In this article, I am sharing how my body reacted to everyday intensive Shaolin Kung Fu training. When I arrived at Qufu Shaolin Kung Fu School, my body was in good condition. I didn’t have any pain or injury. I was pretty flexible, meaning I could almost do full splits.


Intensive Shaolin Kung Fu Training


The muscle soreness was the strongest in the first month of my Shaolin Kung Fu training. I need to admit, I enjoyed it. It felt good to be sore. That was a sign of training hard, giving 100%. This is what I was here for. The only thing that I didn’t like was my flexibility getting worst. I couldn’t do splits anymore. The distance between my thighs and the ground doubled or even on the “bad” days tripled. It gradually got better after two weeks or so. But each intense power training resulted in reduced flexibility and stretching being more painful.


Intensive Shaolin Kung Fu Training


At the end of the first month of my Shaolin Kung Fu training, on Saturday, some of the students, including me, took part in the running competition. The day before this event, I felt tired and sick. My head was heavy, and I had cold sweats. I took one morning class off. I fell asleep immediately. Putting my guard down made me realize how exhausted my body was. This additional 1 hour of sleep made a huge difference in how I felt. The body’s ability to recover is impressive.

The next day I was ready and happy to take part in the running competition. It was a long-distance run. The first part of the path was through the humpy hills, maybe around 5-8 km. The second part was running, for most of us, including me – walking, up the stairs to the top of the Shimen Mountain, which is around 3500 steps. All of it without a break.

My legs and throat were burning. My heart raced like it was going to beat out of my chest. The last couple of stairs and… I did it. I won 7th place among girls. There were around 300 participants, of which maybe 20% were girls, meaning there were more or less 60 girls. Among the girls from Qufu school, I was the last one, which left me with not a bad 3rd place.

Tired but happy, I returned to the school with a reward of a big thermos, which proved to be useful in wintertime.


Intensive Shaolin Kung Fu Training


As I mentioned before, during my first month of intensive Shaolin Kung Fu training, I had a lot, I repeat, A LOT of muscle soreness EVERY SINGLE DAY. Each warm-up was dealing with stiffness. From the whole body, my legs were in the most pain. It was difficult for me to stand up from a chair, sit on it or go up the stairs. With time this muscle soreness was replaced with constant ”joint pain” around the knees.

Dani, my boyfriend, who was already four years at the school, recommended pills with Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM. These ingredients were responsible for cartilage recovery. He alone was taking this supplement, and also, some of his friends benefited from it. At that time, I was reluctant and, in many cases, disapproval of conventional medicine or supplements. Accordingly, I searched the internet to learn more about these pills.

My research didn’t lead me to any clear conclusion. Many scientific studies couldn’t prove that glucosamine had any positive effect on joints. However, there was also no information about any negative reactions. My knees were not that bad, but the pain was enough to make me do something about it. I had to check it out.


I started to take GLUCOSAMINE, CHONDROITIN, AND MSM, two pills a day, in November 2016, and I stopped at the beginning of March 2017. This means I had four months to verify its effect. My experience showed that the pills didn’t make any visible change to the condition of my knees. The pain differed depending on the way I trained and was not connected with the intake of Glucosamine.

One of the factors crucial to my knee condition was Tai Chi classes. At the end of December, my knees were swollen most of the time. I couldn’t do frog jumps or PuBu position (if you don’t know how PuBu looks, check chapter 2) or anything connected with bending knees deeply down. At Christmas time, Tai Chi Master went on holiday, and till the middle of February, we didn’t have Tai Chi classes. During this time, my knees got much, much better. I could clearly feel the difference. I didn’t have almost any pain after the break.

The second factor was stretching. If I gave proper time to warm up the muscles around the knee and I stretched them well, I could go into the PuBu position much easier. The PuBu position was the indicator of my knee condition. If the joints were strong and without pain, I could easily go down and stand up from PuBu. However, when my knees were painful, bending one leg with the other leg straight was almost impossible, and I had to support myself with my hands.


3rd month of Shaolin Kung Fu training – PAINFUL HAMSTRING

In wintertime, after around 2-3 months since I arrived, my right hamstring got tight and sore. My flexibility dropped drastically. You could see that, especially during the Power Stretching classes. Before, when I lay down on my back and lifted a straight leg up, my colleagues could push my leg until it reached my thigh.

Now, however, my right leg could barely stretch to 90° (see the photo below). Going further was equal to an irresistible pain, which triggered the urge to pee, spread inside my organs, and was horribly uncomfortable. What’s worse, the hamstring injury wasn’t only affecting my flexibility. It held an impact on my whole kung fu training. Every move requiring a front kick, which was 70% of my training, resulted in pain.

Only after a really good warm-up I could kick with tolerable soreness. But, that almost never was the case. Firstly, because it would take the time of the whole class, and I definitely didn’t want to lose a training over some minor injury. Secondly, the weather was making this task quite impossible. I had no choice but to squeeze teeth and blaze the pain away. Sometimes, I felt my eyes filling with tears. Sometimes, I sang or made jokes during the class to release the tension and be able to keep going. Either way, I needed to deal with constant pain until the winter was over.

As a physiotherapist, I wasn’t surprised when the tightness of my right hamstring started to affect my right knee. After all, hamstring muscles cross the knee joint. The victim became popliteus – a small muscle located behind the knee (see the two related photos). Luckily… or not… the pain in the back of the knee bothered me only during Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls classes, especially when I was doing kick-up and front handspring. In both cases, I was landing very weirdly, and pretty unstable, with both legs bent.

I knew that learning a proper technic was crucial and could help avoid most of the pain. Nevertheless, it required time and individual focus of the Master on me. This was out of my reach. Having many students in the class meant dealing with „we do everything quick, we throw our body, we don’t waste time, we move on!!! Eventually we learn and improve”. It worked among real Shaolin monks, it should work here as well.

I wasn’t convinced.



Beginning of winter. Daniel left the school in the middle of the month. On Monday – 26th of December was no training. Christmas break was almost undetectable. To celebrate it, we went to Qufu town to eat a nice Christmas dinner (see the photo below).

There were no many students at school anymore. Many left to visit their homeland. We were between five to twelve people training. After Christmas and New Year all of us was longing for a longer break. It was to be soon. We had four days off due to Chinese New Year at the end of January.

Meantime my SHIFU left the school

Before the upcoming break, on the 20th of January, my Shifu – Master Yu left home and never come back. Master Du become my new Master.

At first, I was very upset. But, it was only a matter of time that I realized how much Master Yu was neglecting us. Master Yu was an impressive Kung Fu performer and a good teacher. But, somehow you could tell, he didn’t care about his students anymore. During the classes, he seemed engaged with his own thoughts and you could read from his face that he was not happy at school.

The difference between the Master’s attitude towards the students was quickly noticeable. Master Du spend more time correcting us and focusing on details. It was thus not a long time that I entirely accepted the change of the Masters.

The time Master Yu left, was the time when my body and mind were on the edge. I was super tired. Each day was a big struggle to motivate myself to train. On Thursday, 26th of January, the Chinese New Year break – the expected longer break – began.

I could breathe a sigh of relief.

4th month of Shaolin kung fu training – my body broke

On the first day of much-needed rest, I went to the nearby mountain. Climbing didn’t prove to be the greatest idea. I felt nauseous, weak, and dizzy. These symptoms of exhaustion accompanied me already for a few days. But… I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong going on with my body.

I came back to school and fell down on my bed, staying there till the next morning. I woke up with strong nausea. I couldn’t vomit. I couldn’t eat much either. I spend the whole day in bed. I was covered by blankets and sheets with a warm bottle stuck to my body, and on top of that, I was wearing three sweaters. Still, every minute a cold shiver run throughout my body, until the late afternoon when I started to sweat. I didn’t have any device to check if I had a fever. But, well… 

Three days later I woke up in the middle of the night feeling that my belly would explode. I was unable to throw up. I was scared. The feeling was incredibly uncomfortable. I tried to reach my family and Daniel, who was at that time in Colombia. In Poland was the middle of the day. In South America the beginning of it. It was my sister, who first answered my message. She could only comfort me with words, advising me to go to the hospital as soon as possible.

I stayed awake the whole night writhing in pain. Thinking, this was the worst moment in my life. In the early morning, I talked with Daniel. He came up with the idea to drink water with salt – a good source of minerals. I had a good quality salt left by my dad. After taking the only „medicine“ I had, I went to the toilet immediately. I had strong water diarrhea. IT WORKED!!! The nausea was reduced. I felt better. I went to the hospital at 8 o’clock.

Visiting a hospital in China

The visit cost me some money and didn’t help at all. Saying at all, I mean it. They took a blood sample, which showed that I am perfectly fine. The doctor advised me to take better care of my diet and keep my body warm. Both things were impossible in the school environment. Laughing at the whole situation, I felt hopeless. I wanted to help my body, but I didn’t know-how. The next day was again the training. The 4-day break, which I spend in bed – sick, was over.


Used to not skipping any classes, I decided to train. Well, of course, I felt weak and dizzy. But, in comparison with the last few days, I was much better. I decided to keep it easy, not strain myself too much. Still, I participated in all classes. On the third day of the kung fu training, I was feeling much better and motivated. „Finally“ – I thought – „I am getting on my feet“. The consequences of being stubborn and naive, I bear on Sunday, in the middle of the night, when I woke up with strong nausea. On that night, I vomited a few times in a row. In the morning, I was exhausted. But, the feeling to throw up was gone. That day I felt really hopeless. I didn’t know how to heal my body. It lasted way too long.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, as nothing had happened, I was in the training hall again. I decided to do only light exercises and stretching, and I didn’t go to the afternoon classes.


Much to my relief, on the same day, I received a package from my mum with a lot of supplements. This dispelled my worries. A new hope arose. According to my mum’s advice, the next week I allowed my body to rest, doing only a minimum of training. It worked. The next week I felt much better and I could train again with full power.


  • Vitamin C,

  • Alkaline powder,

  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin),

  • Baker’s yeast (natural source of Vitamins from B group).

This was the last incident at school with such strong digestive issues. After it, I only experienced an insignificant stomach pain from time to time. I need to admit that for the first month I failed to take the supplements regularly. Soon, I realized that if I won’t be consistent with caring for my body, I will never fully recover. Consequently, I started to take supplements with more attention, trying to do it every day. I am not sure if that helped, or it was the weather getting warmer, or Daniel coming back. Maybe all together. But, I survived the winter and the summer looked promising.

Hard days are the best, because that’s when the CHAMPIONS are made.

Gabby Douglas

Shaolin Kung Fu


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