Sunday, 19 June 2011

Interview with Shaolin Master Shi Xing Long

Shi Xing Long, aka Master Wang is a 32nd generation Shaolin master who teaches traditional shaolin kung fu and Sanda. He has a very deep knowledge of traditional shaolin and modern sanda. He has come number one in several national Chinese sanda tournaments, as well as China-Korean martial arts tournament, but he gave this up after suffering a serious back injury. He has mostly recovered now, which he puts down to Shaolin Qigong training. During his injured period, rather than wasting time, he dedicated his time to reading and researching Shaolin manuscripts given to him by his master. I first met him about two years ago when I first came to Kunyu Shan academy to learn Mantis. My first encounter with him was when he taught a Buddhism class every Friday evening. Often I was the only student who turned up, so we would discuss Zen and its connection to martial arts, as well as his own personal experience about life at Shaolin Temple.  

He views kung fu as a way of improving people’s lives, to make them a better person, to be tougher, more confident, more polite etc. It extends to every aspect of life, not just fighting. I have seen many people change after spending some time training with him.

Master Wang was born in Shanxi province, into a very poor family. His grandfather was involved in kung fu and encouraged him to enter the temple for training at a young age. In the beginning, he was very naughty and had no interest in learning. His master would often beat him or make him spend 2 hours standing facing the wall. After his second year, he became much more focussed, beginning to mature and understand the training better.

His master was Shi De Qian, who has passed away now. He was one of the most knowledgeable masters of Shaolin in the modern times. I managed to talk to Master Wang about his experience at Shaolin temple: learning kung fu, training with his master, and some lessons in life he learnt there….

Shifu, please could you tell us about your master, Shi De Qian:

Learning kung fu was very bitter. You had to have perseverance. Our master would test each student; he would watch them carefully during class. He wanted to find the ones with the most potential. Those students he liked, he would take his free time to give extra training and theory to. He was very traditional, and made sure we understood the theory and applications of all the forms. You have to really think about this, to do a form is easy, but you must take your own time to contemplate the features of different forms, to understand them.


Our master was like a father, he would teach us about all aspects of life. He said we have to be men, At that time we knew how to respect our master, to help him teach new students, give him more free time. Because respecting the master is also a kind of kung fu.
Master said, as a man, you must be able to face all kinds of difficulties. Now we are older, and live in society, we slowly realise what he was teaching us. Things in life are really like our master told us, and we must be able to face these challenges.

What was it like learning kung fu in the temple:

When we learnt kung fu it wasn’t like how people learn it now. We learnt from monks, but we had to rely on ourselves to study. We all started from basics. After mastering the basics we spent a lot of time on forms. Our master made sure we understood the theory behind the forms too.

As there were many students, we all had to prove ourselves worthy of learning the higher knowledge. We were all from very poor families; we had no choice but to succeed. Also, as life was in the temple, there were no distractions from the outside world, before I was 18, I have never seen an MP3 player, and I didn’t even know what kind of clothes I would wear if I went out, as we wore our training uniforms all the time. We had to dedicate all our time to kung fu, we didn’t think about going out to play or whatever, we just cared about training hard.

You must have a lot of insights from life there, could you share some with us:

Well, training kung fu is not just about fighting. It’s about being a better person. It’s about learning to master yourself. For example, when we hold stances, it’s really tough, you want to give up. But you can see everyone else is doing it, and maybe the master will hit you if you stop. This doesn’t just give you strong legs; it gives you a strong mind. You can’t just go through life giving up at the first sign of discomfort, where will that get you?

All kinds of training are like that, when we train, we train our minds, and our spirits. Training is tough and painful, but as kung fu practitioners, we must be tough, be able to go through this difficulty, then we will be able to take on any challenge life can throw at us.

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