My Name is Will and I’ve been living in the Far East since 2007, training in martial arts.
Let me start from the beginning. I was a shy, introverted teen lacking ambition or self esteem. A combination of events had me 18 years old, queuing up at the check-in desk for a British Airways flight to Beijing feeling like a fish out of water. I was about to embark on a six month journey across China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Nepal and India. During this time I would go through a series of life-changing events, such as volunteering, living with nomads, staying in Tibetan monasteries, trekking the Himalayas and learning meditation there and of course meeting some amazing martial arts masters.
However the glory was short lived, and pretty soon I was back in England, serving customers at a restaurant listening to my friends excitedly telling me how so-and-so got drunk and smashed the pub window, or so-and-so completed GTA. At this point I realised I could never be satisfied with such a stagnant life, I had had a taste of adventure, had seen what life could be and I wanted more. I worked seven days a week, keeping just my evenings free to train Wing Chun and pretty soon I saved up enough money to return to China, finding a job as an English teacher in Qingdao. This time my goal was clear: I would find a Kung Fu master to train under, however this didn’t prove to be an easy task. I went around the parks, I searched online, and I asked everybody I knew. I wasted a lot of time training with various low level teachers, but I also met some good people although their style wasn’t what I wanted. I began to feel incredibly frustrated, wondering if I’d ever really find a real master. I decided my best bet would be to go to Kunyu Shan, a large full time Kung Fu academy set up specifically for westerners. I was apprehensive as to what it would be like.
Here I was able to do what I always wanted to do; train Kung Fu all day every day in a beautiful setting. I got in the best shape in my life. I became stronger, fitter and healthier all round. I learnt Praying Mantis, Ba Gua, Xingyi, Taiji and Qigong. I had my first taste of full contact sparring. But…. I still felt like something was missing, and after my year was up I realised I was seeking more.
It was at this time that I was blessed to have the chance to meet Master Zhou Zhen Dong, the lineage holder for Taiji Mantis in Yantai and after 3 years of hard training and dedication I was accepted as his inner door disciple. I was made a member of the Yantai Taiji Praying Mantis Committee, which was set up by the Chinese government to preserve traditional martial arts. I also spent this time visiting, interviewing and learning from many senior practitioners, as well as visiting historical sites and villages related to Mantis, to document and research the origins and development of the style. I also took part in several competitions, winning gold medals every time.
After so many pitfalls, I began to finally feel like I was on the right path. I was also very lucky that I had the chance to learn other styles from great masters too, such as the Muslim Kung Fu style of Xinyi Liuhe Quan, and the ancient Korean martial art of Taekkyon. Now, through my writing and my videos, I want to bring my knowledge and experiences to you, in the hope that those who want to undertake a similar journey can avoid many of the pitfalls I did.
You can check out my Youtube Channel, where I have started a travel/martial arts series. I have been featured in both TV and written publications, such as Yantai TV Station, Korean TV and Yantai Evening Press. I also write for several other publications, including China Daily, The Culture Trip and Study Martial Arts. My latest project is a Youtube collaboration with Shaolin practioner Josh Viney, called Jiang Hu. I also teach private Kung Fu lessons in Shanghai, feel free to contact me for more info.
I can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about Kung Fu schools, life in China or anything else!
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