Wired to wow
Updated: 2014-08-28 07:00
By Sun Xiaochen in Nanjing and An Baijie in Dengfeng, Henan(China Daily)
Students from the Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School training in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, on Aug 5. Wang Song / Xinhua
Practice makes perfect
The Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School picked the final 120 performers for the show from 35,000 students through a strict selection process that assessed their strength, flexibility and stamina, after accepting the assignment from the Games organizers on March 8.
Before arriving in Nanjing for the in-stadium practice on July 1, Yuan and his peers had practiced day and night in Henan province for more than 100 days, mostly to build their strength and flexibility.
Starting at 8 am, students went through three training sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening, spanning almost 10 hours excluding meal breaks.
The training was much more intense than what they were used to in regular classes.
According to Miao Pandeng, one of the school's coaches, students had to complete 500 push-ups and 500 sit-ups every day to improve their arm, abdomen and lower back strength to be able to switch formations while being hoisted on wires without support.
It was grueling work for what amounted to a mere 10 minutes on stage.
Although the official final performance featured 30 different stunts and moves in the air, students prepared for more than 100 options on the ground.
The biggest challenge was getting used to the handstand position, which had to be maintained for as long as 30 seconds in the official show.
"It's really hard to maintain the pose while staying composed and hung up in the air. You can easily get dizzy and throw up at the beginning," said Huang Yikai, another 18-year-old student performer in the show.
To overcome the "upside-down" challenge, students practiced handstands on the ground in pairs. One student kept the pose while another would hold his feet for at least one minute before taking turns. They completed eight such sets in every morning session.
"It's actually not that hard for us to hold the handstands as that's one of the fundamentals for martial arts. But to do so for that long and at that height, that's really tough to get used to," Huang said.
Another challenge came from being hoisted on the wires. Hoisted high in the air for about two hours a session, Yuan, who has practiced martial arts for three years, said he suffered from periodic numbness in his thighs as the harness that raised him was too tight.
"Sometimes you couldn't even feel your legs after a day's practice," he said.
"It took a while of swinging and massaging them before you could walk again."
Students also had to endure the heat from training outdoors under the blazing sun in Nanjing, which is famous for its high temperatures in summer.
Still, the Tagou students have learned to stay upbeat amid hardship after years of high-intensity martial arts training.
"We are proud that we fulfilled the assignment again and delivered to the whole world," said Tagou school teacher Zhang Jiwu.