Magazine article Newsweek International

Feeling All the Pain

Magazine article Newsweek International

Feeling All the Pain

Article excerpt

Thwack. Thwack. Thwaaack! The mysterious pounding is coming from behind a door at the Shaolin Temple. My two friends and I haven't met Shi Mingwu yet, but when the warrior monk opens the door, I can see that this idea of studying kung fu with a real Shaolin master is more foolhardy than I thought. Mingwu is a mountain of a monk. Flashing an amused smile from behind his thick Fu Manchu beard, he sizes up his new students and extends an arm that looks like a tree trunk protruding from his fighting tunic. More intimidating, though, are his hands: they are so thick and callused, they feel like two-by-fours. The pounding we heard? Mingwu was slamming his hand, front and back, against a pavement stone. It is part of his Iron Hand training, designed solely to build up his resistance to pain.

Shaolin is a factory of pain. Kung fu students here live with constant aches, and I was no exception. It wasn't Shi Mingwu's fault. He went easy on his novice students. At dawn on the first morning, when the temple was magically quiet, he served us tea near the Buddhist altar in his room and gave us beaded prayer bracelets. Then he led us to the peaceful courtyard with a bamboo garden. The first three-hour session was devoted to stretching and kicking exercises, and it became clear that Mingwu was more than just a strongman. Standing on his left leg, he pulled his right leg up past his ear until the sole of his foot was flat against the sky. Then he settled down into the splits. Even with years of tennis and basketball under my belt, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn't even make it halfway, but Mingwu pushed me farther than I had ever gone. Before the first punch was thrown, the pain started to pull on my legs.

More than two dozen other foreigners are training at various schools, and at lunchtime the ragtag group gravitates toward the noodle stalls outside the temple. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.