Monday, December 23, 2013

Lessons from Sifu Tony

I took my first kung fu class on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago. It was the same year as the Thanksgiving breakup I mentioned in the last post. Since I had just flown to see my family for Thanksgiving I wasn’t able to go back again for Christmas. Couple that with it also being the year of Adele’s amazing, but gut wrenching album, 21, I knew I was going to have to get busy and distract myself to avoid drowning in despair. I mean, who really wishes their ex “nothing but the best” anyway? Like Miranda Hobbs, “I’m much more: We didn’t work out, you need to not exist.”

At any rate, I had wanted to try martial arts for a while. A colleague of mine suggested kung fu. Given my dance background he thought the aesthetic of the Chinese tradition would appeal to me. It turns out that it did. For about five months I went to a club a couple times a week. It was a small group of us, a couple of kids, but mostly adults. We practiced in a warehouse space just like in the cult classic movie and a personal favorite, “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon.” You know, even though Vanity was the pretty love interest of the flick, as a kid, I always identified more with Bruce Leroy. He was quiet and unassuming but possessed extraordinary power within. And as I mentioned before, it was a difficult time and I needed to tap into my power. So, here are several lessons I learned from my master, Sifu Tony Brown.

1.       Never fight in someone’s style unless you’re better than them.

This has to do with effort qualities. If they come strong and direct, change your approach. Become fluid and indirect. The reverse is true as well. Do not fight like another person unless you know you can beat them.

2.       You are a scholar first, then a warrior.

One of the forms I started to learn was called 26 Fists. It’s all about the scholar/warrior salute. The lesson here was to remember that we’re scholars first.  If you can talk your way out of a conflict, do that. But never forget you’re a warrior.

3.       Know your vulnerability.

Regarding self-defense, if someone grabs your arm, pull away where their hands open. That’s their vulnerability. This highlights the importance of knowing your own open doors and entry points as well as your enemy’s. If you know them, you can exploit them to your advantage. Without this knowledge, you’re vulnerable to danger.

4.       Sometimes stillness is harder than movement.

There’s a stance called Mao bu, or horse stance. Essentially, it’s just a squat or a lunge where you remain half seated/half standing. We would begin class by taking this stance for upwards of 10 minutes. It was a test of endurance. Sometimes being still is harder than forward movement.

5.       Don’t let anyone steal your power.

I believe the most profound lesson I gleaned from Sifu was a comment he made in passing one night. I don’t recall which series I was learning but we were working on punches. He looked me dead in my eye and I felt like he was prophesying to my soul. He said, “If you learn how to do this, you’ll always be able to protect yourself. People will come up to you and then back off because they’ll see something in your eyes. You’ll never be a victim again.”

Even writing that out sends chills through me. These lessons and many others spoke to the deepest part of me because at the time I did feel like a victim. Someone I loved did something awful and I couldn’t do anything about it. But as it says in Proverbs 24:16, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up.” And I did.

My tutelage under Sifu Tony was cut short because I moved out of the area. I’ve wanted to resume kung fu where I am now, but my schedule doesn’t permit it. Whether I continue kung fu in the future or not, I will always remember Sifu and other masters and healers who came alongside me during that season and restored me to wholeness. So to Sifu Tony, wherever you are, I say to you, joy gen. I don’t know the exact translation but from what I remember, Cantonese culture doesn’t do goodbyes. Joy gen is essentially I will see you next time.

So until the next post, joy gen…

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Every kiss begins with Kay

Around this time about two years ago, I was mentally planning my wedding. I hadn’t gotten an official proposal. But I did have the man and we had had serious discussions about marriage.  Now before you think I’m one of those extremely presumptuous women that strong arm men into proposing, I can assure you I’m not. He had pledged his love and I was so certain that he was proposing soon, that I started looking at wedding venues while visiting family at Thanksgiving. Never did I imagine I would get a Dear John letter, or phone call, as it were. That’s right. I was dumped during the holiday season.

Perhaps there are no good times to end a relationship, but I can say for those of you who want to part ways with your partner, the holidays are the worst time. Why? Well, there are the obvious reasons like family coming together and celebrating. That’s hard to do when you’re bleeding inside. But worse than that are the endless jewelry commercials aimed at getting guys to buy an engagement ring and pop the question by Christmas. And what’s the worst one? Every kiss begins with Kay. I mean, I can’t blame a jewelry company for just doing their job. They’re actually quite effective because that stupid jingle is still in my head. I just remember during that painful winter of 2011-2012, that jingle tormented me. I believed I was so close to a happily ever after. I was going to be one of those women who managed successfully to land a guy who wanted to spend forever with me. The love story was nearly complete and then it was all ripped away.

There’s a lot more to the story. I imagine I’ll share pieces of it in future posts because that breakup was a defining moment in my life. I want to share more on what the healing process looked like and how I made meaning from the pain. But for now, suffice it to say that healing has occurred and is still occurring in my life. I can see a Kay’s commercial and not weep. I don’t have to fight the urge to throw something at the TV either. I can remember the pain. I can still feel it if I think about it long enough. But it doesn’t overwhelm me anymore. I can breathe again.

For those of you who are hurting this holiday season, especially because of lost love, know that it won’t always be as bad as it is now. Your heart won’t always ache. You will eat again, sleep again, smile again, and laugh again. There is a loving God who is intimately acquainted with your pain. He knows the exact number of hairs on your head. He knows your thoughts before they are fully formed. He sees your tears and collects them in a bottle. He wraps you in His arms and quiets you with His love. He knows His future plans for you and they are plans to prosper and not harm you and plans to give you hope in your final outcome. It might be too dark right now to imagine a better tomorrow and that’s okay. Trust Him with your present pain and allow Him to soothe it. Do that daily, until one day you wake up, it’s two years later, and you’re whole enough to offer these words of encouragement to someone else.
So until the next post, may you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers and gets along well...(3 John 2).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Me Getting in the Arena


I guess I’ll begin this blog like I did my very first tweet. This is me getting in the arena. I have long avoided social media. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose I can thank my mom for instilling a healthy dose of paranoia in me- you know, those loving, cautionary reminders that anything you put in writing and on the internet is out there forever. While that is true and I think lots of folks need that reminder, what that message did for me was scare me into hiding. Now, I love my mom and I certainly don’t blame her for my reticence to enter the public forum. There’s a whole host of personal insecurities and life experiences that I can thank for that. What I will say is that it’s taken me a while, but now, as a 30 something year old woman, I’m ready to take a risk and be seen. I’m ready to share my ideas even if they’re critiqued. I’m ready to be my authentic self and hope to be rewarded with meaningful connections to other people.

So, who am I? I should probably mention I’m a professional counselor. That doesn’t make me an expert or a know it all, and no I’m not analyzing you. My profession does afford me a practical skill set of being able to connect, as well as offers insight into human nature. I’m also a Christian. Not a “Jesus on my neck-a-lace, -ace” (Ke$ha) kind of Christian, but a compassionate, sincere one. My faith informs everything in my life so that will be the underpinning of most of my posts. You were warned.

Lastly, in this blog I hope to speak to soul matters, the stuff that gets us at our core. I'll offer stories and ideas that have inspired me. They might be sad and painful. They might also be funny and joyful.  I want to share ideas from the perspectives of both a friend and a co-journeyer. I want to meet people where they live. Most of all, I want you (whoever you are) to connect with my words and somehow, through the time and space that separate us feel seen, heard, and understood. It’s quite an ambitious endeavor but I’m up for it.
So until the next post, may you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers and gets along well...(3 John 2).