Martial Arts Training in Shaolin

The story about our trip and martial arts training in Shaolin Temple, China

The monument honouring  Shaolin Monks

The monument honouring Shaolin Monks


Since we do martial arts training for a long time, of course we had to visit the cradle of Chinese martial arts – Shaolin Monastery. And one day we took the train to travel to the famous province of Henan.

The monastery is located in a very beautiful place, surrounded by mountains, which are covered with forests. The road that goes through the village and rice fields leads to the monastery. The earth on the fields looks  like it is corroded by erosion.


In the area of the monastery there are many wushu schools that train children Chinese and foreigners alike. Shaolin Monastery is very popular among the foreigners, and this affects the level of prices for tuition and living expenses. School provides a very low level of living. The children live in poor conditions with 10 people in one room, sleeping on the multi-tiered beds. The building is filled with odor of Chinese toilets.

Martial Arts students washing their clothes outside the dorms

Martial Arts students washing their clothes outside the dorms

In one school we watched the children as they washed their clothes and training shoes in basins. Here at the site  we have witnessed a very strange scene. One Chinese boy, around seventeen years old, demonstrated his knowledge of kung fu. He did it not so well, but clearly showing off in front of other children. Other children quietly watched  him.  After 10 minutes, one of the kids had quietly approached, and suddenly hit him in the solar plexus, very briefly. This was followed by several more punches. Everyone laughed, strange guy doubled over in pain and quietly trudged home. Children returned to their washing.

After visiting neighbouring schools we went to the monastery itself. Since we had a friend who speaks fluent Chinese, he gave us an appointment with one of the main monks. After short negotiations, we agree on a price for a week of training in the monastery, just to see how it goes. Our teacher was a one of the young monks 17 years old, who was already a local master, strongly built, with a fresh face and glowing skin.


With Shaolin monk

With Shaolin monk


Not far from the monastery, up in the canyon are located a few hotels for visiting guests. All in the best of Chinese traditions with a common smelly toilet and shower with no hot water. Luckily nearby was a public shower with unlimited hot water. Owners of the hotel prepared food, but it did not look very appetizing and after tasting it once, we’ve abandoned the idea to eat in the hotel. Fortunately in the village were  a couple of places, where it was possible to eat without risk to health.



Training of the Students

Training of the Students under burning summer sun



The next day, early in the morning we went to the first martial arts training session. After running, our teacher and his partner wanted to see what we can do. Each member of our group showed something. After that the lesson began.

One who practised a little bit  kung fu knows that, as in any sport,  kung fu has some basic movements that athletes train for years.

It develops stamina , strength, stretches the tendons and teaches the body to move in a certain way . On this basis then it is possible to teach a more complex series of movements . If the basic movements performed poorly , the athlete will never reach the good level . Working on the basic movements is very difficult. It includes routine kicks, turns , and so forth. Unfortunately, not all foreign fans of kung-fu understand this. They come for a few months to China and they do not have enough time to build a base for training as it should be. They want to learn as much as possible series for his arrival and they believe that they can train the basic moves at home. But this usually does not happen.

In general, we were trained as always in basic exercises . There was no training room , and all training took place on the street, like in case of all the other children. We trained as we could, and were very tired after each day of training.  But we’ve realized, that the ordinary Chinese martial arts school in any province of  China , can train us not worse, and even better , because there are gyms and stands. And it will be much cheaper because they do not have this famous name on them. Our young master was not bad and he moved very well , but didn’t show any interest to train us for just a week. After the week we took a pictures with our master and separated peacefully, for never to return here again.

Shaolin Monastery - inner courtyard

Shaolin Monastery – inner courtyard


The graves at Shaolin cemetery

The graves at Shaolin cemetery

As we said before , the monastery is a very beautiful place. It was built in the Chinese style of course with Painted roofs, beautiful patios,  some of them have fountains. Privacy and tranquillity reigns in this place, especially when tourists visiting hours are over. Behind the monastery there is a cemetery, where many masters were buried from beginning of monastery existence.

Not far from main monastery there is also a small monastery for women. We don’t know whether they also practice martial arts just as hard as men do.  We saw only a few inmates occasionally, when they were working in the garden. They looked very concentrated on their work, and not very cheerful.

In the mountains around the monastery there are several routes. One of them leads to the mountain, where the huge statue of Bodhidharma (or Damo, as locals call him). According to legend he was the founder of Shaolin monastery and its martial arts system. Many tourists ascends the mountain. We also saw the students of local martial arts schools periodically run up and down the stairs to increase endurance. They were doing it in synthetic jackets in a very warm sunny day(!).


The statue of Damo - founder of the monastery and the Shaolin martial arts

The statue of Damo – founder of the monastery and the Shaolin martial arts


On another route ramp into the mountains, which offers very beautiful views.


When we went there, we decided that we could go down on the other side of the mountain. We walked for a long time on the trail, enjoying the views, the gorge, considering the local flora and simultaneously fending off pesky mosquitoes clouds.


Getting lost in Shaolin Mountains.

And there was quite a long and steep downhill trail that suddenly disappeared. Climb back was too long and too hard. What was at the bottom we didn’t know. In another words we got lost.

Gorgeous Shaolin Mountains

Gorgeous Shaolin Mountains


For a while we went without trails , breaking through plants , and wanted only one thing , that this descent will not end with the precipice . It was getting dark , as we continued to descend , and passed on a fallen tree suspended over a steep descent.And suddenly… In the middle of nowhere, we saw a plastic bag . We have never been so glad to see the trash in the forest . It meant we were not far from other people . And indeed after 10 minutes we got to the trail, which descended into the gorge near the village, past the small lake formed in the crevice of accumulation of rainwater.


Overall, this was a wonderful trip. And we can say it is a MUST for all the fans of martial arts or Kung Fu movies. Don’t waste your time and money on training there, however. Our experience shows that to train for a long time in simple martial arts school, is far more effective and cheaper.


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4 Responses to Martial Arts Training in Shaolin

  1. I am so greatfull to read this blog. i would like to be there in summer camp for martial arts.. pictures used in this blog are so attractive and beautiful. Shaolin temple always finds me interesting place.. Thanks for this creative blog, i got much information reading this.. Good job

  2. Learning Martial Arts in Shaolin was always my dream, ever since i first watched Asian films. Hope i find a new hobby soon.

  3. What a cool an unique experience. I love it!

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