The Pros and Cons of Kung Fu Commitment
I think the Year of the Fire Monkey has certainly lived up to its reputation. If you cast your memory back to January where many of us spoke with trepidation about the impending craziness of a Monkey Year boosted by the dynamics of the Fire energy and how we might crash and burn or show excellence in a blaze of glory. And that has certainly proved true in many instances for different people. Some encountered blistering challenges that pushed them to rise to new heights of physical, mental, and emotional well being, while others fought bravely yet were consumed by the flames of demand from work, family, friends, extracurricular habits both good and bad, training, and Sifu’s drive to lead people on a journey of self development.
So yes, many of us have been buffeted and singed (well maybe that should be blasted and scorched) by the craziness of this Fire Monkey, and I understand the above trials and tribulations faced by you all. Yet I will stay true to my role as a leader of men, women, and children, and as a supposed shining light of example. I will expect more, I will expect better, I will push (a bit). BUT that is only because a genuine Sifu cares that his martial charges do succeed in becoming better at their chosen arts, that they become closer in their camaraderie as a family, that their home and work life is balanced without losing sight of the wealth that lies buried in our practices, that their health improves on all levels, and that reasons and excuses don’t lead them off the path to what might be achieved.
Taking on an art, like Kung Fu, or Tai Chi, or Qigong, is not for the faint hearted. They certainly require commitment. They require that you endure pain (physical, mental, and emotional). They require stepping up in terms of dedication, discipline, and determination. You have to deal with time away from your family, balancing work schedules and deadlines, keeping up with your personal sports and interests, etc. You will be rewarded on many levels for giving your time to such pursuits. Even if you do look at your art as a hobby it still requires more input, focus, and effort than your weekend golf or tennis game.
People say Kung Fu is not my life, but Kung Fu (and our related disciplines) can ensure that you have a great life, a long life. It can ensure that this vessel that carries the real you inside it, is full of vitality and wellbeing, it is mobile, strong, and flexible. At 46, I am often amazed how different other 46 year olds actually look and how badly they move, how much they can’t move freely doing the basic movements of everyday life! Let alone the higher skill levels of an exercise regime or martial art. More and more martial arts are being shown to be beneficial to our long term health. Here is just one example – Cognitive Kali. These arts instil virtues that many people lack in modern society – respect and humility, loyalty, honour and valour, the urge to always do the right thing for yourself and others. You are imbued with skills that can keep you, your family and loved ones safer from physical harm.
I may have been lucky enough to have an unbroken run from a beginner Belt to my current grade as a 5th degree Red Sash. It hasn’t been an easy road at all, although I don’t consider mine any harder than your current road. I am nobody special and if you talk to your Sigung he will tell you that the average person out there deals with the same reasons and excuses, bills, stresses and deadlines, work and family pressures, as every martial artist. So don't think we are different in that regard. But we are different when it comes to dealing with those pressures. The martial artist learns to thrive under pressure. It is with pressure that change is brought about. And when you follow the physical practices and moral codes of martial arts that change is nearly always positive. Welcome a challenge because it can signal the next stage in your evolution!
For me, working in hospitality at the time meant only attending daytime classes for the first three years (luckily there were 5 of those classes!). Daytime classes were not well attended so training partners were often scarce. Sometimes nonexistent, which meant pairing up with some pretty rugged instructors from the old school of hard knocks. If you couldn’t take their hard knocks then you just got out. And that school was full on, aggressive and with so many massive ego’s. If I didn’t think the arts were great and if I hadn't wanted to get to Sifu’s classes I surely would have left. For all of my Tong Long career I have been the lightest, the shortest, the least likely to be a fighter. I have dealt with so much physical pain training with people twice my weight and half as tall again as I am. I could so easily have used pain as a reason to quit. About 3 years into my training I decided to change careers. It was at the same time I achieved my Blue Belt/Discipleship. So in 1996 I was attempting that particularly stressful grading while sitting end of year exams for acupuncture college. And it was the same in 1997 for Blue 2 and 1998 for Purple 1. In 1999 I was training for my Purple 2, starting an acupuncture clinic from scratch, still working in hospitality full time, and now married with a new baby boy. In 2002, there was a divorce. This was partly due to the changes I had undergone during acupuncture college and the Kung Fu training. My philosophies, principles, and beliefs towards health, ageing, diet, exercise, medicine, optimism, success, money, etc had done a complete 180º turn. I was also simultaneously getting my degree in Health Science and preparing to grade to Master level.
Becoming a Master meant having to travel to HQ once a fortnight for training with my Sifu. The onus is on us to train in between these fortnightly sessions. We have to find more time to absorb and reflect what Sifu has taught us. Now if you decide to take a class off then you have been trained once in that month. Believe me, at 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon I often entertain the thought of not battling the ever worsening traffic to drive to Brisbane and experience the physical pain of my Sifu's instruction, while everyone else is thinking about winding down for the evening! 2003 saw the opening of the MCKFA and since then the pressure has been to keep it alive as it evolved to become the full time venue it is today. I can tell you honestly, that even now I have thoughts about closing it down due to financial pressures, time commitment, and the heartache that comes from seeing students come and go.
Currently, like many of you, I miss out on time with my family. Luckily for me, Simo sees the passion I have for the arts and even more so for the students. As she said in her Xmas dinner speech, what could be a better example for our kids than seeing their father be true to his passion, following his heart to achieve what many can not. And in spite of the few hardships I have faced along the way, the rewards and benefits, the joy and friendship, the honesty and love I receive, make them all pale into insignificance!
You have all chosen a path that is not easy. Yet I am overjoyed day in and day out at the success that the majority of you attain. From just turning up regularly, to achieving new grades, learning new forms, facing your fears in performances and demos, supporting me and the school in our many external events, and taking on leadership roles of your own inside and outside of our club. You are continually asking for patience and time from your family and loved ones, coming in to train after work and before work. Some are juggling more than one job, some new jobs, others are raising new families, or travelling nationally and internationally. All I can suggest is just keep turning up! Keep it up, don’t give it up. Work through your fears, reasons, and excuses not to train. This will become Kun Sook Jing Hou (Regularity, Familiarity, Essence, Magic)! The rewards are great! And if you can survive the Year of the Fire Monkey then your resilience has already proven its mettle. Oh, did I mention 2017 is the Year of the Fire Rooster?!?