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Shaolin Masters

The Shaolin Masters at Monart Destination Spa.

We met Master Zheng to discuss his experience at Monart and life in the Shaolin temple.  

The Shaolin from the ancient temple in the Henan Province, China visits Monart for 3 months most years.

Where does the word Shaolin come from? 
The word originates from the word Shaoshan. The Shaolin temple is located at the foot of the Shaoshan mountains in Henan Province.

Master Zheng, what is your daily routine in the Shaolin temple? 
We get up at 4am and go to the buddhist temple. We have breakfast, meditate and start training and studying. In my school our students will study and train for 8 hours a day. 

Tell us about your school? 
I decided to set up a school in the Shaolin temple for students to learn and study subjects such as maths, geography, languages, history, English, and Chinese in the school. We have a lot of students from all over the world. We have just opened our new school catering for 10,000 students.

How important is it for you to meditate everyday? 
Meditating is a very important part of the Shaolin lifestyle. We meditate every morning as it relaxes our mind for the day and helps us live a balanced life. 

When did you start practising Kung Fu? 
Kung Fu is a huge part of our lives in the Shaolin temple. I personally started when I was 5 years old. Kung Fu is a huge part of my families life. 

What are the benefits of practising Kung Fu every day as a Shaolin Master? 
There are huge advantages practising Kung Fu every day. It gives us great body strength. It helps with confidence and living a balanced life. 

You also practise Tai Chi everyday, what are the benefits of this? 
Tai Chi is huge in China and yes we practise it everyday at the Shaolin temple. It is a great way to balance your life. When practising Tai Chi you are physically and mentally helping yourself to have the perfect balance in life. Tai Chi is a martial art and part of kung fu, it is simply a very slowed version of an ancient kung fu routine.

In the last few years, the West seems to be embracing mindfulness, mental health & relaxation. How long have Shaolin been studying this? 
Shaolin have been studying this for over 2,000 years. Meditation relaxes our mind and gives us access to a wealth of stored energy. It not only relaxes your body and distresses your mind but it also increases your body strength assisting us to live a balanced life.

When did you become a Shaolin Master? 
I was 15 when I became a Shaolin master. The training is physically and mentally challenging. I really enjoyed training in the temple. Usually students become masters when they are 21. 

From a very young age you are trained to be very powerful, how do you ensure that these powers are not used in a negative way? 
The first thing we teach our students is to train their behaviour then they can partake in the physical training. Discipline is huge part of the training in the Shaolin temple. We ensure we interview every person who wants to be a student of kung fu, if we feel they have a nasty personality we simply will refuse to train them.

During the physical training are they any common injuries? 
Training in the Shaolin temple is very physical so there can be a lot of injuries one in particular is muscles tearing. We do try and avoid this happening by training accordingly and building up the strength of our muscles. we practice Shaolin massage to help prevent & treat injury.

Your uniforms are very eye catching… 
The yellow uniform represents the highest Shaolin Masters. This is appointed by the Abbot. The masters who are still in training wear the grey uniforms. They have started to use the orange uniform now as Shaolin is getting very popular all over the world and it stands out.

There are strips tied around their arms and legs, this was done to prevent insects and snakes crawling on them when they are training outside, running up the Shaoshan Mountains.

What foods do you eat and what is the most important meal of the day? 
Breakfast is very important as it sets you up for the day! 

Every morning we have soup and steamed bread. This gives us a lot of energy for the day. For lunch we have rice, meat & vegetables. For dinner we have noodles, vegetables and steamed bread. Originally everyone in the Shaolin temple were vegetarians but now if you are training hard for the day (especially Kung Fu) you can eat meat to give you extra energy.

Are there any foods you would recommend us to have to help fight cold and flu symptoms coming in to the winter months in Ireland? 
Yes. Ginger! You can have it in hot or cold water, add it to soup and your meals everyday. Ginger can increase circulation in your body and help fight colds & flus. It also helps to strengthen your immune system. Dates will increase your body strength so these are good to eat too. You can take ginseng but only when you are ill, do not use ginseng everyday or when healthy as this puts the body into overdrive.

Talk us through the Shaolin warrior massage? 
The Shaolin massage began thousands of years ago. During their training the students were trained in massaging out injuries. Our Shaolin hospital was then built where we perform massage, acupuncture and prescribe herbal treatments.

Some people find that they are very tired after the Shaolin massage, why is this? 
This is normal to feel tired after a Shaolin massage. During the massage the Shaolin master releases energy in your body so it is natural to feel relaxed and tired afterwards. During the massage the Shaolin master can help this energy flow through your body again, you will be tired but very relaxed. 

What are the core principles of Buddishm? 
Be yourself 
Be kind towards others
Show respect to others 

How many generations of your family have been Shaolin masters? 
Master Zheng is 3rd generation Shaolin Master and now his sons are also beginning to train. 

Do you enjoy your time in Ireland? 
Yes, I love it here in Ireland, it is such a beautiful Country. Monart is the most perfect place for us to meditate and train, it is very peaceful here. In China if we want to find anything like Monart we have to climb to the top of a mountain to have the same peace and quiet. I have also noticed that the Irish are very nice & friendly and they are very interested in learning the Shaolin way.

The Irish and Chinese lifestyle are very different. Ireland is very quiet compared to China. Irish get up very late and go asleep very late, it is the total opposite in China, we go to bed very early and get up very early. 

What is one of the most important things you have learned from your time in the Shaolin temple? 
I have learned to live a balanced life. To be mentally and physically strong. 

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Monart Destination Spa, The Still, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford
TEL: +353 (0)53 92 38999