11/02/2008

Wheel of Life - Shaolin Monks review

I went to see the Shaolin Monks perform their Wheel of Life set. I had some free tickets, although rather sadly absolutely NO ONE was interested in coming with me to see the Monks. Even for free, no one was interested in the idea of a martial arts show. This then (perhaps) gives some measure of the importance of martial arts in the UK amongst the general public. (Unless I misinterpreted that simply no one wanted to be in my company!!).

It was 25 years ago that I went to the theater. The theater still looks like something out of a Dostoyevsky novel, although my seat felt like something out of economy class on Aeroflot. My bum was numb and my kneecaps were displaced by not having enough legroom. Peripatetic popcorn and splashes of ale ended up in my hair. I was squished between horizontally challenged people, who couldn't help but Brizzly recount annecdotes - between passing a pint of beer and packets of fruit gums - about when they tried to jump over such and such an object (a topic perhaps inspired by the Shaolin acrobatics) and ended up in the casualty ward having to have so many stitches, etc, etc. Others made stupid jokes about the daring feats of the monks. Shut up.

T-shirts GBP 15; programs GBP 6. Potato chips GBP 3. Prayer beads which you buy in China for 20p on sale for GBP 5, and which I was presented with for free by the Monks on their press tour. No way!

The choreography itself was pretty good, enacting the history of the Shaolin Temple against the backdrop of Chinese political history. They had some musicians from Henan Province, whom I wish they had more of to mix in with the whole set. Instead, they had some terrible quality recorded soundtracks, which perhaps in my old age sounded like those terrible thudding strobes of bass that you hear from passing 'hey look at me looking cool in a car' drivers.

There was endless somersaulting, a few daredevil stunts - extremely impressive - and there was also Brit, Matthew, who did a nunchaku act and a handstand on 2 fingers - just.

All in all a good show for those into martial arts. It kind of revives my idea to try and bring the North Korean taekwondo team to the UK, if it wasn't for the fact that I don't have a lot of time these days.

On the subject of time, I have all but quit Wing Chun. I am struggling so much with time and money these days, and as my priority for the next 6 months is to finish my MA in linguistics, but that my work hours are not relenting, something had to give, and it was Wing Chun. I am just going to go once a month for the meantime, but am not sure whether it is something I will continue with in the long term. I can recognize that some of the moves are practically very effective if you are looking at martial arts on the street. But personally, my heart is just not in the style, and I can never motivate myself to practice outside of class. It's not that I haven't given it a try. I have been doing it for 1 year, and I've really tried to find an interest in it, but quite simply, the longer I do it, the more distant from it I feel. Perhaps partly because of my lack of external practice, my ability in it remains quite pitiful. I even feel really embarrassed at training in class because I know I'm really lame at doing the moves and feel totally ashamed in view of how I used to perform in hapkido and taekwondo classes, where I trained and trained and pushed myself to do better and better each time. I'm also still lacking a lot of strength - I struggle to do push ups and even sit ups. Even so, I want to do aero kicks, flips and joint locks. Wing Chun has none of this.

I still really want to do martial arts, but again, am conflicting with work pressures and martial arts training. I don't really know how to resolve it, as I am still reluctant to take the risk to give up work in the light of the expense involved in living in the UK and with all that happened to me last year. You simply cannot live in the UK without an income unless you are extremely lucky to have a massive inheritance. If I give up work, I will have to move overseas again as I cannot affford to live in the UK, and if I go overseas, I am subject to all the pressures involved in immigration and work permits in other countries and forever living out of a suitcase in seedy backstreet dwellings. I wonder how Matthew Ahmet gets residency at the Shaolin Temple - what type of visa does he have? I guess monks generally don't worry about money either, and there would lie the perfect solution to my woes if it wasn't for the fact that there would be absolutely no way I could wake up at sunrise every morning for prayer and running up the side of a mountain...