Treatment of the month: Shaolin training
An exploration of the self can take any form. Therapy, self-help, abstaining from alcohol or, indeed, anything that makes you feel better mentally, physically or spiritually. Shaolin training does all of this and more and, because it’s a discipline which dates back thousands of years, such an exploration feels irresistibly noble.
I recently spent a morning voraciously learning everything I could from the quietly charismatic Master Shifu Shi Heng Dao, a 35th generation Shaolin disciple, at the Buddhist Temple in Tufnell Park. “You want to be a voice, rather than an echo,” says Master Heng as we sit and sip tea. What he means is he isn’t regurgitating what has gone before; he has his own interpretation on Shaolin teachings, presented as Earth, Fire and Water.
Earth is meditation, and how we begin our post-tea practical session in the Chan Hall which, with its soft mat, screams Karate Kid, even if this part is more sitting still with eyes closed over one-legged crane kicks. We move into Fire and that’s Gong Fu where you think you’re Jackie Chan (but I ended up more like Jackie Collins), using controlled kicks and punches, performed with almost balletic poise as a means of combatting anger.
Finally, it’s Water (Qi Gong), low-impact moves, utilising breathing and movement to bring balance to body and mind, and it can help tackle depression. Master Heng has the grace of a swan and I do all I can to copy the great man, frequently getting my footing badly wrong.
As Master Heng sums up: “With Shaolin, I give you the ways to treat yourself and this becomes you. First, it settles in your mind, when you learn. Then your skin, bone and finally bone marrow. Then it becomes you. It is no longer something I have taught you. It is you.”
Give it a go…
If you’re yearning for a discipline that digs deeper, this is for you
Meeting Master Heng, the fatherly alpha male I’ll never be
Wearing shiny gold trainers. Nothing illustrates a lack of ego quite like golden trainers