Did you think Kung Fu Panda was an awesome movie?
Have you ever dreamed of practicing Shaolin Kung Fu in China? Have you ever wanted to live in a real Chinese Shaolin Temple?
Then keep on reading!
I did Kung Fu in a Shaolin Temple in China so I am going to share my experiences with you. I will also provide you with some useful tips if you want to go there.
When I was a little kid, I absolutely loved martial arts (I still do by the way). One of my big dreams was to practice Shaolin Kung Fu in China and live in a monastery for a while. When I visited China, I was very determined to find a Shaolin Temple where I could fulfill my big dream and I found one!
Where I went to learn Shaolin Kung Fu
Wu Wei Si Monastery
Yunnan is a province in southern China. In this province there is a little town called Dali. Dali is a beautiful ancient town, surrounded by mountains and a big lake.
Deep in the mountains and ancient forests there is a place where time stood still. This place is called the Wu Wei Si Monastery. Wu Wei Si is a Shaolin Temple where foreigners get the chance to practise the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu.
The place resembles the monastery found in the movie Kung Fu Panda. I absolutely loved that movie because it really breathes the mystical atmosphere that surrounds Kung Fu as does this monastery!
How to get there?
First of all, there is no way to contact the monastery in advance. They don’t have a website, no phone number and no e-mail. It is totally cut off from western society (an aspect I absolutely love about the place). So, the only way to get there is just to go there! The best time to go is on a Friday evening because a full week of training starts on Saturdays.
The place you first want to go to is Dali Old City.
To get there you can take a bus from Kunming (the capital of Yunnan). The bus will drop you in Dali New City (yes, there is a Dali New City and a Dali Old City!). From the new city, it’s a cheap bus ride to the old city. Once you get to Dali Old City, you can pick one of the many guesthouses to stay in. From the guesthouse, you can arrange a taxi to bring you up the mountain to the monastery on a Friday.
Book your transport to Dali below:
Accomodation in Dali
A few options for accomodation in Dali before or after you head to the monastery include:
- Budget: Dali Lao Shay Youth Hostel and Travelling Friend Yizhan Dali Hengsheng Garden Boutique Aparthotel
What does a typical day in the Shaolin Temple look like?
Now you know how to get there, you probably wonder what a typical day looks like. What kind of training do you do? When do you start training? How long do you train?
If you go there, I can tell you that you will find yourself fully submerged with the every day life in the Shaolin Temple.
Here are a few examples:
1. You will eat with the monks
2. You will sleep in the Shaolin Temple
3. You get to pray with monks
4. You have the opportunity to teach English
Every morning at 5am, a bell will ring to wake you up. You have two choices: Wake up and join the monks in their prayers or you sleep until 6am and start training.
The training starts of with a run to a little river. When you get to the river, you have to pick up a rock and carry it back to the monastery. They use the rocks to make a path or something else.
After therun, you eat breakfast with the monks.
You will have to follow their rules though, which are:
– All the food is vegetarian
– You can’t eat until the master (Shifu) starts eating
– You have to eat everything you put in your bowl
– If you drop something on the floor, you have to pick it up and eat it
– You have to pick your bowl up when you put food in it
This gives you the feeling you’re really a part of the Shaolin Temple. It’s an amazing experience to blend in with the monks.
After breakfast, the Shaolin Kung Fu training begins
I spent one week in the temple and during this week they teach you one form of Kung Fu, which is an imaginary fight against multiple opponents. They do strenuous warm up exercises that involve a lot of stretching and acrobatic moves. It’s really fun trying to compete with the little Kung Fu kids!
After the first training session, you have lunch. After lunch, you can have a rest or teach English to the people living in the monastery. In the afternoon, there is another training session, which takes about 2 hours (just like the first one).
After the evening session, you can relax and sit around a little fire in one the rooms of the monastery. Everybody usually goes to bed around 8.30pm to 9 pm to wake up again the next morning at 5am!
What to take?
The living conditions in the Shaolin Temple are really basic. There is no electricity and I didn’t shower for a week. If you go up there, it is sensible to take a few things.
I have made a list:
1. A good pair of sports shoes
2. A comfortable pair of sports pants
3. Clean underwear and socks for a week
4. Some snacks (crisps, chocolate bars etc.)
5. A torch (Very important)
6. An alarm (you will probably wake up from the prayers but, in case you don’t, it’s sensible to bring one. You don’t want to miss training!)
7. Some little presents for the kids who train in the monastery
8. A few good books to read
9. Something to relieve muscle ache (yes, you will get muscle ache!)
10. Warm clothing, if you go in winter (I did)
11. Some educational books about learning English
Why should you do it?
For me, practicing Kung Fu in China was a childhood dream, which came true. I had a wonderful time in the Shaolin Temple. The temple looks like it came straight out of a movie and it is an amazing experience to mix in with the monks.
If you are looking for a real genuine Kung Fu experience in China, I can highly recommend going to the Wu Wei Si Monastery.
They will ask for a small fee (I think it was about 50 dollars for the whole week). That’s almost nothing! And, hey, they also have to buy the food for you and provide you with accommodation.
If you love martial arts, you should visit this temple. I think that even if you don’t like martial arts, you will still have a wonderful experience. The monastery is a retreat from western society. After a week, you feel so relaxed and at peace with yourself.
Tip: We highly recommend to get a good travel insurance as most likely your standard health insurance won’t work abroad. We at Travel Dudes recommend the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed.