Shi Yanjia has lived in a Shaolin Temple for more than three years. When asked about his motivation, he smiled and said, "I was timid before, always shy. People said practicing kung fu can make you brave. Then my parents decided to send me to the Shaolin Temple to learn kung fu from the best."
Shi Yanjia is a monk in the Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan Province. /CGTN Photo
What is a Shaolin Temple? Is it like what you see on television? Shi was full of curiosity when he first came to the temple, located in central China's Henan Province. He noticed that everyone in the temple was meditating in their own way. Later he learned the iron palm fist with his master. Iron palm, as the name suggests, requires hitting iron beads in the sandbag over and over again to improve palm strength. In the beginning, he was reluctant to hit the beads. "Of course, I was afraid. I knew they were made of iron. I was scared of doing this with my bare hands. I didn't dare to do it." You start by training the body, but more importantly, you train the spirit.
A powerful iron palm hit can break tiles. /CGTN Photo
Kung fu requires perseverance. "Little strokes fell great oaks." One has to respect every moment in the process. During practice, Shi had been sloppy. "Laziness is in human nature," he says. "It emerges once in a while and follows you everywhere." Therefore, the key to practicing iron palm is to be persistent; to train and overcome constantly.
"There wasn't a particular reason for practicing iron palm. In fact, no matter what you do, when you find yourself at a certain stage, you'd need an answer. Otherwise you can only feel the pain, and there is no way to move forward," says Shi.
The key to practicing iron palm is to be persistent. /CGTN Photo
The answer lies in Zen. Shaolin has three unique treasures, with Zen being the first. Practicing martial arts is a way to access Zen. There is a method called "Zen inquiries" in the Shaolin Temple. The master keeps questioning why you are here, why you practice and why you ask, until you are enlightened. Shi is often asked about why he started.
Practicing martial arts is a way to access Zen. /CGTN Photo
The purpose of practicing is to remove evil. Evil resides within the heart, there is no evil outside of it; when your mind is annoyed or shaken, you need to cut off the temptation. It's about the unity of Zen and martial arts. Martial arts itself is not kung fu, but a kind of tool. Shi is determined to break off the evil in his heart by practicing the iron palm.
Shi Yanjia is a monk at a Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan Province. /CGTN Photo
What do the practitioners in the Shaolin Temple ask for? Everyone has his own answer, which varies a lot. In fact, as long as you live in the present, everyone outside the temple is also practicing something. Just like different levels in a game, you succeed when you break through them.