Initial Steps on my Kung Fu Journey!
Posted on August 31, 2018
Yes, I’m learning Kung Fu! For those keeping up on my manic journey through different experiences in health and wellness, you might remember my dive into Aikido. While I still hold Aikido in high regard, I was a little disappointed that we spent all our time talking about falling and not much talking about the internal aspects of the art (personal and spiritual) development. However, I loved the discipline, learning about a new culture, and physical aspects of studying a martial art. I started to look around for an art that balanced the internal development with the discipline physical aspects of training.
After a fun search into the different rabbit holes of modern martial arts, I landed on Wing Chun. Wing Chun is a type of Kung Fu. The simple definition of Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art, but I like the definition commonly used by teachers, “a discipline achieved through hard work and practice.” Wing Chun combines the mindfulness approaches found in disciplines like Tai Chi with the physical work associated with boxing or Karate.
I found a great online course to start my journey (wingchun.online). Now, any traditional student of martial arts would turn up their noses at someone learning the arts online. First, I’m cheap, and this incredibly intensive course is only $10 a month instead of the $100 plus a month for traditional teaching. Second, I get to test drive Wing Chun without having to spend a bunch of money on outfits and other investments like the karate outfits I bought for Aikido, at least I’ve got Halloween costumes covered! Third, being mildly dyslexic I find online instruction on physical movement easier than trying to remember my left from right in a larger class. I love going slow when I need to and find it easier to learn with a rewind button close.
After a couple of months of learning how to punch a wall bag and some of the basic moves, I recently started to learn the first “form.” Forms are sets of movements, similar to Tai Chi, that promote (at least in Wing Chun) strength, mindfulness, and skill development. I am familiar with form from my daily practice of 40 Form Yang Style Tai Chi that is part of my daily morning routine.
The Wing Chun forms (some Tai Chi forms are taught this way too) require very intentional, focused, and often slow movement that combines tension and relaxation, sometimes in the same movement. I find that this practice requires a tremendous amount of strength. Not the strength of weightlifting, but an internal effort that combines mindful focus with muscle activation. While I can only speak to my own physical experience, it seems anyone could do the form from their current physical condition.
I am still amazed that even after a run, punching exercises, and jumping rope I sweat three times as much during my practice of these slow deliberate movements. In addition, the mindfulness needed to keep focus on each small movement is tremendous. It forces a mind/body connection unlike anything I’ve ever done before as in most activities, like running, for example, I must continuously remind myself to stay mindful.
I’m reaching out to some people who practice these internal martial arts (or the combination I mention of physical and internal) to understanding how these practices could help those struggling with the emotional and physical consequence of trauma. My initial impression is that everyone could benefit both physically and psychologically from the exercise and mindful components of the internal practice. I will keep you posted my friends, but I really think I’ve found my lifelong practice in Wing Chun!