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 surrounded by down-and-outs . 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, and through regular full contact Sanda gained important skills. I learnt Praying Mantis, Ba Gua, Xingyi, Taiji and Qigong. 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 had to start my training right from the beginning and unlearn many previous mistakes. The training with him wasn’t about just form or technique, but about understanding and applying the principles. I also spent this time visiting, interviewing and learning from many senior practitioners, to document and research the origins and development of the style. 8 years after that fateful first meeting, I completed my training and was officially named as an inheritor to the system, being given Master Zhou’s blessings to teach.
I have also very lucky that I had the chance to learn other styles from great masters too, such as the rare Yuen Kay San style Wing Chun, the Muslim Kung Fu style of Xinyi Liuhe Quan, old style Shaolin Kung Fu and the ancient Korean martial art of Taekkyon. I’ve also traveled to the villages around Shaolin Temple to document the old folk styles practiced there, as well as Shanxi to meet the most senior masters of the various families of Xingyi Quan, to Southeast Asia to see how Kung Fu is preserved in the Chinese diaspora, and most recently to Fujian province to track down the origins of both Karate and Wing Chun.
You can check out my Youtube Channel, where I document my experiences. I also write for several other publications, including South China Morning Post, China Daily, The Culture Trip and Study Martial Arts. I also have a Youtube collaboration with Shaolin practioner Josh Viney, called Jiang Hu where we have produced some tutorials. I teach private Kung Fu lessons in Shanghai, feel free to contact me for more info.
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