It is the middle of March and that means Kentucky Trip time!
Twice a year, every year, we gather up a group of students and make the pilgrimage to Lexington, Kentucky to attend a seminar with our Grandmaster. These trips are always loads of fun. Twelve hours crammed in a van with a bunch of Kung Fu students sounds like it might be stressful, but it’s not. We make it fun. As we make our way across New York State, snip the tip off of Northwestern Pennsylvania, trudge our way through the wasteland of Central Ohio, and down into Kentucky, we bond. We laugh, we tell stories, and we share in the excitement of the event to come. All stops for gas or restroom breaks include group push-ups to get the blood moving and to keep in the training mindset. The road trip has become part of the adventure.
The seminar is always fun and very challenging. Being able to attend a class with the Grandmaster, surrounded by a couple of hundred other students of all ranks, is truly exciting! Standing side by side, Masters and Beginners alike, we all absorb the lessons and stories offered by our teacher. It is an experience unlike any other and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
On the Spring trips, Grandmaster and a committee of Masters also offer testing for out-of-town students. Our school often has students testing up through the higher ranks on these visits, and this year’s trip was no exception. Three of our students tested for rank advancement, and they all worked hard to get to that point. Testing in front of the Grandmaster is an honor and an exhilarating experience, but it is only a part of the process.
All three of our students were successful and have advanced deeper into their training. So what, you may ask, does it take to get to that point? How do you move into the higher levels of martial arts training?
A lot of hard work.
As I’ve mentioned before, ‘Kung Fu’ doesn’t mean fighting. It doesn’t mean ‘martial art’. Kung Fu translated means “Mastery through Time and Effort”. If you short yourself on training time or fail to put forth the necessary amount of effort, you will fail. The secret to success is right there in front of us. It’s in the name of our Art. That’s the secret!
So, prior to testing you have years of hard work. You have skills to learn and perfect. You have concepts to absorb. You have forms to learn and decode. You have long days of sweat, blood, and tears. You have fears to overcome. Essentially, you have to recreate yourself into a better version of You. This is not easy nor is it fast, and honestly very few people can successfully put forth this degree of effort. It takes a lot of honesty to make these changes. You have to truly look at yourself with open eyes and speak to what you see, and to what you want to become.
Testing for rank advancement is a huge milestone. When your teacher sends you up in front of the Masters to test, they are saying that you are ready to learn more; you are ready to take the next step. The moment of testing itself, while stressful, is simply a culmination of years of hard work. It’s a moment in time. As the student, your job in the test is to demonstrate martial mastery of the skills your teacher taught you. If you are successful, you will be granted a new rank.
It’s simple in concept but challenging in application.
The beauty of Kung Fu lies in the fact that the skills and accomplishments you achieve in the training hall can be carried over into your personal life. We train to grow. We train to overcome obstacles in our lives. Honestly, almost no one will ever need the martial skills we acquire as we train. But all of us can benefit from the training itself:
- Learning how to commit yourself to a process
- Learning how to become a good student; learning to listen
- Opening your mind to new concepts
- Discovering a core of emotional and mental strength within you
- Finding how courageous you truly are
- Understanding that the point is the process and not about any specific goals
And that’s all in the first few months of training.
The concept of ‘Mastery through Time and Effort’ can be applied to any aspect of your life. Kung Fu can give you the skills to become a brilliant writer, an amazing chef, an inspired artist – anyone you want to be. The only limits lay within you. If you are willing to put forth true effort and commit yourself over a long, continuous period of time, you can master the martial arts and become the best version of ‘You’ possible. Sound good?
Give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is mediocrity.