This is the third post of our China series. If you missed the last one, read it here.
Well, China does have this image of low-quality products. And quite frankly, we’ve encountered a lot of things that were half-broken, almost broken or completely broken. And I’m not even mentioning the food on the plane to come here.
The concept of keeping the interior of a house at room temperature doesn’t seem to exist in China, at least not in the area we’re living in. For example: the hotels are built in such a way that the corridors lead to an open air section. This means that neither the lobby nor the corridors can be heated. The staff at the reception simply put on their thick coats when it’s cold.
Likewise, our room isn’t heated either. There is an air con which can operate “in reverse” and serve to blow some warm air. But there was a little problem: Electricity was out for one week. Coincidentally during the only time where temperatures went below freezing point. During that period we slept wearing two pairs of pants and three layers of shirts and sweaters. Plus an extra blanket. Internet was off and we couldn’t charge our phones. Also, there was no hot water. This left us with two choices: Risk a hypothermic shock or become increasingly smelly. Thank god we didn’t sweat that much during the time.
Lack of comfort wasn’t the only thing that startled our pampered butts and called for a quick readjustment of our ideas about hotels: The staff seems to have no idea which rooms are occupied. Even after we’ve been here a few weeks, they kept coming into our room without knocking, thinking that the occupants had checked out.
Luckily, the two things which are most important to us are of high quality. The food and the training. We are being fed three warm meals a day. They consist of simple “farmer” food but rich in taste, variety and nutrition.
The training is superb and we train A LOT: 6 hours a day for 5 days a week plus an extra Saturday morning session.
We met the owner and head teacher of the school, Sifu Ming Yue in La Rochelle, France, at a seminar of his Europe tour. Already there we had the impression of seeing a great Master in action. He invited us to come over to China. He also got the approval of James Nener, our reference when it comes to internal martial arts.
So, here we are. Our original plan of stay was careful. We didn’t know if the training was actually going to be to our satisfaction. Also, it’s quite expensive. So we initially said, let’s stay two weeks and then decide whether to extend our stay or not. As of now we have cracked our second month and haven’t bought our return tickets yet.
Contrary to our overexcited imaginations, Sifu Ming Yue’s school isn’t located in a gorgeous Taoist temple. Rather, they rented a few rooms in a hotel in the Wudang mountains.
The training happens in outdoor public places or, when it rains, in a spacious hotel lobby. That means: A lot of fresh air (great) and direct exposure to hordes of annoying tourists (not so great). Seriously though, Chinese tourists are as annoying in their home country as they are abroad. Especially as a foreign looking person doing something extraordinary like training Tai Chi, expect the tourists to take selfies with you without asking or just plainly hold their phone camera in your face to take close-up shots.
In the morning we train Tai Chi, in the afternoon Wu Shu or sword forms. The quality of the teaching is usually good. The main teacher, Sifu Ming Yue, incorporates both excellent practice and teaching. He’s the kind of teacher who will immediately find your key problem and correct it to help you ascend to the next level. The depth of his knowledge and experience gives his explanations a profound note and credibility.
There is just one little issue: He’s not around most of the time. Mostly we’re being taught by one of his senior students: who, while a very talented martial artist, is still a beginner in the field of teaching. While he’s generally showing too much and too fast, it’s a constant struggle for us to guide him into giving us the cues we need to progress.
However, even the short intervals with Sifu Ming Yue are propelling us a lot, which is the reason why we’re still here.
To conclude this post: We recommend anyone who wants to learn Wudang style internal martial arts to visit this school. Be aware though: The training might be more chaotic than you’d expect and vary in quality. Also important to note: Nobody here speaks English. So you must either learn Chinese or bring a translator.
We’re slowly coming towards the end of our stay. In the next and last China blog post we’ll go deeper into the details of what we’re learning here and the great way Sifu Ming Yue has tailored the training to our needs for us to get the biggest benefit out of it.