A young Man's Kung Fu Journey
Enjoy this little story of a typical young man’s Kung Fu journey.
Bear in mind that not everything is as it seems!
At the end of this little story, you’ll have to make a decision that may well change the way you think about Kung Fu forever. ;)
A young man, let’s call him Steve, approaches the local Kung Fu school. It’s his first time, so he’s a bit nervous and also excited.
He has seen a lot of Kung Fu movies, videos on YouTube and even a show by the legendary Shaolin monks at a bigger city in the area. But he’s never tried it himself.
The sign above the door says something in Chinese and “Shaolin Kung Fu School”, so he expects to experience the real deal here.
He finally builds up the courage to give it a try and walks through the door.
The walls are filled with pictures of the Shaolin temple and old masters of the lineage. The smell of incense covers the sweaty atmosphere.
The master and the people there are all friendly. He is welcomed and invited to just jump right into class and train with them.
They all practice synchronously. He has difficulty to follow the movements but does his best to follow.
Just follow along!
Form practice is followed by a hard workout and stretching. He likes challenges – from the movies he knows that Kung Fu is not a joyride – and the training takes all he has, mentally and physically.
After the lesson, he comes out soaked in sweat. Although he’s exhausted he’s inspired by the skillful movements of the elder students. So he wants more and signs up. He receives his typical monk training uniform. Next week, he’s going to be inaugurated at a welcoming celebration and will be given a Buddhist name.
From now on, he comes to the school three times a week and practices hard. At home, he’s looking forward to the next lessons. Sometimes he does a bodyweight workout to shape his body, followed by stretching exercises.
One day at the Kwoon (the Kung Fu school), he asked one of his elder classmates, “Have you ever felt this energy the movies talk about? Is Qi real?”
“Those stories about Qi are a myth. I’ve been training Kung Fu for many years, but haven’t felt or experienced anything like that. Those fairytales come from a time where people believed in the superstitious. We live in the age of science and our training makes our muscles strong and flexible, so we can move exceptionally well which still enthralls most people.”, the classmate replied jokingly.
On another occasion, he gets to chat a bit with his master.
“Will we learn to apply the techniques to defend ourselves too?” he asks politely.
“No, we won’t practice application. Kung Fu is about personal development. But if you practice the forms long enough, you will be able to use them in combat.“, the master replies.
“I’m looking forward to that day.”
“If you like, you can try our Sanda class in the meantime.”
“What is that?”
“Sanda is a modern advancement of Kung Fu that is used in competitions and is even effective against other martial arts.”
“Ah! That sounds interesting.”
The Sanda class is starting right after the traditional training, so he stays to have a look.
Modern Kung Fu Combat
Steve is to spar against another practitioner. He takes up a typical Kung Fu stance, just as he's been taught. His partner stands quite upright, similar to a boxer.
His partner attacks with a punch to his face and as Steve doesn’t manage to avoid, it connects. Fortunately, they’re both wearing protective gear.
After some time and some more hits, he tries to stand upright like his partner and he finds that it is much easier to avoid an incoming punch now.
"Ah, it's right. For fighting I need to use another type of Kung Fu", he figures by himself.
Week by week he gets used to the more effective way of fighting and soon develops quite some skill in hitting his opponents. From his sandbag training, his punches and kicks became strong.
His form practice in the Kung Fu class improves too. Soon he attends tournaments where he performs his forms beautifully and also wins some Sanda fights in the ring, earning local titles and prizes. His living room fills with trophies, which he enjoys showing his guests.
He continues to train hard and diligently at the school, knowing that his practice should be “Yang”, meaning tough and demanding. In the evenings he enjoys hanging out on the couch watching Kung Fu movies, admiring the traditional fights, to balance with “Yin” (i.e. relaxation).
It's important to relax after a hard training.
What better way is there than watching how Kung Fu should be trained?
Fast forward a few years and a knee surgery later, Steve now practices Qi Gong and some slow and gentle Tai Chi only. Too bad that his knees couldn’t handle the strenuous training.
It is still nice to do the routines and meet up with the community he settled into, though.
He even took some courses in Chinese Medicine and once in a while, he thinks he feels some Qi himself when doing Qi Gong. But he’s still unsure.
He’s proud to be part of Shaolin’s long and glorious history and that he’s promoted to teach young students to become competitive athletes.
Steve is glad that he found the real Shaolin arts and likes to look back at his perfect “Kung Fu Life”.
Sounds like a typical and inspiring Kung Fu story to you?
Honestly, while it’s good that he found a community and enjoys his practice, I find it a shame that this is the way most “Kung Fu” students will experience their journey.
Unfortunately, Steve will never experience how different it could have been. How much more he could have found. He could have even saved his knee and learned how to apply his beautiful techniques himself, which he still can’t. He may have experienced and benefitted from authentic energy practice. Sadly, he’ll never realize that he has been following a popular, though wrong assumption.
The purpose of this (not so fictional) story is to highlight some common misconceptions that have become the norm to such an extent that everyone involved thinks they’re practicing the original and genuine thing.
If the run-of-the-mill is not your cup of tea and you don’t fancy going with the masses/mainstream, then it’s time to make a choice.
I’ll let my friend Morpheus take over:
"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill...the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill...you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Which one do you choose?
If you choose the blue one, I wish you all the best on your way, Steve!
But if you’re ready to take the red pill, sign up for our newsletter now and you’ll receive a review of the story, taking a closer look at it from a traditional martial artist’s perspective.
Take the chance to broaden your horizons and to alter your understanding about the art of Shaolin Kung Fu as developed by the genuine past masters! See you in Wonderland!
Here's a comment by Steven (what a coincidence!), who was "awakened" to the depth of genuine Kung Fu by one of our grandmaster's outstanding books.
If a book by a genuine Kung Fu master can have such an impact on one's understanding, imagine how deep and far you can go when learning their system.
So, are you...
Ready for the red pill?
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