Shaolin village is falling down, falling down, falling down, Shaolin village is falling down...,

Well, I'm not sure what I had, but a lot of people in Beijing were ill. A few days ago, while in Beijing, right after my allergic asthma lung ailment started getting better, I got absolutely floored by the flu. Fever, chills, incessant coughing, sneezing, and my old friend, difficulty breathing. Despite the fact that Shi Xing Wei came to Beijing to spend time with me, training was henceforth out of the question. I was bedridden.

I gave up on the possibility of going to Shaolin for two to three weeks to train, and bought a ticket for Phuket Thailand for the next day. Which, is where I am today.

I'm still weak, still coughing, but the fever is gone, and I'm getting stronger. The benefits of a generally healthy constitution, lots of Zinc Sulfate, and Flintstones vitamins. Especially, the Wilma ones. Viruses just don't seem to want to be around a crusty old New York body, especially when it's full of Wilma vitamins. The hot sun has been good for me. I'm not sure if my subsequent influenza illness was related to this serious viral pneumonia that's going around China, or just a nasty flu that has invaded Beijing. The SARS virus is in the same family as those that produce the measles and the mumps, both illnesses that I've had. No doubt, they'll eventually discover that those people that come down with this SARS and survive, are also people that have had measles or mumps during childhood; the antibodies are probably the same. And, from what I've read over here, China first experienced this illness in Guandong province, way back in October or November. Not sure if there have been any cases reported in Beijing. It would be impossible to tell, knowing Chinese medical care and statistics, they don't talk much. And most statistics are impossible to keep here; most ill people go to these traditional chinese medicine clinics where record keeping is not done.

Whatever it is, it's highly contagious. My friends in Beijing now have it, including members of Lu Yong's family. And where ever you go on the streets of Beijing, people are sneezing and coughing. I thought it best to just get my health back, so I could at least start training on my own again.

It looks like I"m going to be staying here in Phuket for the next few weeks. My goal is to get healthy again. It's been a hard three months.

Of noteworthy news in Shaolin, Tagou is falling down. The largest and grandest of the Shaolin schools in Shaolin village, one of the first established there over twenty years ago, has been halfway torn down. The rest of the village is already in shambles; everybody has been moved out to places unknown. The rest of the Tagou school will be torn down as soon as the rest of the students are moved to their new quarters in Dengfeng. The new school, by the way, is a much grander improvement over the old one, but, I will certainly miss the flavor of the place. There was nothing quite like walking through the Shaolin village in the evening, when the many thousands of Tagou students were marching back to their quarters after a day of training. (Fortunately, I videotaped this during my last trip to China; we're working on producing it for streaming). The days of training all day in the summer heat, and then, trying to sleep at night in some shithole, while awful renditions of American disco music blare from loudspeakers in the village below, are fond memories, never, ever, to be relived. It's over, and though Shaolin undoubtedly will be better for it, it will just never be the same to those of us who have lived there in a prior life.

The village is gone, and Yongxin's / Henan government's plans to create a new Shaolin, untouched by commercialism (which I guess is the "plan", if you overlook that fact that the Wushu Guan is the sole remaining school nearby, owned by the Henan government and who knows who else). are moving forward, quite quickly. The wushu guan is being completely renovated, as I've discussed in a previous Journal edition (in the Forum Archive). The goal, to make the wushu guan the largest (and sole?) provider of foreigner based Shaolin gong fu in the world, is on it's way. One stumbling point is the Shaolin wushu guan hotel, a veritable shit hole of a place, which I've talked about previously somewhere in the site. It's in desperate need of renovation, a renovation which is not yet underway, but is expected to take place soon, and which, is expected to take anywhere from one to two years. They would be better off if they tore the damn thing down and just built another one.

What this means, for those of you out there interested in Shaolin training, is the following. The temple, under the guidance of Shi Yong Xin, is moving back towards an emphasis of Shaolin gong fu. (Did I mention that I saw a book in a Chinese bookstore, on "Shaolin Gong Fu", with young Yong Xin on the cover? He was "stocky") The temple is moving towards recapturing the Shaolin gong fu training market. Yongxin's hold or ownership of at least four Dengfeng based Shaolin schools, where he gets his performance team and monks from now, is just the beginning. The Shaolin wushu guan plans on being the place for foreigners to train.

A monopoly? Not sure if that's the plan, not sure if that's going to be the end result. The Dengfeng based Shaolin schools do their own thing, but, do so, with Yongxin watching. Even though some of these schools take foreigners for training now, and, quite honestly, it's difficult for a foreigner to train at any of these schools unless they "know somebody", or take a chance and go their directly, as marketing of these places is almost impossible), one starts to wonder, when the wushu guan gets up to speed, if these schools will "take" foreigners in the future. The interaction of capitalism and politics in China is an interesting one, to say the least. Remember the old adage of the Golden Rule, "He who has the gold, rules". In fact, powerful businessmen tend to have some power in local governments, predominantly because they are the local governments.

What the future may bring to Shaolin remains to be seen. No doubt it will be an interesting one. It pains my little distorted heart not to be able to go there this trip; I had been looking forward to seeing the place again, and, train there once again. When you've spent as much time there as I have, you tend to develop feelings for the place, despite the fact that most people don't truly enjoy being there. It's an interesting love/hate relationship that one develops. But, you've got to love the people, and all their emotions, habits, and foibles. The students and coaches of Shi De Cheng's school, aware of the fact that I had been quite ill these past few months, have all been praying for my health and my safe return. I've been told that they were disappointed that I didn't make it. Hell, I'm disappointed that I didn't make it. It just wasn't in the cards for me this time around.

What's truly bizarre, is that this trip to China, is my thirteenth. I had wondered all along what shit and mayhem was going to happen this time around. It's not over yet....

More China stories coming. Stay tuned.