The beginning…

“The interesting parts are between the facts… “

In the summer of 2007 while on a break from my urban planning job back in Belfast I made the decision to learn kung fu in China. I craved adventure and a change of pace from the daily grind. Most of my friends had gone travelling either between school and university, or between university and work. I’d missed out on this and when a planned gap year in Spain fell through I decided to re-evaluate my personal goals and take stock of my life. I’d created a window of opportunity and rather than wait or delay I decided to take the opportunity to follow my long held passions for adventure travel and martial arts.

Although my martial arts experience at that time was limited to a few regularly Jeet Kune Do classes I wasn’t worried. What I lacked in experience I knew I had in determination to work hard and learn as much as I could. Like most of you reading this article I’m sure you also share my the passion I have for travel, experiencing new cultures and martial arts. In addition to that I also had a growing interest in learning more about the spiritual and healing arts of China. As a teen I used to day dream about what it would be like to visit a Middle Kingdom where a monkey could become a king.

Shaolin Students

China here I come…

Once my decision was made I immediately set to the task of researching kung fu schools in China. I craved being taught in a traditional way without distractions. I wanted to learn how to deal with confrontation effortlessly and improve every aspect of my life.

So I took action and found a school, got my visa and boarded a plane. 13 hours later I arrived in Beijing totally unprepared. I stayed the night in a hotel near the airport and the next day I boarded my internal flight to my end destination with high hopes. I was as green as the grass I’d left back in Ireland. From that moment until now it’s been one hell of an adventure.

Over the last few years I’ve visited a lot of kung fu schools and met a number of students studying at these schools. Some have come for martial arts, some adventure, some for health and fitness and some simply to create space for changing past habits. Your reasons for seeking and experience like this are your own. But what they should have intwined in them is common is a desire to improve.

Focus on your training and the experiences and other benefits will follow.

So here are my 5 top tips for getting the most out of your training at a kung fu school in China.

Shaolin martial arts students

Shaolin martial arts students

5 Tips for Learning Kung Fu in China

    1. There are more schools than ever popping up all over China specifically to cater for the growing demand from westerners who want to study traditional kung fu. Make your decision carefully, not just in terms of your school choice and style but also in terms of what you want to achieve and get out of the experience. Schools now offer students more than just martial arts. They offer often offer additional classes in Chinese language, Buddhism and TCM for example. These are good and offer you the chance of dipping your toes in the water from which further learning can be sought.
    2. The importance of your fellow students at a kung fu school should not be under estimated. These students will be people you will learn from and have to live with.
    3. Be realistic. There have been occasions when I’ve received enquiries from students that are just damn right ridiculous or expect to be able to open their own schools after as little as 6 months to a year of studying.
    4. Be prepared for a culture shock and a different way of thinking or in some cases a total lack of thought. Remember that can also be part of the enjoyment too. You’re not in Kansas anymore so don’t expect it to be the same or constantly winge about it. We all go through this and at times have a love hate relationship with the place(s) we visit. When you catch yourself doing this stop! If it continues just go home. Don’t bring those around you down with a bad attitude or negitivity or disturb your fellow students training or enjoyment. Be patient, present and self aware.
    5. Remember just because someone is wearing kung fu shoes, a kung fu suit, or has some prayer beads it doesn’t mean that they are a good master or martial artist.

If you’d like to learn kung fu in China find out more or have any questions visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org or you can email me


About Author

Passionate about martial arts and travel. I am happy to share my experiences with you and other martial arts adventure travellers.

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