By Christian Downes
Kung Fu is not a sport to me; Kung Fu is a martial art form that helps to define who I am and the man that I want to become. Shaolin Kung Fu has a rich history of Chinese culture that dates back to the 5th century. I identify strongly with my Chinese heritage and I’ve always been drawn to learning more about Chinese culture and tradition. When I was seven, I took my first Kung Fu class at the Shaolin Temple. I didn’t know then how it would end up shaping my life.
When I was seven, taking class was an incredible challenge for me. The movements and the language were foreign to me; at times, it was so physically strenuous that I wasn’t sure that I could endure it. I went to class five to six times a week, and I never missed class. Over ten years later, I am at the performance level and I teach the younger students.
I have learned many life lessons from all the Shifu’s that I have practiced with over the years. Kung Fu is about the unity of strengthening the mind, body, and spirit. Discipline is required in order for a person to reach their full potential. I learned that respecting my Shifu and my classmates was a way to respect myself. Working with others is an important aspect of Kung Fu. Learning a group form requires that movements be coordinated so that you move as one. If one person behaves irresponsibly, it negatively affects the other group members.
Kung Fu has taught me that you must have the fortitude to keep trying your best even when you feel your worst. I have learned that it takes more courage to walk away than to get into a fight. Kung Fu strengthens the mind and body to work in sync. It’s an art form that teaches you defensive fighting skills, but it also calls on you to consider the ethical consequences for your actions. I would never start a fight, but I know that I need to be prepared in case there is no other option than to protect myself.
Kung Fu is a humbling experience. There were times that I needed extra help, but I never gave up, no matter how hard it was. Kung Fu has shaped me into becoming a stronger, more confident person. It has helped me to accept challenges and to not be afraid of adversity. I am not afraid to lead, or follow, and when I put my mind to it, I know that I have the discipline and determination to achieve my goals. Kung Fu has taught me that true strength and power comes from within myself.