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Archive for May 26th, 2010

Where Will Kung Fu Take You? – by Jenn Mink

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In my short 24 years on this Earth, I’ve done some pretty amazing things. I moved to Guatemala right after high school, I went to college and learned a second language, and I lived in Spain for a year. People often ask me how I was able to do so much and still do kung fu. I ask them, “How do you think I was able to do all those things?” Because of kung fu.

Now, when I say I moved to Guatemala after high school, I mean to say, I intended to move to Guatemala after high school. It didn’t actually turn out that way. You know how you know everything when you get out of high school? Yea, turns out, I didn’t. Anyone who’s travelled or even seriously thought about travelling in a big way can tell you it’s not only the fun and excitement it seems. For every ounce of fun and excitement, it’s every bit as much terrifying and nerve-wracking. That was one of those things it turned out I didn’t know, but I found out in a hurry.

I was supposed to stay in Guatemala for six months, living with a family and volunteering with a small local eco-farming organization. They weren’t so organized though. When I arrived in the small town of San Lucas Toleman, I was already deep in the throes of the panic of being on my own for the first time, in a foreign country for the first time, and not speaking the language very well. Hoping- desperately needing to be put to work so I could meet new people and give my mind something to do other than race in the chaos of my panic, I went to the coffee plantation. I was then given a menial, uninteresting job and I was put to work alone. I needed to do something to escape the unbearable conditions inside my head. Even going back to the States wasn’t a quick enough solution. The constant noise and anxiety eroded my reason. I learned what it was like to feel like you’re being driven out of your mind by a foreign invader. How do you fight back? How do you take back your mind from fear, anxiety, confusion and panic? Kung Fu. You go to that place of discipline, that well rehearsed sanctuary that has become an unavoidable creation of the forms. It is a habit so deeply engrained in your mind and body the panic cannot overcome it. Was it enough to get me through six months? No. I needed more training, but it was enough to get me through three weeks, enough to keep me sane long enough to realize I was in over my head. So more training I got. I came home with no idea what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I worked and I trained and I learned. I learned about myself and found my calling. I used the greater discipline and focus I developed over that year between Guatemala and college to complete a four year degree in three years and I continued to train. When I was done with my degree, I was ready to try again. I left for Spain for a year. This time I was ready for the fear, confusion and panic. After two more black tests and countless hours in horse stance, I had become more than familiar with them. I had learned to sit with them without letting them unbalance me and then to work through them. They no longer control me. I have learned to embrace the unknown, the difficult and the painful as opportunities for growth. I’m not fearless or invincible, but when I’m afraid, I jump anyway because the rewards if I do are much more enticing. Because I jump, I’ve seen Spain, Rome, the Alps, Berlin, Paris, London and Ireland. Where will kung fu take you?