Sunday, September 10, 2017

My Definitive Guide to Making Money from Blogging and E-Book Publishing


I've been blogging for nearly 15 (!) years now, and I confess I still don't understand a damn thing about stats, traffic, or making money from the whole venture.

I have never had advertising or affiliate links on the website, and I've never really done much to advertise it. I posted some sort of viral advertising joke links on Dave's ESL cafe back in about 2002 - 2005, but since then have done practically nothing, yet traffic rose steadily even after I moved to Saudi in 2009. (Probably mainly thanks to frequent mentions of my work on some popular PUA and Manosphere sites.)

 I only very, very occasionally comment on other people's blogs, and I don't think I've done that at all since about 2014, yet in 2016, when my blog postings started to level off to once a month rather than every 5 days, I suddenly got an enormous spike in traffic:



Yet I never saw myself mentioned anywhere, except for a few disdainful mentions of me on Reddit. Even those "manosphere" guys had lost interest at that point and thoroughly disowned me. (Thank God.)

I have self-published English Teacher X books on Amazon since 2011, and those made some money. The biggest years for those was probably 2012 - 2014, when I was making maybe $300 - $400 a month from them, but then sales in the last couple of year have fallen off to maybe $50 a month, if that.

And then the last couple of months, when, as we see, my blog traffic has fallen off tremendously, there has been a sudden mysterious increase in my book sales. I made about $100 off ETX books last month and seem on course for about $200 this month, if not more.

Why?

Fuck knows!

I'm still completely out to sea on all this. Why do people buy them now? And why did people buy them then? The first book is increasingly irrelevant in the world of modern English teaching, and the book about Russia is now EIGHT years past happening, yet it's already sold 10 copies this month. (Up from 6 for the entire month of June, for example.)

I'd been meaning to re-edit them, improve the formatting, and update the covers, but I've been very busy with this job, my dad, and studying for a Master's degree, and never got around to it.

So why?

You tell me!

I still write porn, and I'll update about that soon, and I'm only a little more knowledgeable about that. I always made at least 2 - 3 times more money doing that, of course.

I'm glad people buy the ETX books though, and generally seem to like them, and in honor of International Teacher's Day:


available FREE on Smashwords, until further notice

The collection of my first three books about English teaching, now available for $1.99 on Amazon


Next week: Crazy Bob's Disgusting Sex Story from Indonesia, probably. He's almost broken down. 


Friday, September 01, 2017

On Top of the Mountain All Covered in Shit

video
That is the top of Mt. Rijani, in Lombok, Indonesa.

What you don't see is all the shit up there, left by the dozens and dozens of trekkers who make the hike up to the crater rim in the busy tourist seasons.

You also can't see me and Crazy Bob, although we were there. That was me holding the phone.

I'm 48; Bob is almost 37. We were at least 10-15 years older than most of the people up there, but we did it.

So that was the admirable, above-board part of the holiday.

The four days previous to that, we spent on Gili Trawangan, which seems to be the current destination of choice for the stylish, good-looking young backpackers. (I had been doubting they still existed, but there they were.)

Here, we were maybe 15 - 20 years older than most of the people, but we did it; we drank beer, hung out at beach bars, took mushrooms, all that.

And of course, Bob had a perfectly repulsive sexual experience, leading to one of our better Disgusting Bar Conversations.

Bob was enthusiastic about it at first; he greeted me with, "You're probably going to want to blog about this."

But as we hiked the mountain and he considered it, he began to feel more rueful.

First, he voiced concern that I only portray him as a guy who fucks ugly and fat chicks.

"I think you should let people know that Bob has sex with good-looking women, and not just occasionally. And not just whores and fat chicks."

"I'll put that in," I promised.

Then the day I left, he sent me a text message.

"I'm having some strong reservations about Bob featured in such a truly low (his actual nadir) circumstance. Perhaps Bob should just discuss this even as a repulsive hypothetical possibility. The sheer grossness of it is almost overwhelming."

"Bob, we owe it to the public. I can put up a donation button on it, perhaps." I retorted.

He wasn't convinced. "I think the public can be sated in less revolting ways."

This might well be one of the last Crazy Bob stories; we're both getting older. I might stop blogging soon. He might die, or reform and stop doing gross shit.

So I leave it to you, all of you out there.

Raise your voices as one to the heavens, just like at the end of Peter Pan where he wants everyone to say that they believe in fairies.



Shout it out loud, in the comments section: WE WANT TO HEAR IT BOB! YOU'RE OUR FAVORITE THING! WE BELIEVE IN YOU!



Bar nothin' ...

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Human Weakness


I'm in Bangkok for a couple of days, prior to flying to Bali for the last part of my summer holiday.

I was all set last night to get drunk and head down to Nana Plaza and bang a whore, something that I almost always enjoy.

But I slipped.

I mean, I was jetlagged, okay. It was raining a bit.

So I stayed in ...

 ... and played video games.

But at least I didn't do any porn, okay? At least I didn't do any porn.

I still woke up feeling pretty ashamed, though.



For the last few years, my worst compulsions are video games and porn.

I know, right? What can I say?

I've been under a fair bit of stress the last couple years, mainly having to participate quite a lot in taking care of my Parkinson's-stricken father, as well as doing a master's degree.

But instead of popping prescription pills and eating a lot, like most Americans
my age, I'm on porn and video games.

The porn is the worst; I'll write about that in another entry. Suffice it to say I'm now one month porn-free, and feeling fairly proud of myself.

Now, the video games; bascially it's only one, the survival game Don't Starve, and I don't think I ever play for more than an hour or two at a time. So I"m not nearly as bad as a lot of people with that shit. But still, it's one of my first "go to"s when I'm feeling stressed.

I'm hardly completely sober; I drink on occasion, but in general it just makes me feel like shit and I don't enjoy it much. On the rare occasion I go out to bars, I'm usually bored and irritated. My colleagues at the last two positions have invited me out quite often; I rarely envy them when they come to work hungover with lost phones and black eyes. (How many black eyes and lost phones can a guy have in a life?)

I mean really, though, if you're going to have addictions, porn and video games are pretty good ones. They're cheap, not all that bad for your health, and easy to maintain. (But that makes them harder to kick, of course.)

So that's the state of my weakness at this moment.

I mean, you don't choose your compulsions, right? They choose you.

I'm working on it though, man, I'm working on it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

GF Update

All right since everybody seems to be dying to hear it:

Yes, I am still with the Girlfriend, she has come to China several times.

After seeing all the difficulties at the school I work at, however, she is not very enthusiastic about leaving her job and moving there. (Teachers for the new semester are making sometimes half the salary that I'm making.) Plus her mother and grandmother need some support in Russia.

She wants me to come back to Russia; there are international schools in Russia, mainly in St. Petersburg and Moscow, that pay a decent wage in the usual international school bracket of $3000 - $5000 USD a month, but currently my qualifications aren't quite there.


(There's basically no way I would go back to working in chain language schools and I've never liked doing private lessons, though it can pay well.)

Failing that, she suggests I buy an apartment in Russia (they can be had in the $40,000 range) and just live with her on the holidays while working in Saudi until I can retire.

Russia in general is completely different than it was when I was there, and people who think you could just over there now and effortlessly bang a bunch of hot chicks, or even easily find a nice normal girlfriend, probably have their heads up their asses. Girls I know who used to be ardent sluts and English groupies now spend a lot of time posting angry things on Russian social media about Syria, America, and the values of patriotism, sobriety, family, and nationalism.

Russia has some advantages beyond sluts, of course -- history, some nice albeit cold natural attractions, and currently a low cost of living if you have dollars.

I think of moving back to Russia, though, and it just gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. Whether it's just that I dislike jingoism or it just makes me think of endless drunkenness and hangovers, I'm not entirely sure.

But I spent a lot of time there, and it was cold and dark, dark, dark . . .



Sunday, July 09, 2017

48

Most young people, of course, think of themselves as both immortal and indestructible.


Even into their 20s and 30s, many people feel that by sheer force of will they can somehow hold off the physical, social, and psychological effects of aging.

Hell, I myself, described by one friend as a "Peter Pan motherfucker" entered my 40s with that belief, in light of the tremendous improvements in my health that accompanied drinking less and sleeping more and (probably) the heat-shock proteins of the warmer climates I was living in.



I turned 48 recently, however, and let me tell you, by that age, you realize you can't avoid it, and that you are getting old, and getting old fast.




Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away. 
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn.

-- Delmore Schwartz, Calmly We Walk Through This April Day

(The whole poem is here, "Calmy We Walk Through This April Day.)

My hair has been greying for years (although it's still mostly brown) but it's also now starting to thin at the top in a Nicholas Cage sort of way:



Mainly in the last year it's been my eyes; I now need reading glasses. That certainly makes a body feel old. As I said in a Tweet long ago, you know you're too old for the club when you need reading classes to see the menu My knees are starting to bug me; I have had problems with both shoulder impingements and plantar fascitis (pain in the feet) in the last year, although massage and specific exercises are helping them.

I'm currently in Thailand; a week here and then 2 weeks in America, where my father has just moved into his own apartment, mainly so he'll have more money to spend on pizza and porn and pay-per-view UFC. He also didn't like the assisted living place because he felt everybody there was too old. Mainly true, as most of them were in their 80s and 90s and he's a mere lad of 77.

After that, I have a trip to Indonesia planned with Crazy Bob; we got it into our heads we needed to do a volcano jungle hike.

I'll let you know if we survive.






Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Saudis vs. the Chinese


I was hoping for a 180 degree switch from the difficult Saudi students I had, but that was not to be. There are a lot of similarities between the Saudis I taught for 5 or 6 years and the Chinese kids I teach now.

There are a couple of big similarities:

1. Highly motivated not to study -- The students I've taught in both places are or were not there by choice; their families sent them there. The Saudis were 18 - 24 or so, the Chinese kids I teach now are 12 - 15, but they're at a similar level of maturity, and don't see that anything they do now will much affect their future. Students in both cases would spend a lot more time and energy trying to cheat, copy, or distract the teacher with various ruses than if they actually just did whatever meager work is assigned them.

2. Utterly sick and exhausted -- In both cases, I'm teaching kids who are living away from home for the first time, and are completely unused to taking care of themselves. In addition to being homesick, both groups will generally stay up all night playing video games and shitting around on their phones, and eat nothing except junk food if allowed. Therefore, keeping them awake during class is one of the biggest tasks.



The big difference however, is:

Chinese kids are really emotionally needy.

 This is exhausting me far more than the rowdy, disrespectful ones. Most of these Chinese kids rarely see their parents and got very little attention from them, and come across as very neglected. Showing them some kindness gets them following you around like puppies and trying to hug you every morning and things like that.

The Saudis all came from huge families and (if nothing else) had a tremendous sense of community and national identity; they surprised me with their confidence and, all things considered, seemed to be pretty well-adjusted.

These Chinese kids, however ... well, I'm pretty sure the term "basket case'" is not politically correct but I can't think of another one. Autism spectrum, ADHD, and dyslexia are just three things the Chinese school system doesn't seem to believe in, so those kids get kicked out or fail out of the state schools and then -- if they have the money -- end up in places like this, one of the international curriculum schools that actually have very few international students.

I compared this school to a reform school in the last post, but maybe it's more fair to call it something like the Island of Misfit Toys.



Anyway, summer vacation starts next week, and I'm planning to come back in September for the next school year to finish the 2-year contract.

That's the plan, anyway ...



Monday, May 29, 2017

TEFLpocolypse 2017: Two Shits and a Fuck You

As I finish the first year of my contract, the future is still precarious here in China.




Last week was a tough week; I got a "fuck you" from one student and two "shits" from another one. The "fuck you" was from a fairly typical kid here -- actually pretty smart, but huge and weird looking and uninterested in absoultely anything other than watching movies in English. He never completed any of his class assignments and skipped half the tests, and his grade point average was about 25.

The admininstration was actually going to punish him severely but he fooled everyone -- his parents were shipping him off to Australia that very week. I think we can safely say he had the last word.

The other one was a little girl of 12 who looks 8 and frequently rubs her crotch when bored. Many of our students refuse to sit next to her. She never completes any of her class assignments or tests, just copying what she can and leaving the rest blank.



Actually, the kids have made a lot of progress this year. We've mostly stopped them from banging each other's heads against the wall, anyway.

See, where I work is bascially kind of a reform school, an expensive boarding school with no particular entrance requirements, populated mainly by rich kids whose parents can't or don't want to deal with them. Very few of them care about making good marks, I suppose on the grounds that they are already rich and they will continue to move up through the grades regardless as long as their parents keep paying.

As if all that weren't enough to make me doubt whether the job is worth the hassles, there are various administrative problems. Quite a few of the teachers I work with -- way more than half, about 75 percent -- aren't returning after summer. Some weren't offered new contracts; others are just leaving. A couple that were offered new contracts found they included more work hours and less holiday time,  different insurance, and no increase in salary. One guy who was promised a contract suddenly found the offer rescinded at the last minute. By all accounts, admin is paring down the staff to a skeleton crew.


Now, I like China -- this is being written in a hotel room in Shanghai with the above view.  But is it worth it? I have contracts from the two colleges in Saudi I applied for back in 2015 waiting for me in America -- I guess the Mideat hiring freeze is over. (It's about the same salary as I make here, though.)

This job, however, is my foot in the door into the world of 'international schools' -- many of which are equally shoddy and not especially 'international' but there are a lot of them, in many countries, and the pay is usually good.  I'll have my Master's in Education finished next year and I can get more international school qualifications, like the IB, in Beijing while I finish up the second year of this contract.

Saudi just leads to more Saudi, of course, in general.

Once again, X is isolated and uncertain.

So what else is new?




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Baby Baby Baby

You know what my overwhelming impression of the expat scene in Beijing is?

Baby carriages.



I don't actually live in Beijing, I live an hour or so away, but I visit frequently. As I write this I'm having breakfast in a popular expat breakfast nook. There are about nine tables occupied by expats; five of them are couples with small children.


And I'm talking young-ish expat couples -- Americans, Italians, and Russians by the sound -- not a Chinese wife nor a bloated former whoremonger father in the bunch.

This trend is also in view at my workplace; most of my colleagues are married and have young children or babies, and only a couple of them are married to Chinese women. (The ones that are married to Chinese women tend to be married to ethnic Chinese raised in a western country.)

There are some former hellraisers in the bunch, guys who have been in China a long time, and they talk about the old days with me over quiet after-work drinks. The usual stories: "Whores and English groupies everywhere." "Drunk every night." "All the teachers were bedraggled old whoremongers or young dudes on the prowl." "Our salaries were low but everything was dirt cheap."

And then around 2009, 2010, 2011, things changed, they tell me. Also a familiar story -- it became harder to get Chinese work visas without qualifications, while more and more qualified non-alcoholic teachers poured into Chinese international schools as it became harder to earn a good living teaching in America, England, and Australia. The cheap and cheerful and boozy hutongs were bulldozed and replaced with shops and malls and modern apartment blocks.



Of course, I am now viewing the world through middle-aged goggles, and the amount of time I've spent studying for my Master's Degree in Education has limited my going out, but as I walk around, what do I see?

Baby carriages and healthy sober good-looking young couples.

And they are untroubled by the ghosts of the drunken old whoremongers and off-the-rails young party dudes.

But where did they go, the ones who couldn't or wouldn't sober up? What country do they hide in? The lucky ones who have pensions probably retired to Thailand (which, when I visited in February, looks to be turning into the world's largest retirement home.)

And the others? Probably working out in the sticks someplace, away from major cities where there are a lot of expats.

But what will the boozy  whoremongers do in a bold new world without booze and whores?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Self Help

They had plenty of self-help books when I was a kid, but I sure didn't know about them.



The modern era of self-help probably started with Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1934, although books about how to improve your outlook date all the way back to the ancient Greek philosophers.

But me, I read Stephen King novels and comic books, mainly. 

Around the time I hit my early teens, I was aware I wasn't particularly happy with myself. I was a bit pudgy, had bad skin, braces, and was moody and unfriendly.


There were no good role models around me. I lived in small-town Southern America. People were fat but had great teeth, or they were dumb jocks. I considered them phonies at worst, completely ignorant at best. (My father was mostly absent, spending most of his time working in Brazil during my formative years.) 

There was no internet then. And only 3 television channels. 

I was aware that books were the place to look for answers, so I began poking around them for tips for betterment. 

Superheroes in the comic books weren't much help; they generally got their powers through accidents, being born different, or after being motivated by some horrific tragedy. 

I looked elsewhere, and found inspiration in men's adventure books.

Now, really, they weren't much more realistic than the super hero comics. They tended to feature lone men battling the mafia, terrorists, or both, while living by their own codes. Tough, independent, and occasionally outright assholes, they nonetheless captured my imagination.

They traveled widely, banged a lot of hot babes, and fought evil. What's not to like?

You need to be more like these guys, I thought.

Well, I never got around to fighting evil, but otherwise, I didn't do too bad.


From this book, I got an exercise routine that I liked. My dad lifted weights, but I disliked it then and I dislike it now. Hawker used a bodyweight workout, which I considered another sign of how awesomely independent he was. He didn't need no stupid gym.


Now this one, I actually was inspired by the bad guy, who was an assassin called Vancouver. He was so awesome he lived alone on an island in the Philippines, where he had actually put a price on his own head so that the local natives would try to kill him constantly, giving him lethal opportunities to work out on them.

 (The first scene has him killing three of the local natives, who are of course pygmies, and he does it while blindfolded.)

Well, this badass only drank water. That was mentioned specifically; he only drank water.

Being as there was no way to put a price on my own head, I started drinking only water.

My skin cleared up and I lost weight; prior to that, like most early 80s kids, I'd drunk about a liter of Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper per day.

It was a fucking revelation, I tell you. I felt a lot better just from that.

Anyway, sadly, I eventually fell under the influence of the anti-self-help masters, like Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson, but I still traveled a lot and banged a lot of babes, though I've still never gotten around to fighting any evil.

Maybe one of these days, huh?

Friday, April 14, 2017

TEFLpocolypse: Endgame



There's a story -- most likely not accurate -- that the early indigenous people, when they first saw the boats of the Europeans crawling over the horizon, simply couldn't see them. Their brains just didn't register something so far out of their experience and frame of reference.



(Perhaps they were just choosing not to swallow the red pill, eh?)

Now that's probably crap, of course. This article suggests they were too busy surviving to react until the explorers got close enough to deal with, for example.

Most certainly, even if they saw the ships, they had no idea they were the beginning of the end of their civilization.

Now, I think of that whenever I look at my smart phone.



The end of my job, and most jobs, as we know them, is just sitting there in our pockets.

I visited the city of Xi'an last week during a long weekend, to see the Terracotta Warriors. See, the emperor thought he could take his army with him to the other side, in the form of 8000 clay statues, but little did he know their heads would fall off and they'd just end up a tourist attraction.


Xi'an is not a very cosmopolitan place, and few people speak English; but that doesn't mean a damn thing anymore, because their phones do. 

Taxi drivers, hotel employees, restaurant personnel -- they all talked to us with their smart phones. There are apps now that not only instantly translate text, but translate voice to text (and vice versa) and can scan a word and change it to spoken or written Chinese. And not just crude sentences of a few mangled words, either -- our taxi driver managed to bark a few gruff words of Chinese into his phone and have it produce, "Shall we return to the hotel now?" in a beautiful British accent. 

I mean, of course, most jobs will be eliminated in the very near future by software and robots anyway. Porn and masturbation robots will even eliminate the need for the world's oldest profession. In a world where you can buy a Scarlett Johansen robot for $50,000, who needs humans anyway?  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha

Instant Message conversation:  

 Crazy Bob: So i ask you, X, if someone had told you in 1976 that you would be living in X place in 30, 40 years would you have greeted the news with wonder and awe?

ETX: I would have said, "You mean I don't lose my mind and live in a cardboard box? Far out!"  



So, how many people -- colleagues or former colleagues -- do you know who are in mental institutions, or recently released from mental institutions?

I know three.

Is that a lot?

I don't know.

I'm 47 years old, and have worked with dozens of people, probably hundreds at this point, so maybe it's not that strange that three people on my Facebook feed are institutionalized.

(Not close friends, incidentally, just former colleagues.)

 According to statistics, about 1 in 5 people in America experience serious mental illness in their life. The percentage of people who end up institutionalized is harder to figure, because many end up in jail instead.

Of course I know a tremendous number of people who are barely clinging to sanity, but three of 'em, well, they just couldn't fake it anymore.

(Crazy Bob is still pretty crazy but he's having some health problems that have slowed him down a little.)

I have long postulated that crazy people are drawn to the TEFL lifestyle.

But the world being what it is these days, maybe it's no longer a good place for crazy people to hide.



Relieve your chronic depression with my collection of old cartoons on Kindle, available free for the next 5 days:


Get it HERE FOR KINDLE


Sunday, March 12, 2017

TEFLpocolypse 2017: Take Shelter

It almost seemed too good to be true, this contract in China, considering the ongoing TEFLpocolypse.

I was offered a job with barely a ten minute interview, there were no particular hassles about my qualifications, and the terms are pretty much equal to my first job in Saudi -- $4000 a month plus accommodation and 3 months paid vacation time. 

Almost too good to be true, and turns out it kind of was. 


Two of my colleagues were up for contract renewals recently, and this week found out they wouldn't be offered new contracts. There are perfectly good teachers with qualifications, who are in China with spouses and kids.  

Now they're scrambling to find jobs. 

Word is that the school is going to be hiring more bilingual Chinese teachers next year, and the contracts for international teachers will involve about 20 percent more teaching and 20 percent less salary. 

The rumors are flying around the office, of course. Private international schools are being legislated against, and there's a story that it will now be impossible for a foreigner to work in Beijing for more than 5 years. (I can't find any immediate confirmation of that online.) 


This is definitely one of the hardest jobs I've had, in terms of the students. Everything I'd ever heard about Chinese kids -- that they were respectful, orderly, studious, quiet, and well-behaved -- is absolutely incorrect here. Management is a wreck; pretty much every single management position was vacated at Christmas, and new people are struggling to figure out what's going on. Something like a half-dozen teachers left at Christmas, fed up with the terrible students, inconsistent management, and the isolated location. 

(We're in a new development an hour from Beijing, basically in a construction zone, so most of the teachers had spotty internet service and constant noise. I'm at the front of the compound so haven't suffered that much, and truthfully most of the ones that left were people with a lot of experience teaching back home but not much time abroad, ergo had unreasonable expectations. Like civilization and stuff.) 


But after a rocky start and a conflict with the dotty old lady who was my immediate superior, who also left at Christmas, I;m actually kind of enjoying teaching the spoiled, neglected little shits now. I use classdojo.com to train them like Pavlov dogs, and it works a treat. 

Still it seems this job won't last more than the 2 year contract I have now, ending summer of 2018. 

My teaching philosophy nowadays is basically "take the money and run" anyway. X remains if not fearless, than at least resigned, in the face of a profession, and a world, that is rapidly burning to the ground. 



"The world is not the same as it was. Mutants ... they're gone now."



Sunday, February 19, 2017

X at the Shaolin Temple

We had a one-week holiday the first week of October, only about five weeks after I started this job near Beijing, China.

I went to the Shaolin Temple.

Of course.






Yeah, a few tourists, sure. 
It's not too difficult to get there from Beijing; about 3 hours on the high-speed train to Zhengzhou, and then a bus to Dengfeng and a taxi to the Shaolin Temple.

 (Unfortunately this was during a Chinese national holiday, which means the better part of a billion and a half people were on the move, so the 1.5 hour trip from Dengfeng took more like 3 hours.)

To describe the Shaolin Temple as "cheesy" would certainly be accurate. It's kind of like a kungfu Disneyland.

But you could also use "fucking awesome" and "well worth the trip."

Some students practicing a move that would probably be about the most useless and dangerous thing
 you could possibly do in a fight.


Hey, get a room you two!

Live simply and die with a big monument; that's Zen baby. 

In addition to the Shaolin Monastary itself and the martial arts training center, there is a Pagoda forest and a handful of other temples; for your 100 yuan entry fee, you also get Mount Song and the surrounding area, which is pretty fucking cool itself. You can see the cave where Bodhidarma meditated, bringing Zen Buddhism to China. (Of course I didn't take a picture of that, you think I'm culturally insensitive?)




The authenticity of the actual temple is pretty dubious; it's been blown up and rebuilt about a half-dozen times, and most of the stories about its founding and history are more likely legend than reality. (Shaolin Temple wikipedia entry.) 

 But, tourist attraction though it is, it is still a working center where martial arts is taught and studied.


Now probably a lot of you alpha-man-osphere doofs out there are going to chime in that the Gracie Family or Conor MacGregor could kill every living soul in the Shaolin Monastary in about a minute; but I would have to ask, could Conor MacGregor put his leg perpendicular to the ground next to his head, and then do a split onto his testicles?  


I thought not! 

Shaolin Kungfu, according to the legend, was developed by the Bodhidharma after meditating for 9 years; understandably feeling a bit stiff and achy, he began imitating the animals around him (tigers, cranes, mantises, monkeys, etc) for the sake of his fitness.

The reality of course is probably nothing even close to that, but there are so many legends and stories about it all it doesn't much matter anymore. 

And of course, you watch a video like that, you think: Oh, man that's the perfect sport for a middle aged dude. 

I have been doing Shaolin Kung Fu workouts off of YouTube videos since I was a young man of 40 back in 2009; one of my bucket list desires was to actually study kungfu in China. For the last 8 years I have been trying to arrange it. Even with the abundance of money and free time I've had since 2009, I hadn't managed to get it worked out. 


Until now. 

Mission accomplished, baby. 

(And yes I am aware that kung-fu is not really the correct word for Chinese martial arts, but even the schools tend to use it that way, so step off.) 

Plaque near the training center warning against factionalism within schools of kungfu

I stayed there for a total of 4 nights, at one of the small guest houses connected to the various schools in an area to the side of the main tourist area. There seemed to be about a half-dozen small schools and I was absolutely fucking delighted to see groups of  young men in different uniforms jogging around, running and jumping and practicing forms, and even standing on their heads on the concrete. 








 I went and had tea with the guy who owned the guest house connected to the school and he said he could arrange a day of instruction for $100 or so. (That included a t-shirt, some track pants, and some kungfu shoes that didn't fit.)  Probably a bit expensive, but am I going to haggle with a Shaolin Monk?


That evening I met with the actual teacher, who seemed more than a bit skeptical of me and didn't speak any English. When I showed that I was familiar with a lot of the basic moves, and actually in reasonably good shape for an older guy, he warmed up to me a little.



So the training started the next day. Typical day for a Shaolin student consists of: a morning run at 5:00am; 2 hours of training in the morning, 8:00 to 10:00 am; 2 hours of training in the afternoon, 1:00 - 3:00pm, and 1.5 hours of training after dinner, 6:00 - 7:30pm.

Once he established I was familiar with some of the exercises, he took me to train with his main group of students, in one of the many practice fields nearby.

There were about 20 of them. The oldest one was probably 17. Most of them were ripped-to-shreds little extreme athletes, but within the class, there was some streaming of students, and I ended up with the basic class, one of whom seemed to be autistic, several of whom were overweight, and one of whom had some kind of gimpy leg where he could barely walk. Oh, and there was a 5-year-old also.

I ran, I kicked, I punched the air, I leapt and crouched and did the horse-stance. The kids ran rings around me, alhtough I probably did outperform the retarded one and the overweight ones. The kids really got a kick (pun intended) out of me studying with them and were very supportive and helpful with all the moves.

I had a fucking blast.

By the end of the day, of course, both my knees were swollen up like cannonballs, and I could barely walk. The kungfu shoes they had provided were too small, and both of my big toenails turned black, to fall off a few weeks later.

But I did that shit, baby.

I studied kungfu at the Shaolin Monastary.