Towards the middle of last week, I was feeling a bit disappointed with the school and the teachings. I felt frustrated by repeating the same stuff (even though I was fully prepared that this is likely to happen and didn’t want to admit it) and I felt time was being wasted in-between the tougher training sessions. Having a couple of sessions rained off and others that were shorter than normal didn’t help. I thought I’d try to consider why I was frustrated. I sat down and structured all my thoughts on paper, so I could go to the guys here and speak to them. By the end of trying to get my head round it, I realised I was making a far-reaching mistake.

The short version is that, I realised I was making excuses for my own lack of motivation and blaming others for it. I decided to arrange a new schedule going forwards.

The detailed version is described below…

These were my thoughts, what I found myself blaming it on and what I concluded the real cause was:

Thought: I find it hard to concentrate on the breathing
I blamed it on: Kids always messing about and the sound of car horns
Real cause: I’m not slowing down my breathing, concentrating on the moment and I’m letting things distract me. I need to learn to cut them out. The place I’m at is the hand I’ve been dealt and those things won’t change. Learning to concentrate is the skill in itself that I need to practice. Sometime in the past, I had read the first couple of chapters from “The Power Of Now“. I realised now, that the nature of controlling your mind as described in the book, has a massive impact. I had always said that i was never in “the right place” to read the book in detail. Now couldn’t be a better time and reason and apply it to the classes here.

Thought: There isn’t enough time spent on training and the time I am spending is still on the basics.
I blamed it on: The structure of classes they’ve come up with is too slow and suited to the guys who are here for years.
Real cause: Was I really maximizing all my time practicing? No. Did I really expect to jump into the more advanced stuff sooner rather than later? No. Am I as flexible and strong as the advanced students? No. My mind was playing games, I was ignoring the fact this has to be learned. I have to put effort and come up the curve myself. I’ll use the time that they don’t train to do my own stuff. My strength and flexibility is down to me. Of course you would have different objectives if they’re here for X years, I’m here for 2 months. They have more time and this is ALL they are doing. I need to adapt the system, not blame it. Of course they’ll take things easier. This is their choice, they’re not forcing it on me.

Thought: I’m upset that the work i had done on my body (i.e. body building) more specifically on the upper body was slowly diminishing and my running fitness not being kept up. 
I blamed it on: Restrictions that didn’t really exist.
Real cause: My own lack of motivation and a not putting together a schedule that can work with my kung fu training. I realised last Saturday morning that when we all went for a run, they were all REALLY poor at it. Only then did it occur to me that it’s just not something they’ve trained at, rather than something that they’re actively against doing. I could take a stab at saying the monks in the mountains just didn’t have the environment to need to run far. I.e. a matter of ignorance, rather than an active decision against it. As for weights, I’m lucky that there are a set of concrete kettle bells here at the school. After giving them a try, I was blessed with timing Master Wu walking past as I was using them and gave me the thumbs up. They can’t be against the principles here if he’s giving a thumbs up. In conclusion, I can work on the upper body without causing too much tension and go for runs without tiring my legs before a training session. I can add this to the kung fu schedule and it will be my schedule.

Thought: It’s really difficult learning with the language barrier. I’m missing out.
I blamed it on: Not having someone readily available to translate. What’s the point of learning Mandarin if I’m only going to use it here?
Real cause: I’m not learning as much Mandarin as I possibly can and it IS useful. On the weekend, I met a spanish guy called Raul in the hostel. His story was that he left Spain and came to Beijing to get work. He was spending his weekend visiting the Shaolin Temple. He spent loads of his own time learning Mandarin and by 18 months, he was fluent. Usual story there I know, but what really struck me was that’s not the first time Raul had just got on a train to somewhere where he didn’t speak the language and just committed himself – he speaks 5 languages fluently. The world was an open place for him because he was willing to work at any language barrier. I realised, I’m in the best possible place to learn Mandarin, so what if I’m in the deep end of the Mandarin pool? So I decided, when the kids are learning Maths and English in the evenings, it’s the perfect time for me to go through more Michel Thomas tapes. I have the tapes, so I have no excuse not learning it. 


During this process, I remembered back to something I heard once that seemed really applicable. A teacher once told me:

“Think of something that you’ve always wanted to do, something you can do every day and only takes up to 30 mins of your time. If you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s THAT important to you, then I’m almost certain that if you did that thing EVERY day for a year, it would be the most significant thing you could do to improve your life.”

I thought to myself – “here I am in a place where I’m cut off from the life I’ve led so far, somewhere with a loosely defined structure to the day and I’m making excuses for not fulfilling what I want to do here. I’m letting a busy mind control myself. I’m going come up with my own things that I do everyday to make a positive difference to my time here”. I realised the habit of excuses and lack of motivation is something that’s most likely grown over time and has made an impact in my life, work and my hobbies to date.


These were the things I decided I would do whilst I’m here at the kung fu school:

  • I will spend an hour a day learning Mandarin
  • I will spend an hour a day internalizing the book “The Power Of Now
  • I will do a session of Push Up Fu every day. By the time I leave, I will be able to do the Big 100 (100 press ups)
  • I will use the weights I have here to train my legs daily and a different part of my upper body every day. By the time I leave, I will be able to do a one-legged squat.
  • I will build up my running distance to half marathon in my barefoot running shoes.
So here’s my new schedule as a screen saver on my phone. It’s the original school schedule with my own one interleaved. (FYI, Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning are my running days)
New schedule 

Why blog this?

Because I know myself well enough that if I tell people I’m going to do something, I’ve got a better chance of actually doing it.  


The takeaway is this – making excuses for anything is a subtle but dangerous habit to have. The world is yours to make the most of it. Write your own script. This is what makes your life unique.