One Championship's James Yang Trained for Three Years in Shaolin Temple in Rural China

Sep 13, 2021

In a matter of days, one of James Yang’s life dreams will come true as he makes his mixed martial arts debut.

The life of the 32-year-old has been full of adventures so far. The One Championship lightweight traveled around the globe to pursue fulfillment as a person and a martial artist. Now, he is scheduled to take on Roel Rosauro at the upcoming One “Revolution.” Before switching to MMA and training under Matt Hume at AMC Pankration, Yang had a life-changing experience in a Shaolin temple in rural China.

“When I was 17, out of high school, my plan was, you know, I was going to take six months off in Northern Shaolin martial arts academy,” he said. “It’s near a city called Siping in Dongbei, North-eastern China. It actually bordered North Korea, it’s very high there. The closest city, Siping, is about an hour away. That’s the closest city. It’s an hour away by taxi car. I was in rural, rural China. Even the nearest village was like six, seven kilometers away. We had nothing up there, it was living on this hill. At the academy, it wasn’t just shallow martial arts. They had Shaolin, but they had ba-ji[quan], Chen-style tai chi and Sanda, which is like Chinese kickboxing. They had a big mix of martial artists.”

The recollection of what happened while staying in China resembles some kung fu movies from the 80s, in which the young apprentice has to go through a series of challenging tasks to subdue his ego and grow his patience.

“I planned to for six months, come back, go schooling, do the whole typical thing, right, get a job and all that, but what I ended up doing was staying there for three years in that academy. I got this opportunity as a foreigner to perform with the demo team, and that’s a huge opportunity, like not a lot of people get to do that. Just to get an idea, we trained like eight hours a day, right? You get like two hours of hot water at night to shower and there’s like moldy, crusty facilities and everyone crams in there at night. Bathrooms are like all squatters, you’re literally looking at somebody while they’re watching you taking number two or whatever. It’s just that kind of situation.”

Yang also talked his experience as a performer at Cirque du Soleil and commented on Demetrious Johnson’s loss to Adriano Moraes and the global ruleset that One adopts.

Tudor Leonte started writing about mixed martial arts in 2013 for Italian media outlets. His journey with Sherdog began in 2018 and now he covers One Championship and countless European shows. You can follow him on Twitter @MrTudorLeonte.

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