In transit again, this time outside Kung Fu. I like sitting in my car and typing away. Maybe this could be a start of one of those famous Neurotic Writers’ Habits, like how Graham Greene would sit watching license plates until he saw the right number combination, and then he could write. Maybe eventually I won’t be able to write except in my car. Then again, who wants to be Graham Greene? Brrrrr.1
It’s been over 8 months since I started Kung Fu. This has been a year of sticking to things, notably KF and this blog. Sal says the first thing he ever followed through on was his Kenpo training, staying the course until he made shodan. Now it’s a permanent part of his life. I hope Kung Fu is a permanent part of mine.
It’s also the longest I’ve stuck to any specifically physical pursuit. I’ve gone to the gym on and off since I was maybe 15, but never for more than a couple months; and back then what inspired (or goaded) me were the Men’s Health magazines I pored over at the library. I wonder how much damage those rags do to the minds and hearts of men everywhere. They certainly didn’t do me any good, filling me with envy and unhappiness that spilled over into lust before I realized what was happening.
I used to swim sometimes, and that was pretty good, but it was lonesome; the only thing it had in common with sports was the physical exertion, but it lacked in all other ways, which is to say, most of the important ways. That must be why it didn’t stick.
Kung Fu is different, because it’s not about sculpting myself into a god — although it does feel great to see how abs have appeared out of the formless void of my gut, how my legs have hardened and bulged, all without my particularly thinking about it — but about striving, running the race, learning to move with grace and strength and confidence; and, maybe best of all, doing all these things in the company of others.
Walking into the school today I will say my habitual Hail Mary, a guard against the anxiety that dogs me whenever I’m around more than two other people, and a quick prayer to St. Joseph to look out for me, to silently cheer me on and to infuse my heart with strength, like a good father does. I’ve felt his encouragement more than once, in the middle of a particularly taxing stance, or at the end of the twentieth Temple Punch.
I feel a greater sense of community here than I have at any parish. Does that say more about me, or about the state of the Church? Probably both; or maybe it’s just easier, more natural,2 to feel community with people when you suffer physically with them, when you sweat and groan and laugh together.
But even this takes time. I’m rarely comfortable with people I’ve known for less than a year, or maybe less than five years. Still, I’m more at ease than I was my first class, when I was so nervous and eager to be liked that my smile started hurting. People here are not like the people you meet in most places. They bend over backwards to welcome you, shout encouragement, give you high fives; until you internalize it so you can do it for everyone else.
If it sounds like a class full of little league coaches — well okay, so it’s a chance to be seven years old again, only with significantly less terror and confusion.3
D’oh, it’s time. I’m here an hour early to stretch with the other early birds, because I’ve made an informal promise to myself to get the splits before I turn 30, which leaves me just less than a year. St. J, put your hand on my shoulder — right there, thanks — I’m going in.