Matthew Polly is the national bestselling author of American Shaolin, Tapped Out, and Bruce Lee. A Princeton University graduate and Rhodes Scholar, he spent two years studying kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Esquire, Slate, Playboy, and The Nation. He is a fellow at Yale University and lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Growing up a ninety-pound weakling tormented by bullies in the schoolyards of Kansas, young Matthew Polly dreamed of one day journeying to the Shaolin Temple in China to become the toughest fighter in the world, like Caine in his favorite 1970s TV series, Kung Fu. While in college, Matthew decided the time had come to pursue this quixotic dream before it was too late. Much to the dismay of his parents, he dropped out of Princeton to spend two years training with the legendary sect of monks who invented kung fu and Zen Buddhism.
Expecting to find an isolated citadel populated by supernatural ascetics that he’d seen in countless badly dubbed chop-socky flicks, Matthew instead discovered a tacky tourist trap run by Communist party hacks. But the dedicated monks still trained in the rigorous age-old fighting forms—some even practicing the “iron kung fu” discipline, in which intensive training can make various body parts virtually indestructible (even the crotch). As Matthew grew in his knowledge of China and kung fu skill, he would come to represent the Temple in challenge matches and international competitions, and ultimately the monks would accept their new American initiate as close to one of their own as any Westerner had ever become.
Laced with humor and illuminated by cultural insight, American Shaolin is an unforgettable coming-of-age tale of one young man’s journey into the ancient art of kung fu—and a funny and poignant portrait of a rapidly changing China.
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Then, in August 1985, Bio was assigned to combine his day-to-day flight duties with participation in a Pentagon-blessed project to film action footage for a major Hollywood movie focusing on the lives, loves, heartbreaks, and triumphs of young fighter pilots: Top Gun.
Bio soon found himself riding in limousines to attend gala premieres, and being singled out by giggling teenagers and awed schoolboys who recognized the name "Topgun" on his T-shirts. The book ends with his reflections on his career as a skilled naval aviator and his enduring love of flight.
The paperback and Kindle editions include more than fifty rare full color photographs of fighter jets in action.