I spend a lot of time thinking. A lot of time.
It is the heaviest, sharpest double-edged sword in my life. On the one hand, it provides me the skills to live a fairly comfortable, “successful” life – creative-yet-technical thinking and analysis is handy when your job is technical support of complicated software systems. On the other hand, I am a generally tense person prone to high levels of stress – like so many people, my brain never stops. And that is exhausting.
Ironically, this post came about while I was thinking about what we’ve written here so far, and why I love kung fu as much as I do. I realized that all of the posts so far, while filled with inspired truth and reflection, were all very…serious. Philosophical. Deep.
Not that that fact makes any of it less important or relevant; it’s all a part of why we love Shaolin-Do in the ways that we do. But it all misses a pretty critical aspect and the reason I keep coming back to class – because kung fu is FUN! I mean, really. Going to class, practicing the forms, learning new techniques – it’s oftentimes the most fun I have! And that’s saying something, as I have two kids and we try to do as many fun and interesting things as possible (especially as the weather warms in Central New York)! There’s no arguing that martial arts is extraordinarily good for the practitioner – it is a practical skill (self-defense), it is great exercise, and it can be an enormous reliever of stress. But it is all of those things because above all, it is incredibly entertaining.
Now, most people reading this would probably agree as they are likely a practitioner of one style or another. But for those of you visiting us who don’t currently study martial arts, you might be asking “How is that fun? Kung Fu looks like a ridiculously strenuous, and potentially dangerous, form of exercise! You people are crazy!” Yes, we are. But try to understand – as a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up on a fairly steady diet of kung fu and samurai movies, science fiction, and fantasy. Many of my heroes growing up (and currently) are martial artists. Almost every movie and book near the top of my lists has martial arts within it. How could I not be giddy at the chance to learn how to do the things I’ve spent my entire life watching and reading?
Beyond that, there is the simple joy of movement and achievement. From the very first class to the one you’ve just finished, I can guarantee that every one of us has seen something new and fascinating and have said to ourselves, “I want to do that!“. You can tell from the first day when martial arts has its hooks in a person. It’s a look in their eyes and excitement in their voice; you know they’ve felt it! Because learning something new is amazingly rewarding, and finally nailing a technique on which you’ve been working for weeks or months or years – it just feels GREAT. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve known; everything comes into focus and you move in a way you haven’t before and you feel it in a way that you haven’t. It’s magical! I think that any athlete can understand this feeling. My wife is a distance runner, and she has the same feelings when she has a great run or achieves a new personal best. She gets into a groove, let’s herself go, and it feels incredible.
I feel that it’s very important to find “your thing” – the activity that you enjoy with or without achievements or competitions or ranks and belts. Finding that will always lead to being a healthier, happier person, and finding a physical activity will make fitness almost a non-issue. If you’re exercising not because you “need to” or “have to”, but because you genuinely enjoy it, you’re going to be in better shape as a natural outcome. It doesn’t need to be martial arts – it can be anything that you love. And you’ll do it, without feeling obligation or even needing motivation.
Because it’s fun!