China. Day to Day Life in A Shaolin Monastery.

So after posting my last text, I received some feedback that you would like to hear more about my trip to China.
Then I thought first of all I would share with you, how a normal day in the school looks like.
At about 5.30am I would get up for the first meeting and the first training of the day. Meeting means that we all line up in the yard in groups. Each group Shifu (Master) would greet us.
This is for making sure that everyone is always there or for preparation before training, paying respects to the Shifus and of course mainly: discipline.
That’s a huge part of the whole thing.
Discipline. Acceptance of Rules.
Questioning them ,or worse not acting according to them is never seen in the school. Due to the fear of punishment obviously.

Anyway before the Shifu arrives to the first meeting of the day, the groups start to warm up their bodies carefully. A lot is demanded by our body everyday, so taking good care of muscles, tendons etc. is an important thing.

Then the Shifu is greeted in the traditional way. Fist touching the open palm of the other hand with a fist and bending forwards to show respect and saying “thank you” (shie shie) in Chinese to express the gratitude towards our Shifu to share his expertise with us and train us.
Though greetings are kept short in the early mornings.
So sometimes the Shifu just nods with his head to show us that he has seen us, and the group starts with the running. Usually every training starts with running. In the morning that is one round of walking and two rounds of jogging before we went up to the training hall, to once more warm up our bodies and stretch every part carefully. Then, the real training starts.

At around 7.20 the first training ends (which is usually one of the toughest of the entire day-at least for me) and there is time to get your bowl and your breakfast stuff to be ready at 7.30 where breakfast is taken in the cafeteria-ish room. Where the students sit at large metal tables and a couple of Chinese cooks give each student a bit of the meal into their bowls.

Breakfast is one of those times when you really get good vibes. Everyone is just fresh enough to talk to each other and there is some sort of anticipation for the upcoming training, though everyone knows in advance that it’s gonna be hell of a painful day–again.
The Shifu that warned me on the first day was more than right. I had pain. I had so much pain I wondered how I was even able to get up, walk around…and let alone train… It was hard for the body in any way. The different food, lack of vitamins and proteins, the cold, the smog, the rough training… your body is attacked in every possible way.
Altogether made it a really hard experience. Keeping up with the incredibly tough training that would push each and everyone of us to the own limits every day is hard enough. Not having anything to look forward to doesn’t make the whole thing easier. There is not much around the training. No time and no energy and mostly no permission for much of an own life.

But then there is the community. That basically saves your life and your soul in this place. And I am not exaggerating. I would have literally died without them and so would each one of them without the community.
It can be described with “sharing is caring”. We all shared everything we had. To make each others life a little easier or sweeter. No energy for senseless quarrels, no need for competition.

Anyway, after breakfast it’s time for the next training. Depending on what day it is, one could always make a good guess about what would be trained today. Wednesdays for example were the stair-training days. The probably most hated training of all.
by the time of 11.20am , when the second training of the day was over, I was already wondering how the hell I was going to get to the 6th floor to pick up my bowl and chopsticks for lunch.
Lunch was always very similar to breakfast and dinner.
Since Henan is one of the Chinese provinces where people it rather noodles than rice, we used to have a lot of noodles with some vegetables or occasionally a little bit of meat.
Coming with these meals, there were always the so called Mantaos, which could be described as some sort of Brötchen (a German kind of breakfast bread) but instead of baked, it is steamed. So it’s a pretty pale kind of bread, with little taste and a questionable consistency. However, it was stuffing and a good way to get all of the sauce, since we didn’t have a spoon or other cutlery.

After lunch there is a break. So I would mostly take a nap or lay down or just listen to music, trying not to think about the next training.

Of course, the next training would start at one point. Inevitably.

As always the training started with some rounds of jogging and some stretching to get ready for the next hours of training.
Usually we would focus on one part of the body (like legs or arms) or a certain ability (like balancing, strength, flexibility) before moving on to learn some forms. Forms are exactly what you would imagine when thinking of a Kung Fu School. It’s a certain flow of movements often inspired by animals and turned into a very effective way of self-defense or fighting technique.
Also those who have been there for some time already got to train with different weapons as spears, swords, whips and all kind of weapons one has never seen before.

The diversity of the training was really breathtaking. Every night you went to bed with the feeling that you didn’t get far and there was so much more too learn.
Kung Fu is truly an art.
Anyway, before even thinking of going to bed, there was dinner at 5.20pm and free training from 6.00pm-8.00pm which wasn’t really free since the Shifu wouldn’t accept that people didn’t use this “free” time for training. After that there was a 40 minutes time gap when one could shower or do whatever, before the lights had to be turned off at 8..40pm.
A crazily early time as I thought, but by that time I was so grateful that I could finally sleep I never stayed up longer.
Shortly after 8.40pm one of the Shifus checked every room to make sure that the lights were turned off and sometimes to turn on the heater for 2 hours so we could fall asleep in the cold, and sometimes the Shifus would even stay for a little chat.
Since we lived on a minimum of everything the heaters would turn themselves off after a maximum of two hours. Regarding the fact, that we had a temperature below 0°C (day and night) it was important to wrap up tightly in bed and to fall asleep during these two hours to be able to rest.

So that is basically what everyday looked like in China. of course there are many ore details to the school or the training, but that is the frame of every day and honestly it doesn’t really leaves you a lot of space for anything more.

 

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