My Journey With Kung Fu

My journey in personal practice of martial arts has been filled with so many offs and ons. Throughout my childhood years, I was always intrigued by all the various beautiful and dynamic movements in martial arts. However, I just never had the initiative to really practice what was fascinating to me. I guess, it was throughout my teenage years, I really struggled with the acceptance of my cultural identity, Toisanese Cantonese American. With this, I avoided completely any idea of practicing martial arts because of my desire to distance myself from the stereotype of being Asian and then automatically labeled as a martial artist.

In college, I opened up a little to accepting my Asian cultural identity and to trying out martial arts. It was actually a friend who asked me if I was interested in joining her in the school’s karate club. I had a good time learning this style, and I tried committing to personal practice close to a daily basis. However, right before taking part in any of the karate classes, I already committed myself to weight lifting and bulking myself up. When I look back at this, I find it very funny, because now all of my regular routine exercises are just using my body weight and maintaining my health, with no interest in increasing my muscle mass. Anyways, eventually I felt a lot more committed to weight lifting, and felt like my energy was burning out by adding practice of karate to my daily routine. Oh yeah, I also played basketball daily, and had a similar dedication to it as weight lifting. I don’t know how I juggled all three of these along with my academic work. So, I just gave up karate. Shortly after, I took a semester long class in Western boxing. It gave me somewhat more of a stronger basis for fighting stance and coordination. Again, adding boxing to weight lifting and basketball was too much, so I gave up boxing, too.

One random day while still in college, I decided to give up weight lifting, because I didn’t want to rely on external weights to be strong and healthy for the rest of my life. So, I turned to bodyweight exercises. This shift in my fitness routine led to my current love for hand balancing, which eventually led me to simple imitations of movements I saw in watching capoeira. I never felt a burning passion to really take on capoeira, so I never took initiative of going to an actual class and learning it formally.

About two years into just doing bodyweight exercises on a regular basis, I suddenly had a burning desire to learn kung fu, particularly a style that was linked to my cultural heritage, Southern Chinese or Cantonese. Ha! Some of this desire stemmed from watching the Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen. Not only was I fascinated by his kung fu and his acting, but I also felt proud of being Chinese and having kung fu linked to my culture. So, I browsed online for the different kung fu schools in Boston Chinatown. Eventually, one caught my interest the most. I really wanted to be committed to it. However, in two weeks, I just disappeared from the school, and have not returned since. I had gotten heavily involved in community activism, so I just dropped kung fu completely just like I had with karate and boxing.

Today, it is a little over two years since I practiced kung fu at a school in Chinatown. A couple months ago, I did want to pick it up again by watching videos on Youtube. Then, I got a leg injury, and did not practice for months. Just a week ago, my leg was no longer hurting, and I was so determined to return to kung fu. I’ve also moved so much this past year. So, as much as I would like to, Boston Chinatown is a little far for me to commute to on a regular basis. I have found a kung fu school near where I live now though. I almost joined it instantly. The class was so intense, but I got so much out of it. Fitness, reflex drills, flexibility, traditional kungfu skills all in one class. What more could I ask for? I am happy now to say I am a member of this kung fu school. This has already been more than just a hobby. Kung fu will only become more of an integral part of my life, in terms of culture, philosophy, health, fitness, and community.