American Shaolin

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

Polly, Matthew

(Book - 2008)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
American Shaolin
Penguin Putnam
The raucously funny story of one young American?s quest to become the baddest dude on the planet (and possibly find inner peace along the way)

Growing up a ninety-eight-pound weakling tormented by bullies in the schoolyards of Kansas, 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.

American Shaolin
is the story of the two years Matthew spent in China living, studying, and performing with the Shaolin monks. The Chinese term for tough training is chi ku (?eating bitter?), and Matthew quickly learned to appreciate the phrase.

This is both the gripping story of Matthew?s journey and an intimate portrait of the real lives of the Shaolin monks, who struggle to overcome rampant corruption and the restrictions of an authoritarian government. Laced with humor and illuminated by cultural insight, American Shaolin is an unforgettable coming-of- age story of one man?s journey into the ancient art of kungfu?and a poignant portrait of a rapidly changing China.

Baker & Taylor
Describes the author's study of martial arts at China's Shaolin Temple, his initial disenchantment that turned into respect for the instructors, and the training that led him to represent the Temple in international competitions.

Publisher: New York : Gotham Books, 2008
ISBN: 1592403379
Branch Call Number: 796.8155 P
Characteristics: vii, 366 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 21 cm.


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Jun 21, 2014
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

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.

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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