American Shaolin

American Shaolin

Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch : An Odyssey in the New China

Book - 2006
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Bill Bryson meets Bruce Lee in this raucously funny story of one scrawny American’s quest to become a kung fu master at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple.

Growing up a ninety-pound weakling tormented by bullies in the schoolyards of Kansas, young Matthew Polly dreamed of one day journeying to the Shaolin Temple in China to become the toughest fighter in the world, like Caine in his favorite 1970s TV series, Kung Fu . While in college, Matthew decided the time had come to pursue this quixotic dream before it was too late. Much to the dismay of his parents, he dropped out of Princeton to spend two years training with the legendary sect of monks who invented kung fu and Zen Buddhism.

Expecting to find an isolated citadel populated by supernatural ascetics that he’d seen in countless badly dubbed chop-socky flicks, Matthew instead discovered a tacky tourist trap run by Communist party hacks. But the dedicated monks still trained in the rigorous age-old fighting forms—some even practicing the “iron kung fu” discipline, in which intensive training can make various body parts virtually indestructible (even the crotch). As Matthew grew in his knowledge of China and kung fu skill, he would come to represent the Temple in challenge matches and international competitions, and ultimately the monks would accept their new American initiate as close to one of their own as any Westerner had ever become.

Laced with humor and illuminated by cultural insight, American Shaolin is an unforgettable coming-of-age tale of one young man’s journey into the ancient art of kung fu—and a funny and poignant portrait of a rapidly changing China.

Publisher: New York :, Gotham Books,, [2006]
Copyright Date: ©2006
ISBN: 9781592402625
Branch Call Number: 796.8155 PO
Characteristics: pages cm

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bibliotechnocrat Jun 21, 2014

American Shaolin is the engaging memoir of a young American, Matt Polly, who goes to China in the early 1990s to study martial arts with the Shaolin monks. It's the dawn of the new China, shortly after the Tiananmen massacre, and Polly observes the stirrings of the massive energy being unleashed. In addition to providing a western view of this cultural shift, the book is a wryly amusing tale of a callow youth in search of himself. There's a lot of cross-cultural miscommunication, and as Polly finds his way, some sharp observations on Chinese attitudes. The author is not afraid to admit his failings and this honesty gives the book a fresh vitality. You don't have to be a fan of kungfu, America, or China to enjoy this very human story.

Mar 06, 2012

great book! could hardly put it down! very intriguing for me as a karate student with a strong interest in travel and study of different cultures. I hardly ever actually finish a whole book, usually just picking out the stuff I want to read, but this is a read-through must!


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