Shaolin Injury

My Danish friend Troels still smiling (I think it was the drugs) after getting his head cracked!

Pain is a part of daily life here. It is colorful and there is plenty to go around for everyone. I dont even ask if someone is OK now when I hear them groaning in agony as they ascend the steps back to our rooms. In fact, I barely even notice the sounds of suffering anymore. Pain has been pushed to the back of my mind like some nagging sensation that rears its ugly head when I move the wrong way…or do something silly, like breathe.

Fortunately, the pain comes not just because I am new here, or seven years older than most of the other students. The verterans of several months (crazy bastards) tell me that they still hurt. Judging by the cursing and moaning, I know that they are telling the truth.

I am finding out that the experienced ones are not immune to the more serious injuries either. Yesterday, Troels, one of my favorite people in my group, had his head split open. I watched as blood streamed into his squinting eyes and then dripped off his chin onto the thirsty concrete. We walked him to the school doc who cleaned the wound and sutured it on the spot. Literally every day seems to bring a new injury to someone that I know and like; fitness level and training experience make little difference.

Today is my 7th training day. In those seven days I have suffered only minor things like strained muscles, blisters, bruises, the flu, and a blown shoulder from trying some of the acrobatics. The shoulder is the only one that worries me. Add it to the list of my other adventure injuries over the years and you have quite a broken package. Still, I have, no doubt, been one of the lucky ones. With training this long and hard every day, broken bodies are inevitable, and everyone here knows that.

Fear of broken bones aside, I am actually loving the training. Call me nuts, but the power training as a group, standing in formation in horse stance and punching with a loud hah! as we switch stances still gets me off. I am also learning new things, so through the haze of pain I can see progress and it is exciting. I feel my breaking point slipping a little further out every day.

As I mentioned before, the hardest part about being here is just being here! With a visa burning a hole in my passport and such a huge, diverse country just outside the walls of the school, it is damn hard to stay in one place. This is a voluntary incarceration. We wear uniforms with numbers on them, eat the worst food imaginable from steel trays with chopsticks, and rain sweat on the ground from morning until night.

I do take training very seriously, and always show respect to the sifus, no matter how insane their requests. But, I learned while backpacking that you have to do whatever it takes to stay happy and alive.

Some of the rules here may be bent, and others may be broken.