Learning to monk
On Tuesday evening I hit myself with a stick in a room full of strangers. It was quite enjoyable actually. I should explain.
I went to the Shaolin Temple UK in Tuffnel Park, a training ground for wannabe fighting monks.
The centre runs several different classes, from meditation to full on sparring. I went there on the recommendation of a friend but also because my nieces and nephews have recently started attending a class in Kent. Watching your 5-year-old nephew do press-ups on his knuckles tends to make you curious.
I started at the gentle end of things with a Qi Gong and meditation class. It’s part of the non-combat mental and physical training that prepares you for Gong Fu (or Kung Fu).
I was befriended by a regular, who gave me a few pointers to get me started, then we all filed in to a room to sit on cushions in the dark and begin the meditation part of the class.
If you’ve not meditated before I’d recommend asking at the front desk for someone to give you some instruction before you go in as we were all just left to get on with it. Fortunately I have done some meditation before, otherwise I’d just have been left sitting in the dark wondering when an instructor would appear and listening to other people’s whistly bogies.
After about 20 minutes or so the instructor came in to take us through the movements of Qi Gong. It looks a lot like Tai Chi and feels a bit like yoga. He told us that it takes about three years to really get Qi Gong and its ancient wisdom. The main thing holding my attention was my struggle to follow the instruction to swallow every time I breathed in – I simply don’t have that much saliva.
We finished the session by hitting ourselves all over with sticks. It’s quite pleasant, good for the circulation and certainly no stranger than the things most women do to prevent cellulite.
This was just the warm up class. After that most went on to the Gong Fu preparation class (learning the movements of Gong Fu without the combat). I will leave this for next time.
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, so I’ll certainly be back for more. It’s the sort of thing I can imagine becoming really obsessed with: just deciding one day to become a fighting monk and then emerging years later with a bald head, wiry little arms and a punch that can take down a wall. Watch this space.