Now and again it's necessary to seclude yourself in the mountains to restore your link to the source of life.
Without moving a muscle, imagine you’re training with me in China. You wake at 6am, hurry into your training clothes and begin your run up the mountain. You still feel sleepy, your muscles are tight from yesterday’s training, and the first bit of the run feels difficult. But soon your body warms up and as you breath in the fresh mountain air; you discover an energy you never had before.
Back at the school, the Five Fundamental Kicks that felt tight yesterday feel flexible, your stances feel grounded, and there’s a flow to your forms. We are what we repeatedly do and this everyday experience of Shaolin enables you to finally tune your body so it’s working at it’s optimum. Just like the strings on a guitar, your body is learning to be neither too tight nor too slack. It takes practice to be this natural. A few weeks of training like this will give you the tools of a lifetime.
Now bring yourself back to your computer screen or your smart phone or whatever you’re reading this article on. Just as I had never tasted coffee until I came to the West – and was surprised by its bitter taste – Shaolin cannot be expressed in words. The Shaolin Temple of Zen is about direct experience. You have to experience it for yourself otherwise it's my experience and not yours.
Many people dream to learn Shaolin. But some people prefer to hold onto a dream because reality is too different from their dream. It’s similar to the Buddhist parable of the man who loved dragons. Everything in his home had a picture of a dragon on, his bedspread, his toothbrush, his cups, his plates etc but when a real dragon popped his head through the window to say good morning, the man ran away terrified.
Don’t be this person. It means you can never reach your true potential. If Shaolin isn’t for you, that’s fine, but if you feel drawn to it then see it through.
Don’t be afraid to be the best you can be. The beauty of any martial arts is there is no victory or defeat. If you put a lot of effort into your Shaolin Martial Arts and don't become very skillful at it, you have still excelled yourself. Because whether you're good or bad at your training, the result is the same: it's one of the most positive things you can do for your mind and body.
We all train at our own level. One stance is as challenging for an advanced student as it is for a beginner. Success is making 100 percent effort to perform at the highest level of your ability. Success is being your own champion.
For more details on this year's summer camp click here.
Can't get to China and want to train in authentic Shaolin? click here