Kung Fu Reviews

Review From Liz Zaki (August, 2023)

Length of stay: 3 months, May-July, 2023
Email: naiyf86@gmail.com

reviews from Adam Naiyf Ali

Adam Naiyf Ali (Israel)

Length of stay: 3 months, May-July, 2023
Email: naiyf86@gmail.com

Amazing..highly recommend!!
I loved everything.. the master and the family who give a family atmosphere and a high human attitude!

The tranquility in the place and the quiet and fun atmosphere..they help with everything without hesitation..personal treatment in training and in general amazing people! The master knows what he’s doing, straight to the point in training and he teaches from the heart and you can feel it .. he does it because he loves it not for the money! Deciphers you and knows how to start and where to make you find the best in you.. He is an expert in conveying the material in the best way.. There is nothing to say except that it was amazing and I strongly recommend everyone to try, no matter the time the main thing is to try because it is one of the best experiences .. and I hope I will return here soon for another period and learn more and more! Many thanks to Shifu and all the workers and residents here

reviews from Kathryn Cheeseman

Kathryn Cheeseman (UK)

1 month, 2023
katcheeseman@hotmail.co.uk

reviews from Oliver Vulliamy

Oliver Vulliamy (UK)

4 years, 2016–2019
Email: oliver.vulliamy@gmail.com

When I first arrived in China, I had the intention of giving myself a three-month trial basis and to stay for a year if it felt right to do so. I had no idea at that time, that Gong Fu would become such and integral part of my life.

When I first arrived in China, I had the intention of giving myself a three-month trial basis and to stay for a year if it felt right to do so. I had no idea at that time, that Gong Fu would become such and integral part of my life.

Three years later, I feel truly lucky to have been introduced and trained by such an accomplished Master; both in his Kung Fu ability, as well as his clear embodiment of the spirit and ethos behind Chinese Kung Fu. It is hard for foreigners to really distinguish between the quality of a Master by their accomplishments, but rest assured that at this school you will receive some of the highest quality of training available.

I still remember vividly learning 5-step in my first few weeks. Shifu had shown me the new movements and then given me some time to practise what he had taught me, while he went to others in our group; as is the standard way of teaching. When he returned he asked me to show him the movements from the beginning.

As I did so, I kept getting one movement wrong and so started again; my agitation at myself became increasingly evident, animated and visual as it mounted. So Shifu addressed me quite calmly, saying. “The harder and faster you try to improve, if you are rushed, the slower you will ultimately progress. You must learn your body and limitations and go at your own pace.”

It was like he had reached into my mind and flicked a switch of understanding and from that moment onwards a sense of acceptance and calm ensued. I could train hard and improve to the best of my ability, but there was no sense in trying to push past the boundaries of limitation that we all have. I confess I saw myself as something of ‘the karate kid’, who would improve and be better than anyone in a far shorter time frame. When in actuality no matter who you are or your natural ability, to truly Master Kung Fu takes much dedication, time and practise.

Shifu’s ability to see into what I needed at that present moment astounds me even to this day and over the years as I have observed him with countless students; he has demonstrated time and time again this ability of insight, his caring spirit and his giving nature.

If there is one tip I can give you, it is to train hard. Putting in the effort and showing persistence really is key in your own development, as well as a form of showing respect. If you faff about, talk and distract others when you should be training and generally think yourself as ‘the bee’s knees’ not only will you not progress as quickly, but you will lose his respect. I can promise you that when you start training, a good relationship with your Master makes the experience all the more rewarding and incredible.

Shaolin is an incredible and physically demanding Martial Arts form but also has deep roots in Chinese culture, history and virtuous qualities and its origins in Buddhism. This, alongside good instruction, helps us to cultivate our internal and spiritual sides as well as our physical bodies.

When I first began training, I was in terrible shape physically; unable to touch my toes, unable to run more than one-hundred metres without suffering severely from smoker’s lung and generally far weaker than my sporting days at school.
However, the training and attentiveness that I received, allowed me to progress steadily and at a challenging, though comfortable pace, both physically and internally. This really is a testament that no matter how capable or incapable you think you are, anybody at any level can come here to train and still gain huge amounts from this experience

I have one more – out of many – stories to share from my time with Shifu; this one is related to a form of internal progression that aided me in a kind of awareness and acceptance. It was a time when I thought I had done something to upset Shifu, that I had lost his respect and I was begging to panic on a minor level. It was usual for Shifu to come round to you each class, to see your movement and teach you more when you were ready. However, on this particular week, he had not come around to me once.

No words anyone could say to me, no matter how reasonable would assuage my worry. But I kept my head down and kept practising my form; as asking for new movements is big no. On the last lesson on Friday, we have free training and on this particular day a small number of us were gathered around Shifu asking questions; plucking his brains for his intensely rich knowledge and experiences. This was a rare occurrence and so I sidled into the group to listen.

As he was answering a question, he deviated from his main point and as he did so, he focused his eyes on me for the majority of what he said. He told us a story of when his Master had ignored him for almost a month; every time he asked his Master if he had done something wrong or asked him to clarify a movement, he would simply walk away without even answering. Shifu eventually stopped asking and instead focused on his training and after some time his Master came up to him and explained that he had been testing his dedication to Gong Fu, and not just to his Master.

Suddenly I found myself filled with relief and understood that all those tales of subtle Kung Fu Masters and philosophical stories in order to answer questions and impart subtle knowledge was no myth, but actual present day truth. This was an inexplicable lesson for me, that ultimately benefited me on many levels and I am confident that Shifu knew that it would.

The depth, age and richness of Shaolin means that even now, I still feel I have plenty of room for improvement and to expand my knowledge. With many of the oldest martial arts in China it is simply not possible for anybody to learn everything but the quantity, quality and diversity of what I have gained here has enriched my life.

Being self motivated is an important quality. Though you will be pushed, your own attitude, persistence and determination will only facilitate your chances for higher achievement throughout any period of training. Everyday may not be your best but as long as you arrive at class with an attitude to do your best, within how you presently feel, then there truly lies the potential to gain so much from this experience.
The amazing thing about training Shaolin forms – and the forms that Shifu will choose for you, if you stay long enough – is that often they are best suited to help you in a general and specific area of improvement. There have been many times where after I finish a form, I suddenly realise my foot work has gotten faster or lighter; that my flexibility has improved in a key area; that it was perfectly suited to develop internal power; and the list goes on. This truly is another insight into the depth of Shifu’s intense knowledge and one of the highest things I hope to obtain before my time if training eventually comes to an end.

   I feel so grateful to have been able to go through this experience and even more grateful that there has been an incredible translator throughout my training. Shifu’s wife has a truly incredible grasp and ability to communicate in the English language; at times you can spot her communicating with Shifu to make sure she fully understands what it is he wants to impart before she translates it. This is truly key to enriching the whole experience and to appreciate and understand the depths, and the accuracy of what is being said.

   Without this something like: “Make sure your punch finishes when your foot does the stamp. Keep your arm straight for a brief moment, before following into the next movement and stay relaxed.”

   Might become: “Foot and hand same time, and straight. Then do next relaxed.” I’ve experienced both of these and cannot stress the difference that a really good translator makes. Here, I have been fortunate enough to train under the best translator I have met as well, as the most accomplished master. The combination is extremely potent and beneficial.

   Another incredibly important factor when training at such regular intensity is food and diet, which they place at such incredible importance here. I’ve had similar dishes at multiple restaurants and they have been nowhere near as good as what is provided here. I was pleasantly surprised with the quantities, as there was never any lacking in quantity. The hardest thing, is maintaining a little self-restraint and consideration for others after you’ve had such fabulous dishes placed in front of you after a hard days training.

 

   So to finish up, I will share some of the understanding that I have gained about the deeper practise and art of Kung Fu.
   On the surface, to a casual observer, Kung Fu may seem little more than a form of exercise; a kind of dance some might say. Those who begin to cultivate the art form, often find that emotions rise to the surface during their training; some of those, recognise these surfacing demons as a form of cultivating their internal being, and thus recognise the deeper layer hidden within the Art of Gong Fu.

   But what is Gong Fu? What defines an art as Gong Fu? The most common understanding, it that it is a form of Martial Art. Though this is true there are deeper meanings within the term.

   Firstly, it is important to differentiate the difference between a Martial Art and a Martial Sport. The art form cultivates the internal being, as well as the external body and eventually unifies and brings into harmony the mind and the body, as one. Often such practises have spiritual depth and history, such as Shaolin and Wu-Dang: The very movements themselves and ways of training, ignite spiritual aspects within us, even if – or when – we do not consciously notice.

 

the art form, often find that emotions rise to the surface during their training; some of those, recognise these surfacing demons as a form of cultivating their internal being, and thus recognise the deeper layer hidden within the Art of Gong Fu.

  But what is Gong Fu? What defines an art as Gong Fu? The most common understanding, it that it is a form of Martial Art. Though this is true there are deeper meanings within the term.

  Firstly, it is important to differentiate the difference between a Martial Art and a Martial Sport. The art form cultivates the internal being, as well as the external body and eventually unifies and brings into harmony the mind and the body, as one. Often such practises have spiritual depth and history, such as Shaolin and WuDang: The very movements themselves and ways of training, ignite spiritual aspects within us, even if – or when – we do not consciously notice.

A Martial Sport, in general, lacks this internal cultivation. Often such practices breed a mindset of competitiveness, egotistical thinking and aggression; finding one’s sole drive and motivation from wanting to be better than the person next to, or against you: not always, but in many cases this is true. Some individuals will say that it gives them a way to let out their aggression by ‘hitting the bag’ or ‘getting in the ring’. While this may be true, the practise of Gong Fu, like Yoga, would allow you to calm the aggression and find peace, rather than release the pent up aggression on a regular basis.

  In terms of Gong Fu as a Martial Art, this is an important distinction. But still there is a deeper understanding of what Gong Fu is in its heart and that is, that Gong Fu is everywhere.

  This is something many in the west have heard whether from word of mouth, old Chinese Kung Fu movies, or jokingly racist banter; however, it really is, in its essence, the absolute truth. It is important to acknowledge though, that knowing this and understanding it, are two very different depths.

  Within the understanding that Gong Fu is everywhere, there are also two facets of truthful perception that encompass Gong Fu:

  To begin to understand, it is important to ponder over what the term ‘Gong Fu’ means at its deepest level: ‘The acquiring of great skill, over time, through dedication and persistence.’ – diligence can also be included. What this means is that a painter, a cook, a butcher, a musician, a poet, or a wood sculptor can all have Gong Fu.

To quote – in part – Jackie Chan: “Do not name it, for it is like water; nothing is softer than water and yet it can overcome rock; it does not fight, it flows; formless, nameless. The true master dwells within us, yet only we can release it. First follow the path, then follow you own; first follow the rules, before you can know when to break them.”

  In this way, Gong Fu is everywhere; you can even use nature to explain it; you can deepen your knowledge of nature through it.

  The other facet of Gong Fu being everywhere – perhaps more commonly understood – is that almost any movement you can perform, even in the ordinary day to day life, can be transferred and altered – to only a slight degree – in order for it to become the art of self defence.

  This is well illustrated in the original karate kid movies with ‘wax on wax off’ while he wax’s his Masters car; elaborated upon in the modern karate kid (which should have been called the Kung Fu kid), when Dre takes off and puts on his jacket.

  This is a concept modernised by these movies but also understood historically. By understanding the craft of a person who sought to train a Martial Art, a traditional Master could better understand how to cultivate their strengths to better suit their specialties and development.

  Traditionally, a monk may only practise one single movement, day after day but over time ‘forms’ were developed and ways of training were altered. These forms and ways of training are over a thousand years old, passed down from one generation to the next in an epic lineage, the likes of which is unparalleled by any other combat form. If yoga were a combat form, it would be the exception.

 This kind of experience, for many, is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I know stays with people for many years to come; potentially for the rest of their lives. It must be lived to be truly appreciated and I am so thankful to have been fortunate enough to stay here for the time that I have.

reviews from Group From Exeter University

Group From Exeter University

1 month, 2016-2019
Email: kc291@exeter.ac.uk

review from Bianca Houtzager

Bianca Houtzager (Australia)

3 months, 2019
Email: bianca.houtzager@hotmail.com

My experience here at Kung Fu Xing Lin Academy has been more amazing and rewarding than I expected, and one that I wish wasn’t ending so soon. Within a week of arriving here, I felt verycomfortable, happy, inspired and peaceful, and had already began dreading having to leave.

The environment of the temple complex is amazing and so beautiful. It is very special to live and train in a Buddhist temple and be a part of the daily life here. The monks, nuns and residents of the temple are always so friendly and welcoming. I really enjoyed being apart of the ceremonies and events at the temple, as well as eating with the monks. The location is stunning! I appreciate Sikong Mountain every day, and the view from my front door every morning. The school’s remote location makes for a perfect atmosphere to train gong fu and to focus on internal development. The mountains, the forests, the flowers, the insects and the temple buildings make this place so beautiful, I love it.The living standard is good and I have felt very comfortable here. The food is really nice, healthy and delicious, (especially when Shifu cooks!) and the accommodation is good, comfortable, with good sized rooms and bathrooms. I love the view from the top floor! The training is great and feels very authentic. It is hard, but only as hard as you make it. The harder you train, and the more you focus, the more rewarding it is. Shifu is a very skilful teacher, it has been a pleasure to be taught by him. He has such an in-depth knowledge of Chinese martial arts, history and Buddhism and it is very interesting and enjoyable to learn from him. He is good at creatingtraining plans unique to each student by giving them forms that match their strengths and/or challenge their weaknesses. I felt like this particularly with my spear form, its suits me but also challenges me a lot. I had to really think about the movements and techniques and try not get discouraged when I found them difficult. I like how when Shifu gives you a new form he tells yousome information about it first, including the name and history, and during the learning processexplains movements and applications. But all of this would not be possible without Cindy, who does a great job of translating for Shifu, as well as managing and communicating with students and helping us when we need. I like how the training week is structured and I like the variety of skills we are taught. The Shaolin gong fu is the main focus, but the wing chun, qi gong, and jumps class are all really interesting, especially wing chun, and they all compliment and help in other aspects of training. If I was here for longer I would include sanda into my training too… maybe next time. All these different styles and practises train different areas, but all benefit each other. I understand more now that the reason I enjoy practising martial arts is because it trains every part of myself, physically, mentally and spiritually, and it applies to all aspects of my life. I have found learning qi gong to be very beneficial and enjoyable. It has helped me understand the importance of having a quiet and focused mind when practising forms and techniques, and to develop more awareness of my body and its energy. Itis also just a relaxing thing to do on a Thursday morning, to be peaceful and soft and listen to the birds and the leaves.Overall this school provides students with such an enriching cultural experience that I imagine would be difficult to find in other places. Shifu and Cindy have created a wonderful school and place for foreign students to experience traditional Chinese martial arts, Chinese culture and Buddhism. I have enjoyed my stay here so much and gained a lot from it, and I cannot wait to come back!!! Thank you Shifu and Cindy.

Bianca.

Josephine Clarie Messore

Josephine Clarie Messore (UK)

7 months, 2019
Email: josephine.messore@hotmail.co.uk

I have greatly enjoyed my time training with Shifu over these last few months. I came out to gain a better understanding of kung fu, recover from my injuries and get fitter, and I feel I have achieved all my aims.

The level and variety of kung fu has been really enjoyable. I really appreciate how Shifu has catered the Shaolin forms to my level and injuries, so I’ve always been able to train hard. I’ve also enjoyed being able to try some others things such as some wing chun and jumps and rolls. Even when I haven’t been able to do everything, it’s been very exciting to watch.

One of the highlights of the trip has been the location, I’ve really enjoyed being able to live and train in a Buddhist temple. It’s been very interesting to be able to take park in some Buddhist ceremonies and learn a bit more about the culture, as well it being a good atmosphere for training. The Abbot of the temple has also been very kind and welcoming which has made me feel very welcome and comfortable in the temple.

I feel over this trip, my physical abilities have improved greatly, both in terms of my kung fu level and my general fitness. I have really appreciated having the time to train and improve and Shifu has been excellent at providing hard training but not pushing me beyond my limits. The environment is also very beneficial as it allows you time to think and reflect, both on kung fu and yourself, which I feel allows for a better mental approach to training.

The food is also excellent and Shifu is an amazing instructor. Cindy is also wonderfully helpful with whatever help we need. I have really enjoyed my time here and hope to come back soon when I can.

Jo

Jana Bernhard

Jana Bernhard (Switzerland)

6 months, 2019
2 weeks, 2018
1 month, 2016
Email: jb696@exeter.ac.uk

Review 30.03.2019 – 31.10.2019 – Thank you so much for everything!

This school is the ideal place for anyone looking to experience authentic Kung Fu training, Buddhist culture and to really focus on their self-development and internal cultivation.

Ever since I started training under Shifu in 2016, anytime I had the chance to take a holiday, there was only one place I wanted to go, and one thing I wanted to do – go train with him again.

 

In early 2019, I finally got the chance to fulfill my dream of taking a sabbatical and going out to China for 6 months – and it has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

The kind of quality Kung Fu teaching we receive at Er Zu temple from Shifu is absolutely unique. Not only does he have an incredible vast amount of knowledge and skills, he is also the most wonderful teacher I’ve ever had. Shifu somehow knows exactly what each of his students needs at every point in their training. He recognizes the individuality of each person – their strengths and weaknesses – and tailors each training plan to the uniqueness of the individual. Shifu also knows and appreciates that his students know their own bodies and conditions and allows us to take rests when needed. He is exceptionally good at pushing us to our limits and knowing exactly where they lie.

 

During my training, I experienced a wave of ups and downs. The beginning was hard as I came out to train after having spent a year not exercising. However, Shifu taught me that persistence, resiliency, focus and repetition were the key to getting back to the standard I had once had. There is no fast track to improving, there is only hard work and never giving up. Sometimes improvements are slower and sometimes big improvements can be noticeable in a short space of time. All of it depends on how well you train, your physical condition and your level of Kung Fu. The slow improving times can be frustrating. But that too is part of the internal development and the general process one needs to go through.

 

Training with Shifu provides such a beautiful variety. Anytime I felt like my body was in need of a day off, I would try to think of which day would be the best. Yet, every time I struggled because I couldn’t bear to take any of the days off. Mondays and Wednesdays were our Shaolin days and I wouldn’t want to not practice my forms or even learn new parts. But Tuesdays was Wing Chun, which was always filled with learning and practicing unbelievably useful techniques. Seeing and listening to Shifu explaining how each movement can be used in a real situation was just so valuable that I never wanted to miss it. Even Thursday’s power training I wouldn’t want to miss because I knew that Shifu would know exactly what he needed to target in us this week and that we would be better for it the week after. By the time Friday came around, I’d already almost made it to the weekend – so why even take a day off and miss out on some seriously fun jumps and rolls training.

I think for most people it is difficult to imagine that training can be so rewarding that one never actually want to take a day off from it. That you have to stop yourself from training a few extra hours on the weekend to make sure you give your body some rest. But that is honestly exactly how it feels when training under Shifu. And I am certain it is because he is so incredibly good at knowing exactly what to teach each individual at exactly the right time and with the exact right intensity. At least for myself, I can say with certainty that, my personalized training plan was absolutely perfect. I trained a range of very diverse forms. They all targeted an ideal combination of my weaknesses and strengths. In the beginning of my stay I got to learn a sparring form with Ollie – Shifu’s disciple. That was such an incredible way to gain back my body awareness. Additionally, it also fostered an increase in my awareness of my own space, someone else’s space and the element of rhythms and timings. On top of it all, training with someone who has a much higher level than myself pushed me to improve my speed and accuracy. After having spent some time working on developing my weaknesses – spatial awareness and speed – I got to learn a long fist form, which was very well suited to my strengths – flexibility and softness. This ebb and flow between working on my weaknesses and playing to my strengths was a wonderful way to create a well-rounded training plan for me. It kept my spirits up when learning something that suited my strengths, the boost of which helped me persist and push through when I was faced with the challenges of developing my weaknesses. Although I only mentioned two in more depth just now, during my time at the temple, Shifu chose a variety of wonderful forms for me – such as double daggers, chain whip and my final form – snake fist. Each form was difficult and rewarding in its own regard. But in the end, it’s not all about which specific forms one learns. When we’re at the temple we sometimes jokingly refer to our daily schedule as “Eat, Sleep, Train, Repeat”. However, training does not just refer to us practicing Kung Fu. In fact, the “training” aspect in this statement encompasses so much more.

Training Kung Fu is like doing anything else in life. The core values that stand behind training and living Kung Fu are applicable to anything and everything you can think of. Whether it is work, your household, the way you interact with people – your family, friends and even strangers – it all comes back to this: approaching anything you do with dedication and conscientiousness, seeking to improve yourself, being mindful and caring of others, being balanced, playing to your strengths and knowing your weaknesses, and being respectful towards the world and people around you. All of these values are practiced and internalized each and every day when you train Kung Fu right. It really is so much more than just practicing a sport – it’s about morals and values. Learning to apply those to life back home is the ultimate goal. Living with the essence of Kung Fu inside you at all times – that is what it all comes down to in the end.

This internal cultivation aspect of training Kung Fu is hugely emphasized by the fact that the school is located at a Buddhist temple somewhere in the mountains in rural China. Staying there provides a very valuable additional element to the authentic experience. There is no better way to gain insight into the Buddhist and Chinese culture than to see and live with it at its core. The temple and surrounding area is absolutely beautiful. Every single morning when I stepped out of my room, being immediately faced with the temple, the mountains and the valley below, I was amazed at the beauty of it all. Additionally, despite the fact that the temple is quite off the grid, the accommodation is absolutely great. Each room has its own shower and western toilet, there is enough bedding around to make your bed very comfortable and Shifu cooks wonderfully delicious and healthy food. The Abbot of the temple has also provided access to a moped, which can be used on the weekends to get to the nearest village for shopping and exploring.

Breaks and rest times can be an ideal opportunity to really immerse oneself in their own hobbies such as reading, writing, painting, making music or even learning some Chinese. However, the group of students also often hangs out with each other drinking tea, doing extra training, watching movies, playing cards or going into town or the nearest city – Yuexi – on the weekends. While even just the trip there itself is quite the experience, it’s nice to have an opportunity to go out with the group, whether it is to just grab a coffee and some food or even to celebrate someone’s birthday – usually at KTV (which is an absolute must experience when in China). So whether you want get some time to yourself or meet and hang out with interesting people from all around the world, there is plenty of time and opportunity for both.

Lastly, I just want to mention how incredibly kind and warm-hearted Shifu and Cindy are. They are the reason why Er Zu Temple felt like home to me and why I always want to go back. They always want their students to feel good, to feel welcome and to be taken care of. Anything we needed, any worries or concerns we had, whether it is about training or any other regards, Shifu and Cindy were always there. While I have already talked about Shifu’s outstanding knowledge and skills at the start, I also want to mention how extraordinary Cindy is. Not only is her English absolutely outstanding, but she is also unbelievably organized, efficient and hilariously funny. When Cindy went back to her hometown for a few months in summer, the place was just not the same without her. I missed her jokes, her laugh and most of all how when Shifu shares his knowledge she is able to translate the essence of his explanations so well – which is very difficult to accomplish for two languages that are so different from one another.

With that, I want to conclude my review by saying a big thank you to both of you – Shifu and Cindy – for everything that you have taught and done for me. I learnt so much both in my training and about life and myself in general during the six months I stayed with you. I can’t wait to come back one day and I will try to keep up my training until that day comes.

All the best,
Jana

Ross Paton

Ross Paton

1 month, 2018&2017
Email: rpaton719@gmail.com

Jonathan Bailey

Jonathan Bailey

3 months, 2016&2017&2018
Email:Jonbailey7@btinternet.com

Madalina Radu

Madalina Radu

1 month, 2018&2017
Email: mrr209@exeter.ac.uk

Jonathan Yii Chun Wong (UK)

Jonathan Yii Chun Wong (UK)

1 month, 2016
Email: jycw201@exeter.ac.uk

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