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What To Expect From Kung Fu Training

Written by Sifu Donald Reynolds
on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 12:56:20 AM

What To Expect From Kung Fu Training

“Kung Fu” means excellence through hard work. There are no short cuts. There is no easy path. One must be diligent, persistent, and dedicated. You must overcome great challenges, both mentally and physically. My path to kung fu is through traditional Chinese martial arts. As I see it, I am still at the beginning of my journey.

It all started with admiration. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and other martial arts movie stars made a huge impression on me. It seemed that what they did was impossible. Their abilities were beyond any I could hope to achieve. The seed was planted. I didn’t realize where it would lead, but I thank them all now for showing me what was in fact possible.

I started my search at an early age. I joined a judo class at the local YMCA. I was too young to appreciate what I was being taught. I hope to revisit the style some day. During high school I discovered Tang Soo Do. My teacher, Bill Hyde, was a great man. He taught us meditation, the language, and stressed the value of other styles. I remember him using tai chi and chi na self defense techniques against the more advanced students. He was forced to relocate the school after I finished high school. Financial responsibility caught up with me and I wasn't able to find a new school for several years. Tang Soo Do introduced me to the idea of traditional training. I wanted to find a system that would be able to give back what I put into it. It had to be more than a sport or cardio workout. I wanted the legend, history, lineage, language, forms, weapons, self-defense, physical conditioning, and health benefits. I wanted a challenge.

When I was older I finally realized that kung fu was what I had been searching for. I started with Northern Eagle Claw for a few short months under Sarah Gelhorn. During that time I was introduced to tai chi and push hands. Eventually I found Sigung Norman Smith, Sifu Jamal, Sifu Eric, Sifu Billy, and Sifu Denise of the Nothern Shaolin Academy. They are now a major part of my life and always will be. Their dedication and ability continues to be inspirational, and I certainly found my challenge.

As a beginner in the Chinese martial arts, you will have to learn humility before all else. I was eager to advance. Everything was too easy. I wanted it all. The more I wanted the next thing, the more my teachers made me practice the basics. I believe this is the main reason why Chinese kung fu is not the most popular martial arts style. It is very difficult to endure. You must completely give in to the teachers and realize that only they can recognize when you are ready to move on. Make no mistake - this takes extreme patience on the part of the teacher as well. Not every school can offer this. I was very lucky to find the Northern Shaolin Academy.

Once you put your training in the hands of the teachers, the true meaning of “hard work” is revealed. You will sweat, feel extreme pain, and be pushed to your physical limits. It is always important to remember that the harder the instructor is upon you, the more they care about you. They want you to achieve your potential. Pushing you is the only way to find out what that potential is. You should be honored if you feel that an instructor is being particularly hard on you. This means that they see something special in you. You should work extra hard to uncover that capacity.

After the foundation is set, you won’t be afforded any breathers. Once you have a good foundation, you won’t experience so much physical pain. Without that distraction, you will find that remembering forms is easy. What may have taken six months to a year to learn when you first started may only take a few weeks to learn with a strong foundation. This doesn’t mean that you will understand a form in a few weeks. You will discover new things about your forms every time you examine them. Then you will find that these discoveries can be applied to almost every other technique or form you have learned. A lifetime is not enough to master any single style of Chinese martial arts because there are so many layers to uncover.

If you are extremely fortunate to have teachers who will answer your questions, ask them often! As a beginner, try to imagine yourself having to teach new students. Ask yourself if you could answer their questions. This will help you tremendously. If you learn the principles behind a technique, it is often more valuable than the technique itself. The only way to achieve this is by asking a million questions. If your teachers can impart to you how to learn or how to figure out a technique on your own, then they have given to you more than the sum of their own knowledge. They have give to you a treasure to be appreciated, preserved, and passed on to future generations.

I have told many people this before. My journey started as a pretty selfish one. I was interested in becoming more physically fit, and I wanted to learn self-defense. It was all about me. After the initial period of intense physical training and foundation work my attitude changed dramatically. I realized the importance of the traditional methods of training, and I wanted to help preserve them and pass them on. All of a sudden, my training wasn’t about me. It was about the system. As I continue to train and to teach new students, I realize that it is really about them. There was a time when I was inspired to join, and now I hope to be an inspiration to others.

If you persist in your efforts, whatever they may be, you will achieve your goals. That is kung fu.

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