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Shaolin disciple dreams up a kung fu school

Shaolin disciple dreams up a kung fu school

(Photo No. 1) By Flor Wang CNA staff writer When Chang Ching-kuo dropped out of school and occasionally ran away from home at the age of nine, his future looked bleak.
Then, inspired by the films of Ashton Chen, a child kung fu star of the early 1990s, the Keelung native successfully begged his father to send him to the Songshan Shaolin Temple Film and TV Kungfu Academy in China's Henan province.
The move saved Chang's life, and now he harbors the dream of using martial arts training to help troubled youths, just as the Shaolin academy helped him.
"My biggest dream is to set up a nine-year martial arts school to help kids and teenagers who have lost their way to lead normal lives and build up their moral integrity," Chang says.
The idea crosses the 27-year-old's mind every time he sees children or teenage wasting their times in the streets or in Internet cafes.
"Seeing this always makes me feel that a kung fu school would be good for helping those kids get back on the right life path, " he says.
"Learning martial arts such as kung fu is really tiring and requires single-mindedness, but my personal experience is that kids like to spend some time studying after completing their kung fu practice for the day." Chang speaks from experience. His parents were divorced when he was only two years old, leaving his grandmother to look after him.
But she was too old to properly care for him, and he started running away from home and regularly missing classes after entering elementary school.
"Every member of my family thought I was hopeless, " he recalls ruefully.
In 1990, he entered the Songshan Shaolin Temple Film and TV Kungfu Academy -- an umbrella facility authorized by the Chinese government to teach children basic martial arts. There, Chang studied kung fu for five years.
"Those days were beset with difficulties, and it took me several years to adapt to the extremely restrictive and disciplined environment," he recalls.
"Apart from getting only bland meals, we had to get up at 4: 50 a.m. every day and start our training routine by running around the base of two nearby mountains. With senior students chasing us with whips, we had to run faster than rabbits," Chang says.
The students were also subjected to physical discipline by older students when their kung fu movements did not measure up.
"Our thighs often bore bruises, " Chang remembers, and resting in the dormitory often provided little respite from the daily hardships.
"During the night, more than 20 people would sleep on a two-level bed in a dormitory of about 100 square meters, " Chang says. "During the summer, we had to endure temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius without air conditioners or fans, while in the winter, we faced temperatures below zero while meditating." After five years of basic training at the academy, it was recommended that Chang attend the Songshan Shaolin Temple Monks Training Base Mission in 1994 and he became the first disciple from Taiwan of the Shaolin Temple at a time when relations across the Taiwan Strait were still sensitive.
He then was allowed to take part in a warrior monk group and performed around China in the following years until he returned to Taiwan in 2000 to serve his mandatory military service.
That, however, marked the start of a fresh setback in his private life. With just an elementary school education, he had trouble finding a well-paid job in Taiwan despite his martial arts mastery and ended up working in odd jobs as a construction worker, private security guard and waiter.
Not until he appeared on a local TV show in 2007 did he achieve some level of recognition, but even then, he was criticized for "fishing for fame." In the face of the mounting criticism, Hua Lin, secretary-general of the Taiwan Zen Buddhist Association, came to Chang's defense, praising his martial arts skills as a genuine accomplishment.
"Chang's hard qigong, such as punching, flying kicks, swordplay, iron head and weapon wielding, is really amazing and is evidence that Chang has mastered the techniques of the so-called 18 types of Chinese martial arts," Hua said.
The association now frequently invites Chang to teach Shaolin martial arts in different regions of the country. He also returns to the Songshan Shaolin Temple every year or two to perfect his techniques.
Speaking of the years he spent mastering kung fu in China, Chang attributes everything to destiny.
"I do not regret all the years I spent learning kung fu in China, even if I missed the chance to go to college in Taiwan, because it taught me to be a righteous man." Passionate about contributing to society, Chang regularly shows his concern for the underprivileged, visiting the Taichung Drug Abuse Treatment Center in central Taiwan to help addicts with their rehabilitation.
He also stages qigong performances for charity at nursery schools and institutions for the mentally challenged.
Establishing a kung fu school, though, remains Chang's major pursuit.
"Learning kung fu can help kids achieve a healthy state, both mentally and physically," he says. "As Abbot Shi Yan Zhang told me, a kung fu practitioner is nothing without a strong sense of morals. The main tenet of kung fu is to cultivate one's moral character." Hearing that the Miaoli County government is planning to establish a kung fu school next year, Chang wonders when his chance will come, acknowledging that his goal remains no more than a distant dream hindered by stiff challenges.
"Lacking support from the government or the private sector, it is a very difficult task," he laments.
Chang says, however, that he will not be deterred from his goal because he really wants to do something for troubled and temperamental children.
"My experience in Shaolin Temple made me aware that adults must find an appropriate method to educate this kind of hyperactive child, who can easily become a good for nothing by missing school or running away from home."




Updated : 2021-09-19 20:24 GMT+08:00