Alex Corne, Shaolin Kung Fu Expert and Stuntman
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 23 year old martial artist based in the UK. I spent three years studying Shaolin Kung Fu (wushu) in China where I competed with some of the best martial artists in the country and even got the chance to join Jackie Chan's stunt team for work on the Chinese film 'Dragon Blade'.
Who or what first inspired you to do martial Arts?
For me, martial arts began the same way most children begin their training, at after school clubs. Initially me and some friends went to kickboxing as a bit of a laugh but after some time all the friends I had gone with dropped out and I continued all the way up to obtaining my black belt.
When did you start your martial arts journey?
I started kickboxing when I was 10 years old, Krav Maga when I was around 14, freerunning (not technically a martial art but they intertwine on certain aspects) when I was 16 and Shaolin Kung Fu when I was 19.
Why the Shaolin School? How did you end up there?
When I was studying in college, one of my teachers who knew I trained martial arts made a passing comment that there were schools in China where you could train with Shaolin monks. At this point Bruce Lee was a huge influence on me and I'd seen videos of the monks in China performing incredible stunts. Up until this point I assumed that, unless you were a Chinese citizen, to train there wasn't possible; so that night I did some research and found an international school that looked impressive and three years later I traveled out to China to attend the school. It was at this school that I met Master Wang Xinglong who stood out from the rest of the teachers there, unfortunately he was leaving to set up his own school in a northern province of China.
I injured my back during Sanda (Chinese kickboxing) training and had to return to the UK while I recovered. When I went back out to China I applied for Master Wang's school and remained there for three years.
Can you tell us a little more the school?
The Xinglong Kung Fu School is a humble place that doesn't pretend to be more than it is, all Master Wang asks from you is to train as hard as your body will allow, and then train a little harder than that! It is situated on the outskirts of a small city called Siping, Jilin province, North East China, buried deep in the winding valleys. With no internet and little entertainment nearby, there is not much else to do except work on perfecting your Kung Fu.
The training days are eight hours long, in temperatures ranging from forty degrees in the summer to minus thirty during the winter months. When
When I arrived it was cold and there wasn’t any heating, or really much of a shower for that matter. Most of the down time was spent in bed with an electric blanket and the vast majority of the week I didn’t shower, until the weekend when we could visit a bath house and not freeze half to death walking outside in flip flops and a towel to get to the shower room where warm water left the shower head in sporadic drips. This was definitely a school where you stayed for the hard training and not the home comforts.
However, it was also a school that you stick at for the community, such a small number of people spending all their time together in that level of isolation fosters a family based attitude towards one another rather than being treated at a distance as just another student (an attitude, that I can truly say from experience, many of these larger Kung Fu schools have). There were only five students when I arrived and since then I’ve seen countless faces come and go, many of which I will consider lifelong friends, all of which are brothers and sisters of Shaolin.
Did the school change in your three years there?
Yes, definitely. For a start, there’s a decent shower there now! Well actually there’s two. Also the rooms in winter are heated to the point where you can actually sit on your bed in naught but a t-shirt and shorts, which is pretty damn impressive when it’s sub-thirty degrees outside. In the winter it gets difficult to motivate yourself to leave your nice warm room but the comradery of your training partners always pushes you to go that extra mile when the going gets tough. Similarly in the summer when it’s plus-thirty and you feel drained and dehydrated, the great people around you will pull you through.
In your martial arts journey, what has been the hardest to master?
Although the obvious answer here would be the physical pain and having to wake up at 5:00 every morning, I think the hardest part for me is dealing with the fact that there is so much I will never understand about martial arts. The nature of martial arts is that you are always learning and always developing, which can be exciting, but at the same time can present itself daunting prospect that my training will never be complete.
I see on your Instagram profile (@alexandercorne), you have a gold medal for Wushu and Tai Chi. Can you tell us more about this?
Actually that was just a couple of the golds I've won in my time in China. I was competing for about two and a half years during my time at Xinglong Kung Fu School, and have received six gold medals (two for Shaolin fist forms, one for broadsword, one for staff, one for Tai Chi fist forms and one for Tai Chi straight sword), three silver medals (two for Shaolin fist forms, one for broadsword) and one bronze medal (fist forms). I had the unique experience of never being entered into international competitions but was always competing in Chinese only tournaments; which provided more fierce competition, with teams from Beijing and the Shaolin village taking part. I was humbled to be a part of the Siping Wushu Team which led me to competitions all over China.
What are you doing now?
Currently I am training for the British Stunt Register.
You have spent time all over the world, and I am curious. What is your favourite food?
I have eaten some very strange things over the past few years, some of which I can't politely bring up in conversation at dinner. But if I had to pick one dish I don't think you can beat a plate of well made Chinese dumplings with a garlic and vinegar dipping sauce!
What is next?
After I have completed the training required for the stunt register I am hoping to take on more projects where I can creatively use and expand my repertoire of skills
Why Armadillo Merino®?
I began training in Armadillo Merino apparel when I first began my journey five years ago and am now unable to go back to regular cotton t-shirts and other articles of sports clothing. Whether it’s the convenience of the quick drying nature in the heat of the summer when I am drenched in sweat or the warming under layers to keep away the chill in winter, I have always found a piece of Armadillo clothing to fit the demands of the environment.
Final question, for someone starting their martial arts journey, what advice would you have for them?
The best martial artist doesn't come from what style you practice but from how hard you train.