American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in theNe w China

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Penguin, Feb 1, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages
11 Reviews
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.

 

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

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Memoir of the author's quest for personal growth and wisdom by way of a trip to the birthplace of Zen and kung fu.Polly confesses to having become obsessed with martial arts at age nine, when he saw ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - co_coyote - LibraryThing

Matthew Polly is a wonderfully funny, insightful young man who takes a year off from Princeton to travel to the Shoalin Monastery in China to study Buddhism and kung fu. This is his account of his ... Read full review

Contents

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BOOK FOUR
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BOOK TWO
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BOOK THREE
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BOOK FIVE
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EPILOGUE
AUTHORS NOTE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Matthew Polly is an award-winning travel writer for "Slate," A Princeton University graduate and Rhodes scholar, his work has also appeared in "Esquire, Playboy," and "The Nation,

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