Young monk's inspirational homecoming

This Is Local London: Matthew Ahmet, a Shaolin monk originally from Enfield, shows some of his moves Matthew Ahmet, a Shaolin monk originally from Enfield, shows some of his moves

AN ENFIELD 20-year-old is set to travel the world with a troupe of monks performing mind-boggling feats of physical endurance.

Matthew Ahmet, who grew up in Bullsmoor Lane, Edmonton, practises Buddhism and the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu, which involves gruelling ten-hour training days, sleeping on wooden slats and eating porridge and boiled vegetables.

Mr Ahmet left his Camden school at 16, because he felt he wasn’t challenged and became dissaffected when the school threatened to expel him for taking time off to do artwork for a business.

He has been based in China for three years, in charge of coaching 30 pupils and living in basic conditions.

“You have what you need, the simplicity is the beauty of it,” he said. “Sometimes you are so tired from training that you don’t really think about it.

“You get up at 5am and that means you have to be outside and lined up. At first it was very difficult, but you looked around and there were people who had started from the age of five.

“My dream was to become a Shaolin disciple and I’ve done it. Now I am happier than I’ve ever been.”

Mr Ahmet’s interest in Shaolin was sparked aged 11 when he went to the West End to see the show he now performs in, the Wheel of Life. As a child he would complete two hours of fitness training in the morning before school. He started breakdancing with a troupe called Shaolin Kung Fu City aged 14, and performed around the country.

Now a Shaolin monk, he has travelled to seven countries with the Wheel of Life, a re-enactment of the history of the Shaolin movement, which dates back 1,500 years.

He said the hardest thing about living abroad is that he misses his family, though Mr Ahmet visits the UK once or twice a year to see them. He will also return to this country in January to marry a Chinese girl.

Mr Ahmet also gives talks at schools and young offenders institutions. He said: “Young people have hot showers and food, yet they want to go out into the street and carry knives. They are not enjoying the luxury they have.

“Teachers come up to me and say these students are the unteachables. I am saying: ‘look at the skills that you have, look at what you have got.’ They see what I have done and they come up to me and shake my hand and say: ‘I respect you’.

“To hear that from these kids who teachers say are unteachable is amazing.”

The Shaolin monks will be appearing in the Wheel of Life at the Hackney empire until November 22.

For more details see hackneyempire.co.uk.

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