First week of training in China Part 1

I knew the first week of training was going to be tough, but no matter how much I mentally prepare for it was even tougher than I imagined. By the end of the week my roommate was swearing and complaining about how hard the training is with such a poor diet, and that it would not be allowed to be this bad in the west. I kept quite this was my baptism under fire,  private events that happened to me a year ago, I was living the dream, and facing the challenge with full steam, no matter how painful it was.

We got up at 5 in the morning to get ready to start the first and usually the worse part of the day, morning fitness. It is when all the kung fu groups get together and train, and they might do running, stairs (1000 times worse than when we do stairs in England) chest, legs, circuit, abs. It sounds like what every martial artist normal does but it is magnified when the owner of the school is taking the class and he was in the SAS reserves, trained in Shaolin kung fu in China for 4 years prior to opening the school and has done Shotokan karate since he was a kid. Because of his background you often had to commit over 100% effort, and if you looked like you weren’t, he would soon make it known; you often had to push yourself over what you could actually do to save face. We often breathed a sigh of relief when someone else ran the morning circuit, not because they weren’t hard, but because they were slightly more forgiving that we weren’t all super machines.

On our first morning fitness time we had the bleep test, where you had to get from one side of the court to the other before the beep. Each beep gets faster and faster so first you walk, then run, and then a little bit faster and faster. Let me tell you I was super hyped up, I had been getting more and more excited training all the weekend and I was almost shaking with adrenaline. I was bouncing up and down ready to go and when the first beep went, everyone walked, and I couldn’t contain myself I sprinted, and I kept sprinting to each beat, people told me to slow down and I knew I should listen to them but I couldn’t, I kept sprinting to each beep until I completely blew out of gas. It wasn’t a terrible score, but not the greatest. One of the senior students commented that I was like a mad excitable puppy, which leads to my first and most well-known nickname at the kung fu school. Puppy.

After my over the top performance I had to choose a style to learn first, I was torn between Shaolin and White Crane. I decided to do Shaolin first, as that was my dream ever since I was a kid, the plan was 2 weeks of Shaolin and four weeks of white crane and then go home. But the need to explore the ancestor style that influenced White Crane was too great, so I did Shaolin for a week, and moved on to White Crane, and my trip to china changed from 6 weeks to nearly 4 months.

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A year ago was my first day in the Fujian Province

A year ago today was my first full day in the Fujian province of China, I had spent the previous day travelling to China meeting Shawn in Shanghai airport, and travelling to the other side of Shanghai to fly to Fujian, to start the adventure of a lifetime. It got to a slow start being stuck in an airport for 9 hours will do that to you, I recall being upset at the time because the trip was originally only for 6 weeks and I thought I would never get a chance to see one of the greatest cities in the world. I didn’t know at the time that 6 weeks would become 2 months would become nearly 4months in China when I got to spend a week in Shanghai.

When we got to the Kung Fu school (Rising Taining Dragon),it was the middle of the night. And  it was a site to behold, it looked even tougher and more hardcore then I could of possible imagined, the sound of bugs was electric, Dragon images were posted on the walls, and the owner of the school was telling us about the training that some of the people do at the school.

When Shawn and me got into our room, after 24 hours of travelling together we became pretty close mates. Shawn panicked over a centipede bug in our room and a student walked by from the toilets to say hello. I was in deep shock it was Jimmy! A guy I use to train with back in England, a guy who has been doing martial arts since he was a kid. you don’t expect to meet a mate after travelling to the other side of the world in the middle of the mountains and rainforests. I picked him up in a bear hug and spun him around in my excitement.

Jimmy was able to tell us, that the centipede in our room could temporarily paralyze you for a few hours so we got rid of it quickly, and Jimmy gave us a tour in the dark, it is much more awe inspiring and frightening to see rows of weapons in the dark. After our nights sleep we met more of our fellow students, with more coming that day. We travelled to Taining, a 30 minute journey on the most crazy little bus you can imagine, packed like sardines in a tin and still packing more people, people from the village and local hamlets were going to the only town for hundreds of miles. It was amazing to see life in the middle of nowhere where they had as the students kept telling us “real food” and as the months roll become a refreshing change from the Schools daily lifestyle.

Jimmy’s roommate gave Shawn and me his protein powder as it only just arrived and him and Jimmy were leaving, and i have to tell you it was a god send. It was this protein powder that kept me functional over the 3 months of training, and I shared it with mates who needed it as we become our own community.

We had a meal in the local village a 20minute walk and we had a taste of some amazingly great Chinese food, we thought right then that it was the best food ever, and the students welcomed us with open arms and beer. I refused to drink it, thinking I was only there for serious training, but after the first intensive week I absolutely craved it the following weekend in Taining with my best friend Ronny.

The next day we walked past the village and went to the reservoir an hours walk, seeing our first preying mantis, and really experiencing the hot climate. When we got there, three Germans dubbed “Z’Germans” because everyone at the school thought they were super fit athletes were jumping off a concrete pier, narrowing missing the concrete foundation. Of course a pretty blonde in the group, and the thought of the Germans beating the British in terms of spirit and bravery got me in the way.

I hated heights but had to prove myself, like I did in New Zealand, of course some things never seem to change. Putting on my stripy rainbow trunks and not being in my best shape at the time was clearly not going to win me any favours with the blonde. But Vincent one of the Germans was pointing out where i should jump, and did a practice jump to show me where to land in the water to miss the concrete. I was hating myself more and more, and Shawn decided to film me. I crouched on top of the concrete wall and Vincent said “Now the best way to jump is to not think about jumping, but just jump” On Shawn’s camera when we re-watched it i jump the moment when Vincent said (Now the …”) and shouted “Jeronimo!!!!”  I recall time stopping half way through and me thinking this a bloody stupid idea, and then I speeded up and went through the water. Excitement roared through my lungs, followed by pain as i landed on my bum.

Walking back after our swim was a much longer walk as we were tired but at least this time it was down hill. We went into the village where we met two new students Joe (a very strange american) and Ronny, the moment I saw Ronny i knew he was going to be one of my best mates there, we hit it right off. We were all excited about tomorrow, Monday when our training begins, we assumed they would ease us into the regime. Boy were we wrong, the first week was the most intense experience of my life, i struggled horribly but i loved it, I was finally living the dream.

 

A brief Synopsis of my time in China-its is only the beginning

I will probably write a few posts about my time in China, it has had a profound influence on me, from what started of as a 6 week adventure, quickly grew into a 4 month life changing experience. Luckily I saved alot of my weekly emails that I wrote for various people, so I can always use them as a guide to describe in further detail of China.

From training 5.30 in the morning till 5.30 in the evening, to partying at the weekends in Taining, to falling into a waterfall, jumping of a pier because I had to represent Britain against the mad Germans (great Blokes), to flying down a mountain side on top of a crazy log lorry driver, praying to every god that could exist that I will live, to having the craziest nightclub experience in San Ming. So many more things had happened, and I haven’t even mentioned the crazy things that happened in Beijing or Shanghai!

I loved the people I lived with in the Kung Fu school, I was heartbroken when I had to leave them, I loved meeting new people on my travels with Ronny, to meeting a Chinese Girl in Beijing, and spending time with her in Shanghai and Hangzhou.

I can’t forget seeing the terracotta army, seeing the shanghai skyline on a boat, and perhaps the most stilling moment for me, when Ronny and me went to the Great Wall, walked along the old section and just absorbed the view with an Israeli girl we looked after. It was the most peaceful experience of my life, Ronny said he had never known me to shut up for so long, ha ha. Only for it to be ruined by a bug Yank who acted like he owned mount Everest. But that’s another story

 

Inspiration for travelling

I have always wanted to travel and see the world, to explore the Amazon, to train with the Shaolin or the Samurai, to meeting tribal people, to meet cultures of all kinds. As I grow up there are more places I want to explore, and for different reasons, Okinawa to see where the birth place of karate started, to having a wild time in Rio.

My Dad is perhaps one of the biggest inspirations for my need to travel. He spent a whole year travelling through Europe, north Africa, India and the middle east with his then girlfriend, his best friend and his best friends girlfriend, in a hippy van that he customised for a long period of travel, with its own water purifier and extendible attachment for extra room whilst sleeping, that was several decades ago.

To this day he seems to be defined by his experience of his great adventure, with many of his great tales stemming from that period of his life. The many adventures he had, the danger he faced, the beauty he saw and embraced in the world, I believe that it was this journey that helped develop him into the man he is today.

My mother has been another inspiration, of perhaps a different kind, she is from New Zealand and travelled in her early 20’s, to England, where she met my father. She is also a well travelled person, but hasn’t been able to do as much as she has dreamed of. If I ever get the money to, I hope I can lead her to some of the places that she has always wanted to go to.

At one period in my life I gave up on my dreams, which is as anyone knows me is not a good sign. I let life get to me, and I have had to slowly rebuild myself from that point. When I discovered that you could train in China and a cheapish price, and that my friend from karate was planning to go, I was hooked I had to go! It was a dream that I had since I was a small boy, but stopped believing I could. Despite my families fears of me being in a strange country where you do not speak the language and with its own many dangers, my mum helped me to realise I could follow one of my dreams, so I went to China!

My 3 months of training in the Fujian province, and my three weeks of travelling with my best friend (who I met at the Kung Fu school)to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai, has not only been a dream come true, but has helped transform me, define me in ways I don’t yet fully understand. Most of that is for another post.

I want to say, thank you to my dad for inspiring me, and thank you to my mum, for helping me to finally live one of my dreams, it has given me the belief that not only I can, but that I will follow more of my dreams.

Hello world!

Hi, I wanted to start a blog to talk about about some of my interests, Like writing, poetry, Goju Ryu karate and other martial arts, strength training, movies, philosophy, oh dear this list could just carry on!

DJSolly1