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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Shaolin Monks Wheel Of Life

The world-renowned Shaolin Monks performed their Wheel Of Life show this week at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

As Cardiff families found their seats and awaited the start of the performance, a musky incense smell filled the air. A loud recorded voice, explaining the story of the monks and their beliefs in the Wheel Of Life, marked the start of the show.

The hall dimmed. Through the incense smoke, the monks emerged, entering through the audience in a ritualistic slow march with the elder monks leading the way. As they climbed up onto the stage, they bowed to the Budda carefully painted on the backdrop and sat cross-legged meditating through the show’s back-story.

Five young monks, aged maybe only six or seven, started the move sequences by flying across the stage in phenomenal acrobatics and demonstrating their incredible flexibility. This drew excited gasps from one youngster in the audience who could not help shouting out “wow” from his seat. Later the young monks also demonstrated their perseverance through five-minute-long headstands and upward splits at either side of the stage.

The elder monks were next, demonstrating the speed and the cleanness of their moves in what looked like the drunken monkey and praying mantis style (see below video clips).

Above: drunken monkey style, below: praying mantis style

Afterwards, especially for audience members with little specific kung-fu knowledge, they demonstrated bare-foot walking over razor blades – proven to be sharp through the ferocious slicing of a melon, followed by a monk-nail sandwich which made the audience squeal with anticipated pain. A Chinese dragon dance with music strummed gently on stage, was performed for those more interested in the artistic element of the Chinese culture.

Almaas Yusuf, 22, a Wing Chung Kung-Fu enthusiast, said: “I wasn’t so sure about the stunts with a super-natural edge to them, like the shattering of spears, but it was impressive to see some very complex kung-fu moves being performed without flaw.”

When asked if he would come again he said: “Maybe, although I do think this show focused on the artistic and spiritual side of kung-fu.”

Two day earlier, the monks gave a taster performance to the media (see video clip below) to encourage a huge audience. Sadly on the evening, the hall was only half packed – perhaps people were unaware of the show or maybe there are not many martial arts enthusiasts in Cardiff.

All round it is a fantastic show to watch if you have some martial arts knowledge but for those just looking for entertainment, the show is perhaps lacking some theatrical components. A basic kung-fu knowledge makes it easier to appreciate the complexity, training and hard work which goes into accomplishing the flexibility and technique required for the move sequences. However, the monks did to some seem bored by the show – perhaps because they have repeated the same routine so many times or perhaps because the element of realism is foregone in place of commercialisation.

Out of five, the show gets two stars for entertainment and four stars for martial arts technique.

It is also worth noting that the view from the upper side-stalls in St David’s Hall is not particularly good and it made you feel slightly disconnected from the atmosphere of the show.

The monk’s public relations officer has not return emails asking for comment.

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Filed under: blog posts, Cardiff sport, Martial Arts, Reviews, , , , ,

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