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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

American Shaolin

Shortly after walking into the store I spotted a book called American Shaolin. What attracted my attention was a monk on the cover walking away with a Burger King bag held behind his back. Many of my friends will joke that the bag caught my attention, but my interest was piqued, and I knew I had to have it, for really no particular reason other than I was interested in martial arts, and had just returned from a trip to China.
I read Matthew Polly’s book with great zeal, identifying myself with him more and more as I turned the pages. I couldn’t help but draw some parallels as I too once considered myself a weakling that needed to get in better shape and become stronger, and was sick of carrying around my self doubt. Unlike Matthew in American Shaolin, I just went to the local judo dojo for several years of lessons; Polly traveled to China to learn from Shaolin masters.
I was fascinated by American Shaolin, and found Polly’s story about how he moved to China to gain confidence, grow, and become physically stronger, to be quite the page turner. It’s a fantastic ex-pat story, if ever there was one, as Matthew became the first American to be initiated at the Shaolin Temple. And it was a book that I fell asleep to on many nights as I struggled to put it down.
American Shaolin is not just a travel book, but also the written dream of many martial arts practitioners. I fell asleep many nights dreaming of the opportunity to travel to Japan and learn at the Kodokan, the place where judo developed and its roots lie, just like Polly ventured to China to study what interested him. The opportunity to do so didn’t develop for me before various influences prevented me from continuing to practice, but I’m all the more impressed by Matthew Polly’s story because of it.
I highly recommend American Shaolin, to anyone interested in traveling to China or studying the martial arts, as well as those looking for an incredibly interesting read. It’s a great book with a clear vision that is worth seeing for yourself. For me, it’s a story I know I’ll definitely pick up to read when I return to that mat for judo once again, or return on another trip to China.

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