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Derbyshire: Kung Fu Training in Deng Feng- My experience, for anyone planning to go.

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  • Derbyshire: Kung Fu Training in Deng Feng- My experience, for anyone planning to go.

    From September to November, I stayed in the Shi De Cheng Wushu Guan, thanks mainly to Doc. Overall, I had a great time and would recommend it to others; although I would advise people not to have any expectations of what the experience might be like. You will understand this more by the end of the account (hopefully).

    Upon arrival in Amsterdam (I had a connecting flight), I was held up for several hours by Air China. This meant of course that the person waiting for me at Zhengzhou was not there when I arrived (having waited for about five hours before going back empty-handed). This posed a problem for me as I didn't speak any Chinese and Zhengzhou is a pretty daunting place 11.30 at night. I managed to find a hotel but realised the only way that I would get to Dengfeng was if I learnt some Chinese. Come morning, there were a bunch of taxis outside waiting for me, the nice young lady at the reception apparently having told them about me. I managed to say, "I need to go to the bus station....Dengfeng". The taxi driver kept speaking to me as if I were fluent in Chinese, even though she knew full well I wasn't. She ended up taking me to Dengfeng, and charging me 300 Y (a standard price for such a journey). As I could not get her to understand Shi De Cheng Wushu Guan, she dropped me off at the Shaolin Temple.

    I wondered off for a bit but realised I was pretty lost, I went back to her again and showed her the telephone number for the Shi De Cheng wushu guan, which she duely called on her mobile (stopping the taxi in the middle of a main road) and took me there for free. Before I continue, Zhengzhou is huge. At night, it is a sea of faceless neon. It is pretty chaotic and everyone is quite aggressive. In the day, especially travelling between Zhengzhou and Dengfeng, you can see what a shit hole the place is in many ways. There are many people under the poverty line but most are just poor and embarking on what appears to be a grinding trudge through life (for want of a better expression). In Dengfeng it is pretty much the same, although there is quite a mixture of people, some well off and others destitute. They all however seem to have a strange, backward way of doing things.

    Nothing is built properly and there are people living in many of the abandoned building projects. The mountains are nice, If you go trekking into them, they are in some places very remote. Also, driving is pretty much like being in a rally. People and cars mingle as if the cars didnt exist and there is a routine beeping of the horn every minute (perhaps you learn this in henanese driving school).

    Anyway, back to my arrival at the school. I first arrived at the domestic Chinese school. I was quite shocked at how bad the living conditions were for the kids. The decor is pretty spartan, there is one stone basin for washing and most kids look pretty dirty. On the other hand, many people in rural China accept this as their lifestyle and it is just the norm. The courtyard has now been bought by a neighbouring school and the kids train on the street. I was greeted by a bunch of people who worked there, two coaches and De Cheng's wife (the money woman). They sent someone to get this Italian guy who spoke Chinese, he was a big help (thanks Franchesco, if your reading). I was taken to the foreign quarters, about 1/4 of a mile down the road. They are decidedly better, although coming from the UK, I would probably expect even better in a prison.

    The coaches who teach foreigners live there also (there are four of them). The oldest is 21, the youngest 17. I found them all to be really good people(very keen for me to teach them English), although they each had varying levels of enthusiasm for kung fu. What I found to be the case was that (in the absence of Shi De Cheng) you have the power to either do a day of light shitty training, or really work yourself hard, the coaches don't really gain anything from forcing you, so they are just there to teach when you want them to really. The training is from 9-12 and 3-6 every day, apart from sunday (saturday there is an afternoon off). After a few days, De Cheng's wife asked me for the money. It was a fair bit more expensive than Doc says it is. It works out at about £500 a month, with meals and accomodation included. Perhaps you can barter with her but I didn't speak Chinese. Having said that, I could have left having not paid for the last month. Shi De Cheng (having returned) took over and never bothered asking me. When I gave him the money, he seemed geniuinely disinterested in it. As time wore on, I often thought, what the **** am I doing here, its a waste of money. I also often thought, wow, there are some great people here what a great place. After the first month I accepted the place for what it was and made the most of my training.

    I ended up having a brilliant time and hope to go back to China to learn the language more. Going back to the beginning, any ideas of doing something original, any romantic ideas of rural China and Kung fu in general, any ideas of learning kickass moves (although after a month, I could do the splits, due to the 2 hours of basic drills every day) and any ideas of being enlightened must be dispelled before you go. Expect to be in a country undergoing an incredible amount of change in a short time, with many people living pretty grim lives. Expect to be in a place where money is really more important than kung fu. Expect to do basic drills over and over again.

    One more point- The food, apparently cooked by a local pesant was really nice when more than two people were in the school, we had banquets when there were about 20 of us. When there is one or two people, expect a prison style tray of fried bits and pieces.

    One more point (sorry)- There were some really nice people in the school, including Shi De Cheng and his coaches. I made some strong (if temporary friendships) with several people. One of the coaches in particular, I connected with and was sad to leave him. I doubt you get a chance to be taught on such a personal level in other schools. Although I have never been, I know many have thousands of students.

    One more point (I should have put this earlier)- Training takes place on the street unless it is raining, then it is in the training room. I trained with a small group of long term stay people, as large groups of French and Germans came and went, training seperately. When the Italians arrived, we all trained together out in the street (the Italians were pretty brutal, seemed to enjoy pushing themselves to extremes of exhaustion). All the while there are poor people watching your every move with blank expressions.

    ps. Shi De Cheng will probably take you out to a bunch of places of interst, including the Shaolin and Fawang temples. He is a genuinely nice guy. On my last day, he took me out to a restaurant with the last two remaining guys (a father and son duo from Canada). He also paid and arranged for a taxi back to Zhengzhou for me.

    Pps. Thanks to Doc and others who advised me, it was a great experience.

  • #2
    Hi Derbyshire,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It's nice to read some honest thoughts on your trip and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    If you decide to go back and write another report, please separate your text into paragraphs. This makes it easier to read on a computer screen.

    But nice one anyway.


    • #3
      I fixed it.
      Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

      "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

      (more comments in my User Profile)


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