I’m sitting here with my grumpy cup of coffee as I watch the rain pouring down here in Chinatown. It’s a gloomy, rainy day in New York City, but inside my heart I try to always have a sunny day. I know today’s election day, and a lot of you are running around making sure to cast your vote for the candidate and issues that are closest to your heart, and I wish you all the luck. But in truth, what matters most isn’t who wins or who loses. What matters is you. Yes?

If you yourself are a miserable, unhappy individual, even if you get everything that you desire in your life, you will still have nothing. Your personal attitude and view on life is the most important thing that you can foster, develop and cultivate. This personal attitude that you carry with you wherever you go will permeate everything that you do and color all the relationships that you have. In our lives we’re going to encounter many different types of individuals and many situations that will not all be favorable. Not everyone wants you to win or succeed. Most want to see you fall down or fail, and some even want to see you curl up into a little ball and die. That’s just the way things are. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people have a bad attitude. You see a lot of people today who are extremely cynical and are always carrying a bad attitude or a bad vibration. You know how you feel when it’s dark and cloudy, and you can’t get the energy moving no matter how hard you try? Many times people carry that type of attitude and it permeates them and everything that they do. It has a tendency to malign even anything that’s good. This is unfortunate, but my suggestion is that we endeavor to have a better attitude towards life. Even though it’s raining outside, the sun is still shining from within. We all have to continue to better ourselves in order to better society at large.

You may ask me, well, how do we cultivate that positive, sunshine-y attitude? How are we going to get that perception that you’re talking about? This is a hard struggle and is different for each and every individual. There are many roads and not all of them are suited to everyone. My personal pathway is through practicing, learning and teaching the art of Kung Fu. I’ve been blessed to have an excellent mentor to help and guide me. As opposed to what many think, the art of Kung Fu is an art of personal development, defining your own personal philosophy. In fact, the other day I got a comment on one of the daily quotes that we post on social media and the individual said, basically, “Your Kung Fu is awesome but your philosophy is nonsense.” I had to retort to him and say, unfortunately you’re missing the point. Martial arts and the philosophy it bears with it are so closely interwoven that you can’t separate the two, and this is how we find the sunshine every day. As practitioners of an art of personal growth and learning of the self, we must understand the inherent philosophical attitudes, morals and warrior code that is part and parcel with our martial art training. It’s a balance of the scholar and the warrior, the sword and the pen, the heart and the body.

I was training with my teacher yesterday, and it was just me and him, a very quiet, intimate moment. We were training and practicing together, and you felt the positive vibration and energy within the room from both of us, giving and receiving knowledge and energy and fostering our growth as individuals and martial art practitioners. When you’re practicing Kung Fu, you’re not just practicing the physical aspect of the movement, but you’re actually moving all the emotions and are able to exorcise the emotional baggage that you carry (because everybody has some emotional baggage.) You pick up a lot of dirty particles because you interact with so many people throughout your life that all don’t necessarily have that good sunshine-y attitude. You pick up negativity from them, and you have to learn or find a way to get rid of it. Like in cell phone terms, they tell you to clean out the cache, that’s what you have to learn when you’re doing Kung Fu. There is a direct physical and mental connection when you practice. On the medical side, exercise produces endorphins which make you feel happy, but the practice also lightens your spirit. It’s how you practice that’s important. Surrounding yourself with positive energy, positive light, positive feelings and emotions from yourself, your teacher and the larger group that you practice with. That’s one way you derive happiness.

What I’ve learned from my teacher is to look at things differently, or at least try to maintain a proper mental attitude. As I sit here now and I polish the mirror, so there are no smudges on it, I think how this is like how through our practice of Kung Fu, we polish ourselves to a high luster so we shine. In ancient times there were no mirrors as we have today. It was a highly polished piece of bronze or copper, but it had to be maintained and polished continuously. This is what we need to remember, because some days you’re in a good mood and some days you’re in a bad mood. Some days your energy is up, some days your energy is low, but if you understand how to polish yourself through the practice of Kung Fu and maintain that healthy attitude, you can have sunshine every day, even on a rainy day. This is what we want to be able to extract from our training.

The sunshine that you’re seeking is from your own personal outlook on life, and that’s what you need to keep a strong hand upon, and not let the outside or external circumstances derail you to the point that you loose sight of what gave you joy in the first place. You have to find a way that you can exorcise or clear out the negativity that, by its own nature, is going to be put in front of you on a regular basis just because we’re alive. You as an individual must first and foremost be responsible for yourself. If you want to be miserable, go ahead. If you want to say bad things about people and put people down and cast doubt upon them, go ahead, but I don’t have time for that. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of life. The hours, the days, the weeks and the years go too quickly as you get older to waste time on hate and berating people and putting people down. I don’t think we were set upon this earth to do this. It’s all about how you spin it, how you feel, and how you feel has everything to do with you. This is what it all comes down to; it’s all about you. You can either draw and absorb negative energy and personify this, or you draw on the positive energy and personify that.

That is the way that you’re going to be able to find happiness and sunshine. It’s not only through defining your own personal philosophy, but by doing good. I think a lot of people have forgotten that you get what you put in to a certain extent. You may not always receive it directly or the way you want, but by doing good deeds on a regular basis you will receive that which you put out. You need to do good, be good, on a daily basis. It may not return to you immediately, but it’s going to add up over time. (Just as a side note, in case you didn’t know, in the pantheon of Chinese gods, there is 地藏王 Dai Jong Wong, which roughly translates as “King of Hell” or, more apropos, he is the judge that we all have to face prior to being sent to either heaven or hell. He has a book of judgment with all the good things and bad things that you’ve done in your lifetime and makes an account of them.) So, make sure that we all do good things every day. Even though today it’s raining, you can still do something good, say something nice and be a good person. It doesn’t cost you anything. You may bring sunshine to someone else’s life, but it will return to you many times over.

-Sifu Paul Koh