I thought I’d write a bit about the Wugulun school, the training and the progress I think I’ve made after a week.
Where is the school?
The school is about 5km outside the town of Dengfeng, half way between Dengfeng and the Shaolin Temple. It’s part of a rural/farming area with a million dollar view (above) of the mountains in the area. Dengfeng is the nearest town to the Shaolin Temple littered with countless martial arts schools.
What’s a typical day at the school?
At 05:30 we have an hour of early morning training. We do it as the sun comes up. It starts by warming up doing laps of the grounds outside the school building followed by breathing exercises. The breathing exercises make up the majority of the time and are the fundamentals of every training session during the day. If you concentrate enough, they’re highly meditative because you end up slowing your breathing right down and noticing every minor detail with the physical moves.
At 07:00 there’s breakfast. With all the meals at the school, they’re vegetarian and consist of some soup and some vegetables. To be honest, every meal is similar, so to me, breakfast tastes like lunch and dinner. Whilst the strictest traditional Shaolin diet contains no dairy, with pressure from the kids parents, they sometimes have egg. Other than that, it’s rice, noodles, vegetables, bread, dumplings or lentils. The food is surprisingly tasty although I’m only a week in (I’m guessing some of the other students have seen the same meal twice now).
At 08:00 it’s the late morning training, which is done in the land behind the school amongst the trees. This is a 2-3 hour session broken up by a 15 min break in the middle. There are three separate classes going on, so each class is specialising on some topic. Breathing exercises, stepping exercises, forms, weapons etc. The break consists of squatting on the stones that surround the land.
At 11:50 it’s lunch followed by “relax time”. By relax, they actually sleep here. It’s similar to the european siesta where they take rest during the hottest part of the day after a hearty meal.
At 15:00 it’s the afternoon training session. Like the late morning, it’s a 2-3 hour session. Again, what is covered depends on the group you’re in, but it’s largely building on what was taught in the late morning session.
At 18:30 there’s dinner followed by lessons (maths, english, medicine for the kids) or for us, another relax time.
At 21:30 the bell rights one final time for the lights out.
Saturdays have some limited training in the morning and Sunday too (although I’ve only experienced one weekend to date).
Where is the training performed?
Below are some photos of the front courtyard of the building we’re sleeping in and the land beside it with the trees. We train in both. If it’s raining, however, there’s some limited room inside the building.
So what have I been taught so far?
Meditative breathing, postural exercises (to tuck in the base of the spine and straighten the neck), stepping/balancing exercises (the fundamental building blocks of everything else you’ll learn) and rotational exercises (moves are generated using rotational power all the way from the hips up to the shoulders).
What changes have I noticed?
More flexible – by the end of today’s session, I noticed a big improvement in my hamstrings, hip joints and all the small muscles inside the groin.
Better balance – I’m able to very easily balance on one leg for extended periods of time. Further still, I’m able to jump from one balancing leg in one spot to another leg in another position. I wouldn’t put it passed the new appreciation for squatting toilets and interesting wash rooms lending a hand here too.
Improved strength – my legs are far far stronger. It’s not surprising because all the time is spent on here. I’m almost able to do a full one legged balancing squat and after going for a short run, I could noticeably feel the improved strength throughout my legs (and positive posture). Core strength is improved too. I can tell by the rotational smoothness in my waist and ability to hold my legs higher for longer. That’s all without any sit up or stomach focused exercise. Basically, the lower back and obliques have been worked loads throughout.
Upper body – nothing in the arms or chest. Only general ache in the upper back from all the stretching.
Weight – I can’t weigh myself, so I have no idea what the difference is now if any. I’m by no means hungry here, there’s three big meals a day and they’re carb heavy. However, I don’t know if I’m getting enough protein because (a) they tend to have less because they think it makes you feel sluggish and (b) I have no idea how much protein is in the rice, vegetables and soya they have.
If you have any other questions about the school, drop them in the comments and I’ll be happy to do my best to answer them…