Last Updated 02 Mar 2020

American Shaolin 1

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In American Shaolin, Matt, the main character has a defining characteristic of being idealistic. To be idealistic one has to be merely honest. The concept of idealism is to act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form. This idealism is rapidly seen in first chapter of book one, Matt develops a list of things wrong with him, he annotates the following, “Things that are wrong with Matt: 1. Ignorant 2. Cowardly 3. Still a boy/not a man 4. Unattractive to the opposite sex 5. Spiritually confused (14). Matt wrote the list at age fifteen, which was back when he was a bully’s favorite target. Since the beginning of the book Matt seemed to point out that he was “weak. ” It was mentioned a numerous amount of times that throughout his school years Matt was a ninety-eight pound boy, which one knows is not heavy at all, so it’s very easy for bullies to pick on him if they wanted to. Referring back to the list Matt wanted to change himself, he wanted to one day become a tough fighter that would be able to protect himself in similar situations to those the same he had faced from his past.

In doing so he took action and decided to take a year off college, Princeton, and use that same college money to travel to China. Matt was on a mission to find the Shaolin Temple. He had figured out that in order to break out of the shell of being bullied he wanted to study the martial arts of kungfu. “[He] had been taking kungfu classes since freshman year, because when [he] was nine years old [he] had seen a rerun of David Carradine’s Kung Fu and was never the same again (15). He didn’t figure this out alone, with the help of Professor Gu, he made his decision. Are you afraid of chi ku? ” Professor Gu asked “Eat bitter? ”…“No,” I lied…“Then you must go to the Shaolin Temple (16). ” Although Matt did not have the support he wanted, his idealistic mind did not stop him. He was going to do what he set his mind on. In taking money from his college fund he was really taking action for what he wanted to do. Not only was it something his parents did not agree it, but it was something he had to go through alone, which one can say depicts the “cowardly” part off the list.

Although he claims to have been a coward since grade school, if Matt was truly a coward he would have not taken that big step in life all on his own. But since this was something he did want, he did the actions to make his dream possible. Not only does he manage to get to China alone, but he has to find his way alone. All he can do is ask directions it doesn’t take a coward to confront random people, whom don’t speak English, and ask them for help in a different continent in which one is new to.

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Although he claims to not be so good at his Chinese, Matt seems to get plenty of compliments of how well he does speak the language. “Aiya, you speak Chinese! ” she cried clapping her hands to her mouth “Just a little. ” “Your Chinese is so good! (16)” Since the beginning Matt seemed to cross off “ignorant” from his list all on his own. Since his junior year of high school Matt decided to take steps forward and become a very successful person. He felt that although he was only at his junior year of college, he was done with college. As I finished, I leaned my head back in my chair with pride, and the list flashed in my head. I was suffused with a sweet glow of success (14). ” After having the feeling of relief Matt soon started to feel like he needed to work on eliminating more of the factors wrong with him from the list. That is when Matt’s idealistic mind take role and speaks for itself. His steps to going to China were getting closer, [his] obsession with kungfu had led to an interest in Chinese culture... [He] was all flight ad no fight (15). As much as Matt was learning about the Chinese culture to link with “unattractive to the opposite sex he learns that “because the Chinese tend to hit puberty later (at fourteen to sixteen) and because it is a sexually conservative country, especially in rural regions, the Chinese don’t usually start dating before they are eighteen…It was common for Wushu Center monks who had reached the peak of their power to find a special female friend to focus the extra energy they no longer needed to improve their kungfu skills (116). Matt has an open mind and is learning much from his time in China. One can say that if things go well for Matt, maybe after he’s completed his kungfu training he might just find that one girl who will make him cross off his factor from the list. Towards the middle of the book Matt sets an example of how he was a coward, when one day he had a conversation with Coach Cheng and he was asked if he was afraid of being hit, Matt replies, “The pain. ” He looked at [him] for a long time. When you were little, did they beat you? His question caught [him] off guard. [His] eyes got hot. “Classmates? ” [He] nodded (161). ” Matt shows that he is being idealistic because he really wants to change the way things have been from his childhood, he doesn’t seem to give up. His actions speak louder than the words he himself speaks. With his mind set in moving forward, he is acknowledging more wisdom as every day goes by. To be idealistic is take action as to for one wants to accomplish in their lives.

Matt has shown that he is very idealistic by going to China to study kungfu. Generally, Matt's idealism is negotiated throughout his character, affecting his decisions to change the way he is and the way he will be for the rest of his life. If it wasn’t for his idealism, Matt would not be where he has gotten so far, he would have been back at home lacking the experience he went through still depicting about how he lived a bullied childhood. Matt's idealism developed from the moment he was back at home to now when he lives in China.

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American Shaolin 1. (2018, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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