Mysterious ancient skills of the Shaolin Warriors

Kung Fu masters will be thrilling with their death defying disciplines such as chi-gong, animal imitation boxing and deadly weapon skills at the Theatre Royal. Director STEPHEN LEATHERLAND tells us more about the Shaolin Warriors.

Returning to the Theatre Royal stage with a brand new show, Shaolin Warriors is a breathtaking theatrical performance vividly showcases the rarely-seen Kung Fu masters' feats of agility, strength and skill.

This fully choreographed spectacular features 22 professionally trained Kung Fu masters, thrilling with their death defying Kung Fu disciplines such as chi-gong and animal imitation boxing with 18 kinds of dangerous traditional weapons.

The production details the journey of a young warrior, from initiation into the monastery to achieving fully fledged warrior status. The training necessary in order to become a Shaolin Warrior is most definitely not for the feint hearted.

A typical day for a young warrior includes waking up at 5am in order to complete a full six hours training alongside compulsory meditation and relaxation.

Most of the warriors grew up in poor rural families in the Henan and Shandong Provinces of China. While on tour, they continue both their mental and physical training as they believe mental strength to be vital to a successful performance.

Providing a backdrop to the Buddhist meditation and rigorous martial arts training, the show is also an extravaganza of gorgeous scenery, atmospheric music, and hundreds of costumes.

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The show has already been a huge hit over three continents, being seen by over 500,000 people.

Stephen Leatherland, director of the thrilling high-octane show, tells us more.

Is Shaolin Warriors a family show?

Shaolin Warriors is most definitely a family show for all ages. In particular there's a teaching sequence with children from the audience who experience being taught Kung-Fu live on stage! So far this show has entertained over 600,000 people overseas of all ages. This year we've looked to recreate the show especially for the UK audience thus making it more interactive, more attractive and ultimately, more exciting.

What's the one act/performance/move that makes the audience wince the most?

It is very hard to name the act that makes the audience wince the most as there are so many exciting feats! Personally, I'd suggest the 'five spears thrusting the body', a stunt where a warrior is supported in the air with spears. Others include lying on blades, the nail bed, breaking iron bars using forehead alone to name just a few! However it should be noted that although almost any object can be used as a weapon, the warriors are non-aggressive. At the heart of their ethos is grace and elegance which is a fundamental theme throughout the show.

Do the performers get injured very often?

Although the odd minor injury may happen, the Warriors have been fully trained since they were very young. As most of them began their training as young as 4, they've established all the tips and tricks needed in order to ensure their optimum safety. They're also incredibly strict in their meditation and physical preparation before each show.

Who are the Shaolin Warriors?

The Shaolin Warriors are performers of Shaolin style martial arts. Shaolin is a major genre within the kung-Fu and Chinese martial arts world especially in Northern China.

Is there a large percentage of people who start Shaolin training and then drop out?

Yes. The intense training means that not many can bear the hardships during the hottest and coldest months throughout the year. They really are pushed to their limits and as such, we can't realistically expect all students to become Kung Fu masters. However, no matter how long or short, we aspire to help people become both physically and mentally strong.

t Shaolin Warriors, Norwich Theatre Royal, May 10, �22.50-�5.50, 01603 630000,