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Chicks and Vampires

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Students often ask, “How do I know if I really know Kung Fu?”

My answer: visit a haunted house.

One October, my church youth group went to the Louisiana State Fair. My girlfriend, Leslie 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.

As Michael Jackson’s Thriller played over the loud speaker, we stood in line with a hundred other people and anxiously waited to step through the web-covered door into the dark monster-filled house. Boards covered the windows and the full moon cast eerie shadows across the roof. I caught a glimpse of a gargoyle peering down at us from the second-story balcony.

Leslie squeezed my hand. “Promise you won’t let go of me,” she said.

“You’re safe with me,” I bragged.

Vincent Prices’ diabolical laughter from Thriller seemed to mock me as we advanced in line.

I never did like that song.

As we neared the entrance, I grew a bit nervous. Every time the front door opened, I could hear the wicked buzz of chainsaws and the victims’ screams coming from inside the house.

Leslie hugged my arm. Her body trembled. What a rush. We were standing at the edge of a nightmare, ready to cross the river Styx. With all the bravado I could muster, I handed Freddy Kruger our tickets. He pointed to the darkness.

My heart pounding, we ducked under the webs and stepped inside. Total blackness. Blindly, we shuffled forward, the floor creaking beneath our feet. Anguished moans and hideous laughter echoed throughout the house.

Suddenly, a candle lit the entryway. It’s flamed floated in mid-air.

As my eyes adjusted, I could see the silhouette of a ghost woman behind it. She instructed us to follow her. With Leslie practically on my back, we followed ghost woman down a narrow hallway and squeezed into a tiny room with fifteen other people.  The smell of sweat and fear was thick.

“You’re about to step into hell,” Ghost-woman said. “Follow my commands and you survive.” Her candle went out. Everything went instantly black.

Something pounded on the wall next to me. Leslie screamed and dug her fingernails into my arm. The haunting kill, kill, kill, sound effect that’s on Friday the 13th started playing. Then, strobe lights flashed and the painted images of demons on the walls began to dance. The floor shook. Devils shrieked. Wolves howled. More chain saws buzzed in the distance.

Instinctively, my hands curled to fists.

“Bellazar, the vampire demon is deeply disturbed,” Ghost Woman’s voice cried. “One of you must die to appease him.”

A man behind me said, “Oh, hell no.”

Suddenly, two arms grabbed my shoulders and began to slide around my neck. I didn’t think; just reacted.

I pulled free from Leslie and drove two elbows into the attacker’s stomach. I heard “umph”, and felt his hot breath on my neck.

I clutched his elbow with one hand, his shoulder with the other, and flipped him over my back. A loud crash, something ripped. My attacker howled and cursed. I had no idea vampires knew so many curse words.

Ghost-lady demanded to know what was going on as she tried to relight her candle.

My attacker paused long enough in his profanity marathon to scream, “Someone tried to kill me,” and then he continued with his demonic vocabulary.

I grabbed Leslie, pulled her close, and pushed toward the exit but she screamed and fought me away. I had grabbed the wrong girl. In absolute darkness, I spun around and groped for Leslie but the effort was futile. I was caught in a tangle of bodies as everyone searched for the exit.

Women screamed. Men shouted. The noise level was deafening.

Then the lights exploded on and everyone froze—until they saw, whom I assumed was Bellazar, the vampire demon. He was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He had a black curtain wrapped around his ankle.

When I had flipped him, his foot apparently had snagged one of the curtains the staff had hung from the ceiling to help black out the room. Now it draped around his body absorbing the blood.

Whether Bellazar’s blood was fake or real, no one cared. A woman cried, “Oh, Lord in heaven!” and then everyone rushed the exit.

Outside, everyone scattered. Sirens blared. Security rushed into the house. Michael Jackson had stopped singing.

I bolted. I wanted as much distance between Bellazar and me as possible. I met up with my youth group at the entrance gate.

Leslie was there. She wasn’t happy.

Neither was anyone else.  I learned that park officials had shut the house down and poor Bellazar had to receive minor medical attention. Luckily, no one knew who was responsible.

We boarded the church bus and headed home.

Leslie refused to speak to me except for saying she wanted to break up.

I didn’t get it. I’d saved us from Bellazar. What was her problem?

I decided it was the allure of chicks to vampires. Girls always chose the vampire.

But the real 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 don’t condone trashing haunted houses. I suggest not going in the first place.  Beating up cursing demons, however, I’m OK with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola and Lone Wolf McQuade

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Ever remember something from your past and say, “What was I thinking?”    Unfortunately, I have many. One event that comes to mind happened on a Friday night in the spring of 1983.

Mom had just dropped me off behind the Cinema (In the pre-driving days, to retain your cool-kid status, you could never allow anyone to witness your parents dropping you off at the show. Parents had explicit instructions: drive around back, slow down enough for the kid to jump out, then quickly drive away. Don’t look back, no honking, and certainly no shouting, “I’ll be back in two hours”).

Mom drove fast, so luckily, with my kung fu training, I could maintain my balance whenever I sprang from the speeding car.

Despite the heat that evening, I strutted through the parking lot feeling very cool as the sound of Sammy Hagar’s “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” blasted from opened-car windows. I waved to some friends then looped around the tan bricked-building.

My pulse quickening with each step, I passed the marquee, squeezed through the crowd, and—BAM—there she was, standing with a group of her friends, smiling at me.

My heart leapt to my throat.

Her name was Lola, the love of my eighth-grade year. She looked fantastic. Big hair, Flash Dance clothes, Madonna wristbands—wow!

Said hi to her, her friends, and then made my move for the big hug.

The timing was perfect. The moment we embraced, a car drove by playing “Hard to say I’m sorry” by Chicago, the ultimate love song of junior high.

Of course, thinking about it now, it was also the biggest break-up song.

A foreshadow of the evening.

“So, what are we seeing,” Lola asked. (In the city of Marshall, it never mattered what was showing. Friday night meant show night. However, on this night, the movie I’d been waiting for had arrived.

 “Lone Wolf McQuade,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement.

“OK,” Lola said. “Who’s in it?”

“Chuck Norris.”

“Who’s that?”

I winced in pain and suddenly felt short of breath. Who’s Chuck Norris!

 To say that I was a mere Chuck fan would be a colossal understatement.

Up to Lone Wolf, I’d seen every Norris film. I knew every title, every character, every line of dialogue; I could even mimic every fight scene.

I know. You’re thinking, sad-case-of-no-life, right?

Wrong. You’d be amazed at how many people I’ve helped over the years who needed some quick Chuck trivia.

Staring into to Lola’s stunning blue eyes, I regained my composure, smiled, and said, “You’ll like it.”

We bought the tickets, went inside, grabbed Cokes and popcorn, and found our seats.  The theater was packed. I was smiling ear-to-ear. I was with the perfect girl about to watch the perfect movie.

The lights dimmed. The previews rolled.

I held her hand.

Foreigner’s, “Waiting for a girl like you,” played in my head.

The movie began.

Western music played while a grey wolf sprinted across a dusty prairie.  Chuck’s name flashed on the screen.

I held my breath, counted to three, then eased my arm around Lola’s shoulders. She scooted closer. I could feel her heartbeat against my side. She smelled wonderful. I think she called the scent, Chloe.

Working up the nerve to kiss her, I moved closer, quickly chewing up my breath mint. The armrest bit into my ribs. You can do this, Jones.

My heart was racing. I pivoted in my seat when—what the heck!

There were like fifty bad guys shooting at Chuck.

With my eyes riveted on the screen, I snatched my arm from around her shoulders and gripped the seat in front of me. Come on, Chuck!

Chuck didn’t let me down.

He kicked a bad guys’s teeth out then blasted everyone else with a pair of Mac 10 submachine guns. Pure awesomeness!

Lola fidgeted in her seat.

Oh yeah, I’m on a date.

I settled back in my seat, smiled at her and whispered, “Sorry.”

After moments of awkwardness, I slid my arm around her again.  I’d wait a while before I attempted another kiss.

As the movie played on, we moved closer together, almost cheek-to-cheek. We even shared a Coke, which I took as a sign that she’d forgiven me.

Time for the Big Move.

As fast as I could throw a snap-kick, I kissed Lola on the lips.

Wow! Her lips were soft and warm and they had the combination taste of watermelon lip-gloss, salty butter, and Coca Cola. A taste bud explosion. I definitely had to do that again. But this time . . . I was going for the French kiss.

Not to appear too eager, I decided to wait five minutes.  I glanced at my Casio digital watch. The countdown had begun.

Minute four and a half, my heart was in my throat. My nervous system was near shutdown. I was tingling all over. Thirty seconds more was an eternity.

I closed my eyes and counted.

Twenty … Nineteen.  

My ears roared from my rushing pulse. I’d never been so nervous.

Lola’s hand was on my thigh. (Actually, not. Her arm slipped off the armrest and her pinky-finger grazed my leg). I actually saw fireworks.

Ten … Nine.

I opened my eyes, turned toward her, but first, glanced at the screen.

What the—

Bad guys had buried Chuck.

But not just bury him. They buried him in his truck. I mean, who escapes that?

Freakin’ Chuck Norris, that’s who!

He drove his truck right out of that hole.

I was on my feet. “Go Chuck!”

Chuck killed everybody, saved the cops, then raced to find David Carradine, the main antagonist of the movie.

Still standing, I reached blindly behind me, plucked the Coke from Lola’s hands, and gulped it down.  I was parched. The tension was overwhelming.

Finally, Carradine, showed up, faced Chuck. Oh yeah, it was on!

Carradine swung. Chuck ducked. I ducked.

Carradine, kicked. Chuck blocked and countered. I blocked and countered.

I was in the zone, one with Chuck.

Three minutes later, Chuck killed Carradine then blew up his house. The perfect movie ending.

The credits rolled.  The lights came up. I was standing in a puddle of sweat.

I turned, reached for the Coke again. No one was there.

Lola was gone. Actually, the entire row was empty. An elderly couple in front of me (they were probably pushing thirty) asked if I was OK.

Outside, Lola was nowhere in sight.

Mom drove up. She had the windows down. Lynyrd Skynyrd boomed from the speakers. Mom was cool like that.

“Hey!” I hear behind me.

I turned, hoping it was Lola.

It was her friend. She handed me a note. It was folded into fours with smudged fingerprints on it, remnants of buttered popcorn.

I opened it.  Read it standing next to the car.

Brandon,

Thanks for the popcorn and Coke. Not the movie!

I want to break up.

Lola.

 Awe man! I crumpled the note. How could she not like the movie?

Fortunately, years later, Lola forgave me. We even laughed about it. But I’d bet, to this day, she still hates the movie.

Little Boy to Young Warrior

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Most of you probably know me as the tall, always smiling, confident guy at Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness.

If so,  I understand why, because that is who I am. I’m always happy to meet new people, and 99% of the time I’m in a good mood. I’m laid back and go with the flow (like the FU). The children that I teach look up to me. These are just some of my many influences that make me the person I am.

However, buried deep inside me is a little boy struggling to prove that I am the best.

When I played basketball for my high school team I was always trying to prove that even though I was less skilled and naturally gifted I was the hardest working player. In fact, during the summer I would go to the gym close to my house at 1 p.m. and play basketball until 11 p.m, only because the staff made me go home.

I loved basketball more than anything else in the entire world and it put me in a depression when I saw all these kids that had natural talent that I had to work my butt off just to have a sliver of.

Of course, I’m a determined person and I wasn’t gonna let anything get in the way of pursuing my passion. Then I moved to Terrell for reasons discussed in one of my previous blogs (Never Quit Never Lose Hope), and I just stopped playing basketball.

Then, on January 11, 2011 I started doing kung fu and I found my joy and passion. With my competitive-always-got-something-to-prove- mentality, I found something that is for me. I struggle with kung fu as well, because I feel I’m not good enough. I’m always training with people way above my level and experience, and of course, I get thrown around a lot. However this just makes me push harder.

Defeat is NOT an option, not even to someone better than me.

I’m competitive in everything I do and I hate losing more than anything. I’m confident because I have to be. I’m always smiling and happy because there’s no need to be in a bad mood all the time.

I am the little boy ever struggling to become a young warrior.

Kung Fu is Everything

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

One night my eight year-old asked to read Sifu Fogg’s book before bed. Awesome, I though. My son loves Kung Fu as much as I do.

We started at the beginning where Fogg talks about our history, where we came from and how the Mantis System was born and developed. As we read, I try to imagine what it must have been like in the beginning. 

 A monastery in China, Kung Fu, two friends, two Kung Fu brothers. Wait, friends? OK, hold that thought….  One is continually being bested by his Kung Fu brother, long hours of training and work aren’t helping. His brother leaves for a year and Mantis is born by a river from simply being there and through observation. 

 Our art is deadly and highly effective. We learn techniques that can maim and kill. We learn strikes that can effectively stop an attacker cold. We are warriors, we train to fight, we train to protect ourselves and those that we love. What struck me was HOW our system came to be. My son and his love of Kung Fu showed me that our art was developed by two friends. Friends, not through war or battle but two friends with a mutual love of Kung Fu.

As the story goes the monks’ friend came back after his travels and fought his Kung Fu brother, much to his surprise his Kung Fu brother bested him that day. He was not insulted by this defeat, he was excited. Mantis Kung Fu was born that day and it was born out of friendship and the love of Kung Fu. 

 Throughout life we develop friendships and relationships with others. We all have family that we are attached to and we love deeply. The relationships that are formed through Kung Fu are some of the deepest bonds that I have seen.

We fight for fun, we hit each other and laugh, we discuss with enthusiasm the technique that just threw us to the ground. Why do we do this? We make each other better, we motivate each other to excel and train harder. We correct each other and accept criticism no matter what rank we hold. We do this with mutual respect and admiration for each other and for the art.

We are the carriers of centuries of knowledge and we have a responsibility to uphold the principals of our Mantis System both internal and external. Everything we do is Kung Fu; how we act, how we accept defeat, how we train, how we treat others. 

 Two friends developed a deadly art out of mutual respect for each other and the love of Kung Fu. I write this after having spent nearly 3 hours training with friends. We help each other and we critique each other. There is no room in our training for pride or ego, we respect each other as we respect the art.  

These are my brothers and sisters and I am ever in their debt and I owe them more than words could express. They are my motivation, my direction, my teachers, my role model, my friends and my family

 

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.

 

PASSION

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Passion

 

Recently, I attended a memorial service for one of the kung fu greats, Grandmaster Josephus Colvin, famously known as Kung Fu Joe.

Sitting there in the brown folding chairs, scrunched elbow-to-elbow with my kung fu family inside the sparsely decorated Hawkins Community Center, the one word that kept coming to my mind was passion.  If Kung Fu Joe had to be described in one word, passionate would have to be it.

I’ve never met a man more passionate about kung fu. Whereas I can discuss the Fu for hours without ceasing, Kung Fu Joe could talk for days. Even the officiating pastor, also a close friend to Joe, shared with us how Joe constantly spoke of kung fu, even up until hours before his sudden death. That’s amazing but I totally get it.

Since 1982, not twenty-four hours have passed without me thinking of kung fu. No, I don’t understand it, but perhaps the one descriptive word that can, is passion. How else do you explain that when Sifus Cheng, Hughes, and I get together, even over a long weekend, and still feel that we ran out of time to discuss and share everything we’d intended to about kung fu.  And if Grandmaster Fogg is with us, oh man, I feel there’s never enough time. You also see this level of committed passion during the Olympics.

An avid fan of the Games, I love reading and hearing the stories of the athletes as they push themselves to greatness. Can you imagine training eight to twelve hours per day, 365 days per year for four years, only to compete in a single event that lasts maybe thirty-seconds? Talk about being focused and passionate about your sport! I heard a story of a track and field competitor say that he hadn’t watched television or eaten at a fast-food restaurant in over two years due to his strict training regimen and diet. No movies, no going to parties, nothing but working, training, eating, and sleeping. And what about our military, the great men and women who are so passionate about their country that they sacrifice everything, train to become the absolute best defenders of our great nation.  They are the personification of passion in action.

Unbelievable? Not really. Not when you understand it.

As for the teacher in me, it’s very gratifying to see this passion transfer to my students.

A few weekends back, seven Tyler Kung Fu students tested for black level, a first in our history to have that many attend one test. Talk about passion! These seven individuals, Sierra, DeWalch, Shawn, Jimmy, Jake, Sam, and Kelli, ages 16 to 60, trained their tails off for twelve long months leading up to the test, and though many sacrifices, they were loving every minute of it. So much so, that immediately following that Saturday crucible, though bruised, bleeding, and exhausted, the Significant-Seven, (after a few more tests I can change their name to Magnificent Seven)  posed for their post-test picture and then began mapping out a training plan for next year’s Black One test!

So ask yourself. What are you passionate about? And then what can you do with that passion to change the world around you?

Mind of a Warrior

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Recently I went over to one of my Kung Fu brother’s houses so we could practice our forms together. We spent about 4 hours outside in his backyard doing forms and playing hands (fighting with control). We then went inside of his house to get some much needed water refills.

While we were inside I saw a chess set laying out on his table. I made a comment about how long it had been since I had played chess. My kung fu brother and couldn’t help ourselves. So we started setting the board up, and there we were trying to outmaneuver each other. (I am in no way a skilled chess player, but I can’t say no to a challenge.)

My kung fu brother was whooping the dog snot out of me on almost every move. I was on the defensive the entire game. It got to the point where I was left with only my king. Most people at that point would give up. However for me giving up is NOT an option. I just kept moving my king out of check. I still had the idea of victory in my head. Why? The odds were a million to one.

The answer to that question is that my training has taught me that no matter what the odds that I simply can’t give up. “Keep going!” I could hear Sifu (Brandon Jones for those of you that don’t know everyone) saying to me in my head. Defeat is NOT an option in the Mind of a Warrior.

Art of Kung Fu Basketball

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
I had an interesting revelation the other day. I’ve been going and playing basketball with a friend here at school. He is 38, and I think and what people would consider “in shape” (weight lifter, etc). He is probably a little better than me at basketball. Anyway, we have been playing for a while. The other day we both felt like playing more than usual. Needless to say, sitting behind a computer for 9-10 hours a day does nothing for your cardiovascular endurance. What I found interesting was when we were both completely worn out. Both just barely could lift our legs to run.
I started just beating the pants off him, getting good shots, moving around him easily, leaving him in the dust, so to speak. I really think it had nothing to do with my current “shape” as I’m pretty far out of shape. What hit me, was our (TKFF students) training in pushing ourselves. Our mental stamina, so to speak. It was interesting that when we were both completely exhausted, I excelled while he didn’t. He wasn’t used to pushing his body at that point of exhaustion like I am. It wasn’t any fun, I didn’t like it anymore than he did, but I understood it and was used to it.

 

You know how you always say we (TKFF people) pass people on the hills (while running, etc), I think that is exactly what happened. Its not that its easier for us to perform at the point of exhaustion (well maybe easier because we are used to it) but its just “what we do”. There is no option. You just dont stop…ever…period.

Mindset

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

In everything you do, whether in kung fu, sports, or life in general,  it’s important to have the right mindset. All too often I see people who show no sign of work ethic in anything that they do. No will to try. Giving up, so afraid to lose. I can’t grasp that mentality, giving up without a fight. They don’t have the Right Mindset.
Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Author of the best selling book Lone Survivor) is the epitome of having the right mindset. When ever he entered BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEALs) one of the toughest military training programs on earth, he already had his mind made up. He wasn’t going to let the drill sergeants make him quit. SEALs share that mindset.

For martial artists it’s equally important to have the right mindset. Especially for the more advanced students, particularly black belts. Black belt students are challenged daily to improve their skills and to never give in to the pain that they know is coming on their next test. In the life of a martial artist pain becomes your friend. You have to know you’re going to overcome any challenge that may try to slow you down.
When you have the right mindset you can do virtually anything no matter the difficulty. Sigung Fogg sat in horse stance for 6 hours. How did he do it? I will tell you. Even before he started he knew he was not going to give in to the pain. He had made up his mind that he was going to sit there in horse stance for 6 hours.

Having the right mindset is one of the most important qualities a person can have. All great martial artists, Special Operations soldiers, and athletes share that quality. No matter what you enjoy doing, what you do for a living, or even what physical activities you take a part in, there are challenges in everything. Having the right mindset will help you overcome those challenges.