American Shaolin

When you were younger, did you ever dream of moving to a far-off land and studying martial arts with some of the world’s most legendary fighters?  While I did dream of such adventures, I never had the courage to actually do it.  However, Matthew Polly did.  He dropped out of Princeton and moved to the inner China to study Kung Fu with the Shaolin monks.  The book American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks and the Legend of the Iron Crotch is the tale of his true adventure.

You see, when he was in high-school, he created a list of what’s wrong with himself.  It included:

  1. Ignorant
  2. Cowardly
  3. Still a boy/not a man
  4. Unattractive to the opposite sex
  5. Spiritually confused

After attending Princeton for a couple of years he felt he could finally cross #1 off his list.  However, that still left him with the other four.  Somehow, he got the idea in his head he could fix the rest by moving to China to study Kung Fu at the Shaolin Temple, so that’s just what he did!

The book details his adventures in finding the temple, not an easy task in pre-Google Maps China (the events in the book take place in the early 90s), and then training with the Monks.  While living at the Shaolin Temple, he studies Sanda, or Chinese Kickboxing.

The book is full of fun adventures, including his run in with a master of Iron Crotch Kung Fu — one of his funniest and most amazing stories. However, it’s worth noting one lesson that I took away from the book.  Polly talks about learning to “eat bitter.”  This has nothing to do with food.  It’s about training hard and sacrificing to do it.  He had no real martial arts training before moving to China at age twenty — and he wasn’t very athletic. However, with two years of hard, hard training he had developed in a very credible fighter and was able to compete at the highest levels of his sport.  If he can do it, so can you!

I strongly recommend this book.  It’s a great adventure, and a fun read.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Matthew Polly’s Tapped Out « ZZ Ninja

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