Friday, May 17, 2013
My Kung Fu Hustle
Allow me a moment to self reflect on many of the concerns I have with spreading Bagua to the next generation. Feel free to follow along as I make a track to record the changes I've undergone through the years of training. Sometimes I write post for you guys and others I write them for myself.
Before my father enlisted into the military, he was the golden gloves boxing champion of Cincinnati. Although my father was a great boxer, he was an even better hustler. In fact, boxing was one of his many hustling strategies and tools. At that time a man who couldn't fight, couldn't be free to hustle. Hustle basically means, street survival through any skill or tact that you can add to your arsenal. Whether you use pool, cards, fighting, words or even music, the more skills you have, the more free you become.
My father's friend, Lee, who he met in the military was into Taekwondo. He once witnessed Lee defeat multiple people at the same time, a feat that proved often too difficult for boxing. It was this event that triggered my dad's interest for the martial arts. Being able to protect yourself in multiple dangerous scenarios gives you the confidence to live a freer life.
Years before we were even born, it was already fated, that me and my two brothers would have to learn both martial arts and how to hustle.
When I was four my martial arts training officially began. My father's training regiment was borderline abusive, but effective.
"Today you and your brother don't leave this room until you do a thousand kicks." He said to me and Aaron as our eyes widened.
" A thousand?!" We both said in disbelief. He gazed at us seriously for a half of second before my brother and I answered quicklly.
Training was never optional, but it felt like the most fun of all the daily chores. Still being a kid, I didn't like being forced to concentrate. In addition my two brothers seemed to be far better because they were older in age. Though I practiced every day, I didn't like martial arts.
I got in my first fight when I was five against an eight year old. I was finding out that growing up in a town that supported the rights of the KKK, martial arts was going to have to be a day to day necessity for a black kid. The Klan had there "peaceful" marches that were often displayed on TV. But their kids went to school with us, where they fully expressed their true feelings.
The first three times I got called nigger, were the first three fights of my life. As my martial arts skill continued to increase, so did the people I had to fight at once. If I beat one, they would come back with two and then more. This would all usually go down before 6th period. So for the sake of peace or rest, some days when I got called "nigger", I pretended not to hear it.
As I got older the frays only got more serious. In every situation I was able to use basic Taekwondo as a means of survival. I could see the obvious power of martial arts from an early age. Even though we were continually in a dangerous environment, practicing thousands of kicks a day had made us more dangerous than our environment.
I was surprised that when I came into a Taekwondo school, they weren't truly preparing for combat. They had amazing techniques and all were very applicable to combat. But it seemed that the mind of the students never left the dojang. So me and my brothers used the Taekwondo school much as a library and our real studying began at home. In short we beat each other up, so that outsiders never could.
My two older brothers were also my kung fu brothers. We helped each other prepare for possible problems that we could run into.
"If you don't snap that leg back after you kick, someone is gonna keep it." Ed reminded me while training.
"If you sweep someone on gravel, they have no traction." Aaron suggested while showing me how to sweep. As he crouched and swept with the rear leg, his shoe left a perfect black and gray rainbow on the concrete.
Though we had gotten into many fights at school, it wasn't the fighting that was really making us better. It was the practice time we utilized between fighting. Our mind was always geared toward being able to completely utilize the effectiveness of the technique. The first step was learning how to do the technique and the next step is when. However a more important question would come to me farther down the road. Why?
One day at school I turned and saw a few kids standing a few lockers down smirking at me. The look of disgust told me all I needed to know about their feelings. I didn't have to guess what they would say, "Nigger."
As they said it I put my bag down and prepared to square off. Out of no where my brother Aaron flew down the hall with a flying side kick hitting the boy in the chest. The kid slammed against the locker reaching for his breath as the other kid ran off.
"One kick and the boy never got back up." I said at the dinner table bragging to my parents about Aaron's achievement.
"Well that's what the kick was made for." My father explained. "It's hard to connect with in the ring, but easy to use over a bush."
You could say that the core of my martial arts philosophy was seeded with concepts of survival and reality. My reality taught me that I had to use the best movement for each battle, not the prettiest. But there were times when I would get in a fight and I stepped outside of myself and just watched it take place. I could see my self slip a punch just before delivering a kick to the stomach. Then turn just in time to kick the bully behind me in the heart. I finished the two off with a two-punch combination to one side and a three-punch to the other. As I ran off I would re-enter myself. I didn't fight pretty, but he end result was beautiful.
"If you chew on cinnamon gum and spit it in the eyes it's like mace." Aaron told me at the table.
"If you act scared, you delay their reaction time and get the first shot." Ed told me.
"Don't use any technique that you haven't practiced at least a thousand times." My dad confirmed.
In high school we all began doing different styles. I started teaching a self defense class at the nearby university with my brother Eddie. At this time I was also practicing various other styles from Chinese, Filipino Korean and Japanese. I felt an instant connection with ninjitsu because of its focus on survival and awareness. We moved to a much better town where fighting was no longer a common occurrence. But no matter what I was training, it was impossible to pull my mind out of survival mode.
As I walked around I counted exits, possible weapons, possible dangers, people's emotions etc.
To my surprise I was able to transfer over martial arts into my day to day activities.
"Your paper was really good Rob." My English Teacher told me. "You don't have any formal teaching?"
"Actually kind of." I began to explain. "The objective in the paper in my mind is just a form of attack or offense. My defense would be using the correct structure you taught me so I don't stray too far from the target. Every sentence is a combination of attacks that need to be fast and too the point. All combinations must come together to make a connecting strategy." I finished while noticing the confused look on his face.
"I don't know what you are doing about, but keep doing it." He smiled.
What I was finding out was that I had to keep doing it. I was clearly already addicted to martial arts. Still now that I wasn't fighting, I didn't know what I was training for.
Every Friday night there was a fight competition at the university between various martial artists. We went there often to clean up our styles and better prepare ourselves. It was basically like an MMA club, before MMA was invented. It was fun to fight against different styles and use the strategies that I had been working on.
I watched from the side and stretched as my brother was fighting with grappler who was built like a brick. Ed used a bit of foot work as he stepped back and belted him across the jaw with a roundhouse kick. The grappler stumbled to one knee and looked up asking, "Did you just kick my face?"
It turned out that most people weren't used to seeing our style of fighting. I beat up some individuals so quickly that they told me it was choreographed.
'That only works in movies." Someone from the side said. I never minded those kinds of comments...actually it was a great compliment.
Later I won a few big competitions and even became a champion. During this process I noticed I had to continually "nerf" my movements so that they could be competition friendly.
Well I knew that "competition friendly" had nothing to do with combat. It wasn't the rules as much as the situation that was completely unrealistic. What are the chances I'm gong to find an enemy in a padded room, no weapons, one on one in front of a crowd of people?
A real fight only happens when they think they have the advantage. If you are a bigger guy like myself, no one is going to find you alone or without a weapon of some sort.
I also felt that my martial arts was a gift I was given for protection and as a means of seeing more deeply into myself. It was a precious gem that God used to open many blessings in my life. It had more value than my ego or the curiosity of an audience. It had changed my life and therefore I would use it to change lives. Nothing felt more righteous than striking a man in defense of my life. Yet nothing felt more empty than striking a man for a prize.
"Fighting to show people how strong you are is vanity." I said to my brothers.
"Most people only use martial arts for military, performance and sport fighting. Even a bank robber has more purpose." Eddie joked.
As God would have it my pastor was also a serious martial artist in his time. In fact he himself fled the martial arts because he had seen too much of the darker arts while he was in China training.
"Those things they do are of an evil nature. Feats that can only be done through rituals." He said to me one Sunday.
I couldn't deny what he was saying because I had already heard stories from other masters and witnessed a spiritual connection. I knew that dragons symbolized the fallen angels in the scriptures and that the culture of martial arts or war itself was surrounded by dragons. In fact many of the styles I studied came to a halt because they were doing things no longer related to the training of the art, but some form of "ritual".
Still even then I knew all good things come from Heaven. What martial arts had already done in my life, was certainly good. Therefore I would accept the goodness God delivered to me and continued even deeper into my training.
When I was about 20 years old my training had reached a place that my progress became difficult to gauge. Though I continued to train and teach daily, I had this unquenchable desire to know more. I learned Chinese because I felt I may never reach a full understanding of the martial arts if all the information I collected was second hand.
Luckily I found that learning language was almost identical to learning martial arts. It was going to take a long time, so I might as well do as much as I can in one day. This type of attitude can burn you out on most projects, but I was blessed with such an amazing interest in Chinese, that 6 hours of study went by like a minute.
I would write thousands of Chinese characters while watching Chinese movies back to back in the library. My friends and the Tianwudao always knew where to find me in the library. As I watched a scene of two Chinese martial artists running across the water I sighed. I wondered if martial arts was inherently going to lead me to a place of dark rituals and demonic traditions.
Then it suddenly hit me that Jesus walked on the water in the midst of a storm. When they first saw him they were afraid. But Jesus spoke to them and said, "Be of good cheer for I have come."
Peter's response to this was, "If it is you my lord, command me to walk on the water to meet you."
"Come" Jesus responded.
Peter walked on the water to meet Jesus. Then he saw the wind was boisterous and he was afraid and began to sink. Jesus immediately reached out his hand, "Oh Ye of little faith, why do you doubt?"
As I analyzed this story in my mind I realized that they saw Jesus on the water and were afraid because he was doing the impossible.
After Peter recognized him, he basically says "If you are Jesus, you can make me do the impossible too."
The key being to first recognize Jesus in the situation and have faith that he can do all things for you.
Next came the key point to this conversation for me. Jesus doesn't hesitate when we ask if we can do the impossible. He says immediately, "Come."
As Peter walked on the water, he looked away from Jesus and at the wind. How many people can actually see wind? It didn't say that Peter felt wind, or experienced being blown around and started to sink. He saw wind. He saw a problem that was not even truly there. Though he was already walking on water and doing the impossible he began to look into the problems that Jesus would never allow to touch him.
After all the blunders and problems me and my family were delivered from, it was obvious we had already been walking on water. So I made up my mind to ignore the wind and fears that would never come my way and keep doing the impossible.
In Asia I began to understand all the idles that were talked about in the bible. Yes, they were all built in an older period of time, but what could have spawned such creations.
"This one here can hear every thing you say. And that big blue one can see everything you do. People make offers so that they have their protection." An older Chinese woman happily explained the massive statues in front of me. I am very open minded, but it looked identical to how....demons look.
In fact many of the rituals that should be done to "protect" yourself involved the worship and offerings of many strange creatures.
I didn't let any of that bother me though, I just enjoyed my training and made sure my focus was always in the right place. When I was about 23 I met my Master Wu Guo Zheng. I was overjoyed as I was completely smothered in all of the kung fu secrets I had been looking for. There were so many ways to power up and manipulate the body, that many would think it was witchcraft, but it was all science. By putting the body in the correct position you would be able to generate more power than what seemed to be "humanly possible".
It was so precise that it expanded my mind in the way I saw all things. I realized that hip hop, film, dance, writing and other skills continually improved along with this expansion of my mind. I read over 100 novels in Chinese and the more I asked God for, the more He exceeded my expectations.
When I asked him what he was training me for, He asked me where does martial arts come from?
I started researching heavily the writings and diagrams that my master had given me about the history of the style. I also became an unofficial translator for 20 different martial arts masters, giving me a chance to peer deeper into my understanding of what martial arts is.
All of the stories of the origin of the style seemed to always have a magical or strange introduction. It's true that Chinese history is filled with legends and tall tales that mix with the history completely leaving it unable to decipher truth. Yet what I had been learning myself in the martial arts, was so frighteningly effective, that no one could have just "come up with it".
I also discovered many of the martial arts were derived or involved in war and massive killings. Looking at all the rituals, historical killings and large stone idols, it was apparent this information was given to us through fallen angels. Another one of the many poisonous gifts given to us for our destruction.
Unable or unwilling to answer God at the time, I found myself training in the underground subway in Taipei. After 4 years of Bagua I was pleased that I was getting better, but was no where near where I wanted to be. Just then a strange-looking fellow came by,
"What are you training? Looks like Bagua." He said.
"It is." I said waiting for him to follow up on his question. He spoke English just fine, but it felt very....serpenty? He just seemed to slither around when he walked and he kept calling me master.
"I can show you real power." When he said this something in my spirit went off and I looked into his eyes. It was almost as his eyes were merely dark windows pretending to be human.
"I already have real power in Christ." I told him. As he heard the name he turned his head, but still came by from time to time when I was training.
"Master! I know some new secrets that will help you control more than just your body." He said again as I wiped the sweat from my brow.
"If it's something that God wants me to have, then He will show it to me." I said more adamant than our first encounter. He left me with some strange writings in Chinese. I approached both my master and my kung fu doctor with the information. My kung fu doctor has seen every type of kung fu that there is. If he hasn't seen it, he researches it within the minute. To my surprise he answered,
"Never seen it. This isn't kung fu related."
The third time he met me I wasn't training. I was in a cafe with Ronin talking Tianwudao business. He came to me again even more pushy than before.
"Look, I live my life for Jesus. I don't need anything else." I said quite loudly.
"Come on you can't let Jesus control your life." He tried to say calming me.
"Yes I can. And I will." I said sharply, killing any hope he had left of tempting me. That was the last time I saw him.
"Who was that dude?" Ronin asked.
"Im not sure." I responded. "But I think he was trying to tempt me into eating the forbidden fruit."
Something about the way I said forbidden fruit that continued to ring in my ears on the way home that night. Even after I finished watching TV, the world just kept rolling around. Then I pondered on how the snake tempted Eve to eat the fruit. Yet he didn't create it. In fact the devil only borrows things that God makes and copies then perverts it. I suddenly answered aloud,
"You made martial arts Father. You made all things."
In this confession I felt a rest come over me, just as a father had given his son permission to go out and play.
"What are you training me for?" I asked God again before closing my eyes.
"Everything that you want" He whispered as I dozed off.
Though we may eat freely the fruit from any tree, there are always two sides to ever coin. When you give credit to the rightful owner of your gifts they will multiply.
Martial Arts can be used for all things, just as money can be used to purchase nearly everything. Competition helped me understand fighting spirit and performance helped me learn confidence and precision. Yet there are millions of ways martial arts can be used not only practiced. In my eyes it is as if the world is using a computer like a calculator. If martial arts doesn't meet with more outlets in 10 years the very spirit of the art may pass away.
The spirit of combat goes far beyond just entertaining others or fighting a war. The spirit of combat is what gives you the nerve to talk to the girl you have a crush on. It gives you the wit to finish projects early. It is the ability to defend yourself from every type of harm.
The key being SELF- defense. If you learn martial arts to defend yourSELF. Then you must have an understanding of SELF. Who are you? What is it that you need to protect? Many martial artist have become like a gigantic safe or vault. They are completely defended and protected, but they are still unaware of the contents inside the vault. If you have built a safe that is strong enough to protect your dream, then it is your obligation to go out and follow that dream. Don't let anyone confuse you or trick you into losing sight of your goal. Train to be strong enough, to be yourself.
I fight so that I can protect the right to be ME. If I want to dance, I'll dance, sing I'll sing, make a movie, I'll make a movie. I fight so that I won't be intimidated by the winds that continually try to scare me off the path to achieve the impossible. If I don't get hired by a company, it's their loss, if I run out of money, I'll find more. I use martial arts to find the weaknesses in business and the strategy of politics. By the grace of God martial arts is my tool to hustle. And as for my next step in how I will pass on Bagua....expect the impossible.