Showing off my (9th Zhengzhou International Shaolin Wushu) tournament uniform, with the yellow dragon.
Let’s face it, Kung Fu uniforms = self-important PJs. Plus, mine’s sleeves are too long I hope they don’t get in the way.
And yeah, I’m competing as part of Ta Gou’s “athletic” team in two categories: Shaolinquan and staff. Why? Because Shenjia, my Shifu.
I’m an obedient soldier. I also think I’m half in love with Kung Fu, and half in love with my Shifu.
So yeah, I’m now packing, and off to Zhengzhou at 7 am tomorrow, for registration, medical checks and hotel check-in then I’ll be back to the Shaolin Temple the following morning for this traditional ceremony where competing athletes pay their respect to the abbot, being the head figure of the monastery, the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu and Chinese martial arts. At night, we attend the famed zen ritual music festival. Then we’re off again to Zhengzhou to spend the night and for the official opening ceremony the next day, where a whopping 10,000 students from my school will perform. On the 23rd the actual competition begins, where by that time spectators are entertained and the athletes’ nerves are officially frayed. We come back to Shaolin on the 25th to receive honorary sashes/belts for taking part in the tournament (a sort of participation award) depending on our level/experience of Kung Fu: The Dragon sash for the advanced students (showing superior martial arts skills or having 3+ years of Kung Fu training), Tiger sash for intermediate students (2-3 years of Kung Fu), and the Eagle sash for elementary (6 months - 1 year worth of training). Each sash carries 3 levels, so overall sashes are numbered from Eagle 1 to Dragon 9.
As I write this, the Shaolin Temple is still bustling with energy; everyone is preparing or packing, and the grounds are home to 11 major Kung Fu schools who occupy the training areas all through the morning and afternoon with performances and Kung Fu demonstrations. The place is draped in colors — of uniforms, props and flags.
Naturally, I’m psyched about all this, and feel very lucky to be part of it. And yeah, I’m cool with taking part in this despite my rather limited Kung Fu abilities a) because who knows when I’ll get such an opportunity again? b) This is BIG! c) Unlike seasoned athletes, I can have fun with this and not worry too much about results. In short, the stakes are not high for me. (I had to remind myself I’m an award-winning journalist, mass com expert, and traveller doing a Kung Fu tournament in MY SPARE TIME! Yes, negative thoughts, this is me, so shut up and move on!!).
And really my goals are simple:
1. Do my best with what I learned so far.
2. Not fall on my face, or hit myself with staff while performing.
3. If I do fall on my face, or hit it with staff, I should just get up or go ahead and continue my form.
4. Take the result with a smile whatever it is. And not to forget to greet the judges.
5. Eat at least one large pizza on my last day in Zhengzhou and worship at the temple of Starbucks. Fit as much chocolate muffins in my backpack as I can on the way back to old and poor Shaolin.
6. Wake up for training the next day.
Worst thing about all this: I have to pull my hair up, as per Shifu’s instructions, while performing, and nail polish can lose me points so I had to remove that.
Btw, taking part in the competition I was lured (read: almost forced) into joining coincides with the arrival of a mysterious British Kung Fu fighter named “Tom Liddel” in Shaolin.
Harry Potter anyone? I mean come on!