Fujian

The Week from Hell - Kung Fu Fighting - Part Six

I am just beginning to think I can survive the school – even feeling a little wistful that I can't extend my little sojourn here to two months when Wong decides to end the week with the regime from hell. 

It all begins on Thursday afternoon session. Most of the boys have gone into town with Wong for lunch . Somehow for the three remaining (including me) we get to go for a run even though the others come back late. We all run to the bridge and back – as I pass Felix – he gestures 3 to me. I assume he means do the bridge three times so diligently do it wondering where he and Sergei have got to only to get back ad realise he meant the class won't start till 3pm. Oh well I think – no matter - i've just run 2.5k its goo to push myself. Just when I think the afternoon session is about to end – Wong decides to spring the dreaded Stairs on us. We have to bear crawl down the stairs and then do a punching circuit with a parter holding pads then run up the stairs and do it all again three times. By the third time I still don't have the techinque right – i've completley given up on tryig to do a press up and am just trying to haul my body down without scraping all the skin off my legs. 

"Put your bum in the air – like downward dog in yoga” says Eleanor – which actually really helps. I do it and it pushes my weight onto my hands – the feeling of lurching forward face first towards descending concrete is terrifying but easier than doing it in press up position. It's the first time i've done them since ruining my legs – after my initiation – and I think maybe now I have some of the technique the fear has subsided a little. We all think that is it for the day...but no... 

Wong has decided that we need a further legs circuit and so we then have to sprint up and down the legnth of a basketball court, do frog leaps and bunny hops(just try it I dare you) it feels like your quads and calves have been injected with molten lead and when that hell finishes and we think surely the class is over now -Wong makes us race to the bridge - 800m in under 4 minutes. I am absolutely shattered and can hardly move my leg muscles – however at dinner I discover that the 5.30am morning circuit is likely to be...that's right ...legs again. It is the very worst morning circuit I do there. 



We have to do laps of the school and let me remind you the school is set on a hill with 120 high flights of stone staircases around it. SO we start by sprinting the length of the basket ball court running up three flights of stairs along the top through the tai chi area and then down another flight of stairs. We have to do this ten times, the next tme instead of sprinting we have to do bunny hops along the court, then frog leaps, duck walks, milk shakes, side jumps, hops etc. After lap 1 Audrey and Alice – who have made a token appearance for their last morning session – somehow disappear with a gallic shrug. 

"Oh I can't do this"...says Alice – 

Well I can't either but i'm givin it a go . After lap 5 I notice Jasmin has disappeared as well so i'm the only girl to complete it entirely! Its horrendous. 

However if my poor legs thought that was it they were wrong – because straight after breakfast Wong has decied we can all do a nice 10k run up a mountain and then over to a local reservoir. 



I haven't even done “the mountain run” a 45 minute run up a steep hill well mountain - let alone think its possible for me to just tag on another 6 – 7k through and out the other side of Xin Qiao the nearest village and then past the temple and up another mountain. 

I get directions from different people – because I don't want to get lost ( a speciality of mine) and I know I won't be keeping up with them. 

Its already about 30 degrees outside. My aim is just not to stop and start walking. I manage the mountain run – which is across the bridge and up the mountain. My first experienceof running up hill – horrible!!! Wong passes me on his motorbike and offers to carry my water for me. Great -a lift would have more appreciated thanks! 

I know its just going to be mental effort that gets me through, I cheer myself after reaching the entrance to the village – then run past the villages and out the other side of town. The locals have been going through a bamboo phase – they have made little wicker drying racks out of twigs and have stripped and steamed various sections of bamboo that they are drying and smoking in great fires. They sit by the roadside amongst the sweet smoky scent of the drying bamboo and have a good old laugh at the us as we go running past – all red, hot and sweaty. I wonder what they think of us. the Chinese don't seem to be big on exercise. Little children run out of shop doorways to shout – HELLO aggressively at me – at which I muster a wheezy hello back. 

The village goes uphill towards the end - I note with displeasure but I manage it and keep going past the Buddhist temple which is another landark Wong likes to get us to run to. Then I keep going until the path starts going up hill again up another mountain. Oh goody. About halfway up and there is a little smoking factory which seems to be drying and burning some kind of fuel. Its possibly the worst thing you could ask for – having run almost 8k up two mountains in 30 degree heat – and now for some smoke to asphxiate you when you have no air in your lungs left already. Well – no excuses but as an asthmatic as well it does for me and shortly after my legs refuse to do any more running up hill and I have to walk the remainer of the way up the mountain. I'm disappointed because I think running is really pshychological and I think if I knew the route and how much farther I had to go I might have made myself push on but just not knowing made it more difficult somehow. I get to what I think is the reservoir – there is a dog barking outside (which James has told me about) and a big wrought iron gate that you need to climb through. I do this and am faced with an enormous gorgeous lake surrounded by trees and a stone damn with steps down it. I look down and think there is aboslutely no way i'm going all the way down there if they are not down there so I just stand around at the top for about 10 mins to take in the view until Alison passes me on her way out. 

"Hey – they are all down there- if you want a swim" 

"Er yes I really do I say!" 

"Sure i don't blame you" she says and then adds quietly

"Good job" 


She is an enigma. I was aboslutely terrified of her at first – i'd already been told about the men she'd slept with then the first thing she said to me directly when i'd complain I couldn't straighten my leg out in an exercise because of pulling my hamstring was: 

"If it aint broken you can use it..." 

Splendid. But she's very different – mildly unassuming and bookish and very gently supportive and caring. 

"Did you get lost??" asks Sergei

"Well yes kind of and obviously I was also just SLOW!" 

Sergei is 19 and about 6 ft 4" and built like a daddy long legs – he often starts running well after me and then I get to watch him bound past like Tigger. 




I keep my shorts on and strip off to my sports bra and go for a swim. Its gorgeous. 

"Where are the others?" I enquire innocently. 

"Oh they have swam to the other side."

Kung Fu Fighting Part 5

 

Monday comes bright and early and Chef's porridge is beginning to seem a bit like part of a Chinese torture endurance test. It's complemented by the fact I am finally reading 1984 for the first time. Somehow the prison - esque food, the boot camp regime, the hierarchy of the school along with the sheer fear and dread I greet each day with have all run into one and the book seeps into my daily concsiousness for life at the school. 

Feix and Camille have rejected the porridge since day 2 and come to breakfast with apples and chocolate bars: 

"Vive la resistance!" grins Felix. 

They have the right idea. This week Scott is taking the morning circuits (out of everyone he is the very worst.) This is because he is so super fit he has to make them challenging for himself. Great. 

It starts with 35 press ups on the gravel of the basket ballcourt. Followed by star jumps, spotted dogs, then laps of the school culminating in bear crawling down four flights of stone steps. Great. I manage three but my lungs are heaving in my chest and my arms are shaking. Scott says I don't have to do the fourt set. It seems being a woman, old and ony here for a month they can go a bit easy on you.

 

Lunch is truly grotesque out of all Chef's obnoxious concotions – this – jacket potato and coleslaw made with chopped lettuce, onion and salad cream is the very worst. It actually makes me feel physically sick. I just think – I am ill and still hungry when I finish this – and I'm a 37 year old woman – what about the 19 year old boys who are stuyding here for a year?


I 'm quite angry on their behalf. Its not often I feel maternal but they are still growing – I think the school (particularly a fitness school) has a moral duty ad responsibility to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need from their meals, particularly when students have to exercise for 6 hours a day. 

Wong has got us to do the mountain run (3k - half of it up hill) three times in two days. My lower half of my body is beginning to rebel. But I cannot face another school dinner so I walk into town instead with Jasmine. 

I realise in order to talk to her I need to constantly have my head turned in her direction at 90 degrees so she can lip read. Its funny the things you take for granted. The Chinese are very heavy handed on the old horn. All vehicles love hooting a hundred times just to let you know they are there but sometimes she can't feel the vibration in the road of something coming so you have to pull her to one side. As twilight falls the fields on either side are wet and full with the sounds of frogs croaking. We sit down outside a shop and the owner comes out with some dinner she's about to eat with her husband. She offers it to me and after the potato debacle I take it gratefully – its sticky rice and chicken with peanutes wrapped in pandan leaves. Its perfect street food and its free! 

I then stock up on my alternative diet to chef's abominations – tropicana fruit drink, milk tea - a cold creamy honey flavoured drink – and some very insubstantial dry walnut biscuits. It's ridiculous but because we aren't getting any diary or any fruit served at the school – my evnening diet has become filled with sugary soft drinks, chocolate and ice cream. 

In the little square in town they've erected a big screen which shows Chinese women doing some kind of dance routine. The local ladies and children in the square follow the routine. Lots of the students - drunk or just happy on their way back to the school like to take part. 



As we walk back the sky darkens and it begins to thunder. When the lightning flashes in the sky Jasmine lets out a little scream – there is no rain and because she hasn't heard the thunder the lightning has scared her. Its dark and the sky is heavy with rain. She can't see my lips so I couldn't tell her a storm is coming.

Kung Fu Boy Fighting - at Rising Dragon School Part 4

Thursday comes and i'm back for more. Camille and Felix stare at me in wonder: 

“you are so courageous Dominique...Honestly Felix and I zink you are soo strong...” 

"mmm Or stupid" I say. 

The day begins like every other at 5.30 am with a morning circuit of punching and kicking big bags followed by star jumps, mountain climbs, half jacks and press ups. Then we have to do chin ups on a big metal bar. Neither myself or Camille can do this so Felix her brother takes turns in holding us up on his shoulders in a piggy back until we can cling onto the bar whilst supporting some of our body weight. 



At 6am to 6.30am the Shaolin class stand in the basket ball court and meditate by doing Qi Jong. Then we run to the bridge and back twice. So now I have run 1.6k. 

We spend the rest of the morning before break learning Kung Fu forms. 

Shaolin is very performance based - which you can tell in the dance like forms we learn. 

The: 

“You go Xian Qiao.” Wong says

“He wants us to run to Xin Qiao (the nearest village) and back,” explains Ferdinand adding

“Just don't walk...” 

I gulp and set off, as I am heading into the village – every step under boiling sun – I try and enjoy the scenery, beautiful lime green graded paddy fields, farmers in their straw pointy hats working away at the land...it doesn't help. The boys have all reached the town and are on their way back... 

“Keep going Dominique!” smiles Felix. They are (bless them, without exception) incredibly supportive. 

At lunch it is time for me to hear about horror story number 2 – The Taining Run... 

"OOOh hahahha you have joined in time for The Taining Run!" Says Ferdinand. 

“We run 23k from the school into Taining town centre...” 

“What?! Er I've never run before – when we ran to the bridge and back on tuesday that was the furthest i've ever run – I couldn't even do 2k!!!” 

“well you ran to Xin Qiao today “ he says “that's already 4k” 

Wow – is it? – who knew? I would never have thought it possible. Suddenly i'm thinking – well I might at least be able to do half of it??? If i could do 4k without knowing could i manage 10k maybe??? " 

"Well four days in - it could be worse" Ferdinand says – in an attempt to console me. 

" I had to do mine on my second day! Listen – the whole thing takes 5 hours to walk so even if you just run some of it you will do quicker than that." 

Optimistic I think - you haven't seen my pootling amble of a walk... 

 

In the afternoon we do more kicks and forms and then we have to improve our strength by carrying our own body weight. Camille and I take turns in picking each other up and carrying each other across the room. 

Then we have to do squats whilst carrying someone on our shoulders. I have Felix sit on my back (he weighs the same as me) -he takes a little bit of his body weight by holding on the wall then I have to do 2 sets of 20 squats whilst carrying him on my shoulders... 

I wonder at the strange and surreal path my life seems to have taken!!! How on earth did i end up in China doing squats in 40 degree heat whilst carrying a 21 year old french boy on my shoulders ??? 

The afternoon session ends with everyone having to do a handstand against the wall and holding it for a 100 seconds. Again – one of those things you did as a little girl and didn't think anything of... 

Two of the guys help me. I'm daunted at doing a handstand and jumping my head against the brick. 

“Just look behind you and say – oooh that's a nice brickwall - then turn around and do it” suggests James. 

I do as he suggests mimicking his strong Mancunian accent and somehow get my legs up which are then grabbed by James and Ferdinand and they hold me in place. 

The blood rushes to my head and I feel my body weight descend into my spindly arms and even skinnier wrists. 

“I can't!” I gasp again - “Yes - keep go!” shouts Wong who unfortunatley has decidded to watch. 

I finally manage to do 60 seconds before they let me go. 

“Good" says Wong approvingly. 

Secretly i'm thrilled. I never thought for a second i'd be able to do this – but I have surprised myself. Not for the last time at this place. Maybe I'll stick at it after all. 

At dinner – of beef stew and rice – i'm asked by the students if I will do “The Taining Run” 

"Oh well I'll give it a go!" I say – I don't expect to make a good time but what harm can trying do. 

"Are you still going to stick at Shaolin then?" They say. 

"Yes! they haven't broken me yet!" I declare.

Today is the day of the Taining run 23k (or half a marathon run) to the nearest town. I've had about four hours sleep and my stomach still isn't very well so haven't digested anything solid for three days. Perfect. 

The morning looms and somehow the weather gods have taken pity on me. Instead of the usual scorching sun and cloudless blue sky of the past few days the mountains are heavy with rain and strewn with hanging clouds. 

As half the school will be doing the 23k run (You have to give it to me i'm definitely a woman of extremes – i've gone from never running before in my life to attempting to complete a Half Marathon in the space of a week.) They have decided to do a more gentle morning circuit at 5.30am. We just hold various plank positions for half an hour. Lovely. 

For our morning session we do a another form of Qi Gong which involves moving in and out of various poses which are supposed to help the Qi flow freely around the body and are good for overall health. I really enjoy this and it helps calm me and focus the mind. 

After breakfast I gather my thoughts then come downstairs for just before 9. Only the Shaolin class have to do the run but Camille and a couple of the other Tai Chi students have decided to do the run as well – Camille is shaking with nerves. 

And so it is that I set off – a light drizzly rain helping me on my way. I have my new bright red running shoes on (purchased the day before to confounded looks by the other students - you came here without running shoes...???) Black Eyed Peas is on my i - Pod. I set off at a VERY slow pace and slowly I realise that I can do this. I high five myself after every landmark I see – the second bridge (5k) the little village (7k) and finally after what seems like a lifetime I see this huge wrought iron bridge arching over the landscape. Its the 10k mark. I give myself a huge high five and a FUCK YOU ARSENAL just for good measure. 

I am ecstatic. I never thought I would be capable of it. It starts to go up hill shortly afterwards and i'm exhausted. I get to the little shop which signals the half way mark – (13k) and buy a cookie and some more water and then proceed to power walk the rest. I finish after about 3hours 30 minutes. Unfortunatley because i'm me and I have no sense of direction - I take the route (which turns out to be correct) come across a construction site blocking the path and then somehow manage to add on another hour and half to my time getting lost trying to find the meeting point! Ah well no matter. 

OK its a very long time i'm not about to get into the Guinness book of records anytime soon and i think Usain Bolt can probaly still sleep easy at night. But considering i've never run before in my life - Its an amazing feeling – pushing yourself to achieve something you never thought you'd be capable of. I'm so proud and elated I can't believe it – and its the weekend! No more classes until monday. 

I go to bed and sleep til 12 the next day. 

"Are you going to stick at Shaoli??" They ask me again. 

" Yeah why not – how hard can it be ..." I laugh. So there we go - as well as Patrice there is ... 

Sergei – 6ft 4, blonde, 19 year old Russian but living in UK, long term student. Abs of steel. 

James – 6 ft 3 ish,18 years old , Mancunian just about to study at University. 

Felix – 5ft 8, 21 years old french boy with 7 years of previous Kung Fu training, abs of steel. 

Don – 6 ft 2 ish, 21 years old Australian construction manager wanting to get into the army. Abs of steel. 

Ferdinand - 6 ft. 18 year old German redhead, 90 kilos with a year of a martial arts that the Israeli army train in under his belt- nickname "The Juggernaut. " 

Oh and me: 

Dominique – 5 ft 7 – 37 years old. South East London. No martial arts experience and whose most recent work out over a year ago was a weekly Zumba class. 

Bring it on...

Shaolin Stretching and Taining Times Two

 

Finally I get to experience the last of the Rising Dragon school Malevolent Myths and Looming legends. 

Shaolin Stretching. 

For the last two weeks all I have heard about is pupils who have been screaming and reduced to tears by this medieval form of muscle torture. 

There is a lot of stretching involved in Shaolin anway – every day after each run we push ourselves intoo the splits and box splits, opening our thighs, trying to bend our torsos onto our knees. 

"Does it hurt – are you ok" asks Ferdinand after he's pushed my resistant hips towards the ground in the box splits for this morning's warm up. 

"I don't really know what o.k is any more I say - everything always hurts and I'm constantly in pain but it didn't feel like you did any permanent damage if that's any good" I reply... 

Shaolin stretching is the same but it is the Master – in this case Wong – who pushes you into a position you never thought it capable your body could do and then holds you there until you cry, vomit or promise to do something else. 

"You will never know pain like it!" – Patrice has assured me. 

Brilliant. Can't wait. 


"Don't even look man – don't even look because if you see what shape your body is being contorted into...: 

Luckily I don't get Wong – although I have a feeling he'd go easy on me.

 

I have Talele and Alison. I have still pulled the tendon in my right leg so they just stretch the left leg. I lie flat on my back, Talia sits on my right leg to keep it still and Alison pulls my left leg up and starts to bend it forward towards my head. She pushes it forward until I don't think it can go any more. 

"Remember i'm OLD!" I exclaim – age really is a factor here and not just an excuse – you loose a degree of flexibility when you are no longer in your teens and early twenties. 

"Yeah – you are only a few years older than me" – says Alison. 

Oh. 

Then she pushes it down towards my head some more. It hurts - I start to whimper. 

"Breathe" – says Talele gently. 

She pushes more and I start gasping. 

" Just breathe in and breathe out" says Talia in an incredibly soothing voice. I do and she pushes a little more – my knee is i'm sure perilously close to my face – and then she stops. 

Well I don't think I've done too badly – we've helped each other. The women's corner is so gentle, hushed and supportive. 

Unlike I hasten to add the excruciating screams of agony coming from the boys. Anyone would think they were being racked! 

It is a well known fact that women have a higher threshold for tolerating pain than men and if ever I needed proof this was it. Our female corner is a gentle soothing mix of hushes, whispers and the odd "well done, good job." 

The end of the week comes and on Thursday it is sparring day again. In the morning we practise take downs and for a laugh Ferdinand (nickname “the Juggernaut”) says "Come on Dominique practise on me " 

Which I do for the amusement of all. In the afternoon I spar with Camille but its somehow more difficult than trying to beat up her brother Felix. I don't want to hurt her and she me. Everytime one of us throws a punch we follow it by stopping and going

“oh i'm sorry are you ok?” 

"Yes i'm ok are you ok?" 

“everyone sorry -everyone ok now fight!” says Wong. 

Camille gets a few good take downs on me and wins which is fine in my book. 



It's been a tough week – in a perverse kind of way I find myself looking foward to doing the Tianing run again tomorrow as a bit of light relief. 

What kind of universe do I live in when I now look forward to attempting to run a half marathon as a bit of light relief. 

Everyone always prays for rain on the day of the Taining Run -but somehow I know i'm not going to get lucky twice in a row and sure enough when I awake the sky is pearly and clear. Scott is doing a morning circuit and has been known to make students go for a run and do a legs circuit even when they then have to run another 23k but luckily today he's feeling magnanimous and asks us which we'd prefer – so we all opt for plank exercises. 


Just before 9am and the sky is bright blue, the sun is shining, it must be at least 35 degrees and we are ready to start. Its a scorcher. I get Blackeyed Peas on the ipod – thank goodness for Will.I.Am if only i'd known in Vegas how important his music was going to become to me I coud have thanked him personally. This time I know the way – I get going and I have a target to keep running until the shop at the halfway point – which I succeed in. So now i've run 13k without stopping. I then push myself to walk and run the rest and get to the meeting point in just over 3 hours! The boys – Sergei and Don have managed it in just under 2 hours -but hey i'm still pleased with my personal achievement – and I haven't got lost! 

I can hardy walk – the meeting place is Dicos - China's answer to KFC – I am famished – my body wants everything! I have some chicken nuggets and a coke follwed by a orange juice an ice cream and then some teriyaki chicken and rice. 

This afternoon I have to do a visa run to a little island off Taiwan. To cut a long and complicated story short – I only have 2 x 30 day entries on my visa so must leave the country and come back in this weekend to stay at the school. I'm going to Xiamen with another English girl called Emily and James and Luke who have decided to just visit the seaside harbour town of Xiamen for a little holiday whilst at the school. 

So after run/walking for 23k I take my poor hobbled body and put it on another chinese bus to cramp up in a sedentary position for a 10 hour journey..

Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting - Rising Dragon School - Part 1

 

The sleeper bus is not the best i've ever taken! The Argentinian and Mexican night buses are pure luxury compared to China. There is a TV which remains on full blast the whole way playing some weird cross between a Benny Hill esque comedy and a musical. (The Chinese really shouldn't sing.) There is a toilet on the bus but after about 5 hours its filled to the brim with an ominous brown swilling liquid. However the scenery is stunning. I am making my way down to the school in Fujian province which is by the coast – but the school is set in the mountains with the nearest little village about a 20 minute walk away from the grounds - Xin Qiao and the nearest town Taining about 30 mins away in a car. 

As the bus leaves the city behind the countryside opens out into undulating paddy fields of lime green rice complete with farmers in traditional pointed bamboo hats - bent over double working the land. The sharp peaks and dips of the mountains are covered in bright grasshopper green feathery trees –gently swaying bamboo trees (what else?!) – with their long thick green stems bare and ringed with a flourish of soft leaves at the top – they look like giant feather dusters. 



I'm met in Taining by a driver the school use and an american student with a pony tail – Chris. I'm shattered. We do the half hour drive back up the mountain to the school at breakneck speed. The school is set deep into the hillside. The short termers accommodation is at the very top of the school up 120 steep stone steps. My calf muscles start to burn after about step 10. I think – Shit - this is probably the least strenuous part of what I do here.....! 

I'm sharing a room with Jasmine – a beautiful 23 year old fashion design student from Birmingham who has bright green eyes, the kind of wavy hair you've always wanted if you grew up with straight hair, thighs that could crack a man's pelvis - and she's deaf but can lip read. 

I'm sharing a top bunk which has one small foothold about breast height with which I have to heave myself up on. The room has a layer of dry dust and scum floating around it and clothes strewn everywhere – i have a flash back to my university days. The view from the window to the back is nothing but bamboo trees. There is a long walk downhill again to the toilets – maye this will help train my walnut sized bladder …. 



The day supposedly starts with a 5.30am morning circuit. I'm hoping it may be optional as i've failed dismally at doing any kind of training to get in shape before I arrive. However I soon realise the culture of the school is such that opting out is seriously NOT an option. 

Alice and Audrey -two Belgian girls -confirm as much. Alice is curvaceous and incredibly sweet, with a big innocent smile and huge eyes, Audrey is an athletic blonde with incredible six pack and a smile that curls up contempuously at the corners. 

"I waz frightened of her when I first met her" confides Alice... 

"she was one of the mean girls." 

Yeah you can see that - Audrey is rebelling by staying and not doing ANYTHING at the school – I like her style 😊 It really riles the rest of the students. 

Alice likes the tai chi but but on my first morning they have tried to get out of the 5.30 am circuit but are hauled from their beds and told if they want to stay there then they have to do it! 

“The early morning circuit is normally the toughest of the day “ says Chris laconically... 

“sometimes we may run up the mountain and do sprint exercies, sometimes we may just hold plank position for the half an hour...” 

“Half an hour???!!! I can't even hold the bloody plank position for 30 seconds...” 

Shit. What have I let myself in for. 

I do not have to attend the 5.30am morning circuit on the first day as I have just arrived (generous) I am allowed to join for breakfast at 7.30am (which still feels horrendously early – I like my sleep people!) 

I have to make a decision on what to train in while I am here. They offer Shaolin Kung Fu – the most energetic, demanding and strenuos option, or two different types of Tai Chi. 

All of the forms do a 800m run two to three times a day, with Shaolin there is also the possibility of running another 3- 8k a day as well – up mountains or to the nearest town. There are also further exercise and fitness work outs incorporated into the 6 hours of training a day....! 

Shaolin is spoke of in hushed tones. Most people start and then drop out after a day or two because they can't hack it. Just before I arrive a group of 14 have taken it up and one by one given it up so there are only 7 left. 

Patrice -a large, jovial guy with kind smileand dark skin - whose family hail from Afghanistan – so has the nickname Taliban (obviously) – says "maybe Tai Chi would be best for you..." 

"Did you do any exercise before you joined?" I ask – 

"No" he says. 

I think to myself – if you can do it I can do it. 

TD a long termer about to leave (you have the option of studying for 1,3,6 months or a full year) asks me why i've come. 

"I'm here for discipline I say – I want to improve my mental focus and my self discpline." 

"Then do Shaolin" she says. 

"No one will resent you and you won't hold anyone back – but you can't be lazy you have to push yourself and do your best – if you do that the group will support and respect you whatever your level." 

I have two voices in my head. One is saying – actually screaming really loudly 

I dont want to get up at 530am in the morning I dont want to do hard core exercise with a bunch of 18 year olds it will hurt...it will hurt don't let me I DON'T WANNA!!!!! 

The other is more like a kindly sergeant major. It says – you came here to improve your discipline – you need to do that to self motivate if you want to work for yourself. You could do tai chi and have a nice relaxing time – but that's not why you are here!!! you are here to challenge yourself, push yourself and do things you didn't think you were capable of. YOU came here to honour your values -discipline and vitality – AND make a commitment to your long term health and vitality by getting in shape. 

So Shaolin kung fu it is – with half my mind and body still screaming NO – and the other kindly sergeant major saying very gently but firmly – yes – and you are NOT going to give up.