Know What Shaolin Kung Fu Is? Meet, Shifu Instructor, Chris Friedman #ShaolinKungFu #KungFu #MartialArts

Hi, everyone. This is going to be an awesome blog, and very different from the usual author spotlights. Social media is a beautiful thing—especially when you make unexpected friendships (with someone who has my maiden surname).  I met Chris Friedman in a Facebook group when he asked about women’s clothing in the ‘70s. I jumped in and posted a pic of me in 1971 that was similar to the outfit the model was wearing. We started conversing and what I learned about Chris astounded me in a great way. I’ll let him tell you all about his life. And wait till you see the stunning pics! Chris, I’m so excited to have you on my blog today. Please tell my readers about yourself.

Sure, Ronnie. I live in Henan province home to the Shaolin Temple.  I train under Master Shi Yan Shuang as a disciple. I’ve been doing martial arts since my early teens. I’ve earned several black belts, including Bujinkan Ninjutsu, UMS American Karate, Tang Soo Do, Shuai Jiao as well as earning teacher certificates in Shaolin Kung Fu and Shaolin hard Qigong. I’ve cross-trained in many systems and have competed in Judo, Push Hands, Shuai Jiao, Karate and Jujutsu competitions, winning a Gold and Silver in Push Hands and a Bronze in Judo.

Since I was a young teen training in my back yard in Long Island, New York, I dreamt of living in Asia and studying with the masters. That dream has come true and I have been living in China for the last ten years. Since my adventure in China, I’ve had many great opportunities, like acting in over twenty commercials, having over forty articles published for Kung Fu/ Tai Chi magazine, and jetli.com and having a documentary film being made about my life called Living The Dream being made by Swedish filmmakers and funded by the Swedish government.

What is Shaolin Kung Fu and how does it differ from other styles of Martial Arts?

The Shaolin Temple is the birthplace of Asian martial arts. It is located in Henan province in China. The Shaolin Temple’s history goes back 1500 years, when an Indian monk named Do Mo came here and taught Chan Buddhism and yoga-like exercises. These exercises were taught to the monks to improve their health, strengthen their bodies and in turn improve their Buddhist meditation. These exercises eventually evolved into Shaolin Kung Fu. All other Asian martial arts, Karate Judo, Jujutsu, Tae Kwan Do all have their roots in Shaolin Kung Fu.

Though things are changing here where I live in Songshan Shaolin, the village just outside of the Shaolin Temple, the main goal of Shaolin Kung Fu is not to rack up victories over opponents. Yes, there is a competitive sports side to Shaolin Kung Fu called Sanda, which is Chinese kickboxing that also allows throwing techniques. However it is used as one component along with many others to train the body and mind. The ultimate goal of training is to gain a healthy strong capable body, along with important life values such as tolerance and discipline.

There are many aspects to Shaolin training such as stretching and conditioning exercise basics, which come in the form of kicks and punches done in line drills, acrobatics, forms, weapons training, two-man drills, Sanda {Chinese kickboxing} and Chin Na {grappling, and self-defense techniques, just to name a few. (My note: Chris is in gray).

What is your daily training schedule like?

Well I live here and have a pretty flexible schedule. I usually train about three days a week with my teacher, other coaches or with students, then the rest of the time I train alone. Where I live there is plenty of space either inside or in the mountains. Conditioning is a big part of Shaolin Kung Fu, so along with doing my solo empty hand and weapons routines daily, I like to make sure I get some conditioning in daily as well. This could be special hand training or using the Shi Suo {stone lock similar to a kettledrum} or training with one of the heavy weapons. I also like to get some contact training in at least once or twice a week. Stuff like sparing, pad work, applications and two-man toughening drills.

Can you describe what you wear in instructing, training, and in matches?

When I help my teacher to lead the foreign guests that come as part of a tour group weekly during the tourist season, I wear the traditional Shaolin Uniform that consist of grey pants and jacket, long grey socks that cover over your pants up to your knees and kung fu shoes. In daily training, we wear a kind of jump suit made of polyester, I guess. For those who compete in Sanda the outfit is shorts, tank top with shin gear, boxing glove, head gear and chest guard. In regular daily sparring matches, we simply wear the jumpsuit with glove and sometimes shin guards.

What made you decide to move to China? How long do you plan to remain there?

I always wanted to go to Asia and train with the masters. I used to watch kung fu movies growing up and dream about it. I got a chance when one of my instructors back in the sates asked if I wanted to take part in a trip to China for two weeks of training. I saved my money and went. When I was there, I met a friend and the seed was planted. That friend helped me plan my return and I have been living here for ten years now. My wife and I plan to leave China within the next couple of years and open a training center. We aren’t 100% sure where this will be yet.

What can you tell us about where you live? Why did you choose this local?

This is the birthplace of Asian martial arts and Kung Fu, so for a martial art enthusiast it makes sense. This whole place is filled with full time kung fu schools and there is nothing else to do around here. I live in the mountains; clean air clean simple living. Before my wife and I moved to Songshan Shaolin, we lived in southern China in a city called Shenzhen. It was beautiful there but not much martial arts.

What would you tell parents when they’re deciding which style of martial arts to have their children involved in?

I would say look for a school that teaches life values and not just the fighting aspect of martial arts. Sports fighting can be great, but without the traditional values like tolerance, discipline, respecting elders etc. they can be making society more dangerous instead of safer.

What’s next for you? Do you travel to do matches?     

I am forty-six years old and had reconstructive knee surgery in China without physical therapy after. I don’t compete. I did when I was younger but it is not my primary goal in life to be a pro fighter. I have done martial arts for thirty-five years and want to keep going till I’m ninety if possible. I don’t have any immediate plans to return to the states. I write for Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine regularly and people interested can buy the publication and check out my articles. I also have many online articles that are free to read on www.jetli.com. I’m also working on a novel of the true crime genre, based on a true story.

Chris, thank you so much for sharing your fascinating life with us. Readers, please feel free to leave comments and questions for him.

The Sign Behind The Crime,

Best,

Ronnie

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