Kung Fu

Kung Fu

On a more personal note, one of the really exciting things that I do in my spare time is practice Kung Fu.   I do it mainly to help me get more exercise and keep me moving since I sit at a computer for my job (and my 2nd job, too!).

Kung Fu refers to basically any Chinese martial art, and there are a lot of styles of Kung Fu.  Just as there are different Karate "systems", there are different styles and systems within Kung Fu.  I happen to be practicing within the Northern Shaolin / Northern Praying Mantis.  I've been practicing Kung Fu for nearly a year, and have lost almost 2 pant sizes, but haven't lost weight.  For quite some time, I was pretty mad that I wasn't losing weight. BUT, a friend of mine told me to not worry about the weight, worry about how your clothes fit. I can't go anywhere without a belt these days and perhaps it may be time for some new pants. I'm wearing less of my 2XL shirts and going back to wearing my XL shirts, which is also a good thing.  You wouldn't know it by looking at me that I practice kung fu -- I don't have a six-pack, nor do I have huge muscles. BUT, I am very flexible and strong. I do not wear Shaolin Monk clothes... just a typical kung fu cotton pants and my school's branded t-shirt.

What are some of the differences between Kung Fu and other martial arts?  One thing that I've observed is that Kung Fu requires both soft and hard at the same time, it is not rigid, nor does it require completely rigid postures as you might find in some forms of karate. There are absolutely no extraneous movements and the goal is to be efficient with the moves and transitions between moves. It requires the student to be completely focused, as most of the forms have MANY moves and motions within them. Motions in terms of blocks, punches, and kicks are fluid and efficient. We don't stop at the block but often block and attack at the same time.  By practicing the same moves over and over again, we build muscle memory so at some level we don't even have to think too hard about the moves. We continually add new motions to the sequence until there are sometimes 30+ different sequences to remember for one form. Learning the 12-road Tam Tui has been an invigorating experience and I am currently working on the Lin Bo Keun.  Both of these sets build strength, stamina, and flexibility.

Tam Tui ("Springing Leg"), one of the forms I have learned portions of, involves short, springing movements in the arms and legs. It is designed to improve the agility and power of the legs. It requires fast and hard movements and incorporates both offensive and defensive moves.  If you watch one of the demonstrations on Youtube, it may not look like much.

I have become accustomed to being constantly sore and achy to the point of nearly being in pain -- because I am forcing my body to do things that it likely has never done before, and YES, it is totally worth it.  I'm in this for the long haul, and as some of my kung fu brothers and sisters say, "it's a journey and marathon, not a sprint".