Kung Fu, Part II: Kwoon, Sweet Kwoon

Last post, a reader wondered whether it was okay to do martial arts for the wrong reasons, and imagined that “BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME” might be a wrong reason. I tried to set him straight. Today we take on this part:

I always favor amiableness over confrontation, to a fault…And while I’ll readily admit that I could stand to toughen up some, I also see a lot of good things in my peaceful nature. So, while it seems prudent and valuable to be capable of self-defense, I don’t actually relish the thought of fighting itself.

My reader does not watch enough TV. If he did, he’d be familiar both with the Arrogant Kung Fu Guy and with the Martial Pacifist. The former wants to beat you up to show how badass he is; the latter shows how badass he is by not beating you up — unless he really, really has to, and then look out. Like Tony Jaa here:

See, he didn’t want to do that! But that dude was bad news.

So, don’t be Arrogant Kung Fu Guy. Be the Martial Pacifist. It would be better if, say, your loved ones were never threatened by somebody who would only respond to violence. But if that happened, it’d be good to be capable of effective violence.

But since my reader is probably not predisposed to be Arrogant Kung Fu Guy anyway, I’ll add that my initial and current reasons to do Kung Fu are mostly not fighting-related. I do it because:

  • I love my Kung Fu family. I spend more time with these people than with my actual biological family. We laugh together, suffer together, fight together, smell horrible together, and occasionally even karaoke together. If it were just about me and getting Kung Fu Skills, I doubt I’d last a month.
  • It feels great to feel this great. For the first few weeks, Kung Fu class made me feel like a volcano. I’d let out war cries all the way home, because I had to get all that good feeling out somehow, or my head would explode and splatter magma all over the interior of my Jetta. It didn’t last — my body got used to the endorphins, or whatever — but it still makes me feel great, and I can’t imagine going back to sitting around all week.
  • It feels good to be strong. I’m proud of myself and my muscles. I’m not cut or ripped or jacked or swole, but I am strong, and I look strong, and I feel like I look strong. That affects the way I feel all day long. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to the gym to get bigger, but martial arts builds muscles that you actually use. I just turned 30, and I’m in the best shape of my life.
  • I belong here. Kung Fu has been making up for a lot of the stuff I missed. I felt invisible in high school, and it feels awesome to be greeted with happy shouts when I walk in the door. I was a skinny, awkward kid, so it feels great to move with strength and grace. I used to be scared of doing any kind of physical demonstration in front of people, so I get a huge boost from performing in front of the class, or giving and getting hugs and high fives after a sparring match. My real family, like most, screwed me up in about as many ways as they blessed me. Kung Fu helps fill in those gaps and right those wrongs.

In the last few months I’ve discovered the joys of sparring, too. They don’t call it a martial art for nothing: I’ve never hit a home run, but it can’t possibly feel more magical than the first time you try Drawing the Bow or Rising Sun or even just a simple feint during a real match, and it actually works. That’s fire, that’s glory!

Sifu Gary and me, after I ran "the gauntlet" for my 30th birthday.

2 Comments on “Kung Fu, Part II: Kwoon, Sweet Kwoon”

  1. Ryan Gooseling says:

    Bro, that’s baller

  2. Mary Lachapelle says:

    And you, dear Joe, are a sweetheart and that just makes it easier to accept you and like/love you. The room feels empty on the days your not at class! You’re doing great. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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