(“Are you dancing again?” says Alpha Girl.
“No”, I reply, changing position slightly and moving my arm into a palm up Tan Sau block. “I’m practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu.”
“It looks suspiciously like dancing.”
“Would you like to join in?”
“Only if I can beat you senseless.”)
A few weeks ago, I started Wing Chun Kung Fu. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time but had never gotten around to. Now that I was a student of leisure with some time on my hands, I could take the plunge.
I contacted the Sifu by email, who advised to attend on a particular day to try it out. I went to the address on the website, only to be confronted by a worksite where the building used to be.
A quick mobile phone call and Sifu advised I was at the wrong address, that Google was, heaven forbid, wrong.
I drove to the new venue, which turned out to be his backyard – a concrete slab and car port, with various bits of martial arts equipment lying around. Sifu was a middle-aged, laid back fellow, with a pot belly and a glazed look. Not Bruce Lee, then.
My initial concerns were alleviated when Sifu started demonstrating some of the techniques I was to learn. Suddenly, he became a different person, like when Yoda started fighting Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones. He worked his way through numerous open palm and closed fist blocks and strikes, leg kicks, explained balance and stance. The focus was on not using muscular strength. (which is why he looked so laid back and unfit – turned out it’s all just a front…)
This was all new to me, of course – not using strength in a punch was something that took time to get used to. The idea was that the lowered shoulder, the angle of the arm and the low, balanced stance was used to deliver the attack or block, utilising the skeleton for power, rather than the arm’s muscle. It was surprisingly effective (as one would expect from a 3000 year old Chinese martial art – they’ve had a while to get it right).
I asked about belts (most martial arts have grading systems where you progress from one belt to the next, with black being one of the highest grades), and Shifu advised me Yoda-like: “No belts. You simply…do”. Fair enough. Who was I to argue?
So, I’ve been going for about five weeks now. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m glad I made the effort to start.
Who knows, in a few years I may be Bruce Lee’ing and Kung Fu Panda’ing with the best of them.
(“So is this going to make you some kind of invincible street fighter?” says Alpha Girl.
“No,” I say. “But I should be able to defend myself and get away from a fight safely.”
“You don’t need any training to run away,” she says as she exits the room. “You’d be used to that by now.”
Always has to get the last word.)
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