THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS

 

CAUTION: When browsing through a school’s website, be aware of superlatives and hyperbole. Always read between the lines. When watching videos of these Wudang masters, do not imagine yourself doing what they are doing. Stick with reality. Also, if they have written any informative articles on any aspect of the internal martial arts, be sure to  read them. And, as mentioned at the end of Part II, Daoism and the internal martial arts go hand-in-hand in Wudangshan. Therefore, if your religious beliefs or lack thereof may prevent you from honoring the rules and rituals of a particular school or temple, always check with them directly for any questions you might have before you travel.

Keeping these points in mind, let us begin our rundown of the more important internal martial arts schools and temples in and around Wudangshan.

China Wudang Kung Fu Academy (DaoistKungFu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shixing. Their new 16-million yuan school opened in 2013 occupies over ten thousand square meters, surrounded by mountains with a quiet and peaceful environment. It is the largest, wholly-contained martial arts school in Wudang with 130 comfortable rooms in a four-level student building with hot water facilities, classic meals mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), Wifi, spacious yards with ample traditional training equipment, and its very own Taoist Temple. They teach a full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. . Everything that you need to learn more about Chinese culture could be found on the school territory: the Taoist Temple, the special hall to practice painting, the Hall of White Tiger Hall, the Hall of Green Dragon- the places that are decorated with Chinese calligraphy, where we practice in case of the poor weather. There is a large room for tea ceremony and the place where you can learn playing traditional Chinese musical instruments, a clean, up-to-date kitchen. Check website for latest fee changes. Last posted 7600 RMB for single room; 6600 RMB for double room.

Chen Shixing YouTube Channel:  China Wudang Kung Fu Academy

Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Academy (/wudang.academy/learning-with-master-chen-shiyu/), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. School is located at Huilongguan (Returning Dragon) Temple. Huilongguan is the first temple after passing the entrance to the National Park of Wudangshan. Clean, comfortable rooms with hot water facilities, mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), Wifi available. Both outside and inside training areas with traditional training equipment, a medium-size school usually no more than 30 students. A full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. Very clean, up-to-date kitchen. Monthly rate for luxury single with separate bathroom 9900 RMB ($1550), standard single 9500 ($1485), single with public toilet 6800 ($1062), double with A/C and separate toilet 7900 ($1235), with public toilet 6900 ($1078)

Chen Shiyu YouTube Channel: Chen Shiyu (Mostly performance videos), A more extensive list here: YouTube Videos:
Master Chen Shiyu

Of particular interest:

Tour of the kitchen facility

Explaining the Principles of Taiji (Mandarin)

Leading a Taiji 13 Class

Wudang Bagua Form

 

Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy (WudangWushu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Yuan Xiu Gang. The school is currently in a transition to newer facilities. They are still in Wudangshan just a few kilometers from the old school at YuXu Temple. The new school is near the Wudangshan Stadium and Taiji Lake, which is part of the new Taiji Lake tourism area, the Chinese government’s idea of improving upon Nature by mixing environmental protection with the rich heritage of Wudang culture. Supposedly diverse forestation and landscaping have been completed around the lake. During this transition, new students coming to take part in the Health Class and specific workshops/courses will be directed to the new location next to Taiji Lake as the Academy is fully relocating to the new area. This is one of the largest schools at Wudang. You can also expect the accommodations and food at their new location to be among the finest in Wudang. Both Master Yuan and his coaches are bilingual and teach a full range of Wushu, taiji, qigong, weapons as well as calligraphy, music and Mandarin. And the prices are very reasonable. The Monthly rate for a single with A/C is 8100 RMB ($1265), a single without A/C is 7500 (1172), a double with A/C is 7500 (1172), a double without A/C is 6900 (1078),

Yuan Xiu Gang YouTube Channel Wudang Wushu (Mostly performance and group videos)

Of particular interest:

Teaching a Master Class in Spain

Learning Gongfu from Master Yuan

What is Internal Alchemy? (audio volume low, read subtitles)

Preparing for Meditation

Demonstrating Taiji 28 with international class (the perfect form)

Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy (TaoistWellness.com, a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Gu Shining. The school is located in a picturesque valley below the central tourist bus route between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen Temples near Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33). This is a new website with videos by George Thompson. The old website had some glaring inconsistencies especially regarding prices and the courses thought by Sifu Gu. I cannot say that I am sure the new website has corrected all the inconsistencies regarding his courses. If you have a particular area of study you are interested in, for example, bagua, xingyi, tuina massage or acupuncture, make sure you email ahead to find out if it is indeed available. But, it should be noted that where Michael Weichhart is the most experienced and proficient of the Wudang posters, George Thompson is perhaps the least with only four months of formal martial arts training, yet he talks incessantly throughout the posts on his channel. So, stick with those videos specifically on the Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy channel (See link below).

As noted in Part II, the accommodations are rather Spartan with smaller rooms, mostly doubles, some with A/C some without, a smaller shower building with an Asian style toilet, and one single bedroom with a Western toilet. The facility is adequate for about six or seven students. More than that and it becomes rather tight. The community room is not large enough to hold taiji classes on rainy days. The dining area adjacent to the kitchen is small, and the kitchen can use a major clean up as well as updated remodeling and menu. On the plus side, though Master Gu Shining may not have as extensive a skill set as the other three San Feng Pai masters, it must be remembered that he spent years obtaining a college degree and teaching high school English while the other masters were training. Nevertheless, he is perhaps the most congenial and accommodative of any master at Wudang. Since his classes are very small, only about four to six students generally, he has time to work one-on-one in English with each one. And that should account for something, but perhaps not the 9000 RMB monthly price tag (a substantial increase). Much too much compared to other facilities for a small, shared double with only one outside Asian style shower room, no rain-proof indoor training area, and a kitchen in need of a major clean up and modernization  But for 7000 – 7500 RMB tops, it may just be a good value for a raw beginner.

Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy Youtube Channel Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy

Of particular interest:

Five Animals Qigong instructional video

Taiji 33 Performance Video with View of training yard

Taiji 33 Back View, performed off-site

Talk on Wudang culture in small community room

Wudang Dao (WudangDao.com) a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Zhong Xuechao (also called Master Bing). Slightly larger than Master Gu’s facility, as of the 2017 renovation and construction, the school had 7 rooms, without air conditioning. It will be hot during the Summer months, from June to end of August. Rooms have bed, blanket, sheet set and pillow. Students must use public lavatory (most likely Asian style) and shower. Work was to have been completed by September, 2017. Also a long 40-minute walk to the main road to catch the Mountain Tourist Bus. If you need a ride to town, Master Bing drives his car to town twice a day every two to four days.

I do not know if any part of the facility has been upgraded since 2017, but Master Bing has told me that his community room can hold three to five students for indoor practice on rainy days. As I mentioned in Part II, Master Bing has an extensive following in the U.S. and tours America every year generally from January to May. So, he has little need of a much larger facility in Wudang. To make sure the accommodations are adequate, he divides his Wudang schedule into three modules: Easy, Medium and Difficult, and teaches each separately for two weeks with about a 10-day break between modules. Each module will have one form or technique as well as a qigong, foundation exercises and an easy, medium or difficult hike. He limits class size to 12 maximum to avoid overcrowding and to provide individual corrections.

If your own schedule and location work out, you may be able to study with Master Bing at a city near you on his U.S. tour, and then later at Wudang. Master Bing has one of the most extensive skill sets at Wudang as he has been studying martial arts since he was six years-old, first informally with his uncle, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long, the 14th generation Wudang Master and head of the Wudang San Feng Pai. Then right after high school in 1992, Master Bing began formal study at Wudang.

Master Zhong Xuechao (Master Bing), Wudangbing YouTube channel: WudangBing

Of Particular Interest:

Spontaneous Qigong, Formless Form

Five Animals Qigong with Instructional ending

Taiyi Wu Xing 5 Element Form

Two-person Sword Form in Virgina

Fire and Water two-person sword form

Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy (Wudang-Academy.com). Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long, a disciple of You Xuan De. At the top of their website, it states: “A small and secluded academy…” So, I would anticipate the school to be exactly that – small and secluded. Although this is the largest of the three Spartan schools, perhaps averaging a dozen or so students. Even their booking site, StudyMartialArts.org, lists this facility as “Spartan.”  According to WGFHA website: “Students should be prepared to meet the simple living conditions here, bunk beds, shared shower rooms and squat toilets, insects and the humidity (especially in the Summer). That just about sums it up. The price is slightly out of line for a triple room – $7500 RMB for 1 month. That is more in line with a standard double room. However, if the teaching is exceptional, then it may well be worth it. But I have no idea if that is the case. The training looks a bit over-the-top to me, but… See for yourself.

Master Tang Li Long, YouTube channel: (WudangAcademy)

Of Particular Interest:

WGFHA Introduction (also on Home Page)

Tang Li Long Promotion

Impressions of our new school (2013)

Forms and Applications

Push hands (tui shou)

Wudang Skill Training (Gong Li)

Wudang Taoist Wuji KungFu Academy (DaoistGungFu.com) – Another 15th generation Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng, a disciple of You Xuan De and a graduate of the Chinest Daoist Academy. Wuji Kung Fu Academy is no doubt head and shoulders above most other schools in Wudangshan when it comes to size and comfort. It can accommodate up to 280 students. Despite such the vast size, the website claims that all classes are taught personally by Master Chen, the first student in Mt. Wudang to attend graduate studies at the Chinese Taoist Association. Instead of a dormitory or temple, students are housed at a 4-star Wudangshan hotel, the QiongTai Hotel. The monthly fee is very reasonable considering the 4-star accommodations, 10,000 RMB for a private single room and 8000 RMB for a double room. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how good his translators are. And you will definitely need a good one if you are not fluent in Mandarin. Also, all of his taiji and qigong is painfully slow and IMHO not necessarily inline with most Wudang styles – But you be the judge…

Master Chen Li Sheng, YouTube channel: (Chen Li Sheng)
Of Particular Interest:

An Introduction to Chen Li Sheng

Master Chen’s School in Wudang Mountains

Explaining Internal Basics (If you’re not fluent in Mandarin, go somewhere else)

Teaching Amsterdam students internal taichi (No Sound, No English?)

Teaching Taiji Quan (His translator hopefully is very good. Again, No Sound!!!)

Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School, (Wudang-kungfu.net), 25th generation of longmen pai (dragongate), the 23rd generation of chunyang pai (pure yang energy lineage) and 13th generation of songxi pai (the flowing river lineage) Master Wang Xing Qing. The school has two locations. There is the main school located at the foot of Eastern side of Wudangshan in Plum Valley near Taiji Lake. You can reach it via the public bus #202.  The other location is the school’s Mountain Retreat on Wudang Mountain. The main school has a large training ground and was newly furnished in autumn 2011 with proper western standards such as: western toilets, high-speed internet access, air conditioning and comfortable furniture.

While the school and surroundings look very upscale, I am not certain if I can say the same about Master Wang Xing Qing’s lineage. During the restoration of Wudang Daoism and Kung Fu after the Cultural Revolution, several Longmen (Dragongate) Pai masters guided that process as I pointed out in Part I of The Wudang Experience. Yet, they decided to initiate just two lineage schools, first the San Feng Pai under Master Zhong Yun Long and then later Xuan Wu Pai under Master You Xuan De, because Master Zhong had crossed Northern China to learn and bring back San Feng Pai forms while You Xuan De traveled to Southern China and returned with Xuan Wu Pai kung fu. But Master Wang did not study under either of them. Instead, for whatever reason, he claims that he was raised through the secret guidance of his first master Jia He Xuan, who taught him the old original style of wudang internal martial arts and kungfu. But isn’t that what Master Zhong and Master You brought back to Wudang?  It sounded a bit far-fetched to me especially since I could find no historical details on Jia He Xuan. But if you feel Master Wang is the real deal after doing your due diligence, then go for it. Prices are very reasonable: 8000 RMB for a single, 7000 RMB for a double for one month. FYI: Master Wang apparently does not speak English but uses translators.

Master Wang Xing Qing, YouTube channel: (Wudang Dragongate)

Of Particular Interest:

Welcome to the Wudang Dragongate School

Master Wang teaching Taiji Basics in Russia

Internal Wudang Daoist Kungfu

Constructing a Meditation Platform (good exercise!)

Rooftop Meditation

Basics of Traditional Wudang Boxing

Training in the Mountains

Wudang Dragongate Training Tour

And last but not least, the Mystery Temple. Why do I call it a “mystery?” Well, see for yourself…

The Five Immortals Temple, (www.fiveimmortals.com) Master Li Feng does not specifically claim to be a disciple of any named master but of many anonymous masters. So, right there, some may decide to proceed slowly and read with a sceptical eye. Like Master Wang Xing Qing above, Li Shifu does claim to be a Dragongate and Pure Yang Sect inheritor as well as a High Priest but does not credit any particular master as his teacher. The website states, “Five Immortals Temple is a small and secluded place in the Wudang Mountains of China, welcoming all who seek to shape themselves in the Taoist Arts.”

So, again we have a school that is considered small and secluded…

“Our goal is to produce coaches of a high-standard, masters of medical treatment, and the recovery from illness, people sharing the same path of the Wudang Internal Alchemy practice. Through study, the ultimate goal is to open one’s own Wudang Kung Fu school to instruct Kung Fu, to establish a longevity space, a healing center, to transmit the theories of longevity, to help even more people by easing the pain and suffering of illness, to make people return to naturalness and to co-exist with the harmony of Heaven and Earth..”

And to get your new business going, they offer certification that doubles the non-certified course fee. This may relate more to those with an entrepreneurial spirit rather than those who merely want to improve their kungfu or taiji. But what is unique about the Five Immortals Temple is that they give you a first-hand opportunity to decide if it is right for you.

“Future students can also choose to first visit the temple for 3 days to inspect the conditions, at which time food and accommodation will be free of charge. One must study and take part in the temple’s everyday chores and tasks – for example being in charge of temple halls, lighting incense, sweeping, cleaning, and so on. One to three people are accommodated per room; the diet is vegetarian inside the temple.”

They caution, however: “This place is not a school or martial arts academy, this is a temple and this is a home for a family. This is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. That is why one must respect the temple rules and Taoist precepts. One must be able to endure bitterness, follow the plans and arrangements with discipline, unite and mutually support each other with love, compassion, kindness, as well as understand the concept of gain…”

Master Li Feng (Li Shifu) YouTube channel Five Immortals Temple

Of Particular Interest:

An introduction

Wudang Five Dragons Bagua

Daoist Medicine

Wudang Chun Yang Yang Sheng Gong

 

There you have it, a compilation of the top masters and their schools at Wudangshan. If you are planning a trip to Wudang or think you might like to visit there in the future (And you should because the natural beauty and energy is off the charts), keep an open mind as you view all the links. Don’t expect to have a lay back, comfy stay. After all, this is training, and it was not meant to be a vacation. Instead, see if any particular school or master seems to resonate with you. Remember, this is all about internal kung fu, so listen to your own inner voice and feel what resonates the most with your internal energy.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to write them in the comments area. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

THE END

 

Of all the grandmasters who trained the current generation of teachers at Wudong, 14th generation grandmaster Zhong Yun Long is the most well known and best documented. Not as much is known about You Xuan De and little if any of Jia He Xuan. So, here is a Hong Kong TV documentary “Kung Fu Quest,” that has scenes of the two 15th generation San Feng Pai masters Yuan Xiu gang and Chen Shiyu instructing students. It also has scenes with their master, the head of San Feng Pai ,Zhong Yun Long, teaching Taiyi Wu Xing Quan.

 

Here is another video of both Masters Chen and Yuan with their master, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long.

 

Finally, Here is a link to a 9-part Wudang Documentary posted by Michael Weichhart’s Wudang Academy.

What You Need to Know

After reading this article, you may be disappointed to find that Wudang is not what you thought it would be. On the other hand, you may be elated to know that it is more than you imagined. In either case, do not let anything I have written either postitive or negative about any school or teacher discourage you from visiting Wudang. No matter which school, master or program you select at Wudang, the very fact that you are standing amid this sacred mountain with its Golden Summit is reward enough for any amount of money you have spent on lodgings and programs. Though the school or program you select may be completely wrong for advancing your goals, nevertheless, in Wudang, you are emersed in Nature, in the Dao. Unless you are addicted to your smart phone or tablet, you have the unparalleled opportunity to go without a car, a TV or iTunes and YouTube, and instead tune into Nature just as the ancient Daoists did thousands of years ago.

Many journey to this mountain every year to take advantage of just such an opportunity. Living close to Nature helps them find stability and clarity in their lives and relationships. Very few places on Earth contain the immense power and energy you will find here if you manage to quiet the chatter. You may even find a qigong course that improves your health or a martial arts master who can advance your taiji and tui shou. And then again maybe you won’t. The mountain with all its rich culture and Daoist traditions welcomes you anyway and offers you the unique chance to find what you have been looking for nearly your entire life – the real you – as long as you approach with an open mind and leave all your expectations back home.

There are many ways to do Wudang. You can just hop a plane to China and then find a connecting flight or a train to take you to Wudang, traveling as a tourist, hunt for a school and a program that will fulfill your aims instead of . Of course, winging it like this can get expensive as you hop from one school to another, spending a night or two here and there or reserving a motel room near one of the large temples and school-hopping during the day. Another way is to do your touring via the internet and YouTube. But either way do your due diligence before you go and decide what it is you want.  Is it qigong or taiji or wushu? Is it hand forms or weapons?  Maybe you are interested in meditation or Daoism and its philosophy. Maybe calligraphy or learning Mandarin. Or maybe you enjoy hiking mountain trails and visiting temples and other historic sites. Or maybe you like to do a little of each. That’s fine as long as you realize what you ultimately want to get out of your trip.

Michael Weichhart is a 16th generation Wudang lineage holder, a disciple of 15th generation master, Yuan Xiu Gang, and has also trained with 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. Weichhart is a frequent poster of Wudang videos on YouTube and teaches Wudang wushu at his Wudang Academy in Vienna and offers online courses as well. Weichhart’s experience and talent both as a taichi player and videographer are unquestioned. Listen to his knowledgeable remarks on what you should know about Wudang before you go and having the proper mental attitude.

Michael’s Website: Wudang Academy

FIRST THINGS FIRST: HOW TO GET TO WUDANG? The key words here are PLAN AHEAD. If you want to get the best airline deals to China, then you need to book months in advance. It is now early June as I write this, the perfect time to plan for a September or October flight. If you want to travel in the Spring, then book by December or January. If you plan to go in the Summer, book by March or April.

How much will it cost? I have used Cheapo Air (CheapoAir.com) on several occasions for flights to major cities in China and India. By booking several months in advance, a round trip ticket costs between $400 – $500. You can also purchase travel insurance through Cheapo Air for around $30 – $50 depending on which options you take. But don’t book all the way through to Wudang. Instead, book to a major city like Beijing or Shanghai. If you book all the way through, it will cost you much more, and you may only have hours to make a connecting flight, no time for sightseeing. So, decide how much time you want to spend in Beijing or Shanghai and what you would like to see. You can book private tours online in any major city in China along with side trips to nearby cities. You can book a hotel through cTrip.com (the Chinese version of trip.com).  Do not use booking.com or hotel.com – quotes are all high end.

Now the next leg of your journey is directly to Wudang. You can go two ways: by train or plane, either of which you will book through cTrip.com. If you plan on taking the train (there are no high speed trains to Wudang), you will have to take a regular train which will take approximately 19 hours from Beijing and about 22 hours from Shanghai. And you MUST book a soft sleeper. They are very comfortable, and you will be able to get your usual seven or eight hours of sleep, unless you are still suffering from jet lag. The cost from Beijing is about $75; from Shanghai about $85 – $90. Or you can simply take a plane from either major city. A 2 1/2-hour flight will cost $98 – $121.

TO SUMMARIZE: first you decide ahead when you want to go. Then book your best deal on CheapoAir.com, Usually that means a flight to either Beijing or Shanghai. But you can also book flights from the U.S. to Xiamen, Wuhan or Xi’an (rail travel from these cities to Wudang are much shorter). Once you have the arrival times for China, figure on at least an hour or 1 1/2 hours to get through Chinese Immigration and Customs. Now decide if you want to spend a day or two or three touring the local sights in your arrival city or save your time and money and go directly to Wudang. Whichever you decide, you will book on cTrip.com. Please note, the plane does not land in Wudang proper but at the Wudangshan Airport which is in Shiyan, a 40-minute taxi ride to the Wudang Residential Area (which is actually considered the Dan Jiang Kou district of the city of Shiyan or Laoyin.)  The taxi will cost between 100 – 130 RMB ($16 – $20). The ride from the Wudangshan train station is much shorter and will cost about half that amount or you can take a city bus #202 depending on the time of day for 4 RMB. (Cheap, huh?)

What is not cheap is the entrance fee to Wudangshan National Geopark entrance gate, 240 RMB (nearly $40 USD) includes 140 RMB Geopark entrance fee and 100 RMB for the Wudang Mountain Tourist Bus. You can take the bus all around the central peaks of the mountain which include Purple Heaven Temple, NanYan Temple and Golden Summit without any additional charges. Keep in mind, there is a three-day limit on your entrance fee/bus pass. If you manage to hook up with a martial arts school, they can usually extend the pass to 3 months. But if you leave the mountain and go back to Wudang Town, you will have to pay an additional 50 RMB for a bus pass to return to the mountain. Or you may want to visit temples and schools on the Eastern or Western peaks of Wudangshan in which case you will have to pay the additional Tourist Bus fare unless you can walk or hike to the school. The 240 RMB entrance gate fee is waived for seniors of retirement age. They just pay 55 RMB for the bus pass. Some schools like the Wudang Gung Fu and Health Academy and Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy are located near the confines of Wudang Town, so you will not have to pay any fee other than local bus fare for visiting them. But eventually, you will probably want to go up the mountain and visit some temples, caves and other historic sights.

OUR SUBTOTAL for travel to this point is $400-500 USD RT airfare to China. $200-240 RT within China to Shiyan or $150-180 RT train fare. $10 – 20 taxi fare. 240 RMB ($40 USD) Wudangshan entrance fee and bus fare. $800 – $980

EXPLORING WUDANG: If you want to look around first on your own and sample several different schools, you will need to book a motel through cTrip.com. Do not use Booking.com or Hotels.com. Their quotes are high-end. If you are looking at schools around Wudang Town, then you can stay at the Wudang International Youth Hostel located at No. 2 Park Road adjacent to the more expensive Laoying Hotel ($34) and near the partially restored Yu Xu Gong Temple. Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s training ground for his Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy has been adjacent to the temple, but they are in the process of moving – more on that later. In any case, you can get a simple but clean room with air conditioning/heating, two double beds and a western style bathroom for about $17 USD/night (less if you book 2 or more nights). They also have an inexpensive cafe and bar with excellent American fare. Their vegetarian pizza is terrific. If you need to get additional RMB, your ATM card will work at the Bank of China directly across Taihe Lu (the main road through Wudang Town) from the hostel.

To book hotels on the mountain, agaIn use cTrip.com, not Booking.com or Hotels.com. There are several at the small village in the NanYan Temple recreational area like Wudangshan Taiji Hotel (about $40 USD), Jiulong Villa ($52) and Wudang Shenlong Hotel ($20 USD). You can also buy food and other supplies there to avoid the expense of returning to Wudang Town to shop. It is the last Tourist Bus Stop before turning around and driving down the mountain to the town. There are also a few on the road just beyond Purple Heaven Temple like Wudang Mountain Tianlu Holiday Resort ($50 USD) and guest houses as well further along the same road between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen temples like Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) just up the Hill from Master Gu’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy..

SELECTING A MASTER AND A PROGRAM that will work best for you requires the utmost due diligence. Pictures and videos of the various sites may not help. They can be touched up, edited and shot at other sties away from the school grounds. Even watching individual videos of masters performing various forms are sometimes shot in slow motion to give the performance an extra artistic, flowing appeal. Other videos are sometimes sped up to make the performer’s skills seem incredibly super human. You need to remember that Wudang masters began studying martial arts as young children and have been practicing formally for some 20 to 30 years. Don’t expect to imitate them in any way, shape or form. The only reason to watch performance videos is to decide which hand, weapon or qigong form you would like to learn.

As for selecting a particular master and his program, I would suggest you watch their instructional videos rather than performance videos to see how they teach. I have included videos and links in my next blog (Part III) that should help you decide on a master and a program of study.

Another important aspect of chosing a school is language. If you speak fluent Mandarin, then language is no problem. If not, then you must make a decision. Do you want to attend a school where the head master speaks English or it doesn’t matter. For me, it mattered. So, I chose the school with a master who was fairly fluent in english and would be able to teach me what I had chosen to study one-on-one and not through assistants or coaches.

Of the four main San Feng Pai schools, three of their lead masters speak English, namely Master Yuan Xiu Gang, Master Zhong Xuechao, and Master Gu Shining, who is probably the most fluent of the three as he has a degree from Hubei University and has taught English classes in the local high school. As far as I know, Master Chen Shiyu does not conduct classes in English and needs a translator. I believe Master Tang Li Long of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai sect may speak some English, but I am not sure. The other Xuan Wu Pai mater Chen Li Sheng does not speak English and requires a translator. The same for Li Shifu of the Five Immortals Temple.

Does the size of the school matter to you? Do you want to attend a school based on its reputation, which will generally have more students? Or, would you prefer a lesser-attended school with much smaller class sizes. Of the San Feng Pai sect, the two largest schools are Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy and Master Chen Shiyu’s Wudang Daoist Kung Fu Academy. They also have the best accommodations. Another fairly large school with comfortable accommodations is Master Wang Xing Qing’s Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School of the Longmen Pai sect. Located in the Plum Valley near Tai Chi Lake, on the Eastern foot of Wudang Mountain, it is accessible by the local bus so you do not have to pay the entrance fee. By far the largest and most comfortable of all the schools is Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng’s Wudang Daoist Wuji Kung Fu Academy. Their website states that it can accommodate up to 280 students, most of whom are housed in the four-star QiongTai Hotel at Wudangshan. Abbott Li Sheng Feng’s (Li Shifu’s) non-affiliated Five Immortals Temple on White Horse Mountain is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. It may have slightly fewer students than the San Feng Pai schools due to its more secluded, less visited location. Since it is a mountain temple, you can expect the accommodations to be rustic but still provide a modacom of comfort.

There are three smaller, lesser known schools whose accommodations are spartan – possibly a level or two above camping. The only difference is they provide a mattress (usually not as comfortable as the soft sleepers on a train), blankets and a roof over your head. An Asian style squat toilet and community shower are still better than a hole in the ground but not by much. The larger of these spartan facilities is Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long’s Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy. Expect to inhabit a three-person cabin or dorm room with bunk beds and community squat toilets. The other two are both San Feng Pai schools. Master Gu Shining’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy is located just down the hill from the Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) mentioned above. It has only one single room with a Western style bathroom but no A/C heater. The other rooms are small doubles with A/C and an outside Asian style shower room. There is a small community room with capacity for only one or two persons to practice on rainy days (about 11 or 12 per month). One large plus, the facility is on a very picturesque hillside with tea plants, bamboo and walnut trees. Master Zhong Xuechao’s (Master Bing’s) Wudang Dao Academy is slightly larger than Master Gu’s. The renovation of these older farm buildings was completed in September, 2017. Master Bing tells me that his inside practice room can accommodate three to five persons on rainy days. If you need to get into town, you can usually hop a ride with Master Bing. Otherwise, it is a 40-minute hike to the main road to catch the tourist bus. Master Bing does not have a larger facility since he tours the U.S. the first part of every year from January to mid-May then returns to Wudang Dao for the remainder of the year. His very reasonable prices reflect the less than comfortable conditions but are not indicative of the high quality of training he provides.

What about religious beliefs? While most kungfu and taiji styles have little or no affiliations with religious orders, Shaolin and Wudang are the exceptions – Wudang much more so than Shaolin. Once you visit Wudang, you will find there is no getting away from Daoism and its ties to the internal martial arts. Everywhere you go there are statues, caves, and relics devoted to Daoist saints and immortals, not to mention the numerous temples and ruins spread across the mountain. Even more in line with Daoism are the martial arts schools and temples, where you are reminded everyday that the roots of kungfu and taiji lie in Daoism. This is especially true of martial arts training that occurs within an actual temple like the Five Immortals. Here you are asked to actually take part in the prayers, chants and rituals and follow the rules of the temple during your stay. This may be fine for most visitors who view it as part of their Wudang adventure or perhaps as partaking in a cultural art form. But for some who have beliefs that will not allow them to honor any religion or worship any sort of deity, then you should probably forego the entire Wudang experience. But, if in doubt, always contact the particular facility and ask whether or not their regulations require taking part in Daoist activities.

In the next part, you will discover where to locate a particular school’s website and contact information.

Coming Next: The Wudang Experience, Part III,

THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS