Guest post by Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do student, Jim Bosjolie, pictured right.
I like Kung Fu.
It is precise and it “grows” with the student – it starts fairly simply but it constantly challenges you, increasing in complexity as the student becomes more skilled. But, for me, the greatest appeal is that it attacks my lack of coordination, something with which I have struggled for years. As mentioned before in a previous post, Kung Fu means “Mastery through Time and Effort”. Well, I certainly have put in time – more than 3 years of attending classes, going to seminars, and attending training weekends. My effort has been somewhat sporadic because of health and employment issues, but I have persevered through those and today I am in a much better state – physically, mentally and emotionally – than when I first started. My coordination has also improved, although very slowly (which is a story unto itself). My journey with Kung Fu actually started four years ago; I was having lunch with an enthusiastic practitioner, and when I mentioned being involved with karate a number of years before, she gushed that I just had to try Kung Fu.
So how do you say no to a good looking blonde? That’s right – you don’t!
At least, it’s very hard to do, so I reluctantly said yes. I say reluctantly, because when I agree to do something or be with someone, I do not turn back; it’s just a part of who I am. My word is my bond, and if I say I will do something, I do it. This is, I think, another reason Kung Fu is so appealing to me – it encourages and rewards this philosophy! But this has been both a blessing and a curse as, over the years, I have gotten involved with organizations that were very corrosive to my self and to my well being. Long story (significantly) shortened – after graduating with a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Notre Dame, I found myself involved with an organization (the military) whose entire philosophy and process ran counter to what I believed. It did not work out. After that, I was a part of another group that I thought at first better supported me and was a better fit with my beliefs. Unfortunately as time went on I found it to be just as detrimental. So I am very careful when it comes to “systems”; my past has made me very cautious when getting involved with organizations.
My past, however, is also what draws me to Kung Fu. The underlying thrust in all my decisions was to try to be a better person: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But unlike the other organizations, I’ve found that Kung Fu enables that growth without asking me to let go of my personal beliefs.
So what happened when I first tried it? Things started out, for lack of a better word, badly. Sifu noted that I was very stiff and uncoordinated and suggested trying Tai Chi first before going into Kung Fu. At the time I worried that this was yet another instance of being thwarted and not allowed to move forward because of physical challenges, something I was determined to overcome. So I took a class in Taoist Tai Chi and learned 105 forms in 8 months. Then the new location of the Kwoon was advertised, so I returned for my free lesson. My persistence was recognized, my progress was acknowledged, and this time I was accepted as a student!
However, I still struggled with mobility and coordination when I first started, and my memory for learning the forms and movements was slower than many fellow students; it took one full year before I tested to yellow belt. The next two belt levels, blue and green, also took a longer-than-usual period of time to complete. Not that it mattered (to me or to Sifu)! I’ve found that what helped the most, of course, was repetition of the forms correctly, and (surprise) just going to class! So here I am today – on the cusp of testing for a brown belt. My memory, coordination and mobility are much better, even though I feel I still have a long way to go before achieving “minimum ability” (at least by my standards). More importantly, my health is also much better, and I am now feeling fine most of the time Other spiritual practices and nutritional regimens have contributed to this, so I can not say Kung Fu is totally responsible for my present state, but it got me started on my path. I am now much better than I was before.
“Life is a journey, not a destination” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am happy to continue on that journey.