Dr. Yang’s Fight Club
(Page 6 of 9)
But Dr. Yang also pushed Mike harder than the others. Every infraction earned a whipping, administered to the bare behind in sets of five. Every time Mike failed to clean up after himself. Every time he slept late or belched during dinner. In a way, Dr. Yang couldn’t help himself. Mike reminded him so much of his younger self that the familiarity seemed to authorize additional levels of discipline.
In December, Dr. Yang tested the disciples in 26 categories. Mike scored well in mountain running but didn’t fare well in “Jump Over Stick”: 4 jumps in 30 seconds. John Chang did 18.
Finally, the holidays came. The disciples were free to go home for three weeks, sleeping late and soaking up the rapture of civilization. It would be another year before they could enjoy the same freedom. Fund-raising shortfalls meant that their summer would also be spent on the mountain, coordinating training seminars for visiting “outdoor” students.
The return from vacation was difficult. After weeks of disuse, Mike’s muscles ached, and the training regime was as merciless as ever. A cold rain fell practically every day. Later in the month, the disciples went shopping for dumbbells at Kmart and returned with a Ping-Pong table that, for a while, did much to relieve the monotony. But Mike soon stopped playing because Chang always won.
In the meantime, Dr. Yang’s search for students continued. The plan was to induct a second class of disciples in the fall of 2009. That way, even with the 50 percent dropout rate he anticipated, Dr. Yang could still count on five disciples to carry on the tradition. New prospects regularly sent email inquiries, but it was slow going. Exchanges that began with passionate declarations of fealty soon dwindled to awkward realism. A British theology student was talked out of it by his mother; a Portuguese mathematics student couldn’t afford tuition; a French business student realized there was something to be said for a degree in management after all. Dr. Yang persevered.
Then, in the thick of his search, Dr. Yang received a forwarded email that Mike had sent to one of the more promising 2009 candidates, Jachym Jerie. Jerie had emailed Mike to get an inside perspective on the program before committing.
“Be aware that you will become isolated,” Mike wrote Jerie,
and every day you are here your old life, family, friends, desires are vanishing away and all your true emotions will come to the surface of your mind. It came for me when all I would do is try to talk to my friends on the very slow internet with bad connection whenever I had free time here. There isn’t much of that at all here, if you want to read books or study some other things there’s no time for you. Every day here is training, even your “weekend,” which consists of helping Dr. Yang do chores after a half day of training. The schedule gets so tight there’s no time to do other things if you wanted to.
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