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Archive for October, 2012

Life After Black . . .

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

It seems like so long ago that I walked through the doors of Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness…..  a life long goal to be realized, obtain a Black Belt.  Now that I that I have achieved this goal things have changed, in a good way.

1 in 10,000, that’s the number that sticks in my head.  Sifu wrote that only 1 in 10,000 of individuals that start martial arts achieve the Black Belt level.  Why is this important to me?  Little did I know when I started Kung Fu that it would touch every aspect of my life.  Kung Fu has changed everything; the way I feel, the way I act, the way I treat others.  The importance of Kung Fu for me was a slow incremental change in myself that I can only see in retrospect.  Every little step along the way has changed me for the better.

The months leading up to August 11th were filled with intense training often times loosing sleep in order to train twice a day.  There was excitement and anxiety, fear and self-doubt.  I am so thankful for the support of my Kung Fu brothers and sisters during this time, we forged a bond that can never be broken by distance and time.  A bond forged through combat, pain, and honor.  I often thought to myself – how will I feel after I am a Black Belt, how will achieving this goal change me?

How I felt before August 11th and how I feel now has surprised me.  Prior to the test I told myself that this was it, this is the goal.  After the test I thought that I’m just going to train.  I wasn’t planning on testing further; I was planning on learning Kung Fu and having fun with it.  All of that has changed; I am now a Black Belt in the 7 Star Preying Mantis System.  What does that mean?  To me it means that I represent my system, my school, my master and my lineage.  As a Black Belt I am held to a higher standard, the students in our school will look to me as a source of guidance and inspiration.  I feel that I owe it to my school, my master and other students to be the very best that I can be.

Testing post Black Belt?  Wasn’t planning on it, really.  In my mind I’m working through this, and I come to the realization – why train and not test?  I owe it to myself; I owe it to my system.  The second realization I come to, I know so little.  Is this a bad thing, absolutely not!  How great is it that there is so much more to learn!  Motivation at it’s finest, the travel on the path of Kung Fu is endless and the journey is a gift.

So what is life like after Black Belt….  I know it is different for everyone, for me I am more motivated and excited than ever but the mindset has changed.  Before the test I was training for me, to get the belt.  Now I am training to honor the system, to pass down the knowledge to those who come after me, to honor my master and school.  My Kung Fu has become selfless.  In the intense weeks before the test I was talking to a Kung Fu brother about the time and sacrifice that we pour into our training and he said something that just made sense, “Kung Fu, it’s what I do…”  That simple yet profound statement summed it up; IT’S WHAT WE DO AND HOW WE LIVE.  Kung fu is woven into the very fabric of my life and every day I get to train is a gift.

Train hard!

 

The Box

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

I’ve been teaching kung fu for a little more than a year now and I have gotten a much better understanding of it than most people (average Joes). However, having a good understanding comes at somewhat of a price. You could call it a limitation. I have to stay inside the box.

What is the box you ask? It’s the boundaries that let me know whether or not I’m giving too much information about a particular technique or form. This makes it much easier to avoid getting carried away and teaching everything that I know all at once.

I teach the kids classes so it’s hard to get my fix for the Fu when only going over the basics. Don’t get me wrong, the basics are essential to your kung fu getting better. It’s just that I strive to learn more and more kung fu everyday. That’s why I love going to the advanced level classes.

The hardest part of being an instructor is that I have to stay within the confines of the curriculum when helping beginners with a particular technique or form. The reason being that if I show a beginner too much too soon they’d freak out!

I love teaching and learning kung fu more than I can express with words. It has become a challenge to find that balance of teaching a beginner something new and staying within the curriculum (The Box). You could even say that finding a way to teach inside the box yet add stuff to the contents of the box without confusing the student is the conundrum that we all as kung fu instructors face. We will face it proudly and to keep the generations of students learning and getting better.

 

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part II

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

…Something started pounding the wall next to me. My girlfriend screamed, digging her fingernails into my arm. Strobe lights went berserk, flashing the walls with images of demons. That haunting kill, kill, kill, sound effect that’s on Friday the 13th started playing. The walls pounded again. The floor shook. Demons shrieked. People were cursing, begging to get out. A human stampede was imminent. Ghost-lady’s voice told us Bellazar, the vampire demon was deeply upset and one of us had to die. A black man behind me said, “Oh hell no, not me!” and he bolted from the room. Suddenly, two arms grabbed my shoulders and began sliding around my neck. I didn’t think; just reacted. I twisted free from my date and drove two elbows into Bellazar’s stomach. I heard “umph” and felt his hot breath on my neck. I then clutched his elbow with one hand and his shoulder with the other and flipped him over my back. I had no idea vampires knew so many curse words. A loud crash followed by more cursing and groaning, then something ripped. Ghost-lady’s lighter flicked on and she demanded to know what was going on. She didn’t sound very ghost-like anymore. Bellazar paused long enough in his profanity marathon to scream, “Someone tried to kill me!” and then continued with his demonic vocabulary. I grabbed my girlfriend, pulled her close, and moved toward the exit but she screamed. I had grabbed the wrong girl.

In absolute darkness, I spun around groping for her. People were falling down, running into walls. Others stepped on Bellazar; he cried. Women screamed. Men shouted. The noise level was deafening. The lights burst on and everyone froze–until they saw the vampire demon lying on the floor. He had part of a black curtain tangled around his ankle, which had ripped down when he fell. It flared around him like a cape. Five other demon-dudes had been hiding behind the curtain. Now they just stood there slack-jawed staring at their slain leader covered in blood – whether it was fake or real, no one cared. Someone shouted “Oh, Lord he’s dead!” then a frenzied sea of people stormed the exit. I had to move or get trampled.

Outside, the fresh air hit me like a blast of cold water. Everyone scattered. Sirens blared. The cops were running to the house. Michael Jackson stopped singing. Children were crying. The people waiting to get in started cheering. They thought it was part of the show. I joined some friends then hooked up with my girlfriend.

She was not happy.

I didn’t get it. I just saved her from Bellazar and she wasn’t happy. Neither was anyone else, however. I learned that park officials shut the house down for an hour and poor Bellazar had to receive minor medical attention.
So, the moral to this tale? If you want to know if you’re learning Kung Fu, see how you react when you’re frightened.

No, I do not condone trashing haunted houses. I suggest not going in the first place. Beating up demons, however, I’m OK with.

Oh, my girlfriend ditched me after that. What’s the deal with chicks and vampires? Forget it guys, the girl always chooses the vampire.

 

[reposted for the holidays!]

 

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part I

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

[reposted for the holidays!]

Students often ask, “When does Kung Fu become natural?” or “How do I know if I really know it?”

My answer: visit a haunted house.

One October, my church youth group went to the Louisiana State Fair. It was an awesome trip. My favorite girlfriend of all time (except, of course, until my wife came along) and I walked the entire park arm-in-arm, intoxicated with the alluring aroma of funnel cakes, corndogs, and cotton candy. We rode every ride and saved the haunted house for nightfall.

Standing in line with a hundred other people, we anxiously waited to step through the spider web-covered door and tour the dark two-story monster-filled mansion. The wooden house with its boarded windows leaned left as if about to fall over, and the full moon spilled eerie shadows across the moldy-green roof. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing over the loud speaker and Vincent Price’s diabolical laugh echoed through the park. You could hear the wicked buzz of chainsaws from inside the house and the victims’ screams. Five people in front of us bailed out of line after that. At the exit, girls came out with teary mascara-stained faces and their boyfriends came out pale with red fingernail marks streaking down their forearms. One older woman (she was probably 30) fainted and had to be carried out by two burly ghosts.

My girlfriend hugged my arm as we stepped closer to the entrance. Her body trembled. What a rush. We were standing at the edge of a nightmare, ready to cross the river Styx. I handed Freddy Kruger our tickets. We ducked under the webs and stepped inside. The floor creaked beneath our feet.

Led by a ghost woman holding a lighter, about fifteen of us followed her flickering light down a narrow hallway and squeezed inside a tiny room. The smell of sweat was thick. The walls seemed to pulse with everyone’s fearful breaths. Ghost-lady said we were about to step into hell. If we did what she said, we’d survive. She started to say something else when everything went instantly black.

OK. Now I’m a little freaked-out. I’d studied KF for three years and I guess I hadn’t been startled since I’d began. That was about to change…