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Martijn Copman Belgium 29 <>

  A year in the Holy Mountains.


  My name is Martijn, I come from the very flat, rainy and windy lands of Belgium. It has been my childhood dream to study Kung Fu somewhere in the mountains of China and become a Kung Fu warrior. Ever since I was a little boy I have been infatuated with martial arts. I mainly studied Western martial arts before I came here (like fencing, sword and spear fighting, archery, …), with the exception of some Japanese styles which I studied when I was younger. My part of Belgium has very little to offer in terms of real Chinese Kung Fu, and I felt that something was missing in all the styles I had studied before coming here. I wanted something more.

  After graduating college and working, I realized I had to start fulfilling my dreams. Because before you know it, it could be too late, I could be old and grey soon: too tired and worn out by Western society to travel and experience the things I truly want.

  I won’t bore you with the details, but I can say in the chaos of the West “some stuff happened”, both good and very bad. The stars aligned and in passing the fates showed me a glimpse of the Shengjing Shan Kung Fu Academy website, the seedling of the fleeting thought quickly grew into a big tree of a well thought out idea: I need to go there and realize my dream. I said my goodbyes back home to the friends and family, I begged my girlfriend for forgiveness (I am so lucky to have found a supporting and understanding woman by the way, who puts up with all my madness). And I set of to China, with a heart full of dreams and a backpack full of sportswear and Belgian chocolates. (Also for those who are wondering, yes this story has a happy ending, I am still together with the same girl, my fiancée and I are getting married soon.)

  The road here was luxurious, but not without problems. It isn’t easy to get a Chinese long term Visa in Belgium for some reason. But luckily Qu Shifu was able to help me get a 6 months visa pretty easily and cheaply in Korea. The flight company boosted me up to first class (yay!) but they lost all my luggage (damn!). But not to worry, Qu Shifu came to the rescue again and made sure the company found and brought back my luggage soon after.

  Shifu picked me up personally at the airport and drove me to the school, at the foot of the Shengjing Shan Holy mountains. What a sight to behold! When you drive through the ancient stone gate, a gigantic statue of Lao Tze greets you in the middle of a very lush green mountain range. Cranes and sparrows are flying and cicadas are buzzing, this is truly a magical place.

  Soon I got to know my fellow students, who quickly grew to become my new family. Training this hard in close proximity, eating, sleeping, suffering, rejoicing and growing stronger together really forges strong bonds. I have made lifelong connections here, and I found my Kung Fu family. Qu Shifu and his brother Bo Shifu, take really good care of us. Bo Shifu makes sure we are well fed, have a clean environment to train and live in. He is always around in case we need something extra.

  The food is superb, Bo Shifu is a master in the kitchen. He keeps experimenting and brings out many new and delicious dishes throughout the year. All the food is locally grown by the farmers in the mountains. There is plenty of meat and other protein to sustain our training and if you are vegetarian there is also a multitude of options. (Now personally I prefer meat, but the herbivore students seemed to enjoy the dishes a lot as well.)

  The rooms are clean and contain everything you need to live comfortably here. You are always welcome to change the layout of your own living space and decorate it as you see fit. As I lived here for an extended period of time, I made this place a home away from home. My awesome girlfriend decided to wholeheartedly support me and came over to visit and train with me twice, ofcourse I asked her to marry me. Because this one truly is THE keeper! I am so lucky she said yes, high up in the snow covered mountains. With Lao Tze and the other immortals smiling at us.

  I have stayed here throughout all the seasons. I arrived in autumn, which is the perfect weather to train in, so is spring when the mountain erupts in a thousand colours and flowers bloom all over. I got hardened by the harsh cold winter, and forged by the sizzling heat of the summer. Throughout all seasons I felt myself growing stronger and more resilient to everything.

  The Kung Fu lessons and weekly curriculum is amazing. Qu Shifu seems to come straight out of an epic Kung Fu movie, I am pretty sure I saw him crack open the mountain with one stroke of his fist once. He moves like the clouds and strikes like thunder. He puts you through a rigorous training and pushes you to new limits every day. He has a very good intuition and a keen insight, he knows just how far he can push you without damaging you. More than once I felt like a demon was pounding me on an anvil in the fires of Hell, but I came out forged as a fine steel sword, a lot stronger and resilient than I was before.

  Don’t worry though, if you now think “oh I might be too old or broken for this”, the Shifu adapts his lesson plans and teachings to each person individually. You will go to your own limits and grow stronger on your own pace if need be, Kung Fu is a way to cultivate yourself and your personal health. By no means should you end up destroying yourself with it. The school also offers a myriad of extracurricular activities such as Chinese acupressure to alleviate pain, and nurture a healthy body. But for others like me, who came looking to challenge themselves on a whole new level, we can grow immensely here under the tutelage of Qu Shifu’s watchful and all seeing eyes.

  I chose to study Baguazhang, Tai Chi and Sanda during my stay here. I chose to primarily focus on the internal styles, because they hold my interest the most. The whole extra layer of internal strength, energy/Qi-flows and philosophy behind it really captivates me. There was something in me that kept attracting me to the Chinese martial arts to begin with, especially the internal ones: I wanted a more wholesome system, something more than “just fighting”, something that could help me grow and develop in all the stages of my life. The Qi gong classes have given me a big tool to start mastering my mind together with my body. Sanda is a lot of fun though, a little bit of sparring and pounding all your frustrations out on the punching bags is a good workout and a big stress relief.

  As you can see, I have grown to be very fond of this place. Where I met my Kung Fu family, found a legendary Shifu straight out of a Kung Fu movie, high up in the mountains where the immortals watch over our training and the demons dance in the wind. It made me grow mentally, physically and spiritually. I can not wait to come back and continue down this path in the future. I am very grateful to have had this experience in my life, and for Qu Shifu to have taught me this well.

  Now it is time to bring back all this Eastern wisdom to the West.

  Martijn Copman

  Belgian student of Shengjing Shan Kung Fu Academy

Shengjing Shan Shaolin Traditional Kung Fu Academy

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