High up in the Song Shan mountains of China, a class of teenagers start their school day. But take a look in their bags and you're more likely to find a curvy sword and whip than a calculator and packet of crisps. This is the famous Shaolin Temple, the home of kung fu, where karate kids as young as four study martial arts under the eyes of warrior monks.
For 1500 years, the Shaolin monks having been kicking seven shades of tofu out of each other in these ancient buildings, first as exercises mimicking snakes and tigers, and later to defend their isolated temple against attackers. As their skills developed, they became able to balance on one finger, take a sledgehammer blow to the chest or even head-butt through iron bars. Nowadays, the monks are less likely to one-inch punch first and ask questions later, spending most of their time teaching their secrets to a new generation.
If this sounds like your cup of green tea, you can pay £100 a month and join a class. But be warned, the martial arts coaches here make even the toughest PE teachers look like Christmas tree fairies. Carrying big sticks that they use at the first sign of weakness, coaches beat, shake and even stand on new students to toughen them up. You'll have to run up mountains, punch wooden posts for hours and perform complex and exhausting routines over and over again. Training continues six days a week, and you'll only see your family during holidays, just one month a year. But stick it out and one thing's for sure - you'll never complain about double physics ever again…
A Day At Kung Fu School
5.30am - Woken by a gong then either running (or walking backwards) up 1000 stairs to a holy mountain cave.
6.30am - Tai Chi flexibility exercises.
7.30am - Breakfast, usually steamed bread and vegetables or soup.
9.00am - More running and stretching, plus training in the basic kung fu moves.
12.00pm - Rice and noodles for lunch, with meat if you can afford it.
12:30pm - Free time to do your laundry or chill out.
3.00pm - Afternoon training features new moves and use of weapons such as the sword, club and whip.
6.00pm - Dinner. Same as lunch!
7.30pm - Buddhist study and meditation (no snoozing at the back).
9.00pm - Lights out in the dormitory you share with up to ten other students.