon and another 2 hour session in the later afternoon.
    The morning sessions was generally wing chun forms, the ealy afternoon session was often Baji forms and the afternoon session was flexibility, strecthing and conditioning.

    My background is Muay thai and I have some some basic BJJ and MMA training and I am used to pretty hardcore training and have never really trained in forms at all, so I must admit I found training forms for 3 hours every day a bit boring, the master had told me the version of Wing chun he taught was very traditional and as such conatined more movements than most other types. This didnt feel me with confidence, what I had hoped he would say was that his version was the most effective, the criticisms made by Bruce Lee regarding forms and fixed positions would ring through my mind everyday I trained the forms. Dont get me wrong, I understand the thinking behind forms, but I think they were given far too much emphasis.

    Sparring occured once every 2 weeks and would usually involve just 2 or 3 fights (6 students max) out of a school of 70+ students, and as usual, the sparring would often degrad into a brawl or what looked like a kickboxing match...The forms...no where to be seen, and that was understandable as what was taught in many of the classes werent things that were transferable to sparring...have you ever tried doing the Eagle Claw with a boxing glove!?!

    The school would hold grading sessions that would be the measurement of a students progress within thier chosen martial art. This rung alarm bells with me, in my mind the students progress should be measured by thier ability to fight, not thier ability to performs forms perfectly, and as the sparring matches proved, forms did not always transfer into fighting ability, and essentially is that not what we were all thier to do, to learn to become better fighters?

    I couldnt shake the feeling that you had a lot of westerners who had been at this place for over a year and learnt many forms and could do some very fancy kicks but if you put them in a confrontation with someone who was trained in Boxing or Muay thai or BJJ, then after the initial exchange they would become overpowered pretty quickly.

    One thing I was impressed by was the conditioing and flexibility training, specific muscles were targeted i.e. forearms, neck, grip strength, core strength in such a way to imitate fighting situations and reps would be high to help build mucle memory, also the flexibility training was excellent and really opened my eyes to the limits you place on yourself if you dont train yourself to be as flexible as possible.The guys who had been there for a year plus had really benefited from the training in this sense, most could do one arm push ups 10+ with ease and you could see that they had a good balanced strength to body mass ratio.

    The masters themselves, they spoke very little English, in fact each one had a translator that followed them around to help. A couple of issues I had with the masters.
    1- The language barrier...unfortunately even with the translators this was an issue and it was most noticable when watching the long term students perform the forms, you got the impression that they were performing the actions without really knowing why they were doing it, everyone had the general movement right but not everyone looked like they were performing the actions with purpose.
    2- Often one of the long term students would take the class whilst the master just watched. I felt I had been cheated a bit at times, having paid to be taught by a master and finding myself being taught by a 19 year old who had been training at the acedemy for a year.


    Thats pretty much all I can think of from a training perspective, however the real suprise came with the school and a fair few of its students.
    The school is located halfway up a mountain, the surroundings are beautiful and as you can imagine you are fairly isolated, this is a perfect environment for training, however it also seemed to attract a large number of guys who were looking for some kind of rehab.
    Oddly, in teh first week I met 3 people who claimed to be there off teh back of a drug habbit and didnt really have an interest in martial arts, instead just wanted to stay clean for a year. Although I sympathise with this, I did feel it took away from the atmosphere of the school. This attitude was pretty common, a fair few people had no interest in fighting, but instead were more interested in just getting away from some issue they had at home.

    I found this type of thinking very different to when I have trained MT in thailand or MMA at home, where everyone wants to train hard and fight hard.
    The other issue I had, and I cant believe this was an issue, was drugs, there were people smoking and selling drugs at the school. Dont get me wrong, I have used drugs in the past and I probably will in the future, but a Shaolin school is not the place for it. My understanding was that the school turned a blind eye to it as it mainly involved thier long term students and they were of course the cash cows.
    There were stories of students hiring mini busses and heading down the mounatin to the nearest city and basically getting smashed out of thier face on drink and drugs, screwing whores and then turning up at the camp the next day refusing to train because they were too hung over, this was almost a weekly event at one stage.
    Students would often drink alcohol and smoke in thier rooms, and there were stories of drunken fights between students...(not sure if any martial arts were used at that point!!)

    I dont judge these people and to a large extent I think it is possible to drink and smoke and still be a good fighter, but it wasnt the kind of atmosphere I had travelled half way round the world and then up a mountain for, I was expecting more discipline and more motivation. The school masters had a moan every now and then, but it felt like it was for show, I didnt witness any enforced discpline in regards to any of the above.

    I should stress that this wasnt all the students, and there were a couple who were evry dedicated, waking at 4:30am every day and doing extra training etc ... so it certainly was possible to train thier, but for me, I just didnt feel like it warranted 3000 and a 15 hour flight.

    Ultimately 6 weeks into my planned year I developed MRSA ( A potentially fatal superbug) which lead to blood poisoning...I had to leave the school and after a hospital visit in Beijing and being told the recovery time was going to be 2-4 months I decided I would travel round South East Asia and then head to thailand once I was sure the infection had cleared up and I had finished my medication.

    Well, I am in Vietnam at the minute after just finishing Thailand and Cambodia..the plan is to spend a mont here then go to Laos for 3 weeks and then head back to Thailand and do some Muay thai or MMA for 2 months.

    Im not really sure how to feel to be honest, if I hadnt developed MRSA, would I have left the school given everything above...Im not sure, I might have stuck it out just to say that I could have done it, I might have found after 4 months the forms all clicked and I valued them, then again I might have got more depressed with sharing the experience with westerners with no ambition to fight or I may have become even more disheartened with the never ending forms.

    No one is expecting me home until the year is up, and everyone is expecting me to return home as some kind of Mr Miyagi...the truth is that my finances will run out after about 6 months and I'll have to go home to find a job and I still wont be able to catch a grasshopper or walk on rice paper.

    Its 3am....I am in a hostel in the middle of Vietnam..

    Thats my Martial Arts story
  2. ZenMMA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 2:57pm


     Style: Muay Thai

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Training Shaolin in China

    Not sure if this belongs here exactly, but thought it might make an interesting read for you guys..
    Excuse the spelling etc..its late and Im dumb.

    A story for you here about my last couple of months.

    Basically after a year of saving I quit my job and headed to a shaolin school in China, I had researched the school thoroughly and every day at my lunch hour I had daydreamed about going, the school appeared to be well regarded and the websire had a bunch of testimonials from previous students, it took a lot of courage to leave my well paid job and follow my dream, at 26 Im not a kid anymore and I dont have parents around to get me out of trouble. The school taught a number of martial arts including Wing Chun, Baji, Mantis and shaolin...I had decided I was going to stay for a year and study Wing Chun and Sanda (Shaolin seemed like too much gymnastics and wasted energy).

    Anyway, after a long flight, an even longer train journey and a taxi up a mounatin I arrived, first impressions were as I expected, it was kind of like a really **** boarding school, communal showers, dorms, place was pretty dirty, it was -15 degrees and there was no heating...pretty ****, but I was expecting as much, the basic lifestyle was ultimately what I was after.

    One thing that did worry me was that all the students were western, from my training in Thailand I have come to the conclusion that if you go to a camp in another country the best camps are the ones with the most native fighters and the worst are the ones with teh most westerners...this one was exclusively western students.

    The website had said that you can train for 7 days and then decide firstly if you want to stay and secondly what arts you want to train...I was however prompted to complete all the paperwork and make payment within the first 10 minutes of arriving and it felt like they couldnt get me registered and paid up quick enough. The total for the year was a touch over 3000.

    Over the following weeks I made a number of observations, and here they are -

    Training - This was generally split into 3 sessions a day, a 2 hour session in the morning, a 1 hour session in the early afternoon and another 2 hour session in the later afternoon.
    The morning sessions was generally wing chun forms, the ealy afternoon session was often Baji forms and the afternoon session was flexibility, strecthing and conditioning.

    My background is Muay thai and I have some some basic BJJ and MMA training and I am used to pretty hardcore training and have never really trained in forms at all, so I must admit I found training forms for 3 hours every day a bit boring, the master had told me the version of Wing chun he taught was very traditional and as such conatined more movements than most other types. This didnt feel me with confidence, what I had hoped he would say was that his version was the most effective, the criticisms made by Bruce Lee regarding forms and fixed positions would ring through my mind everyday I trained the forms. Dont get me wrong, I understand the thinking behind forms, but I think they were given far too much emphasis.

    Sparring occured once every 2 weeks and would usually involve just 2 or 3 fights (6 students max) out of a school of 70+ students, and as usual, the sparring would often degrad into a brawl or what looked like a kickboxing match...The forms...no where to be seen, and that was understandable as what was taught in many of the classes werent things that were transferable to sparring...have you ever tried doing the Eagle Claw with a boxing glove!?!

    The school would hold grading sessions that would be the measurement of a students progress within thier chosen martial art. This rung alarm bells with me, in my mind the students progress should be measured by thier ability to fight, not thier ability to performs forms perfectly, and as the sparring matches proved, forms did not always transfer into fighting ability, and essentially is that not what we were all thier to do, to learn to become better fighters?

    I couldnt shake the feeling that you had a lot of westerners who had been at this place for over a year and learnt many forms and could do some very fancy kicks but if you put them in a confrontation with someone who was trained in Boxing or Muay thai or BJJ, then after the initial exchange they would become overpowered pretty quickly.

    One thing I was impressed by was the conditioing and flexibility training, specific muscles were targeted i.e. forearms, neck, grip strength, core strength in such a way to imitate fighting situations and reps would be high to help build mucle memory, also the flexibility training was excellent and really opened my eyes to the limits you place on yourself if you dont train yourself to be as flexible as possible.The guys who had been there for a year plus had really benefited from the training in this sense, most could do one arm push ups 10+ with ease and you could see that they had a good balanced strength to body mass ratio.

    The masters themselves, they spoke very little English, in fact each one had a translator that followed them around to help. A couple of issues I had with the masters.
    1- The language barrier...unfortunately even with the translators this was an issue and it was most noticable when watching the long term students perform the forms, you got the impression that they were performing the actions without really knowing why they were doing it, everyone had the general movement right but not everyone looked like they were performing the actions with purpose.
    2- Often one of the long term students would take the class whilst the master just watched. I felt I had been cheated a bit at times, having paid to be taught by a master and finding myself being taught by a 19 year old who had been training at the acedemy for a year.


    Thats pretty much all I can think of from a training perspective, however the real suprise came with the school and a fair few of its students.
    The school is located halfway up a mountain, the surroundings are beautiful and as you can imagine you are fairly isolated, this is a perfect environment for training, however it also seemed to attract a large number of guys who were looking for some kind of rehab.
    Oddly, in teh first week I met 3 people who claimed to be there off teh back of a drug habbit and didnt really have an interest in martial arts, instead just wanted to stay clean for a year. Although I sympathise with this, I did feel it took away from the atmosphere of the school. This attitude was pretty common, a fair few people had no interest in fighting, but instead were more interested in just getting away from some issue they had at home.

    I found this type of thinking very different to when I have trained MT in thailand or MMA at home, where everyone wants to train hard and fight hard.
    The other issue I had, and I cant believe this was an issue, was drugs, there were people smoking and selling drugs at the school. Dont get me wrong, I have used drugs in the past and I probably will in the future, but a Shaolin school is not the place for it. My understanding was that the school turned a blind eye to it as it mainly involved thier long term students and they were of course the cash cows.
    There were stories of students hiring mini busses and heading down the mounatin to the nearest city and basically getting smashed out of thier face on drink and drugs, screwing whores and then turning up at the camp the next day refusing to train because they were too hung over, this was almost a weekly event at one stage.
    Students would often drink alcohol and smoke in thier rooms, and there were stories of drunken fights between students...(not sure if any martial arts were used at that point!!)

    I dont judge these people and to a large extent I think it is possible to drink and smoke and still be a good fighter, but it wasnt the kind of atmosphere I had travelled half way round the world and then up a mountain for, I was expecting more discipline and more motivation. The school masters had a moan every now and then, but it felt like it was for show, I didnt witness any enforced discpline in regards to any of the above.

    I should stress that this wasnt all the students, and there were a couple who were evry dedicated, waking at 4:30am every day and doing extra training etc ... so it certainly was possible to train thier, but for me, I just didnt feel like it warranted 3000 and a 15 hour flight.

    Ultimately 6 weeks into my planned year I developed MRSA ( A potentially fatal superbug) which lead to blood poisoning...I had to leave the school and after a hospital visit in Beijing and being told the recovery time was going to be 2-4 months I decided I would travel round South East Asia and then head to thailand once I was sure the infection had cleared up and I had finished my medication.

    Well, I am in Vietnam at the minute after just finishing Thailand and Cambodia..the plan is to spend a mont here then go to Laos for 3 weeks and then head back to Thailand and do some Muay thai or MMA for 2 months.

    Im not really sure how to feel to be honest, if I hadnt developed MRSA, would I have left the school given everything above...Im not sure, I might have stuck it out just to say that I could have done it, I might have found after 4 months the forms all clicked and I valued them, then again I might have got more depressed with sharing the experience with westerners with no ambition to fight or I may have become even more disheartened with the never ending forms.

    No one is expecting me home until the year is up, and everyone is expecting me to return home as some kind of Mr Miyagi...the truth is that my finances will run out after about 6 months and I'll have to go home to find a job and I still wont be able to catch a grasshopper or walk on rice paper.

    Its 3am....I am in a hostel in the middle of Vietnam..

    Thats my Martial Arts story
  3. jnp is offline
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    Titanium laced beauty

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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 3:51pm

    supporting memberforum leaderstaff
     Style: BJJ, wrestling

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    To clear up any confusion, I'll tell you what happened. The auto moderator took your threads out of the public view for some reason. You didn't post any links so it was probably because you're new.

    I merged the two threads. Interesting story. I have very little knowledge of CMA myself, but if you search some of the Shaolin Monastery threads I believe you'll find most senior practitioners of CMA regard the Shaolin monastery as little more than a tourist trap.
    Shut the hell up and train.
  4. Rivington is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 5:24pm

    supporting member
     Style: Taijiquan/Shuai-Chiao/BJJ

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Great post. I would like this stickied in the CMA section, as we do frequently get questions from people interested in training at "the Shaolin temple." As none of the regulars have, we're generally not believed by the enthusiastic suckers-in-waiting.
  5. It is Fake is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 5:37pm

    staff
     Style: xingyi

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The link will be placed in the other sticky thread.

    Oh and you did find out quite a few truths.
    Last edited by It is Fake; 3/15/2012 5:53pm at .
  6. Permalost is online now
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    pro nonsense self defense

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    Posted On:
    3/15/2012 5:38pm

    supporting member
     Style: FMA, dumbek, Indian clubs

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Good writeup. What kind of drugs were they doing there?
  7. ZenMMA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/16/2012 12:04am


     Style: Muay Thai

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Thanks guys and apologies for the double post and the bad spelling etc.. it was a late night.

    I must admit, I spent hours upon hours researching different schools and other peoples stories before I went, and to a point, with the exception of the other students the camp was what I expected, I just think that having previously studied MMA and MT I found it difficult to blindly accept the CMA training style.
    From my MT and MMA training and countless readings of the TAO of JKD and other such books my default setting is always "Will this work in a real fight situation"...and doing hundreds of Baji and Wing Chun forms really didnt feel like it was the most effective way. I genuinely believe that if I had trained MMA for 7 hours a day for a year I would be a more effective fighter than studying CMA for a year.

    When I had these discussions in the school I was often told that the CMA moves were too dangerous for MMA, for example ripping out someone's throat, poking them in the eye etc....although I agree they are certainly dangerous techniques, I think that it is unwise to believe such techniques in isolation would defeat a well trained MMA fighter.

    As I said, I think the main positive I came across was the flexibility and functional conditioning training and thats definitely something I will take away with me.

    I also spent a fair while studying the meaning of Zen and its influence not only in combat sports but all sports, it is a very interesting topic, probably worth another thread to be honest, it sounds like mystic BS, but actually the meaning is very similar to when we say "He's in the Zone", we dont know how to get there, it just happens and when it does we excel....but yeah, I'll do a new thread some time on that.

    The Drugs, in the school it was Weed, one floor stunk of it and when the weekly room inspections came by it was pretty comical watching the masters smell it and not know how to deal with the situation.
    When the guys went down to the town, it was harder drugs, anything from coke to amphetamines.
    Like I say, I dont judge people for doing drugs, but given the reputation of the Shaolin regarding treating the body as a temple etc.. I really did not expect that kind of behaviour and I was disappointed the school was not more disciplined in stamping it out, for what I believe to be financial reasons.

    I didn't post this as a warning, as there were plenty of long term students at the school who seemed content, there were some fantastic looking demonstrations of forms, some great looking kicks and some impressive weapon forms....and to a point it was nice to train in an environment which didn't have the usual ego's that MMA tends to attract, so for some people it might be exactly what they are looking for, it just wasnt for me.
  8. ZenMMA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/16/2012 12:18am


     Style: Muay Thai

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Oh, and I should also add that one night when the guys went out for their weekly smash up in the clubs they actually bumped into one of the "Shaolin" masters, who was apparently was having a 1 arm push up competition with a local in the club and was later seen being thrown out of the club by security after getting wasted and fighting.

    I only actually left the school because I contracted MRSA, but after hearing that story I remember thinking that it was unlikely I would stay at the school for much longerl

    The worrying thing is, because this school is one of the first ones you will find on the net, has an English website and good onsite reviews etc.. this is where most westerners will end up should they chose to realise their shaolin dream.
  9. Auszi is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/16/2012 12:26am


     Style: BJJ Beginner

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Hey Zen,

    I sent you a PM. You might not be able to reply because you have less than 10 posts but if your still interested in getting out there and studying something in a different country, you still have plenty of options, especially since your in South East Asia and it will probably be a lot cheaper than the Shaolin tourist trap.
  10. ZenMMA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/16/2012 5:05am


     Style: Muay Thai

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Hey Auszi,

    Thanks for the reply.
    I cant see the PM yet, although I am sure I will be at 10 posts by the end of teh evening, so I'll see it soon.

    About 5 years ago I trained at Sinbi Muay Thai in Phucket Thailand, I am thinking to go back to Phuket and try some of the other schools, I know a couple of well equiped MMA schools have opened up there, offering BJJ, wrestling and Muay thai classes for a reasonable price, so the plan is to head there near the end of next month and stay for a a couple of months...its not a year, but its something and in the mean time I have got to see Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China....so it has been an experience, just not what I expected.
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