February 19, 2024

Life As A Shaolin Temple Disciple

Master Bao in Shaolin Temple

Have you ever wondered what life would be like living at the Shaolin Temple? Turns out its not all flying monks and roses. In this article, 32nd Generation Shaolin Warrior Monk Master Bao (Shi Xing Jian) recounts his life growing up at the Shaolin Temple.


The Reason I Went

I liked martial arts (wushu) since I was a little child. There were quite a few friends and family relatives around me who started to learn and practice marital arts when they reached certain age. Influenced by them I started to join them to practice after school when I was 8 years old. The more time I spent to learn and practice, the more I liked it. Since then, I knew I wanted to be a real marital artist, a Kung Fu master for the rest of my life. Some of my friends began to go to the Shaolin Temple to learn Kung Fu which stimulated more passion inside me towards Kung Fu. Despite my insistence, my parents felt reluctant to let me go because of too much love and worry for their youngest son. The disagreement between my parents and I made our relation very stressful for a period of time. They finally agreed to let me go thanks to my determined spirit and unchanged mind. My father accompanied me to get on the train to Henan.

First Impressions

When I first saw the place where I was going to study Kung Fu, I felt so disappointed, because it was nothing like what I had imagined for years in my mind. There was no one flying around, no one holding weapons to fight fiercely, no one breaking a brick with their bare hand. All I saw was a group of young men practicing some basics together. I felt like I was just woke up from a long sweet dream. However, since I had insisted for such a long time that I wanted to do this, my personality did not allow myself to give up easily, so I stayed.

Disciple Bao in front of Pagoda Forest

Discipline

Going back to the time when I first studied Kung Fu, a time when internet still did not exist in China, physical punishment was nothing to be surprised at. All student regarded it as a matter of common practice. On the third day after I stated to train, I experienced something for the first time in my life. Because I did not clean the trash in our dormitory in time, I was asked to lay down and took a beating on my bottom by my master who held a staff which we normally used for training, and all my classmates watched the whole process. When we practiced with a staff, sometimes we needed to hit the ground very hard with it, so it was sturdy and it would not break easily until worn down over many repetitions. Now, due to the force of the beating, it broke after two hits on my bottom- I have to say it really hurts a lot. That was my first time getting physical punishment from my first Fung Fu master. He taught me only for two weeks, and I was still young back then. Now I cannot remember his name. The worst punishment I ever got was ten staff beats, that is beating continually until 10 staffs were broken by beating me. My master was very good at using a staff, and when he punished us, he used all his power. Gradually, we felt the pain was nothing but normal. After we got beaten, there was like a dark color rainbow on our skin; black, purple, red, and yellow. Normally, after getting beaten, we just rubbed it a bit and continued our training. In our daily life and training, one would get punished if the master thought we did not try the best you could, no matter if it was about our bedding, dormitory cleaning, personal hygiene, or being late or lazy during training. No matter how small it was, the beatings we got left some pain on our body for days.

Training

Every morning we had to get up at 5:20 a.m., then had 10 minutes to get dressed and go to the toilet, and be lined up before 5:30. We normally did stamina training in the mornings, including running, sprinting, frog jumps, squats, push-ups, crawling, or carry someone on our shoulder to run a few miles. We trained one and half hours in the morning, and then had breakfast and cleaning our dormitory. There were two and half hours training each in the morning and in the afternoon. Some days it changed a bit when we had culture lessons. We all liked the culture lessons so much, not because of what or how much we learned, but because we could at least rest our bodies a bit while having those lessons. We still had another one and half hours training after dinner. We trained 6 days a week, and rested one day. But instead of calling it “the rest day,” we called it “the cleaning day.” We had to wash the dirty clothes we accumulated during the week, as well as our sheets and quilt covers. We had to wash them with hands, because there was no washing machine.

Master Bao, approx. 18 years old

Life

I often wore socks with holes; I would sew my broken pants and keep wearing them for a while. There were 7 students in one dormitory, which was lacking a heating system in the winter, and having windows that could not close completely. It was so cold in the room that we had to share a bed with another roommate to keep from freezing. There was also no air conditioner in the summer, so we would take our blanket to go to the training ground to sleep for the night. Or we took a cold shower a few times a day, so we could cool ourselves down a bit.

Injuries

The worst injury I got from training was breaking the tendon in my thigh. I did not go the hospital, I just took some pain killers, rested for two days, and went back to train. I knew it was pretty bad, because normally I could kick high easily, but with this injury I could barely lift my leg from the ground. When my body was warmed up, I kept training with others, when it cooled down, I could not even walk by myself. The pain lasted for one and half months until it was gone. I thought it was just pain, nothing too serious. Thinking about it now, I could have almost made myself handicapped from that. We were all not too worried, since it was common to see people get all sorts of injuries from training.

Now looking back at my old training time at the Temple, life was really hard, training was even harder, and the discipline seemed unreasonable. Putting all of this together, people may not understand why someone would be willing to take this treatment; these conditions. However, I have to say, I just liked it, and enjoyed it so much that I would never regret having experienced it.

What do you think? Would you ever train at the Shaolin Temple? Let us know your thoughts below!

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