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Posts Tagged ‘Sifu Jones’

Black Rings – Muchacha…

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
This is the third post in the Black Rings series. Check back tomorrow to continue the story.

     By bow one hundred, my right leg was on fire and I thought any more pressure would cause the knee to buckle. By one-fifty, every muscle in my back was in spasms. By two hundred, both legs were numb and I could barely lift my shoulders. My throat begged for moisture and my tongue felt like someone had wrapped a thick towel around it. Sweat stung my eyes. I didn’t think I could do one more, and the thought of cheating was extremely tempting. Why was I doing this?

     Gaining strength from watching the other students, who had presumably gone through this same torture before me, I continued, but by number two-seventy-five, everyone was leaving. As much as my broken body could, I pushed it to go faster, but on number three-hundred, the lights went out and Sifu said he had to lock up. With my voice box parched and barely functional, I told him I was on three-o-five in hopes of receiving his admiration and the OK to quit. Instead, he told me the last twenty bows looked terrible. Those words hit me worse than a kick to the stomach. Sifu watched me do maybe ten more then said he’d seen enough. He said I could leave.

***

Black Rings – The Bow

Monday, May 11th, 2009
This is the second post in the Black Rings series. Check back tomorrow to continue the story.

      His voice startled me. I had no idea he was standing behind me. I turned and looked up. Master Fogg was a tower of a man, lean with ripped muscles on top of more ripped muscles.

     “Yes sir.” I was almost too excited to speak. I had mowed over forty lawns that summer and saved all my money inside a Nike shoebox to join Kung Fu. I couldn’t wait. I just knew I was going to learn all the cool moves I’d watched on Kung Fu Theater. Sifu would probably start out teaching me the sword form. Then we’d move on to some joint locks and throws. I would then finish up with iron body training and join the guy hitting the swinging log. My heart was pounding with anticipation. Man, was I clueless.

     Sifu waved over another student to join us. He was a kid, maybe two years older than I was. I thought, cool, a sparring partner. His name was Drew.

     “He’s going to show you the bow,” Sifu said.

     The bow, no problem. I would just

     “Then you will practice it 350 times.” Sifu glanced at the clock with its cracked face hanging on the wall. “If you start now, you might finish by the end of class. But if you mess up, even on the 349th time, you start over. Understand?” He left before I had a chance to respond.

     The bow. Three-hundred and fifty times. For the entire class? My dream of fighting with a sword was just cut in half. Watching everyone else practice their cool forms, I followed the student over to the corner next to the dusty weapons rack. Drew demonstrated the bow and I felt worse. The traditional Kung Fu bow was not merely bending forward at the waist. It involved twisting the right foot to a 90 degree angle and sinking down on it before you shot out your left leg forward and then back again, all the while, thrusting out your arms like a double punch. I practiced a few times with Drew then he left me alone to begin the journey.

***

Black Rings

Friday, May 8th, 2009
This is the first post in a series of four. Check back Monday to continue the story.

     My first Kung Fu class was on a sweltering July night in 1982. I vividly remember the smell of the place as I entered the school. The air was heavy with sweat, Tiger Balm, Jow, soured carpet, and incense. I don’t know if you can actually smell testosterone, but I’m sure that was in the air as well. However, the one thing I remember most are the black rings.

     The Kung Fu class shared space with a gymnastics school, and we were crammed in the back of the building separated from the gymnasts by a floating wall of hole-riddled sheetrock. There was a fine layer of white sheetrock dust on the weapons rack and lying next to the baseboards were small chunks of the wall that had met their demise from the tip of a spear, rope dart, or staff. Chinese music was playing in the background along with the pained sounds of grunting, heavy breathing, and a rhythmic thump, thump as a senior student struck a swinging log attached to a rope with his bare arms.

     I ducked into a tiny, makeshift changing room—probably smaller than an airplane toilet’s—and ripped open the package of my uniform. It had that new clothing smell and the material felt stiff. I threw it on and stepped onto the training floor. Every student, around twenty of them, all guys, wore the same traditional kung fu uniforms as I did, but mine was clean, crisp . . . and dry. Theirs literally clung to their bodies with perspiration. I should’ve just worn my “rookie dweeb” sign.

     I wasn’t sure what to do. Everyone was training hard and I was just standing there looking clean. I saw a student stretching so I mimicked him. As I continued to warm up and wait for Sifu Fogg, the chief instructor, to tell me what to do, I noticed that everyone had black rings around the ankle part of their white socks. Kung fu pants have elastic bands in the bottom to hold them tight around the ankles and most everyone’s pants were too short so I could see their socks. I thought the rings were pretty weird, but by the end of class, I would know intimately how those rings got there.

     “Are you ready to begin?” Sifu asked.

 ***

Determination

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

     Yesterday two students came in for a makeup Graduation. Both students are adults and the test was on a Wednesday night at 6:30. Those details are important because that’s the point.

     Here are two adults. They have spouses, kids, jobs, “to-do” lists, bills to pay, and they’re tired and would probably rather go home. Yet they arrive at the kung fu school on a Wednesday night to sit in horse stance for two minutes, run a mile and a half, and demonstrate weapons and empty-hand forms—all with the possibility of failing—and still, they showed up. I’m blown away by their dedication.

     The moment reminded me of my dad, who despite having a full-time job, being active in the National Guard, having a wife and child to care for along with his widowed mom and three brothers, he still drove fifty, sometimes a hundred miles to earn his Masters degree in business (that was way before online classes).

     I see that kind of determination in my students.

     I had the luxury of youth when I began Kung Fu. The only hindrances to my training were eating, sleeping, or going to school. No mortgage to pay or a spouse to spend time with, I could do Kung Fu anytime.

     Now, I’m blessed with these great students who continue to “steal time” in order to practice Kung Fu. I am so impressed and humbled by their determination. Students often thank me for teaching them, but that’s backwards.

     I want to thank them for allowing me the privilege.