Thursday, December 6, 2012

0 A New Endeavor: Journeying into the World of Martial Arts


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As I'd mentioned earlier today, I've decided to enroll at a Chinese martial arts school, where I'll be taking kung fu, t'ai chi, and kickboxing/MMA. And as I said before, while I love running and all of the other physical fitness activities I do, martial arts give me something that the other activities don't. They fulfill a need in me that I can't exactly put into words. Peace of mind, stress relief, spiritual satisfaction, a calm, more detached but aware state of mind -- call it what you want, but it feels fantastic.

Martial arts require years of mastery, and for some reason, that really appeals to me. What can I say?! I'm very persistent and like a long-term challenge. :) Easy rewards are typically short-lived, but something you have to work for with every fiber of your being, well, now that's extremely satisfying.

There's so much to it as well. The martial arts world is an extremely rich, diverse and complex world that actually encompasses many different "worlds" within it. Each school or style is like its own culture unto itself. (There are five major styles of t'ai chi, each with its own unique lineage, etc.) It's multilayered on so many different levels. It's not just about developing self-defense techniques or following systems. It's also about mastery, community, and self-development. In fact, the word "kung fu" in Chinese ((功夫) actually means any study or practice that requires a great deal of time, patience, and energy to master. It's the compound of two words, which roughly translate to the "achievement of man."

The choreographed forms of various fight sequences are like a beautiful but deadly dance. I could watch people do these sequences for hours. It's simply mesmerizing. And when you start learning kung fu, you begin to truly appreciate how hard all of these sequences actually are to master. :) I have a great deal of respect for those who excel in these activities!

Martial arts also encompass an incredible amount of history and philosophy, and you really have to immerse yourself in all of that to get the full experience of it all. Right now, I am but a young grasshopper, just taking it all in. :)

The master of the school where I'm going to enroll (tonight, in fact) encourages his students to do all of the activities offered there to become a more well-rounded student. Soft/internal styles (like the yang style of t'ai chi) complement hard/external styles (like kung fu and MMA), just as yin complements yang. :) Each activity develops a different set of primary skills, but there's a lot of overlap in many of the movements and techniques that you learn, which also helps to reinforce what you learn and ingrain the movements in your mind and kinetic memory. They each have complementary elements. What you learn in t'ai chi is applicable to both kung fu and kickboxing, and vice versa, although the mental and physical fitness benefits you gain and the various skills you develop are slightly different for each. For example, from what I can tell through a newbie's eyes, guarding stance looks like it's pretty much the same in both kickboxing and kung fu. Also, kung fu and t'ai chi draw from each other as well; many of the movements I practiced in t'ai chi are similar to kung fu, except that, in kung fu, they are performed with a lot more speed and (some rather explosive!) power.

If it isn't clear by now, I've absolutely fallen in LOVE with martial arts! :)

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