Shaolin Superstars…of Dance?

Matthew Ahmet with 'Shaolin monks'

The extraordinary transformation of an ordinary teenager into wannabe monk began nine years ago, when China’s famed Shaolin monks performed their extraordinary show of martial arts and physical feats at London’s Dominion Theatre.

Matthew says, ‘I was 11 and my older brother and cousin took me along to see the show. I was quite interested in martial arts, and I liked watching Jackie Chan films, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

I sat in the audience absolutely mesmerized. The show started just like it still does today, with a candle burning and soft chanting before the monks start demonstrating gentle tai chi moves. Suddenly, it all explodes into wonderful combat sequences and incredible feats of human endurance. The monks walk up stairways made from razor-sharp knives, lie on beds of knives with concrete slabs on top of them, and break metal bars over their own heads–showing how they can overcome pain.

He says, ‘People say that there is often a moment in life where everything changes, and for me, it was watching that one performance. I knew immediately that all I wanted to do in life was go to China and join the Shaolin monks. When I got home, I told Mum and Dad, and I think they assumed it was just a passing phase. But they were wrong…[continued at Daily Mail]

Superstars of Dance, Episode 2

Superstars of Dance, Episode 3

This series ended today. Some of my thoughts:

  • The Shaolin Wushu team took second place, behind the USA. I thought their performance was a bit overrated, for a dance competition, considering their lack of versatility and emphasis on chop-socky theatrics.
  • I respect the Wushu team for their skill and accomplishment–but it is absurd to imply that Bodhidharma taught synchronized Wushu routines to the Chan monks 1500 years ago.
  • China was not the only team to showcase martial arts skills. Australia showed excellent ukemi (falling and rolling ability), while the USA demonstrated masterful “short power”, or explosive control.
  • Among a panel of expert dancers and choreographers, only the Chinese “monk” is addressed as Master? Folks, this is one of the reasons that martial artists are not taken seriously by mainstream society.

A troublemaker once told me that the best quality tea is kept for Chinese consumption, whereas the inferior crop is exported to Japan; and that which is too poor for Japan, is sent on to the United States. Having viewed the Shaolin kung fu offered to an international audience, please consider this demonstration of Chen Taiji dancing from Chinese state television.


  1. “This performance is what Shaolin is really about.”

    I rest my case…



  2. Yeah Wim, I noticed that too.
    May Buddha bless their floor gymnastics routine.

  3. CMA have become so visual haven’t they?
    I was watching the old videos for Michael Jacksons Thriller and Bad, the dance sequences totally reminded me of modern wushu.

  4. As someone who lives in China, it is all a joke. Shaolin monks in a dance competition? Surely you jest.

  5. I have to admit that it’s kind of weird, but why not, I’ve seen wheel of life and they are amazing! The only thing is that they shouldn’t have said “this is what shaolin is all about”. But still they are awesome.

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