That is my favorite line from the Matrix. While learning Kung Fu seems to be just a little bit harder in real life than just plugging into a computer, it is a nice dream to be able to inject knowledge into your brain. The real world is a little different, your muscles tend to burn after a good work out… sometimes during. It has been 2 days since my first Kung Fu lesson and I am still having some trouble moving.
I am out of shape. Even when I have been in better shape I have always been on the heavy side. While I don’t use the “I am big boned” excuse, saying that or even hearing it always makes me think of Dennis Leary’s joke “Dinosaurs were big boned,” I do think that my genetic make up predisposes me to be on the heavy side. Heck, I drink water and get fat. Even if I was in better shape I think this first work out would have still kicked my butt.
Since I moved to Midland I have been looking for a Martial Arts school. I have even written about my strategy and quest. Staying true to what I said, I did not just find the right school, I found the right teacher. I do admit that the prospect of starting all over at other Tae Kwon Do schools was not very appealing either. Out of the Martial Arts I have practiced, Tae Kwon Do was the one I practiced the longest. While my goal was to become a good martial artist and not to get a black belt, the prospect of having to pay for all of the belts I had “earned” all over was not really all that appealing to my budget.
Sifu (Master) already taught me something very important. It is not about how many forms you know, it is not about what belts you have, it is not about how flashy your martial arts are. All of those things are trying to impress other people. The true quest is to impress you. If your Kung Fu is great, you are a duck and not a chicken. Sorry, inside joke.
Since my first conversation with Sifu Chung, I knew I was talking with someone I would greatly respect. One of the most important things for me is to feel like the Sifu is accepting me as a student rather than my money. He told me in our first conversation that he was not a car salesman, he told me the price for the classes and what I would get from them. He was so wise in that comparison, because it is a perfect description of the feeling I had gotten when I had been “shopping around” at others schools.
Car shopping had always been a super stressful experience and it is still something I do not enjoy. There had always been that sales aspect of the transaction where things were a little murky and numbers flew around like daggers. Just like buying the car from our friend Dave, talking to Sifu was not stressful at all. Everything was very clear and on the table. There was no, here is all we offer and then… are you willing to pay this much for it. While you can consider both of them as different sales approaches, I like the up front one a lot better.
I got to try a class for free, no commitment beyond signing the waiver that is required for insurance purposes. From the first moment I stepped into the school I knew I was in a special place. I met Sifu’s son first, he invited me to look around and told me to wait there. He was going to teach class at another school, so he pretty much opened up the school and went on. One by one the other students started showing up and none of them made me feel like I was being judged. Going to a new school can be difficult if the other students are dismissive of you, or if they are arrogant about their level of training. I thankfully felt none of that. Everyone greeted me at different times during my stay at the school and made me feel like I was an old friend. It never felt like people trying to make small talk.
The class was relaxed, friendly and very focused. It was surprising to me because I was not given a series of rules when I walked into the training area like I had in the past with most other arts. Most rules in other schools had been followed but they did not help the class understand the respect they were trying to convey or the focus they were supposed to encourage. Sifu has a wealth of knowledge and he is very willing to share it. He had no problem involving the whole class in an explanation of a single movement in a form. He explained why it was done, its application and purpose to great detail. He was also very humble about his knowledge and explained everything with humor.
I was not able to even finish the warm up. The movements in Kung Fu are completely different than those in Tae Kwon Do. While Hapkido does have some similarity in movement, the stances seem to be a lot wider and my legs do not have the strength to support my upper body for extended periods of time just yet. Also my hips are not doing what they are supposed to, but I think with time and practice they will. I learned the first part of the very first form, it will take me some time to master it but I want to do it really bad. The other excellent part about the school is that you are taught the application of the form along with the form. It really introduces the self-defense aspect of kung fu without breaking the flow. While the art centers on the form, it is like sun and other aspect of martial arts are the planets in a very cohesive solar system.
I miss my old teacher, he is my friend and I have decided that if I ever want to get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do I want to get it from him. In the mean time, I am excited to say that Chung’s School of Praying Mantis is going to be my new Martial arts school. I am also very excited to say that I have found a new teacher, Sifu Henry Chung, son of Grandmaster Chung Ho Yin, which in the end is the most important thing. Neo might be able to learn Kung Fu in seconds, but you know, I truly believe that success is not about the goal; it’s all about the journey.