Xiao Long Wu Yuan is one of the largest schools just outside of the famous Shaolin Temple in Deng Feng, China - Henan province.
The Shaolin Temple is where all martial arts disciplines began and there is a lot of history in the place. The town eats, breathes, sleeps martial arts and it is no big deal to spot a Shaolin monk or students running up the steep road to the mountain.
The school is cheap, US $450 (Updated Jan 2010
) a month covers your room, food, Chinese class, and training - 6 days a week, 12+ hours a day. Where else can you eat and sleep for that a month? Uniforms, special shoes, and other necessities are very cheap to buy from the school.
The food is terrible, the rules are strict (you are locked in the school and can only sign out to leave one day a week), and the training is tough - but if you can last a month, it is very rewarding. Don't go looking for the old-school kung fu training grounds that you see in the movies. The teachers are young (not gray eyebrowed masters) and you wear a shiny modern Wu-Shu uniform. The living conditions are rough, many days there was no water, and injuries are a daily occurrence. On my second day there I was asked to do a back bridge (the start of a back flip) on concrete with no experience whatsoever. Needless to say, it hurt.
The students are an international mix of hard core types which stay there for a year or longer, people that have military experience or want to be kung fu teachers in their home countries, and wandering backpackers that want the experience or a cheap place to crash. Not everyone even lasts the 1 month minimum. Everyone does get along though and you feel the comraderie when people help each other during training and after injuries.
Living at the school is a bit like basic training. You wake up at 05:30am every day to run, a (10K run on Thursdays!) and get yelled at and even thrown on the ground. Don't even think about being late for formation, or you will be doing pushups. It is hard, but can be fun also. My last week at the school, several of us had smuggled out fruit and sugar (prisoner style) and mixed a big bucket of Sangria which we hid in the dark until it fermented into something special for the going away party which was held secretively after "lights out" at night. Where else can you do that other than prison?
The School's official website is here: http://www.shaolinkft.com/flash/index.html
But you may find more info on this German run site here: http://www.shaolin-wushu.de/en/main_fr.htm?trainingsreisen.htm
If anyone truly is interested, email me and I will gladly answer questions and post more information here.