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Thread: Shaolin's African Disciples

  1. #1
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    Shaolin's African Disciples

    We ran an article on Saatenang in our last Shaolin Special: African Disciple By John Brown
    The warrior prince
    Updated: 2011-11-04 07:59
    By Han Bingbin (China Daily)


    Dominique Saatenang, who studied at Shaolin Temple, aims to spread kungfu culture. Wang Jing / China Daily

    A Cameroonian tribal king's son swaps his royal robe for that of a Chinese kungfu fighter. Han Bingbin talks to Dominique Saatenang.

    Dominique Saatenang's journey spans not only continents but also identities.

    The Cameroonian tribal prince swapped his royal robes for those of a Shaolin Temple monk and traded in the ceremonial spear of an African ruler for the sword of a Taoist martial artist.

    And while he has forsaken his ascension as a king in his homeland, he has risen to become chairman of the French Africa Wushu Association (AFA WUSHU) and Association Kungfu Wushu du Cameroun. His mission, he says, is to train international "ambassadors of kungfu".

    Saatenang left the successful company he had founded in Cameroon to come to Shaolin. While training at a school near the temple, he broke through a security line to shake hands with the abbot, Shi Yongxin.

    The abbot surprised Saatenang when he brought the foreigner to the front of the line, gave him a name card and told him, "Find me again when you have time".

    Saatenang was so excited that he registered at the temple the same day. A month later, he started what Shaolin's liason Wang Yumin describes as four "diligent and painstaking" years of studying martial arts and Buddhism.

    That wasn't the first time the kungfu enthusiast had taken drastic action for his love of martial arts.

    When he was 11, he told his father he would quit school if he couldn't practice kungfu rather than soccer, which he excelled at and his father hoped could offer him a brighter future.

    The boy became determined to master kungfu after watching Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.

    "I'd found what I really needed in life," he says.

    His father told him, "Everybody in China knows kungfu, but they still don't have any money."

    After overcoming his father's objections, Saatenang faced another problem - there weren't any kungfu practitioners, let alone instructors, in Cameroon. His first teacher was actually a taekwondo coach, who had picked up kungfu moves from movies.

    So Saatenang learned vicariously for six years, until he one day chanced upon a Chinese man practicing taichi in a park.

    The Cameroonian couldn't speak any Chinese, but used every gesture he could think of - while shouting "Kungfu! Kungfu!" - to persuade the man to accept him as an apprentice.

    The man smiled and wrote "5:30" on the ground.

    That was the time the two met every morning for the next three years. Because they couldn't speak to each other, the lessons relied on body language.

    Saatenang recalls trying to pay the man, who turned out to be an international volunteer, when the Chinese left Cameroon three years later.

    He would only take a few small coins as souvenirs, Saatenang recalls.

    Saatenang soon after met a Chinese doctor living in Cameroon, who also knew kungfu. They co-founded a martial arts association in Gabon.

    Saatenang began traveling throughout the country to organize kungfu performances and training courses.

    But he felt his dream couldn't be fully realized until he visited Shaolin, the most venerated place to Chinese martial arts, which he had learned about from Jet Li's 1982 film that shares the temple's namesake.

    He made the pilgrimage to Henan province in 2000, at age 25.

    During his stay in China, he returned home twice a year to keep tabs on the company he had founded, which supported his family after his father passed away in 1997.

    He enrolled in a two-year course on contemporary martial arts at Beijing Sports University in 2005, after discovering traditionally trained fighters encountered difficulties entering international contests.

    Saatenang started snapping up international competition awards, including the 2006 Hong Kong International Wushu Festival's top sword play prize.

    He then moved to France and founded AFA WUSHU.

    His organizations have more than 3,000 members and disciples. Saatenang is cooperating with the governments of five African countries to send two university students from each country to study at Shaolin Temple for free for five years.

    The students will be trained in kungfu and sports medicine in the longest lasting and most comprehensive program the temple has offered for foreigners, Wang Yumin says. Foreign students previously stayed three weeks to one year, at most.

    Six students have already arrived from Cameroon, Gabon and Rwanda.

    Saatenang says he evaluates candidates on their motivations rather than their physical abilities. He hopes they will promote the Chinese martial art in their homelands, he says.

    "If Chinese come to Africa to teach people kungfu, Africans might mistake their actions for cultural propaganda," he says.

    "But it's easier for local people to accept an African teaching them."

    To this end, he hopes to appear in a martial arts movie and has already finished acting classes at the Laboratoire de L'acteur in Paris.

    "I just want to let people know it's not just Chinese people who can make kungfu movies," he says.

    "Foreigners who study it can also do it."
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    BTW, Yan Fei doesn't know Gajanand Rajput (above) at all

    "Neville trained for some time at a Shaolin temple in Shandong province..."
    Kung Fu: A philosophy in motion
    April 11, 2012 | ONLINE ONLY

    Neville Abbott is an unassuming man. He quietly contradicts the loud, brash stereotype of a South African. You would never guess he could kill a man with one punch.

    But Neville is in fact the Master of a new Kung Fu school in York. Over a few pints of lager, he tells me about his journey through martial arts that has brought him from Apartheid South Africa, through a Chinese Shaolin Temple, to the founding of his Wing Chun Academy.

    I begin by asking him about his awareness of apartheid as a white South African child.

    “It’s not something I really realised at the time. It was all the propaganda. I can look back now and say, ‘Yes it was a completely fascist regime’, but actually the propaganda told us that we were a democracy and a free country. And I couldn’t quite understand why the rest of the world hated us. I couldn’t understand the difference between us and America.”

    But you must have been very young?

    “We’re talking pre-teens. Apartheid ended when I was 13, 14.”

    Was it simply a case of not seeing black people in your social spheres?

    “Yes, not at all. Not even remotely. The only black people you saw were your maid and your gardener – and everybody had a maid and a gardener, which is also something that’s quite odd in this country. We didn’t have a gardener, which was probably the definition of lower middle class – to only have one domestic servant! She would pick us up from school and look after us – it was cheaper than childcare, because both my parents worked.”

    Neville’s au pair was a prominent figure in the most formative part of his childhood.

    “I got on very well with her. I thought the absolute world of her – and it’s just that kind of dichotomy. This is part of how you were conditioned from a young age. You wouldn’t call a gardener, a gardener; you’d call him a ‘garden boy’ – even though he might be in his 50s. Your maid was never ‘maid’; it was ‘the girl’. And you were encouraged to call black people boys and girls, because we were told that they were inferior. That their intellect was that of a child.”

    People weren’t just going to hire black people, so you had to stipulate it in law. But unfortunately it meant that people like me couldn’t get jobs.

    He sighs, with a sadness that feels like more than just personal guilt. Perhaps it is representative of a broadly felt empathy and regret for his nation’s history.

    “That was normal, and I remember calling the maid the girl. I just knew no better at the time.”

    When did that change?

    “I became politically aware at a young age – before the fall of Apartheid. I was around 9 or 10. I kind of woke up and thought ‘Hang on this isn’t right, how we treat black people’. I remember getting into arguments with adults at that age, because there was an election around that point as well. It would have been the last or second last apartheid election, where black people weren’t allowed the vote. And I remember trying to argue with adults who were voting for the NP [National Party], which was the ruling party, and had been the ruling party since 1948, who instigated the whole regime. The main opposition was the DP, the Democratic Party, which was fighting for black rights. But they were still a minority. There was just no comparison. There was one ruling party and it was always going to be that way.”

    But these issues did not just disappear after the fall of Apartheid. Life was not easy; people of all races suffered. It is perhaps surprising how frank Neville is about race, and its role in both Apartheid and post-Apartheid society.

    “There’s a list: under Apartheid you had to hire white Afrikaans men, white English men, white Afrikaans women, white English women…

    It was that specific?

    “Oh yes, there was a whole hierarchy; and then below that it went through all the other racial groups. Chinese, Indians, Coloureds – who were a separate racial group to black people. Then down to black women right at the bottom. Now, apart from the masculine/feminine side, that list is pretty much exactly the opposite [as a result of affirmative action policy]. I do see the benefit of that. Racism was still rife; people weren’t just going to hire black people and so you had to stipulate it in law. But unfortunately it meant that people like me couldn’t get jobs. When I left, unemployment was around 30 per cent – and that was during the good times. And the only way you could go to university is if you were rich, which my parents weren’t, or if you get a bursary – which you wouldn’t if you weren’t disabled or black. I would have been able to go to university during apartheid. It was a lot cheaper. Everything was a lot cheaper. But it was all funded off slave labour – I wouldn’t have been happy with that.”

    I ask him about the role martial arts played in this part of his life.

    “I started my first Karate class at the age of seven. I’ve done martial arts ever since. So that’s twenty-six years now. I grew up on Kung Fu films, Bruce Lee films and all the rest of it. I did Karate, Aikido for a while, a bit of T’aijitsu, Jujitsu, Tai Chi and Muay Thai. I enjoyed them all but none of them ever clicked. I started my first Kung Fu class at the age of 18, and it clicked straight away. It just felt right, and I’ve been in love with Kung Fu and China ever since.”

    And you can see his passion for the art. His animated expression and engaging enthusiasm shines through, as he describes its history. Like Neville himself, Wing Chun was born in an era of conflict, in the revolutionary war against the Ch’ing dynasty.

    “Wing Chun is quite unique. Most styles of Kung Fu developed organically, over time. Wing Chun was designed. The Shaolin temple, because it is a Buddhist temple, was off limits to the government. It wouldn’t invade the temple, because it would be seen as bad luck. The Shaolin temples had been teaching Kung Fu for about 2000 years, so [the revolutionaries] could hide there and have a steady supply of soldiers who would fight for the revolution.

    Armed combat: a Shaolin training hall

    “Most styles would take 20 years, to learn it all, and a lifetime to master. But they were trying to train a revolutionary army, so they didn’t have 20 years. The top masters got together to make a system that they could teach, that would be the most effective way of fighting, that you could learn in the shortest possible time. And from that comes Wing Chun. You can learn it in four years, training part time. Four years to get your black belt. Studying it full time you could learn the system – not master it – learn it, and be able to use it to a black belt level in a little over a year.”

    Neville trained for some time at a Shaolin temple in Shandong province, and he recalls a story of the one true master of Kung Fu he met there.

    “Master Wong started at the Shaolin temple at the age of three. His parents dumped him at the door. Its traditional in Kung Fu if you have your own school to set up an open challenge policy, the theory being that if you’re good enough to teach, you should be good enough to take on any challenger. This Russian cage fighter challenged the head master. He insisted and insisted and eventually the head master agreed. But he said ‘you’re only in your twenties, so it’s not really a fair fight, because I’ve been doing it so much longer than you. So what I’ll do is I won’t use my hands’.

    “You start off at opposite sides of the ring. Master Wong stood there with his hands behind his back, and this Russian guy charged him. You didn’t even see master Wong’s foot move. One moment he was stood there with both feet on the ground, the next moment his foot’s in the air, at roughly where the Russian’s head was, and the Russian’s on his back. Fight over.”
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  3. #3
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    More Africans

    There's 9 photos if you follow the link.
    African apprentices practise kungfu at Shaolin Temple
    (Xinhua) 08:44, September 06, 2012


    African apprentice Christ practises kungfu at the Shaolin Temple on the Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng City, central China's Henan Province, Sept. 4, 2012. Ten apprentices from Africa have practised kungfu and learned Shaolin culture at the Shaolin Temple since last November. The temple provides them with a five-year training program and accommodation free of charge. (Xinhua/Li Bo)


    Master Yanxiu (5th R) and his African apprentices pose for a group photo at the Shaolin Temple on the Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng City, central China's Henan Province, Sept. 4, 2012. Ten apprentices from Africa have practised kungfu and learned Shaolin culture at the Shaolin Temple since last November. The temple provides them with a five-year training program and accommodation free of charge. (Xinhua/Li Bo)
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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    Luc Bendza

    We ran an article on Luc in our Shaolin Special 2012: Shaolin Dreamer with a Big Sword By Greg Lynch Jr.
    Shaolin warrior shines
    Global Times | 2013-5-2 19:38:01
    By Zhang Wen

    Luc Bendza Photo: Courtesy of Luc Bendza

    For a lethal martial artist commonly portrayed as a villain, kung fu grand master-turned-actor Luc Bendza has a disarming smile that belies his intimidating on-screen persona. Since coming to China more than 30 years ago, Bendza has built a reputation he modestly shrugs off as the "African Bruce Lee."

    A member of the International Martial Arts Association, the 44-year-old from Gabon is a pioneer among African entertainers in China.

    "Most [foreigners] who practice kung fu come and go. They learn it or take part in competitions, but no one has stayed for years like me," he explains. "Most expat roles in TV and movies go to Caucasians. There are few black roles, which is a shame."

    Married to a Chinese wife with a young son, Bendza has starred in dozens of films and TV drama series alongside superstars such as Jackie Chan. Showing some of his work to Metropolitan on a portable DVD player over coffee, his pride in his craft - and roles - is obvious.

    "This is The Legend of Bruce Lee," he says in polished Putonghua, referring to a 50-episode series aired on China Central Television based on the namesake Hong Kong martial arts icon. "I play Jesse Glover, an American student of Lee's who later becomes his first disciple. Through this series, I learned my childhood idol was not only a kung fu master but also a warm, helpful person."

    He says he learned Chinese because he wanted to know the culture behind the superficial martial arts gestures.

    "When I came to China, I was a teenage filled with love for martial arts who had a simple wish to learn it well. When you need to learn martial arts on a deeper level, you have to learn the language, the technical terms and the culture surrounding it," he says.

    Typecast as the villain

    Bendza's martial arts prowess and African heritage ensure he regularly attracts attention from wuxia filmmakers, even if he is often cast as a villain.

    "Maybe some directors think African actors are suited to certain roles, but I don't mind. When Jackie Chan and other Chinese film stars made their break in Hollywood, they also played bad guys," he says.

    Bendza found the showbiz spotlight when he was scouted 20 years ago by a film director at a martial arts competition in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.

    "I was crowned champion at that competition, and the director saw potential in me as an actor. I was recommended to his other friends in the industry, so I started to get roles in movies and TV series," he recalls, adding nowadays he lands roughly three TV or film roles annually.

    "Unlike martial arts, acting is more about coordination with other people. You have to make sure that scenes are beautiful to watch and you don't hurt your fellow actors."

    Bendza's most recent role was as a pirate in 2012 blockbuster Chinese Zodiac. Despite the film being panned by critics, he relished the chance to star alongside Chan."I really appreciated the opportunity to act in the same movie as my idol. I admire his professional dedication," he says.

    Journey to the East

    Bendza's parents, both former cabinet ministers in Gabon, had high hopes on their son, one of 10 children in the family, would follow in their footsteps and enter politics. But instead he became mesmerized by kung fu after watching classic Bruce Lee films.

    "I watched The Way of The Dragon (1972) at the cinema and was amazed at how a single guy could beat all the villains. I would go to the cinema as long as there were movies [starring Lee]. I watched all his movies," he recalls.

    When he first expressed interest in going to China to learn kung fu, his family were reluctant.

    "Practicing martial arts in their eyes was fooling around," he says. "But it's more painstaking than what you see in the movies; it requires strict discipline. The process is boring and you have to take it step by step to master moves and know yourself."

    Despite his parents' opposition, Bendza continued mimicking his hero by accompanying wild punches and kicks with high-pitched shouts.

    Eventually, they agreed he could go to China after feeling more comfortable about the idea due to Bendza's uncle being Gabon's then-ambassador to the country.

    He first went to kung fu's spiritual home, the Shaolin Temple, before learning martial arts at Beijing Sport University. Over the next 20 years, he gradually ascended to the rank of seventh duan, the third-highest level overall, and became a grand master.

    "I used to carry two buckets of water with my arms parallel to the ground and bend my legs all the way back for 45 minutes daily. After all the pain, none of the challenges in life pose a problem to me," he says.

    Kung fu ambassador

    Having spent his entire adult life in China, Bendza describes the Middle Kingdom as his "second motherland."

    "I practically grew up here. I don't think I will ever leave China," he says.

    While his kung fu training ensures he can defend himself from any physical attacks, he finds it harder to fend off racism in daily life.

    "It's very hard to get a taxi. A female taxi driver once told me that her boss had instructed her not to accept black passengers," he sighs.

    Many of the negative stereotypes of Africans in China are rooted in ignorance, he adds.

    "When talking about Africa, [Chinese] always think about war, famine and AIDS. But we also have cultural diversity and good business opportunities," he insists.

    "I want to organize a Gabonese national martial arts team. It can serve as the bridge between Gabon, as well as Africa, and China."
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Boy? Really?

    More on Bendza

    An African boy fulfils his Kung fu dream in China
    (China Daily)
    14:21, July 16, 2013


    A young African boy came to China to look for the flying heroes he had seen in kung fu movies. He did not learn to fly, but other lessons had made him a hero in his own homeland, and an ambassador in China, where he has stayed for the last 30 years. He Na finds out the details.

    Children often have big dreams, to stand in the limelight in front of the cameras, the football field, or even in politics, but perhaps Luc Bendza had the grandest dream of them all. He wanted to fly.

    It was a special kind of flight he dreamt about - to be able to float through the air like all those heroes he saw in Chinese kung fu movies.

    While flight has proven impossible, the 43-year-old from Gabon's fascination with Chinese kung fu did lead him to great things. He has won several international martial arts awards, he speaks fluent Mandarin, and he has appeared in several movies and made numerous appearances on Chinese television.

    In addition to his acting, Bendza now works as a cultural consultant at the China-Africa International Cultural Exchange and Trade Promotion Association in Beijing.

    Kung fu movies were popular in Gabon in the 1980s and Bendza was a huge fan.

    "I really admired those people in the movies who could fly. They were able to fight for justice and help the poor. I wanted to be just like them, but when I told my mother I wanted to go to China and learn to fly she thought I was crazy," he recalls.

    Bendza began by studying Chinese with the help of Wang Yuquan, a translator working with a Chinese medical team in Gabon. Sometimes he skipped school to study with Wang, and also called him in the evenings to talk about China.



    Luc Bendza practices the Chinese martial arts with a sword. (China Daily)

    "When my mother heard me speaking Chinese on the phone she was surprised," he says.

    "She even took me to see a psychiatrist. But I told her that I had made my decision no matter whether she agreed or not."

    Then Bendza opened a video rental store without telling his parents and saved $1,000 to help fund his move.

    "In the 1980s, $1,000 was really a lot of money. When I presented the money to my parents I could see the surprise on their faces," he says. "After they had confirmed the money wasn't stolen they both sighed with relief."

    But they were still not convinced. What finally swayed them was a phone call from Wang.

    "I begged Wang to make the call," says Bendza. "Wang told my parents how serious I was and asked them to give me a chance."

    Bendza's parents were both government officials and had hoped he would follow in their footsteps. However, they accepted his plans, while also betting with their son that he would soon return.

    It was 1983 when Bendza moved to China, at just 14 years old. There were no direct flights so he was forced to travel through several countries on a long arduous journey.

    "It was a really long and complicated journey for a child, but luckily I wasn't abducted by traffickers," he says.

    Bendza's uncle worked at the Gabon embassy in Beijing and picked him up at the airport.

    "He was puzzled that I kept looking left and right, my eyes searching for something," says Bendza. "I was looking for people who could fly."

    His uncle laughed when he said this and explained that it was movie technicians who made people fly.


    Bendza shows up in a TV series in traditional Chinese costume. (China Daily)

    "I kept saying no and begged him to find the flying people for me. So he took me to Beijing Film Studio where I saw actors flying, hauled into the air on ropes," he says.

    He was disappointed and after just two months in Beijing, decided to go to Shaolin Temple in Henan.

    "There were few foreigners in China in the 1980s, especially black people from African countries. Wherever I went people pointed fingers at me like I was from another planet, but I wasn't annoyed because they were all very friendly," he says.

    "The people at Shaolin Temple were really amazing. Although they couldn't fly like in the movies, still their martial arts made a deep impression on me. I told myself I had gone to the right place."

    Bendza's Mandarin still wasn't good, so after less than a year he left the temple and returned to Beijing where he studied Mandarin at university for a year.

    After that he enrolled at the Beijing Sport University studying traditional Chinese martial arts.

    "I stayed at the university for more than 10 years and finished both bachelor and postgraduate studies," he says.

    "I really need to thank those teachers who not only taught me Chinese martial arts history and other subjects, but also helped me build a solid foundation for being a real martial artist."

    Bendza's natural aptitude for martial arts, and hard training saw him progress rapidly and won him recognition from many martial art masters.

    "The teacher would put a nail with the sharp end up under your bum when you were practicing a stance so if you lowered yourself too far the nail would hurt you," Bendza recalls.

    The tough training paid off though as Bendza won awards in China and abroad.

    He also attracted the eye of directors and he went on to play roles in both movies and television series.



    He did not tell his mother about these successes, and she only found out when she read about him winning an international martial arts competition in France.

    Bendza began to gain recognition for his achievements in Gabon, but the media there were initially unkind. One newspaper ran a front-page cartoon of him standing with two suitcases, a foot in China and a foot in Gabon, but with his head turned toward China. The insinuation was that he had turned his back on his homeland.

    "The media used the cartoon to show their dissatisfaction," he says. "When I returned to Gabon my mother told me I had to do something to change this bias against me. She took it very seriously."

    Bendza organized a free martial arts show as a way of changing opinions and media coverage become more positive.

    "When I left, my parents saw me off at the airport and told me they thought I was great. When they said that and my mother hugged me, I cried like a baby. That was the first time in 10 years I had won recognition from my mother," he says.

    Martial arts changed his life and he has hopes to promote it across Africa. But his work has also moved away from purely performing toward promoting cultural exchanges.

    As a member of International Martial Arts Association, he organizes Chinese martial arts teams to perform and teach in Africa.

    Bendza has been in China for 30 years and witnessed the country's reform and opening up process. He married his Chinese wife in 2007 and they have a 16-month-old son.

    "I have become used to life in China and enjoy being here with my family very much," he says.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Free room and board for 5 years

    African students learn Chinese culture while living at Shaolin Temple
    Updated: 2013-07-22 08:17
    By Xinhua in Zhengzhou ( China Daily)



    African students learn Chinese culture while living at Shaolin Temple

    Clenching fists, flying kicks, snapping punches - Shaolin kung fu made a big impression on the children in Mabre N'guessan Valerie's village in Cote d'Ivoire when he was young.

    "The Shaolin Temple is very famous in my country. I fell in love with Shaolin kung fu when I was 10 years old when I first watched The 36th Chamber of Shaolin," said Valerie, 23, referring to the classic 1978 kung fu movie starring Gordon Liu.

    However, the dreams of the children in his hometown mostly faltered in poverty. With neither education nor training, many young people struggled to survive.

    "I'm a lucky dog," said Valerie, who entered the Shaolin Temple as a Shaolin charity education program student in February 2012.

    Wang Yumin, dean of the Shaolin Temple's Foreign Affairs Office, said that nine students from African countries, including Gabon, Cameroon, Uganda and Cote d'Ivoire, have been admitted with free room and board for a five-year course in Shaolin culture.

    Valerie struggled to adapt to Shaolin life at first. "We were not used to the food here, and the language is difficult," he said with a slight French accent.

    But 18 months later, he gets along well with his Chinese peers and speaks decent Chinese.

    An ordinary day is simple but meaningful, said his compatriot, Yahou Hugues Michael, 29.

    They rise at 5:30 am, half an hour before kung fu practice, and by 7 am, they are having breakfast. At 8:30 am, the second morning session starts.

    Chinese classes are compulsory from 10:30 am until midday.

    After the third training session, in the afternoon, the students are exhausted.

    "It's extremely tiring but I am used to it," said Valerie, who added he is physically stronger than when he started.

    Wang, the dean, said the temple does not force its beliefs on the African students.

    "Though we provide free accommodation and training, and even robes, shoes, socks and other basics for needy African students, we don't force them to cultivate themselves according to a strict religious doctrine," said.

    However, Valerie and his friends attend morning prayers, which he said are "pleasant to hear and can quiet our hearts".

    Emmanuel Ngalle, 26, from Cameroon, has taken longer to learn Chinese than Valerie has, but Ngalle likes meditating and is interested in Chinese art. In his spare time, he listens to Chinese pop songs and can now sing two Chinese hit songs.

    Emmanuel's next goal is to learn Henan opera. "We have a cook where we live, and he likes Henan opera, so he tunes into the same channel on the radio every day," he said.

    After 19 months in the Shaolin Temple, Emmanuel is still getting used to Chinese food.

    Wang said: "Each student is different in personality. Some convert to Buddhism when they come here. Others focus more on kung fu."

    They also pick up other aspects of Chinese culture as they continue their studies.

    Michael wants to study Shaolin medicine, but "my language is not good enough. Once it is good, I'll learn medicine and tuina massage."

    Despite their uniform gray robes and cotton shoes, they have different dreams for the future.

    "I want to go home to find a kung fu school and teach kung fu to local children who cannot afford to study in China," Valerie said.

    "Maybe I'll start a school with different courses, not just kung fu, but Chinese language and culture," said Emmanuel.

    (China Daily 07/22/2013 page7
    Quote Originally Posted by ShaolinDan View Post
    When I stopped by a stand selling the stuff they sell there to ask directions to Damo's cave (got confused because it's labeled as 'Dharma Cave'), two of the monks operating the stand said (in Chinese of course), "Hey, you're the guy from Kunming who trained at Guandu Shaolin Temple and wrote the article on Shi Yanbei!" I did a major double-take and lo and behold, these two guys I just happened to ask directions from were monks who had been stationed at the Guandu Shaolin Temple while I was there.
    Nice! Good place to plug the article.
    Gene Ching
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    There's 9 photos if you follow the link.
    African apprentices practise kungfu at Shaolin Temple
    http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90782/7938426.html
    Just got back from a three day training stint at Shaolin Temple and some of these guys were staying at the new Disciple's Home with me. Really nice friendly guys. Been there for about a year and a half now and their kung fu's improved a lot since those pictures were taken--their Chinese is really good now too. They seem to have been enjoying their time there a lot.

    The trip to Shaolin was fun, I'm glad I decided to take a few days to train, not just visit as a tourist. The Disciple's Home is a pretty good set up, plenty of training space, a punching bag, weights and stone locks, and a nice friendly crowd of people. Sunday is their day off, and last night a bunch of us went out drinking and dancing in Dengfeng. Gates close at the Disciple's Home at 10pm, but there's an easy way to sneak in down an alley and over the roof. Good times.

  8. #8
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    More on the African disciples...

    Maybe the African disciples need their own thread now. They have their own program.


    African Disciples Learn Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple

    2013-09-27 16:43:30 CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Wang Wei



    Foreign disciples practice kung fu at Shaolin Temple, located in Mount Songshan of Zhengzhou, central China's Henan province. The Ministry of Culture launched a "Shaolin Kung Fu Training Class for African Disciples" on Sept. 25, 2013. Twenty disciples from five African countries started a three-month training session at the temple. [Photo: CFP]


    The Ministry of Culture launched a "Shaolin Kung Fu Training Class for African Disciples" on Sept. 25, 2013. Twenty disciples from five African countries started a three-month training session at the temple. [Photo: CFP]
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  9. #9
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    Even more on Africa

    I'm getting tempted to peel these African disciple posts off into their own thread.

    Disciples learn peace
    Updated: 2013-10-25 12:59
    By Qi Xin and Han Bingbin ( China Daily Africa)

    Cultural exchange course offers young Africans tough but rewarding expereince at famous Shaolin Temple

    At 4 am in a hotel in Dengfeng, Henan province, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman, Peace Emezue, wakes to the cries of "jihe"! (assemble). Half an hour later, still sleepy, she shows up in the lobby to join 19 other young Africans, all dressed in gray robes and canvas shoes.

    They walk in two lines for 15 minutes to a temple. This is the routine six days a week while living the life of a Shaolin monk. Founded in the fifth century, the monastery is long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts and particularly with Shaolin kung fu.

    The morning classes start with these "disciples" closely following the monks' moves and listening to them chanting, a chance to observe and hopefully experience for themselves a state of tranquility.

    Like her name, Peace says she has sensed the spiritual moment several times.

    "When I came to Shaolin, I was surprised because the life here is peaceful and simple," she says. "But it is also quite tough - the morning exercises, the hard training. We do it every day except Sundays. It is a lifestyle I am not used to, but I am getting used to it now."

    To strengthen cultural exchanges between China and Africa, the Ministry of Culture launched "Shaolin Kung Fu Training Class for African Disciples" last month, enrolling 20 students from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria. The course lasts three months.

    Peace is one of only three women in the group. The other two are Chinese-Africans from Mauritius. As a karate champion, Peace was chosen by her local government for the program to encourage women in Nigeria to take up martial arts, especially kung fu.

    "Women also love kung fu and Chinese culture, and I will return and teach my ladies how to meditate and do the moves of kung fu and qigong (breathing exercise)," she says.

    "Since I came here, the training has really made me strong, especially my legs, because we do a lot of running and mountain climbing."

    Wang Yumin, dean of the Shaolin Temple's foreign affairs office, says many foreigners are attracted to Shaolin because of its reputation for kung fu and its use in Buddhism.

    Shi Yanbo, a kung fu master at the temple, says many of the disciples had experience of other martial arts or had learned moves from watching films, but simulating them was not enough. Kung fu is deeply rooted in the culture, he says.



    So students also have to learn meditation and study Buddhist doctrines that guide people's actions. To help them gain greater understanding of Chinese kung fu, the students are also offered Chinese language courses.

    Zhang Lifei, the group's Mandarin teacher, says because the 20 African disciples do not speak the same African language, they are divided into two groups, each containing someone who can speak English and can help the others.

    "I can speak a little French," Peace says. "By paraphrasing, I help them able to understand what the teacher is saying."

    When the morning culture and language class is over, the students join the monks for a typical temple lunch that begins with a ritual.

    One of the monks walks out of the dining hall with a bowl of rice. After gently tapping on a wooden fish, he places a ball of rice on a stone as a tribute to all beings, while the monks and students chant from scriptures and clap their hands until tapping of the wooden fish again signals the start of the meal.

    Then they all eat in silence.

    "Life in Shaolin Temple is unimaginably lovely and peaceful. It's not like the real world where there is so much hustle," Peace says.

    "I have found a lot of peace of mind here and to be at peace with myself. I would like to teach more people how to do that."

    Contact the writers at qixin@chinadaily.com.cn and hanbingbin@chinadaily.com.cn


    A ritual before eating at Shaolin Temple. Photos by Xiang Mingchao / China Daily


    Ng'usila Manlidi Shabani, from Tanzania, practices kung fu at the temple.


    Students do warm-up exercises before kung fu classes.


    Students study Chinese at the temple.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  10. #10
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    It's own thread

    I culled the African posts off the Journeys thread to address the emerging movement of African students and disciples studying at Shaolin Temple.

    Path to inner peace
    By Qi Xin in Kaifeng and Han Bingbin in Beijing (China Daily) 08:29, October 29, 2013


    African students join the monks for the lunch at Shaolin Temple that begins with a ritual before eating. Photos by Xiang Mingchao / China Daily

    A cultural exchange course offers young Africans a tough but rewarding experience at the famous Shaolin Temple.

    At 4 am in a hotel in Dengfeng, Henan province, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman, Peace Emezue, wakes to the cries of "jihe"! ("assemble"). Half an hour later, still sleepy, she shows up in the lobby to join 19 other young Africans, all dressed in gray robes and canvas shoes.

    They walk in two lines for 15 minutes to the Shaolin Temple. This is the routine six days a week while living the life of a Shaolin monk. Founded in the fifth century, the monastery is long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts and particularly with Shaolin kung fu.

    The morning classes start with these "disciples" closely following the monks' moves and listening to them chanting, a chance to observe and hopefully experience for themselves a state of tranquility.

    Like her name, Peace Emezue says she has sensed the spiritual moment several times.

    "When I came to Shaolin, I was surprised because the life here is peaceful and simple," she says. "But it is also quite tough — the morning exercises, the hard training. We do it every day except Sundays. It is a lifestyle I am not used to, but I am getting used to it now."

    To strengthen cultural exchanges between China and Africa, the Ministry of Culture launched the "Shaolin Kung Fu Training Class for African Disciples" last month, enrolling 20 students from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria. The course lasts three months.

    Emezue is one of only three women in the group. The other two are Chinese-Africans from Mauritius. As a karate champion, Emezue was chosen by her local government for the program to encourage women in Nigeria to take up martial arts, especially kung fu.

    "Women also love kung fu and Chinese culture, and I will return and teach my ladies how to meditate and do the moves of kung fu and qigong (breathing exercise)," she says. "Since I came here, the training has really made me strong, especially my legs, because we do a lot of running and mountain climbing."

    Wang Yumin, dean of the Shaolin Temple's foreign affairs office, says many foreigners are attracted to Shaolin because of its reputation for kung fu and its use in Buddhism.

    Shi Yanbo, a kung fu master at the temple, says many of the disciples had experience in other martial arts or had learned moves from watching films, but simulating them was not enough. Kung fu is deeply rooted in the culture, he says.

    So students also have to learn meditation and study Buddhist doctrines that guide people's actions. To help them gain greater understanding of Chinese kung fu, the students are also offered Chinese language courses.


    Peace Emezue (left) and her fellow African students warm up before attending their kung fu class at the temple.

    Zhang Lifei, the group's Mandarin teacher, says because the 20 African disciples do not speak the same African language, they are divided into two groups, each containing someone who can speak English and can help the others.

    "I can speak a little French," Emezue says. "By paraphrasing, I help them to understand what the teacher is saying."

    When the morning culture and language class is over, the students join the monks for a typical temple lunch that begins with a ritual.

    One of the monks walks out of the dining hall with a bowl of rice. After gently tapping on a wooden fish, he places a ball of rice on a stone as a tribute to all beings, while the monks and students chant from scriptures and clap their hands until tapping of the wooden fish again signals the start of the meal.

    Then they all eat in silence.

    "Life in the Shaolin Temple is unimaginably lovely and peaceful. It's not like the real world where there is so much hustle," Emezue says.

    "I have found a lot of peace of mind here and to be at peace with myself. I would like to teach more people how to do that."


    Tende Uswege Mwaseba, 25, from Tanzania, practices kung fu with his classmates.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  11. #11
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    Slightly OT

    Did the Abbot and Mandela ever meet?

    Shaolin abbot praises Mandela's life and legacy
    Xinhua | 2013-12-6 22:29:12
    By Agencies

    The abbot of a famous Buddhist temple in China said Nelson Mandela left a precious spiritual legacy to mankind, inspiring the world with his Buddhist-like spirit.

    Shi Yongxin, monastery head of the Shaolin Temple, on Friday expressed his respect to the former South African President, who passed away on Thursday night at the age of 95.

    "Mandela impressed me as a very benevolent elder," said Shi, as he recalled their meeting in South Africa in 2008, in which Mandela praised the temple's principles and encouraged cultural exchanges.

    "He spent all his life pursuing racial equality, which chimes with the Buddhist spirit of extending love and mercy to all beings," Shi told Xinhua during a telephone interview.

    Mandela was best known for leading an arduous yet triumphant campaign against apartheid rule in South Africa, and Shi said his commitment to the just and humane cause would live on.

    Shi also drew similarities between Mandela and Buddhism, which emphasizes spiritual achievement. "Buddhism gives people confidence, hope and joy. Likewise, Mandela embodies the power of forgiveness, which encourages equality and mutual understanding and beams hope for peace-loving people."

    On Friday, Chinese leaders and the public expressed grief over the passing of Mandela, who was an "old friend of China" and an active champion of bilateral friendship and cooperation.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    Did the Abbot and Mandela ever meet?
    Yes.

    http://www.shaolin.org.cn/templates/...contentid=2273

  13. #13

  14. #14
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    More Africans (and an Austrian)

    There's a vid if you follow the link
    The China Factor: Shaolin Kung Fu draws people from around the world
    02-04-2014 12:46 BJT Special Report: The China Factor |

    By CCTV reporter Xia Ruixue
    What the world considers a uniquely Chinese discipline - Kung Fu. Shaolin Temple is a veritable mecca for Kung Fu lovers. Made famous around the world in countless martial arts movies, each year it attracts many martial arts enthusiasts keen on studying the discipline.
    Dressed in a gray robe and canvas shoes, 24-year-old Ishimwe Fidele from Nigeria starts his afternoon class at 2pm, practicing the famous Chinese Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple.
    It’s been the same routine in China for Ishimwe and seven other African disciples six days a week for the past two years.
    Ishimwe Irene Fidele, African disciple, said, “We have been learning a lot of things, both performance and tradition.”
    Shi Yanxiu, Kung Fu master of Shaolin Temple, said, “They live the life of a Shaolin monk and the Chinese language is not a big obstacle. They learn meditation and study Buddhist doctrines as well. It’s definitely a tough but rewarding experience for them. ”
    The Shaolin Temple might conjure up images of a quiet and peaceful monastery on a serene mountain where dozens of monk practice Kung Fu.
    But nowadays the temple is a crowded tourist attraction where people come to worship and reflect. Here in Dengfeng, where the temple is located, there are more than a hundred Kung Fu schools. 60,000 martial arts enthusiasts aged from five to 40 come to hone their fighting skills and achieve their Kung Fu dream.
    Thanks to Bruce Li and Jacky Chan’s movies, but there’s nothing romantic about the pain during the training."
    This is the fourth year 23-year-old Franz Burger from Austria has practiced Kung Fu in a school near Shaolin Temple.
    Franz was inspired as a boy by the monks’ amazing physical feats in the Kung Fu movies. His biggest dream is to become a grand Kung Fu master and open a martial arts school himself.
    But he’s found the training tough since he came here and his body is covered with scars.
    Franz Burger, Kung Fu enthusiast, said, "The people from Shaolin and people who train Kung Fu. They have such a strength inside and really powerful mentality. So this is what I want to learn and this is what inspired me. "
    For centuries Shaolin Temple has represented justice, uprightness, sympathy and love... the roots of ancient Kung Fu. This spirit runs deep in the hallowed monastery.
    There are a thousand understandings of Kung Fu in a thousand people’s eyes. But for most admirers, it stands for moral and physical strength.
    No pain, no gain. All the hard work will go into the dazzling moves and finally help achieve what the master calls a spiritual fulfillment.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  15. #15
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    Yet another

    The African disciples sure get a lot of press...
    UPDATED: February 13, 2014 NO. 5 JANUARY 30, 2014
    Kungfu Dream
    Africans are trained at the martial art's birthplace

    By Zheng Yang


    SHAOLIN STYLE: An African student performs a kungfu form as Chinese and African pupils look on at the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan Province (CFP)

    When a gray day dawned upon the sleeping Dengfeng City in Henan Province, a group of people were already well awake. After a short walk along the stone path, they soon gathered at an old temple. They pressed their palms together and bowed to their master, a Chinese monk in a yellow robe, who returned the courtesy.

    The day's exercise began.

    Among the early morning mist, the picturesque scene was like something out of a Chinese kungfu movie, except for the fact that all of the students were Africans.

    The 20 students, from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria, came to central China in September 2013. Over three months that followed, they were trained at the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Shaolin kungfu.

    "With all this, my life will never remain the same," Ogwang Mark, a Ugandan, said about his Shaolin experience.

    Work hard

    The program Shaolin Kungfu Training Class for African Disciples was launched by the Chinese Ministry of Culture as part of the government's plan to further promote cultural exchange between China and Africa. The 20 "disciples" were selected from among the most outstanding martial arts practitioners in African countries, but the life in the Shaolin Temple was still an enormous challenge for each of them.

    "I cried a lot in the first couple of days," said Peace Emezue, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman. In Nigeria, Emezue works as a fitness coach, and as a karate champion, she was selected for the program by the Nigerian Government in a bid to encourage women in Nigeria to take up martial arts.

    Emezue was amused by the simple and peaceful life in the Shaolin Temple, but the tough training and early morning exercises were beyond imagining. She had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and kept practicing until 9 p.m. The routine went on six days a week for three months.

    The word "kungfu" literally means "work hard," and people who work hard are described as having a lot of "kungfu." According to Abbot Shi Yongxin, the training program is too short for serious kungfu study, but the first three months are full of hardship for any practitioner.

    The differences in weather and food posed more difficulties for African students. Wamala Peter from Uganda said that many students came down with colds when the winter came in November, "Even though [we became sick], our confidence and will were always strong, because the energetic and responsible instructors and masters have been helping us."

    The training program also included a Chinese language course to help the Africans better understand the master's teaching. For most of the students, who came to China for the first time, learning Chinese was even more difficult than kungfu.

    "I never thought of an opportunity to learn the Chinese language. It's really hard, but I will continue to learn it through the Internet when I'm back home," said Peter Zanang Kazah, a Nigerian karate practitioner.

    When the program came to an end, most of the students had become well-adapted to life at Shaolin, which turned out to be quite rewarding. Some of them lost weight but gained a stronger constitution. During the graduation ceremony on December 18, the African students gave a kungfu performance to show what they had learned in the three months at the temple, which included classic fist routines and fighting techniques with swords and sticks as weapons.


    DISCIPLES: The African students give a kungfu performance during their graduation ceremony on December 18, 2013 (CFP)

    Shaolin students

    Dawit Terefe is an Ethiopian kungfu actor who has practiced martial arts for more than two decades. Before coming to Shaolin, Terefe expected lessons from the program on higher-level techniques like faster moves or more accurate strikes. He was right, but that's only half of it. Another important lesson the African students learned at Shaolin was how to best utilize rest.

    Every Wednesday afternoon, there was a one-hour meditation class. Students sat in contemplation for 40 minutes, learning how to attain spiritual peace.

    Meditation is an important element of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Although the foundation for modern kungfu began in 527 when the Indian monk Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin Temple and created the 18 Buddhist Fists. The Shaolin Temple is also the place where the Chan doctrines were first preached in China in 495.

    "After coming to Shaolin, I realized that it's more than just fighting techniques, and has a profound religious background," said Peter Zanang Kazah. "Now I'm ready to learn the real meaning of the kungfu and its culture."

    "Some people asked me how many people are learning Shaolin kungfu around the world," Abbot Shi Yongxin said. "I would say millions, or even more than that."

    Since a German became the first foreign disciple in 1989, the Shaolin Temple has been promoting its martial arts and culture abroad by setting up overseas training centers. Every year hundreds of people still come from all around the world to the temple in Henan Province, to spend several months or even years on a unique experience, or to achieve an advanced level of kungfu. They know there is something one can never find outside of the temple.

    Here, all the students, Chinese and foreigners, are required to act like real Shaolin disciples. They dress in grey robes and have vegetarian dinners complete with rituals before eating. They also join the monks' morning classes every Monday.

    Abbot Shi Yongxin believes that Shaolin kungfu not only strengthens a person's body, but also spreads a lifestyle that allows followers to obtain inner peace. He told his African disciples to take the Shaolin Temple as their "second and spiritual home."

    "The Shaolin Temple is a good place where I met people with different religions and cultural backgrounds," said Emezue. "I'm sure that I will become a new person when I'm back home. The things I learned at Shaolin are priceless."
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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