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Bre8k8 vipathing life into a childhood dream

广东高考分数线 | 8k8 vip | Updated: 2024-07-19 00:45:13

Matt Jane (second from left) poses for a group photo with his students and family members in front of his Temple in north London in 2021. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are amazed by Jackie Chan's kung fu movies. Some dream of living a life out of it.

But few could realize it.

Matt Jane did.

"People often say you should do a movie, that would be great, but I am living the real-life version of it, that's more meaningful than making a movie," the British kung fu master said.

Jane, who is also known by his Chinese name Bailong, which means white dragon, has been on a remarkable 25-year journey with Chinese kung fu.

At 11, he watched a kung fu show called The Wheel of Life in London. Inspired by the spectacle and Chinese kung fu movies, the young Jane nurtured a dream deep within his heart — to become a Shaolin master.

Matt Jane performs at the opening ceremony of Hong Kong Ascot Horse Race in London in 2004 at the age of 14. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

When he turned 16, he went to the Shaolin temple in Henan province to learn the ancient martial art.

The journey proved to be a transformative experience for the young Briton who encountered a world that was vastly different from the life he had known back in the UK.

"At 5 every morning, we would awaken and ascend a mountain, cool down on our hands and knees and practice headstands on concrete for hours on end," Jane recalled.

Matt Jane poses for a photo in Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, Henan province when he was 16. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Although the rigorous lifestyle may seem arduous to most, Jane found immense joy in it.

"I was loving this lifestyle... I felt like I was living straight out of a kung fu movie," he said.

Alongside the demanding training came austere living conditions. Wooden beds and cramped rooms housing up to 30 people, no indoor toilets, electricity, or heating – these were the challenges that shaped the young man physically and mentally.

"We didn't have access to a lot of things, but we were a very happy group of people. And the idea of family was really powerful because we were able to encourage each other to train and push forward, which I also didn't feel I had much connection to in the UK growing up," reflected Jane.

Matt Jane poses for a group photo in Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, Henan province in 2008. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Growing up in Camden in north London, Jane described himself as a lost young man with a bloated street ego and a narrow perspective on life. However, his time in China transformed him in ways he could never have imagined.

"During my four-and-a-half-year stay in China, not only did I learn some incredible kung fu, but I grew from a young teenager into a man. And I experienced many different things, the learning process and the principles and morals which I would then continue into my life, which I continue to do until today," said Jane.

Shaolin warrior

Matt Jane(left 2 in the air)performs in the show Wheel of Life in the USA in 2008. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

After living in China for almost five years, Jane, then 21, became the first and only non-Chinese Shaolin warrior to join The Wheel of Life kung fu show, the very same show he watched as an 11-year-old.

And Jane met his future wife, Chang Chun, who was also a martial arts enthusiast. In 2009, they decided to return to London when Chang became pregnant. It was during this period that Jane started to establish his kung fu school, called Temple, in London.

The Temple had been an old and derelict glass factory and Jane, a 21-year-old Caucasian at the time, faced skepticism. Many questioned his ability to teach kung fu at such a young age and doubted his expertise. Some even questioned his legitimacy as a non-Chinese teaching Shaolin kung fu.

"He's not real, he can't be Shaolin, he's not Chinese," Jane reminisced the doubt he had received.

Jane remained focused on his passion for kung fu and replicated the rigorous training methods he experienced in China, conducting traditional training sessions that lasted eight to 10 hours a day.

The hard work paid off. Jane's students progressed rapidly through the intense training, showcasing skills that few in the UK had seen. Their talent caught the attention of the TV show Britain's Got Talent, and they were invited to perform and tour across the UK.

Nathaniel Lawrence, a 40-year-old who has been training under Jane for two years, commends his kung fu skills and the positive impact he has made on the community.

"Many people have to go far away to learn such skill, so being able to have somebody within driving distance like Matt Jane is incredible," Lawrence said.

Access to culture

Jane said: "Kung fu is a resource that allows people like myself to achieve something unique. And I'm so happy to have the chance and opportunity to bring this resource to the people of London and the communities here, the local people who come from across the UK to experience this unique opportunity, to have access to a culture, which before Temple, wasn't available (here)."

Matt Jane meditates in his Temple in London in 2020. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In order to be better connected with the people in the UK, Jane interprets kung fu in a modern way.

"Not everyone wants to shave their head and become a Shaolin monk. But in reality, what we really need in kung fu is a culture called chan wu yi, and for me it's not just Buddhism, kung fu and traditional Chinese medicine, it's mind, exercise and nutrition," he said.

Charlotte Walker battled depression before joining the Temple. After training with Jane for three and a half years, Walker said kung fu has completely altered her perspective on life.

"Kung fu makes me feel as a person," Walker said. "And Jane gives you so much guidance toward life through kung fu."

Costakis Evangelou, 65, thinks the Temple is like a hub which inspires young people a more constructive lifestyle.

"It helps build your character, build your personality and gives you different options. It helps with the discipline in life and makes you a better person and contribute to the community," Evangelou said.

Junayde Guven, known by his Chinese name Xiaolong, is a very outstanding student in The Temple.

Training with Jane, Xiaolong nurtures a dream of becoming a kung fu actor and spreading the art form throughout the UK. He also aspires to produce kung fu films based in the UK and elevate kung fu to a prominent sport in England.

This is something Jane hadn't expected, just like Jackie Chan would never have known that he had inspired a young Brit who would travel to China to learn martial arts and build his own Temple many years later in the UK.

"I would just like to thank him for the inspiration that he gave me. And I think that is the beauty in a character like him; he touched my life and helped build this place without even knowing it," Jane said.

Reflecting on his journey and the profound impact he has made, Jane said, "There'll be many people I touch through the power of The Temple, who I'll never meet, but I'll influence their lives in a positive way. And I think that is my goal and vision to continue to do that."

When Jane was a kid, he would draw pictures of a temple when asked to illustrate his dream. Now, the temple in his sketchbook has become a real one, attracting people from all over the UK and the world.

The now 36-year-old Jane has a tattoo of Chinese characters on his right arm saying "a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step".

"I think that quote is very important because there's no mention of the destination," he explained, believing that what his career in kung fu could bring is endless.

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