Shaolin Temple Mexico Celebrates 8 Year Anniversary at Annual Retreat
(Leer en Español)
Every year the Shaolin Temple Mexico hosts an annual Shaolin retreat with Shifu Shi Yan Ming, but this years was the biggest ever with 192 people attending. It was even more special as it marked the 8th anniversary of the Shaolin Temple Mexico, and the Heng Yi students had prepared several surprises for Shifu and his disciples from New York who had come with him.
The 192 participants came from all across Mexico, the US, and even Cuba and Austria. Even though the beautiful Ahuatepec Benedictine Monastery in Cuernavaca only had room officially for 150, students kept signing up after the deadline, even though they knew they would have to bring sleeping bags or air mattresses. Nobody wanted to miss the opportunity to train authentic Shaolin martial arts or Chan philosophy with Shifu. Despite the huge number of students attending, Heng Yi, Heng Sheng, and the head students of the Mexico Temple did an amazing job of making sure everything ran perfectly smoothly.
The students woke up at 5:30 every morning to a choice of practicing their Taiji Quan and Qi Gong, or an intense kung fu workout. Heng Sheng led the reviews of Qi Gong and Taiji, going over what Shifu had taught both in previous seminars and the day before. The kung fu training was led by Heng Yi's student Eilyf, and it was not easy. He led the students up the rocky road of the monastery doing bear crawls, and back down doing crab walks. After a few laps around the large training field, the students trained across the entire field pushup jumps, elephant walks, lizard crawls, duck walks, and a wide assortment of other intense excersices. These were followed by the usual Shaolin basic kicks and stances, and finally 4 sets of 20 burpies, 20 bicycle crunches, 20 mountain climbers, and 20 v-ups. By the time class ended at 7, everyone was ready for a hearty breakfast!
After breakfast, Shifu led Qigong and Taiji class. He broke the huge group up into how much everyone had learned of the Yijin Jing - the Muscle Tendon Changing Sutra - some were just beginning, some halfway through, and some had finished. For those who were already done, Shifu continued showing them the strikes related to the 5 elements - pi, beng, zhuan, pao, and heng - metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
After another hearty meal and a few short hours of rest, it was time for kungfu training with Shifu. He went over various basic kicks, strikes, and stances, and even several advanced basics. Once everyone was well warmed up, after a quick break, it was time to learn a straight sword form. Shifu had brought Heng Xian with him from New York to help teach the form. It was a lot to learn in only 3 days, but everyone pushed themselves harder to remember every detail. When it was time for class to end, Shifu gathered the group around, and with Heng Yi's help translating, spoke Chan philosophy. Everyone listened intently as Shifu discussed the history of the Shaolin Temple, Chan Buddhism, and philosophy to apply to one's daily life.
After dinner on the first day of training, the students of the temple gave an amazing performance, the likes of which had never been in the history of the USA Shaolin Temple. Over 40 students performed in the demo. It started off with several sets of basics and forms, with the performers wearing glowstick bracelets to stand out in the dark. A fast techno beat played in the background. A few minutes into the performance, firecrackers went off behind the field right on cue. Soon after that more went off, and then even bigger ones. Suddenly, behind the performers, a huge Dharma wheel lit up, and propelled by 3 rockets, started quickly spinning. Immediately after, underneath, the words SHAOLIN TEMPLE MEXICO - 8 YEARS exploded into light. Huge fireworks went off in the sky, and two flamethrowers near where Shifu and the audience sat began going off as well - all while the students kept performing. It was like a Shaolin rock concert. But despite all of the fancy effects, what really showed through the most was the love and time that everyone had put into the performance. The fruit of the seeds that Shifu and Heng Yi planted in Mexico 8 years ago has truly ripened.
After another two days of intense training, it was time for the farewell ceremony. After taking a huge group picture, each student received a certificate of participation and had their picture taken with Shifu. Some students received a special one thanking them for their assistance in making sure the retreat ran perfectly. And some received a special plaque - the first student to sign up, the 8th, 18th, 88th, and 108th students, and then others to students who had attended the retreat every year and supported the temple from the beginning, including several of Shifu's disciples from New York. A special gift was presented to Heng Sheng - a beautiful sword forged in the traditional method out of Oaxacan steel. Finally, the most special gift was presented to Shifu - a Guan Dao blade also forged from Oaxacan steel that had engraved "Shifu Shi Yan Ming - 8 Years of Shaolin Kung Fu in Mexico" within a beautiful traditional pattern.
After one final kung fu training session, it was time for everyone to return to their homes. But this was just the first stage of Shifu's trip - it would soon be time to travel to the Mayan Riviera to bless the newest branch of the temple!