Spiritual Circus

I'm nearly finished with Meir Shahar's new book on The Shaolin Monastery.  There's probably five posts worth of material in there, posts which I hope to do in the next couple of days.  But at the moment I'm feeling surrounded.

My neighborhood in San Francisco already has a fair number of martial arts studios and practitioners.  I never see him, but the famous Ben Lo has his post office box about 3 feet away from mine at the post office around the corner from my house.  George Xu is about a five minute drive across the park.  Tat Ma Wang has two schools with in a five minute walk of my house, one is Choy Li Fut, the other more focused on kick boxing.  Then there is the E.Y. Lee school about seven minutes walk, a more traditional Choy Li Fut school in a tiny space.  Around the corner to the West is a new Karate school opened this year, they have Aikido, Capoeira, and Jazzercise too.

Am I missing something, yes, the Israeli Judo school which was open for a couple of years about three blocks away, closed down this fall.  I think their space was just too small.

The business model of an indoor martial arts dojo is difficult because you either have to be in an inexpensive location (preferably one you own so that you are making money on the appreciation of the property), or you need to have lots of other people teaching there all day.  Thus the Karate/Aikido/Capoeira/Jazzercise studio can work if somebody wants to manage all those teachers.  Or, like some Aikido schools, you have many of the advanced black belts teaching all day long for free.  Hopefully the owner of the building is an Aikido fan too, and doesn't up the cost of your lease.

But none of this prepared me for the latest martial arts school to open around the corner to the East from my house.  It claims to be none other than the Mount Song Shaolin Temple itself!  Hubris?  Perhaps.  They just opened in a space that used to sell over priced appliances.  They quickly gutted it, put a billboard on the roof which says "Shaolin Kungfu," and covered the space in mats.  They have a video of the rebuilt Shaolin temple playing in the window.  The other day I saw the "monk" in there teaching a staff form to one teenager.  I think they could fit two more students in there and then they would be maxed out for space.  Of course kids classes could possibly fit up to 20 students at a time if they are under age 8.

I want more people to practice this stuff, so I'm mostly happy that he is there.  But I just don't like it when people come up to me and say, "Did you know that a REAL SHAOLIN MONK is teaching on Geary Street?"  I just want to say, "Hey, you are looking at the really thing right here!  Me, I come from an authentic lineage that calls itself Northern Shaolin, and we were practicing here in San Francisco at a time when the Shaolin Temple was empty and in ruins.  All that fake Spiritual Circus stuff comes form a Communist Government Factory that churns out 100's of clones every year!"

But I don't say that.  I say, "Yeah, check it out.  They have some cool spinning kicks.  I think this type of Wushu might be a good side specialization for one of the many clowns or acrobats being trained at the Circus Center across the park."

"If you're interested in authentic Chan/Zen Buddhism, perhaps you should visit the Zen Center."

I want to argue about authenticity, but I heard that a person shouldn't spend more than 12.4% of his time arguing.

The San Francisco Shaolin Temple is actually bringing the "Abbot" of Mount Song Shaolin Temple to the store front around the corner form my house.  Shaolin Temple USA is a 501c3 Non-Profit Corporation.  Does that mean they are getting "donations" form the Chinese Government?  Is this some kind of cultural imperialism?  Do they want my mind?  Or just the bodies of our children?