Time in Huilongguan’s Wudang Wushu school has been very busy indeed with 3 x 2 hour sessions each day covering a range of martial art disciplines. Aside from Master Chen Shiyu are his instructors (always in white) and 2 levels of student; ‘beginners’ and advanced (both levels always in black). I use the word beginner, as this is the only way to describe a student who’s only attended the school for a year or so; opposed to the advanced students who have been training at the school for at least 6 + years. It takes a while for the concept of wushu training as a lifelong commitment instead of just going to the gym or evening class in the UK, to really sink in.
The youngest student is 11 and the oldest 19. Many arrived here due to poor discipline in their family life or simply that their parents couldn’t afford to keep them. To witness their daily routine puts our obsession with social media and reliance on technology in an unhealthy light as they live in a spectacular rural setting, eat well 3 times a day and are physically very fit. They also share out tasks such as cleaning, washing and overall site maintenance in a very democratic and considered way.
China has witnessed enourmous and rapid change and, of course, the school hasn’t escaped this so one will see the odd iPod and mobile but it's use is strictly within their private time. Although Hallgrim, Kim and I did laugh at the transformation of the students for their day-off. Each Thursday, many students don the latest Chinese/Western mash-up fashion, catch a bus straight down to the nearest town and hit the internet cafe...they are teenagers afterall.
Outside of the training sessions, nearly all of the students and instructors tend to fine their own space and continue refining a new form, move or the handling of a weapon (and boy, there are a serious range of lethal weapons!).
A lovely frame is had by standing on the opposite side of the hamlet from the student housing block (in between are small parcels of cultivated land tended by elders who’ve lived in the community all their lives) and catching little vignettes of the younger students in their own space. The whole sequence of this 15 year old practicing his form with a spear was awesome.