Kung fu tourism: Foreigners learn at China school

QUFU, China - In the countryside outside the birthplace of the Chinese sage Confucius, 35 students - the vast majority of them foreigners - battle the elements as well as exhaustion at a remote kung fu training academy.

The students in Qufu, from as far afield as Brazil, Ukraine, Spain and France, vary in age from six - a young boy who accompanied his mother on a summer holiday - to 50.

It is a disciplined, regimented regime, with activities beginning at 6.00 am every day and featuring several hours of practice.

This includes runs up and down thousands of steps through the steep hills of a neighbouring national park, interspersed with meals.

The students are divided into three groups based on their ability, with each group assigned a kung fu master who blows a whistle at the start of every activity.

They line up to pay their respects to him each time.

The learners can choose how long to stay, from those taking short breaks to one Dutch man who has been training for a year to become a kung fu master and open his own academy in Holland.

Qufu, in the eastern province of Shandong, is best known as the birthplace of Confucius, and the town is dominated by his family's sprawling residence.

At times the school can feel like a holiday camp. But the kung fu masters do not hesitate to punish those who fail to follow instructions to the letter - including by assigning students to clean the gym for a week.