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It would be easy to imagine that "The Way of the Warrior" is the title for one of the many martial arts films churned out from Hong Kong to Hollywood. Almost certainly there is a film that shares the title, but in this particular instance the name refers to the forthcoming workshop at Asia house that hopes to promote a greater understanding of the martial arts by focusing on eight contrasting disciplines from Asia.

Beijing opera, Shaolin Kung Fu, Kalarippayattu, Thang Ta, Pencak Silat, Aikido, Kubuki and Krabbi Krabbong are the chosen disciplines offering in-depth analysis via performances and presentations.

These disciplines represent cultures from as far afield as China, Japan, India, Thailand and Indonesia and many of the workshops will be led by some of the world's leading martial arts figures.

The workshop serves the dual purpose of providing professional martial artists with the opportunity to work with some of Asia's Grand Masters and giving the public the chance to join free pre-show talks before watching demonstrations.

Particular forms will be explained and information will be provided on the weapons used. The end result will hopefully reveal the huge variety of martial forms.

"All these forms have profound links with medicine," says artistic director Dick McCaw. "For example, Kalarippayattu has extraordinary massage systems, while other disciplines, like Shaolin Kung Fu, have deep links with philosophy and religion."

Most people's knowledge of Shaolin Kung Fu doesn't extend beyond the aforementioned films or wondering whether Bruce Lee played a Shaolin Monk in Enter the Dragon. If you want to know the truth behind the myths, then come to the workshop. But if you can't wait, here's the basic story.

Bhodi Dharma, born in India near Madras, is credited with inventing this martial art by introducing Ch'an Buddhism to China and stopping at the Shongsas Temple.

He taught the importance of the relationship between mind and body through deep meditation and was reputed to have meditated by looking at a wall for nine years. In order to help the less conscientious monks at the temple, he devised breathing and physical exercises which later became known as Shaolin Kung Fu.

"There are so many false preconceptions about martial arts," says McCaw. "In Germany, they're worried about the word "warrior" because people equate it with aggression, but combat forms without mental and philosophical discipline become meaningless.

"It comes back to the notion of discipline and understanding how to focus your energy, and to move with economy of movement. The Workshop are a performing arts organisation, so I'm also interested in what performers can learn from martial arts."

The demonstrations will have to be seen to be believed. Beauty is married to discipline of timing and movement as artists leap high into the air in exciting mock battles. In tandem with the presentations, patrons will hopefully begin a love affair with martial arts that have everyday applications.

"We can apply these lessons to our daily lives," McCaw continues. "Our body is a complex piece of machinery that we don't pay enough attention to.

"You wouldn't run a car without a service, but we don't service ourselves - we even take in the wrong kind of fuel half the time. We can be a lot more than what we are and the martial arts are as good a way as any of getting more out of life."


Way of the Warrior, Sadler's Wells at The Peacock Theatre, Kingsway, WC2A 2HT

Box office (0171-314 8800)

Information on the free pre-show talks (0171-637 0712) Performances: Wednesday 1 April-Saturday 4 April at 7.30pm. Tickets from pounds 7.50-pounds 25.

Demonstrations: Tuesday 31 March at 7.30pm Sat 4 April at 3pm. Tickets pounds 7.50-pounds 12.50