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Shaolin Kung Fu Class:
Trains Child's Body and Educates on Chinese Culture

World Journal, July 2008

The release of the two summer hits The Forbidden Kingdom starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan and Kung Fu Panda stirred great enthusiasm in learning Chinese kung fu. This summer, the Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarters' annual summer program attracted a great number of students interested in learning Shaolin kung fu.

The parent's purpose in enrolling their children is for them to learn the ways of the kung fu movies, improve their child's physical health, and for them to learn Chinese culture. Many kids did not want to enroll in other summer programs but they wanted to learn Shaolin kung fu over the summer.

“My 13 year old son An Jie Lin never used to participate in any physical activity. I pushed him and his brother Ao Bai Lin to learn martial arts together. I never would have guessed that my older son would become so into it, he even comes home to practice to his father” says Ming Ming Wang from Malaysia. However, learning Shaolin kung fu was not as easy as An Jie Lin imagined. On July 7th, after the first day of summer classes, An Jie almost gave up.

Most of the students in the summer program did not have any martial arts training prior to starting their intensive training so the instructors of the temple start from the basics like running, push-up, knee up runs, one leg jump, frog jump, bow stance, horsestance, splits, bridge, etc. Since they have never learn kung fu before, the new students were constantly out of breath in the beginning. Others experienced great muscle soreness and pain.

When An Jie Lin was asked whether or not he would continue practicing after falling from an attempt to do a cartwheel, he said “I don't know if I want to continue, my leg is in a lot of pain”.

After 2 weeks of intensive training, An Jie Lin has started to develop an interest in Shaolin kung fu. The mother said that the two brothers initially took the half day two hour class, but after a while they requested to begin training full day 5 hours a day. However, not all the students who took the summer classes were that dedicated to learning martial arts. 7 year old Shuo Peng Jiang is the youngest student enrolled in the program, and quit after one week of training. “His mother says that he is too young, he does not have enough focus yet” said instructor Shi Heng Cheng “While the other students are training, Shuo Peng gets distracted and plays on his own, often chasing the temple's cat”.

Practicing Shaolin Temple kung fu, besides conditioning the body is to also stir interest for American-born Chinese to learn more about their culture. “Taking your kids to Chinese or drawing classes to learn about Chinese culture would be too boring for active boys” said Peng Zhang (doctor). “ My child shows an interest in martial arts, so I brought him to learn Shaolin kung fu while also absorbing its 5,000 years of history.”

Peng Zhang said that his son, Jack Zhang, recently learned Drunken Fist from a master of Shaolin Temple. One of the movements is “Use double hands to drink from a wine jug”. Since Jack never saw a wine jug before, he did not understand so he went home to ask his grandfather. His grandfather described to him what the wine jug looked like so Jack began to understand. Through learning this movement in Drunken Fist, he learned more about Chinese traditional art.

Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarters, there are Buddhist statues, vegetarian lunch, along with the masters teaching the students traditional Shaolin kung fu and enforcing moral codes. Eating Vegetarian lunch. In the afternoon, the Shaolin Temple prepares fried rice, fried noodle, buns, soybean milk, etc. Along with the Buddhist statues and vegetarian lunches offered at the Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarters, masters teach students traditional Shaolin kung fu while also enforcing discipline. Peng Zhang believes that the summer program will help students learn more about Chinese culture.

Flexibility- Bridge is supposed to train flexibility of the waist. Students cannot hold it for too long so they rest on the floor.

Cartwheel- Students practice the cartwheel. They use spirit.

Sword- When not in training, students will use the weapons to mimic the kung fu movies.

Drunken Fist- Jack Zhang practices Drunken Fist well.

Stretching- Shifu Heng Zheng teaches 7 year old how to stretch. Look, when you stretch your toes have to point the ceiling.

Maria Santomauro from Italy learns kung fu with the children. She said that while learning kung fu is difficult, she is happy.

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