Best Setting for a Brutal Awakening

Vicious attacks by well-built young skinheads normally follow a predictable sequence: you get smacked around, then relieved of your money. But at the martial arts schools surrounding the Shaolin Temple in China's central Henan province, you first hand over your cash, then take the blows. Students here display an appetite for violence not normally expected of shaven-headed, Buddhist acolytes?but the physical discipline required for martial arts, the thinking goes, will confer spiritual benefits.

The official school attached to the Shaolin Temple in the foothills of Mount Song is the most famous, but there are lots of privately run...

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