June 12, 2015 by Soo Ee
There was this window period in my life, when I was young and restless, I wanted to head up the mountains of China and seek out shaolin monks to teach me the ancient art of kung fu. Or whatever they did that made them that strong. I wanted to live among the ancient warriors and practise their martial arts, eat their food and learn the way of the world through them. I actually found one which houses guests from all over the world and you pay a fee to stay and train with them. I couldn’t remember what the cost was but it soon became clear to me that was probably the least of my concerns.
The Shaolin monastery/monasteries that I wanted to enrol in had very strict regulations about having a female live among them. I wanted to ask if they could make an exceptiopn for me, given I am not exactly feminine female, that I was really keen on learning and that I could take any physical task given to me. I tried writing to them but I got no reply whatsoever. I wrote in both English and mandarin. I tried to call but the phone didn’t work. It couldn’t be engaged at 3am Singapore time. Imagine both excitement and disappointment happening at the same time. Bummer. I entertained thoughts of disguise and infiltrating their quarters as a male named Lim Soo but there were many issues which got me in a spot. What if the showering facilities were shared and we had to shower together after a training session? Could I not shower for the month I am there or could I store away small basins of water in my room and do it at night when everyone was sleeping? What if the sleeping quarters were communal? I had no issues lying close to males but would that cause a problem for them if my identity was exposed? or what if that time of the month came? I read how people from third world countries deal with that issue. Uncomfortable as it was, I was willing to try what they did. The last resort was asking male friends if anyone was keen to do the Shaolin thing with me. My friends laughed and said the training regime sounded like 2 years of National Service.
At the end of the day, it was a no-go, no matter how much my heart wanted to. So for the next 2 decade after, I continued to train hard, hoping that some day, things might change and I might have a shot at Shaolin. When that day comes, I want to be ready.
Fast forward 20 years later, being here in Phuket, training at a place where pro fighters eat, sleep and train, it was like a fantasy dream come true for me. Unlike my vision of Shaolin monasteries in China, there was no high mountainous clouds here, or waking up to the sounds of birds chirping. I wake up everyday to the sounds of loud machineries, I walk in the streets with exhaust pipe smoke getting in my eyes and lungs, I smell like BBQ chicken everywhere I go and I have air conditioning in my room. But this is a dream come true for me. Even for a short period of time.
I am finally home.
“The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.” Fabienne Fredrickson