How long can one’s Kung Fu career last? Many people who want to or are practicing Kung Fu must have thought about this question for – and maybe we can find some answers from 60-year-old You Shaolan.
As a young man, You flirted with a brief career as a Kung Fu movie star. But that endeavor only lasted three years before he returned to Taiwan to teach Wushu and judge competitions. But whether he was on the big stage or keeping a low profile, You has never stopped training. To this day, he wakes up early to practice his splits and skyward kicks, proving that “If I don’t give up on Wushu, Wushu won’t give up on me.”
It’s still dark at 5am on a winter day in Kaohsiung, but there are quite a few people at Chengqing Lake. You is one of them, performing stretching exercises. Many old people his age are practicing the slow and gentle moves of Taiji, but You seems to be flying and jumping off walls with boundless energy. He hangs upside down on a column with his legs and does a split on the handrails of a walkway.
When asked why he insists on performing such difficult moves, You explains that this has become his habitual practice, an integral part of his everyday life. He has developed a certain routine, and uses it to test his body’s condition and stay healthy.
As a skilled Wushu practitioner, You was scouted by one of the three major Hong Kong film studios during the 70s and 80s Shaolin craze when he was performing and teaching in the then-British colony.
He signed a three-year contract at the age of 25. But called it quits after starring in four movies because he found that he preferred a quiet and modest life. He was not interested in fame or the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry. And he decided to return to Taiwan, teaching at Wushu schools and occasionally performing.
You says it’s enough to have a taste of being a movie star. As his main goal is to preserve and pass on his Wushu skills.
Beginning his training at age 13, You has witnessed the rise and fall of the fortunes of martial arts. In the early days, he practiced six or seven hours a day, mastering the skills of hard qigong, Iron Throat, and Golden Shield. Wushu was still very popular back then, and You could make a decent living even without starring in movies.
Even though You laments that the popularity of Wushu has waned over the years, he also believes that trends come and go in cycles. And there will be a day when martial arts makes a comeback. Thus, he has never thought once about leaving his profession, no matter as a teacher or a judge. All for the purpose of finding and cultivating new disciples to keep Wushu from disappearing.
To spend one’s whole life doing one thing right – that is the best way to describe You’s approach toward Wushu. As he got older, he started to use this skill to make a living and take care of his body. Practicing Wushu is no longer just a short-term means to become stronger. But also a method for long-term maintenance of one’s health. He still practices two to three hours a day and has taken it to the spiritual level, cultivating his mind.
“If one can withstand the rigors of Wushu training, then one will also be able to endure the hardships of life and look at things from a tolerant and open-minded perspective,” he says.
With this thinking, You’s advancing age no longer matters. Practicing Wushu is a lifetime endeavor, and he will persevere for as long as he can.