4 years ago, I wanted to learn how to fight. I'd been practicing Traditional Chinese Martial Arts for many years by that point, but had never really gotten into Sanshou. A friend of mine who was a professional MMA fighter was taking on training clients. I reached out to him, discussed my goals, and we got started training for a Leitai competition.
Over the course of that journey, I learned more about myself and martial arts than I ever thought I would. While I learned countless lessons that I value, there four that resonate with me the most.
I love Kung Fu (which is probably not a surprise to anyone since I opened a Kung Fu school). In any conversation that I can even tangentially slip in some reference to it, I will. This inevitably leads to the "Why did you choose Kung Fu?".
I'd like to say that I had always dreamed about Kung Fu, that I grew up watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and said to myself "One day…". The truth is much more pedestrian - I'd started a job teaching Latin at a high school in Massachusetts and literally next to my apartment building was a Kung Fu school and thought "This seems like a fun way to spend most of my part-time teacher salary".
At the time, I didn't know that Kung Fu (roughly translated) means "hard work". But I found out quick. Every class consisted of at least 125 pushups, 125 crunches, tons of stretching, and after that gauntlet, we'd learn some Shaolin Long Fist. For the first few months, that voice in my head saying "quit" would be on repeat. But what kept me going was what keeps a lot of us going through challenging times: the community of the school was supportive, the teacher was inspirational in a way I have not encountered in any other martial arts instructor, and I realized that, despite the voice in my head, I was blasting through barriers I had struggled against for years. I was getting stronger, losing weight, gaining confidence.
But those don't really explain why I chose Kung Fu, just why I love that school. Seriously, that place is amazing - multiple times a year, I will drive the 8 hours from Maryland to Massachusetts to train for 2 hours on a Saturday, and then drive back home on Sunday.
Why I chose Kung Fu is that I liked the person that I was becoming through its practice. I've become more caring, patient, fearless, and devoted because of Kung Fu. Regardless of what style you practice and why, we all share this common thread: we are what our practice of martial arts has made us.
Kung Fu has made me a better human being.
That's why I chose it.