It would be funny if it weren’t so embarrassing, the thought of a grown man like me hoping that the teacher is going to come tell me I’m doing a good job.
By “teacher”, of course I mean “Sifu.” Lord, how I love Kung Fu. I love it a surprising amount. I know I’m a little bit of a dilettante — I love to pick things up, but I don’t always follow through. Hence the odd musical instruments that litter my apartment (and my closet).
I think and hope that this time is different. I think about Kung Fu all the time, I dream about it, I practice kicks in the hallway at work.1 I want to earn the black sash some day, I want to move like they do; I want that physical joy that comes from a well-executed kick to be a permanent part of me.
Of course, some of the attraction is having a large, strong man around to tell me what to do. I don’t mean that in a sexual way. He’s good-looking enough and he has a contagious enthusiasm, but — it ain’t like that. It’s just that he’s the Sifu.
People think that men don’t like authority and don’t like being told what to do, but it’s not true, not even when we’re young. It’s only that we don’t like being told what to do by just anyone. When we’re younger, “just anyone” is usually our fathers, later on it’s the boss — but give us someone who’s got the right light in his face, the right nobility in his movements and his words, and we’ll be all his.
There’s something in a man that wants to submit. The key is finding someone who’s worth submitting to: someone better than us, who values our love and service. We want a master, a king.
Trouble is that most men aren’t kings. It’s easy to put a man on that pedestal, just like it’s easy for some men to set a woman up as a goddess. Disappointment follows, and so do hurt feelings. Not every Sifu is Ip Man2 — heck, even Donnie Yen probably isn’t like that in real life.3
So I have to remember, when Sifu Gary doesn’t notice how hard I’ve been practicing my form, or that I managed to stay in horse stance for a very costly extra five seconds this time — Lord, how it burns — that he’s not my father and he’s not my king; he’s just a good man who can teach me a lot.
Meanwhile, I have to keep on searching for, and following, and searching for all over again, the real King. Morning Mass tomorrow. Hope I’m not too sore to kneel.