LEARNING Kung Fu from a Shaolin monk has got to be the metaphorical equivalent to having Fred Astaire as a dance teacher. The good news is Enfield residents can now experience the former, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning at little cost or inconvenience to themselves.
Having been, I would recommend the experience to anyone under 35. The subsequent day I did feel a degree of pain, which progressed into an unshakeable wince, and muttering about the lack of lifts in tube stations, but hell, I am still recovering from the elation of managing to do a back flip. And half a sort of sideways roll thing in the air, while my girlhood enthusiasm for headstands finally got the recognition it deserves.
Matthew Ahmet, the only white monk in the world-famous Shaolin troupe, is only 20 but he sure knows his Bang shou from his Ce chua tui. For anyone who has seen the monks perform, he is the one who can rest his entire bodyweight on four of his fingers. He has held the class at the Grundy Park Leisure Centre in Windmill Lane Cheshunt for five weeks and already has a team of devoted followers. When I told Iyanu, an 11-year-old pupil, that I was writing an article about the class she nodded wisely and said: “More people should know about this. It’s not just Kung Fu but Tai Chi and Shaolin moves as well. After I first came I was crying because it was hard for me but a week after I did a back flip. It pushed me to the next level.” Too right.
There are in fact three classes; a kids session from 5 to 6pm, which saw unbelievably elastic children happily performing sequences of backflips, a basics session from 6 to 7 and the Shaolin jumps class from 7 to 8pm. It should be said: this ain’t no cosy yoga tea party. After two hours of being pulled about and told to keep bits of me straight that wouldn’t, I am now utterly convinced that my right arm is longer than my left. I have been yelled at to concentrate more times than I can count, told that my posture is terrible, but (ha ha!) that my jumps were OK (though I should admit at this stage that my back flip was not unassisted). What it all shows is it’s amazing what you can do when you try. Wes Myers, 25, of Ware, has been coming since the start when he couldn’t do a cartwheel, but now it’s as easy as a walk in the park. He said: “It is amazing how much your body just picks up. I just can’t wait for the summer just messing about in the park. I spend a lot of time on the floor as a heating engineer and this really helps with my joints.”
Sohail Badat, of Forest Gate, said: “I’m 28 and only started Kung Fu two years ago and it has helped me to control my smoking. There are so many different moves in this, I love the continuous motion, its like a dance, and there is so much energy in it. It is very good for wellbeing. It opens up your mind to a lot of other things as well, maybe because of the exercise we are getting. You are able to think clearly about your life you start learning how to relax how to breathe properly how to use energy and not waste it.”
Classes are on Tuesdays and Fridays from 5pm and Saturdays from 10am. The first session is free, then adults pay £8 and children £6. Membership rates and term bookings available. To contact Matthew call 07505 013735 or email firstname.lastname@example.org