Monday, May 30, 2011

Where have you gone, my folly of youth?

You know how you feel invincible to injury when you’re young? Well, we are officially no longer young. It’s always been a weird goal of mine to study kung fu in China and when I got Juan on board it seemed nothing could stand in my way. Boy was I wrong.

Nothing could have prepared us (except maybe 5 or so previous years of intense martial arts training) for what awaited us at the Rising Dragon Martial Arts Academy in the Fujian Province of China. Sold by RealGap, a company that organizes gap years and similar programs for all ages, the program (anywhere from one-month to years) was marketed as being for “people of all levels and abilities.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. Within the first two days, we were being asked to do squats with people on our shoulders, run a minimum of 6 miles a day, do knuckle push-ups with our feet on the wall, perform backward somersaults into hand-stands, crawl down stairs on our hands, do headstand flips and more. Seven hours of training on about 3 oz of protein a day and often no running water for showers… It didn’t take long to realize we were in over our heads; every aching muscle and daring stunt further convinced us that we were likely to sustain some sort of injury if we stayed. Oh, how I miss the folly of youth that would have scoffed at my present self’s aversion to risk.

We quickly retreated to the class where everyone else of lower ability was hiding: the internal tai chi class. Unfortunately, performing the same basic movements for 7 hours a day was mind-numbingly boring and we decided to high-tail it out of there. Sadly, I think this means I’m about 10 years too late to become a kung fu master. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll find a more suitable area for self-improvement. Suggestions welcome.

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