One of the most common questions I get about training wushu in China is the cost. Almost everyone wants to know the typical costs of training in China, and what it includes (housing, food, etc.).
While it is almost impossible to give a definitive answer across the board for all training facilities, I hope to at least give you an understanding of the range of costs associated with coming to China to train in wushu. Naturally, there is a lot of variations in costs depending on where you go, who you know, when you train, and how many people are in your group (just to name a few).
Let’s tackle each issue one by one so that you can get a good estimate of how much money you should be putting aside before you hop on the plane.
Of course, I already talked about the various types of training facilities in China, and I’ve mentioned some things to think about before coming to China to train, so this information should be taken along with those.
Before starting I should mention that my pricing information will be in U.S. Dollars, unless otherwise stated. I am also stating the “all-inclusive” price, so it would include training (probably twice a day), a place to live (of varying quality) and food (3 meals a day in their cafeteria).
I will let you know if there are variations on these items, but for the most part this is what I’m including in the cost.
Where are you training?
More than anything else, the facility you are training at will play the greatest role in the costs associated with your training tip to China. The amounts can really vary here, from almost $100 / day at the uber-deluxe Shi Cha Hai Sports School with their International Plaza Hotel, to around $20 / day for an extended stay at some small local training school out in the boonies. Here are the most common ranges for the most typical types of training facilities. (Your milage may vary.)
Wushu Academic/Training Schools ($20 – $35 / day)
These schools are primarily for young children or youths who are training wushu either part time, or possibly in a boarding-school situation. Zhao Chang Jun’s school in Xi’an is a good example of this. It is technically a school, in that kids live here and go to school and take classes, but part of their curriculum is made up of wushu or sanda training classes.
Most of these types of schools will also have some dorms to stay in, but certainly nothing that you would say is “posh”. Usually several people in a room, no air conditioning, showers in another building, common bathrooms with open squat toilets and a cafeteria that has almost as good a chance of getting you sick as giving you nutrition (at least until your stomach acclimates to the local environment).
The benefit of these types of places is that your remoteness and being the only foreigner means you get a lot of focused training and not too many distractions. Another advantage of these types of schools is that there are typically a lot of them in any given province so odds are there is one near you, if you are already in China. (Of course finding them is a whole different issue).
The downside is that the quality of instruction might not be as high, although most of the professional athletes you know probably started at a school like this early in their career. (Once they showed a lot of promise they were most likely introduced to train at a professional sports facility.)
Sports Universities and Colleges ($25 – $55 / day)
If you are going to train at a sports college there are a few things you need to understand. First, for the majority of them the administration and admission process is much more organized (and possibly more bureaucratic) than other types of schools.
At the schools you will get a mix of both professional and amateur wushu athletes training. You also get a mix of different types of coaches, from former professional wushu players to people studying to become professional coaches.
There are three or four sports colleges in China that are considered the best (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou) and as a result their rates are probably a bit higher. If you signed up for my Nanquan Scream newsletter, then you probably received the list of 2 dozen or so different sports universities around China.
With foreigners, some of these places are more organized than others. For example, I’ve noticed that the Xi’an University of Physical Education (XUPE) is a little on the disorganized side and don’t seem as well prepared for foreigners to come train there (even though they have an English language website complete with pricing and training information), but schools like BEITI (Beijing Sports University) have a constant stream of foreigners coming to train there and are well prepared to provide various options and information.
Since these are actual higher level academic institutions, they can usually accommodate someone for either a short-term stay, exchange studies, a semester or two of classes, or even a full degree program. Of course a full academic program includes more than just wushu training as you’ll have to take supplementary classes to qualify for your degree. A few foreigners have gotten their degrees at sports universities in China, so it is certainly something to think about if you are so inclined.
Private Wushu Schools ($40 – $70 / day)
These are schools owned and operated by a person or group of people with some sort of history or connection with wushu. These are slightly different than the Wushu Training Schools above in that they do not offer any curriculum other than wushu or sanda training. Their sole focus is on training wushu, although they might be able to arrange some Chinese language teacher for you (probably for an added fee).
These aren’t quite as common, mainly because they require a regular customer base. And unlike the schools with academic programs, you don’t have a base group of students that are studying there. An example of this type of school might be something like Zhang Yi’s wushu school in Shanghai, although his is much more spare time than full time.
Occasionally you can find a full time situation, but most of these schools aren’t able to coordinate a visa or put you up in any dorms. These are similar to the private schools you’ll see in the West, and as such you might have to arrange your own accommodations and food (although they might be able to help you find a cheap place to live or eat as part of their service package).
In this situation, the cost does NOT include housing and food. I probably wouldn’t recommend this option unless you are already living and working in China and happen to want to train in wushu too. When I lived in Shanghai I would go train at Zhang Yi’s schools a few times a week so this worked out well for me since I already had a place to live and had a job.
Government Sports Schools ($30 – $100 / day)
At the low end are smaller provincial teams. For example, if you want to go train with the Gansu Wushu Team, you probably can get in on the cheaper side ($30 – $40). But if you are training at Shi Cha Hai, then prepare to pay a premium ($70 – $100).These are where the professional athletes train. And as such you will pay a premium to train there. You should also keep in mind that at most of the professional athlete training facilities in the larger cities you don’t actually get to work out with the team members themselves unless you have really good connections. However you might be fortunate enough to work out on the carpet next to them.
At Shi Cha Hai, if you can arrange it, I recommend rooming in the athlete dorms, as they are much cheaper. Sure, they aren’t as nice as the fancy hotel rooms, but the price goes down considerably. How much less? My understanding is that you can go from close to $90 / day down to around $50 / day by doing this, but of course it depends on other factors too.
Tourist Wushu Schools ($30 – $100 / day)
These are the schools located at places like the Shaolin Temple or E-mei Mountain or Wudang Temple, where they are set up specifically to capitalize on the popularity of these locations as wushu tourism destinations.
At the Shaolin Temple (or similar locations) you actually have three different types of schools.
The top tier are the schools that are actually associated with the Shaolin Temple (or whatever the particular attraction may be). They are run by the same people who are in charge of the temple and as such the “warrior monks” who train at these schools are actually the official “warrior monks”, who are working for the temple itself. — maybe as a practicing monk or religious student. The prices at these types of schools might be a little higher (I’m guessing $40 – $60 / day, but I don’t actually know) but it is because they are “legitimate”.
The second tier are schools similar to the academic schools I mentioned before. These places will have literally thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of kids in their facilities training and going to school. A lot of parents in rural parts of China will send their kids to these places in the hopes that they will be given opportunities for a better life with a specialized skill. You can train at these places too, but it is sort of like the first option I mentioned above. Prices are similar, although you might be a few more dollars a day since they are close to the tourist attraction area.
Finally you have the tourist schools. Honestly, I don’t really recommend these types of places. One, because they tend to have a low quality of instruction and some of them are pretty deceptive about their “official” status with the temple. They will say they are officially sanctioned to teach Shaolin Kung Fu, but what they mean is that some random Warrior Monk attended their opening ceremony and signed a scroll and took some pictures, so that is their proof that the Shaolin Temple recognizes their “authority”.
They are essentially set up to suck the money out of tourists so avoid these places if you can. And I’ve heard of them really milking people too. Would you pay $10,000 + / month to train at a school in China? No, you wouldn’t, and no you shouldn’t. But I’ve heard of people doing this.
And not just at the Shaolin Temple, but at other “private” schools in other provinces.
The main thing is that you just have to be really careful about where you train. Don’t take the school’s word on anything because this type of school’s main focus is to separate you from your money (and cut corners while they’re at it).
With government schools you can be sure that they are at least a little more honest since they answer to a higher authority, but with private schools you really can’t be too careful. I’ve heard more horror stories than I am would like to share. Not all schools are like this, of course. But enough of them behave in a sketchy fashion to warrant your careful consideration. Just be very careful when making any arrangements with a school — especially one you have never trained at before or found through their “Chinglish” website making lots of grandiose promises.
Those are the majority of places to train and the general range of costs associated with each. But these costs can vary depending on a few variables. Let’s look at the variations on costs so that you can better know what to expect.
Without a doubt, the greatest way your price can fluctuate is based on guanxi. Who you know, and the person who helps to arrange your training, will directly affect the cost of your training. Substantially.
If you know the owner of a school and ask him to train there, you might get the special guanxi discount. Suddenly you are paying $25 / day. If you go to their front office and ask to train there without knowing anyone? Guess what? You are now paying the “We don’t know you but you’re a foreigner so you probably have money” rate which is closer to $50 – $70 / day.
If you have a friend who is an athlete, then have them help you arrange your training.
Better yet, if you know a coach, ask them to set you up.
But probably the best is if you know the team leader or the school administrator, because they can get you the best deals.
The worst person to know? Nobody.
If you contact the school directly you get the “nobody knows you” rate, which is the highest rate you might pay there.
Make some friends. It pays off big time.
And even if you don’t know anyone, then you might want to just bite the bullet and pay the full rate. But while you are training take the time to make friends with the coaches and athletes (invite them to dinner and KTV, or ask them to hang out) so that the next time you want to come you have someone you can call to help you make arrangements.
Just be careful that you don’t impose on your friends too. There are a lot of political situations at schools and you need to be careful about how you approach favor-asking.
Length of Stay
This is pretty simple: the longer you stay, the cheaper your rate.
If you are going to stay for 6 months, you can arrange a cheaper amount per day. In one situation you might be paying $40 / day to train at a school, but if they know you are there for 6 months, then you might get it down to $35 / day. It won’t be a HUGE discount, but over the course of several months it makes a difference.
Not all schools will do this for you though. It is best to ask and find out, provided you are actually planning on staying for a long time.
Number of People
Of course, the more people, the cheaper your per-person rate.
On the flip side, the more people the less individualized and unique your training experience.
Group rates are not unusual. If you are alone, you might get a $40 / day rate to train somewhere. If there are 5 or 6 of you together, then maybe they can bring it down to $35 / day per person.
Again, not all schools will do this, so check with your prospective training facilities to find out what discounts they offer.
This is pretty simple. If you are in the big cities it will cost more. If you go to the country-side or small towns it will cost less.
The price difference can be pretty substantial. For example, if you went to train with my friend Yue Xiao Yu in the little town she teaches wushu at in Shandong, you could probably get in there for around $20 – $30 / day. Training at the same type of place in Shanghai (The Shanghai Wushu Yuan on Nanjing Lu, for example) is more like $40 – $50 ($25 – $30 if you don’t need a place to live or food provided).
Personally I think it is perfectly okay to be in a smaller town. I’ve had parents tell me that they think it isn’t safe for their kid to be in some backroads area of China, but to be honest all the “unsafe” experiences I’ve had in China have been in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.
You want to be safe? Go to a small town where everyone knows each other and they have no need to steal from each other. When people want to start a life of dishonest thievery, they go where the people with money are — the big cities. I’ve never known anyone to get pick pocketed in a town of 2,000 people.
On my first trip I didn’t really have any extra money for these sorts of things, and I ended up regretting it since I couldn’t go shopping or go out to eat with my friends (or it ended up hurting my bottom line when I did). Aside from training, food and lodging, be sure to include costs for ancillary expenses. You will probably want to travel around the city you are in. You might decide that you are sick of the cafeteria food and decide to get something else from a restaurant. A lot of athletes like buying snacks to keep in their room. Buses and taxi’s cost money. All of these things need to be accounted for on top of your normal training expenses.
I would double your cost of training each day for other expenses, just to be safe. So, if you know your training costs are $35 / day, then plan on $70 / day to be safe. You can buy souvenirs for your friends back home, take some of the athletes or coaches out for a meal, or pick up a Big Mac at the local McDonald’s when you are craving some fast food.
Better safe than sorry, right?
So, there you have it. These are most of the factors that will affect your price of training in China. As I said before, there are a LOT of ways the amount can move up or down the scale.
What is the best situation? In my opinion, if your coach is an ex professional athlete and they can call up their old teammate who is now the head coach for their old team, and get you in to train with the athletes themselves while living in the dorms, all for around $30 / day, then you are golden.
What is the worst situation? You call up “Sifu Wang’s Wushu Hero Academy” in some random town and they convince you that you will be trained like the best athletes in China, but what you’ll really end up with is substandard living conditions and someone’s throw-away wushu coach to train you, all for the over-priced rate of $10,000 / month.
My guess is you will probably be somewhere in between these two extremes.
The most important thing is to plan as carefully as you can before you even decide to leave your country.
Do a lot of research and find out the best places that fit your needs.
Don’t just take a school’s word for something. Ask for references. See if anyone has blogged about their experiences. Ask your friends about their training trips.
As is the case in many things, the buyer must needs beware. It is your hard-earned money (or your parent’s hard-earned money, as the case may be) so don’t throw it around frivolously.
This is, in fact, one of the reasons I have decided to create the China Training Guidebook, a (mostly) comprehensive list of training facilities located throughout China as well as tips and information for making your stay more fruitful
If you’d like more information about the guidebook, please sign up for updates via the Nanquan Scream mailing list.
Either way, make the most of your time in China. Train hard. Make friends. And be sure to enjoy your stay!