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Archive for February, 2012

Kung Fu According to Van Halen

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Though he would probably disagree with me, John (Sifu Cheng) is the only person I’ve ever seen move faster than Eddie Van Halen’s fingers in his classic guitar solo, “Eruption”.

Until a recent visit to our old neighborhood, I hadn’t thought about that image in a long time.

Driving through the entrance gates of Country Club subdivision was like being sucked through a time portal. The further we followed the winding streets of our childhood stomping grounds the faster we warped back to the 1980’s.  I flipped on the radio and half expected to hear Dire Straits and Sting demand, I want my MTV!” or Huey Lewis explaining the “Power of Love”.

With the windows down and the spring wind rushing through the car, we circled the block. For the briefest of moments as we drove past my house, I swear I smelled baked chicken, rice pilaf, green beans, and freshly brewed tea, my family meal most every night.

As we rounded the corner to his house, John and I pointed out the many areas we used to play in as kids: Brent Morris’s wall, Amanda Bridger’s trampoline, Joey Weaver’s front yard, and the sparse remains of the woods that once surrounded our neighborhood. It was funny. Driving to John’s house, we realized were following the exact path as our running route some thirty years earlier.

Stopping in front of John’s house, I killed the engine. With the overgrown lawn, the open mailbox, and the two newspapers lying in the driveway, it appeared no one was there. We got out and walked around to the backyard.  Man, you talk about a tsunami of memories crashing over me.

With the warm breeze to our backs, we just stood there, silent, reverent, taking in the sights and sounds of our past.

The backyard grass was high and out of control except in the very center. It was the exact spot where John and I had spent over ten thousand hours training, pounding the grass to dirt. Apparently, the massive amounts of sweat, blood, and tears we shed on that hallowed chunk of ground had destroyed any grass seedling’s chance of ever producing.

In my mind, I could still see John’s weatherworn picnic table sitting on the now cracked and empty back patio. Sitting atop of that very table was the fuel that had kept us going through those grueling workouts: John’s jam box, cranking out the melodious sounds of Van Halen.

Always towering above the portable stereo was our stack of Van Halen cassettes, each album chosen for a specific segment of our workout. While Diamond Dave heartened us with his signature howl, Eddie’s screaming Kramer guitar pushed us faster.

Beginning with the self-titled debut album Van Halen, John and I warmed up to the classics “Running with the Devil” and “You Really Got Me”.

Women and Children First was next withAnd the Cradle Will Rock”. For the kicking drills, we popped in Fair Warning and kicked across the length of the lawn to the sounds of “Unchained” and “So This is Love”. For empty hand forms, we rocked to the mighty Diver Down with the hits, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, “Little Guitars”, and “Pretty Woman”.  Also from that album was the great remake of Dancing in the Streets. John doesn’t remember it but I promise I remember him competing in the musical forms division at Johnny Lee’s tournament in Shreveport with that song.

Whenever we sparred, we listened to the colossal-mega-hit album 1984.  Has there ever been a better Van Halen album?

Aside from training to 1984, the best memory I have of that album was in ninth grade. John, Brent Morris, Drew Van Devender, and myself, preformed “Jump” at a school talent show. With John as David Lee Roth, he jumped, did the splits, and nailed aerials better than Diamond Dave did himself in the Jump video. I played Eddie, Brent was Alex, and Drew was on keyboard as Michael. Though we placed second, we were the only act to receive a standing ovation and an encore request from the audience. It was incredible!

As for John moving faster than Eddie?

At that time, John’s best competition weapon was the spear. I remember he’d grab his weapon, pop in the cassette, push play, and then run to our training spot as “Eruption” exploded through the small speakers. He’d then bust out the spear form, keeping perfect time with Eddie’s smoking fingers. At the song’s end with the guitar fading, John held the spear’s base, dropped to the splits, then effortlessly snapped back to his feet with the spear flipping in his hand. It was awesome. Eddie would’ve been proud.

Incidentally, in writing this, I learned that Diamond Dave has rejoined the band and they cut an album. The first one since 1984.

Interesting. Perhaps I should write about Journey. Maybe Steve Perry will come back. Then the world will be perfect again.

A New Family

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

When I first walked through the doors of Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness, I never expected that I would become so consumed with this mesmerizing art. Nor did I ever think that I would become a part of the Instructor Program within 6 months of starting. I have dived so deep into the art that I automatically react using what little kung fu I have learned.

In many ways, Sifu Jones has been like a father figure to me.  Therefore he has generously included me in beneficial kung fu events, such as demos, Sigung Fogg’s birthday celebration, as well as Grand Master Fogg’s annual workshop.

Just the other day, whenever we arrived in Richardson, Texas to celebrate Sigung Fogg’s birthday, Sifu Jones introduced me to Master Fogg and told Sigung that “I’d been bitten by the bug” (meaning I’m obsessed with kung fu, which I am, and proud to admit it). Sigung said to me “So you actually like this stuff?” My response to him was “Just a little.” (I said with a smile on my face). Then Sigung said something that will forever change my perspective on kung fu. “Welcome to the family. You’re in it for life.” At that time I realized kung fu can’t leave my life. Even greater, I’m part of a family forever. (If you read my first blog you’ll understand why that’s so important to me).

Shortly after the meet and greet it was time for the ceremonial demos. (It’s a sign of respect for a Sifu to have there students demo in front of their Sigung on his/her birthday). I wasn’t expecting to have to do a demo, so I had not prepared a form to do. Then when Sifu Jones called on me, my stomach dropped and I started sweating like crazy.

I got up, bowed at the sifus, called out the most recent empty hand form I had learned, and let my body do the rest without thinking. I thought I did horrible, but everyone told me that I did great. Despite how nervous I was, I’m honored that Sifu Jones would trust me with such a task.

We went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant after the demos and everyone was sharing food like we had known each other forever. We were all laughing and talking about (you guessed it) kung fu. Following dinner we stood outside the restaurant for about an hour discussing the applications of different moves. I was having the time of my life watching the masters break down different forms, and absorbing as much of it as possible. It started getting late and we had to come back to Tyler and everyone started hugging me and shaking my hand. I felt proud. I knew they will forever be my Family.