Suddenly Shaolin


Kung Fu, that is.

I am ready.

I met with Carolyn this morning before work.  It was one of the most productive things I have done this week.  I spent a lot of time grappling with some of the ways I punish myself around my life and what I do.

As though, if I hurt me first, you will be less inclined to.  Or, I will somehow win you to my side.  I don’t even realize I am punishing myself.

I relayed the story of why I stopped training in Shaolin to Carolyn today and wow did it bring up a lot of stuff.  I cried all my eye make up off before I even got into work today.  I worked before I worked, so to speak.

I am getting to have a new perspective and a fresh willingness to do the plan.  I am scared, excited, nervous. I told her about work and the fallout and the drama and how that has played out and got a little more relief and a lot more ego puncturing and a lot of insight.

I don’t feel like a thin layer is being pulled off, it feels like a slab of self is about to get lifted.  I don’t expect that it won’t be without pain, but I don’t have to suffer through it. It will and already has been a period of growth for me that I think I am only just beginning to understand.

One thing that I realized is that I want to train again.  I want to get back into Kung Fu.

I miss it.

I haven’t trained in 9 years.  I stopped training when I moved to San Francisco.  I received my black belt at the Frederick J. Villari school of self-defense in June of 2002.  My god, that’s almost a decade ago.  He is the Grand Master, I got the pleasure of meeting him three times and once getting to be in a workshop with him.  He developed the style, thus the name, and it is a combination of Kung Fu (about 85%Shaolin), Kempo (about 10%–grappling techniques), and Karate (%5, emphasis her on the kicking techniques)

At one point I could knock over a 190lb body bag without breaking a sweat.  You got over it real quick though as the bother of picking up the bag every time it toppled got annoying.  Eventually you tuned your kick to knock it 2/3rds of the way, just enough that it would slowly wobble and then come back up.

Eek.  I am getting old.

But if Mister Landretti can do it at the age of 50, he and I went up the ranks together and got our black belts around the same time, I think, then I can get back into it now at 39.

I did go to the Preying Mantis school of Kung Fu in the Mission when I first moved here.  But I rapidly out paced my abilities to show up for class with my ever-changing work schedule.

I further demolished whatever ties I had to kung fu when my cocaine usage outstripped my desire to train.

Hell, it outranked everything.

I ended up sharing a story with Carolyn about having met a Shaolin monk at R Bar in the Polk Gulch.  I was drinking, I was doing blow in the bathroom and I was sizing up the odds of whether or not I would be getting more.

There was a man, a small Chinese man, indiscriminate age, sitting next to me at the bar sipping a Seven Up.  He inquired after the tattoo on the back of my neck, the Chinese characters for Shaolin, a tattoo I got at Steve’s Tattoo on Willy St. in Madison after I had taken my black belt test.

He asked if I trained Shaolin.  I said yes.  He asked if I went to temple.  I said no.  He asked to see my Horse stance.  I hopped off my bar stool and dropped into the stance.

He knocked me over without getting off the stool.  He pushed me over with a finger tip.

I was mortified.  I politely declined his invitation to come check out the temple he taught at and slunk off to the loo to do more blow.

I could not get his face out of my head.  I could not do enough powder to forget that feeling of failure.  When I got back to the house that night, I was living on 22nd and Alabama, I threw away my black belt.

I felt that I did not deserve it.

Carolyn likened it to punishing myself.  And that I was still, years later, almost a full decade later, still, punishing myself.

Oh my god.

She is right.

How could I not see this?  I earned that belt.  I worked my ass off.  I trained after school before work.  I would get done with classes on the UW Madison campus and head to the dojo and take a class and train until I had to go to work.  Then I would work from 6 p.m. to close.

Repeat, lather, rinse, repeat.

Add a lot of vanilla lattes to the mix.

A lot.

I drank so much caffeine I swore I kept Steep and Brew in business.

I miss training.

I think I said that already.  I am seriously considering Shaolin again.  I would like to surf.  But I don’t have a car to get to the beach or a surf board.  I would like to do yoga, but I don’t know that I am that interested in it to pursue it.

I am already, however, thinking about how it feels to do Katas and how to run numbers and how to do my blocking sequences.  I can feel how my body wants to do it again, I can feel the yearn for it along the muscles in my arms.

I want to throw a punch with beauty and grace and precision.  I want to feel the ache in my thighs again from standing in stance for so long that the muscles trembles with fatigue.

I do like to punish myself!

But what a way to get back into my body.  Kung Fu.

Just saying it makes me smile.  It’s time to do Kung Fu again.


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