At some point in our lives, all of us face challenges and frustrations that feel insurmountable, that we feel powerless to deal with. We encounter situations that knock us down and test our mettle. They test our resolve and our powers to keep ourselves together, from challenges at work to family crises. Life presents us with obstacles time and time again, and we are continually tested as every decade goes by.
There are only a few major events in life – being born, having children, and death. These are huge, life-altering events. How do we deal with them? In these times, where do we draw our strength from? Some draw strength from friends and family, others from their religious convictions. These are all good roads and methods, but sometimes they are not enough. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that these external reservoirs of strength are not always as solid or permanent as I believed. I’ve learned that you have to find some kind of inner strength. Ultimately, in order to overcome obstacles, you need to rely on yourself.
You have to have a way, a mechanism. The way that I’ve found to learn to rely on myself is through my martial art training. There are many mechanisms in life, but martial art training is the one that I have experienced that is fully balanced and well-rounded, because it challenges you in mind, body and spirit. When you are challenged in mind, body and spirit, you will have your training to fall back on. Training gives you a way to refocus your mind in difficult times, so you’re not totally consumed by what’s happening. You build up strength so that you can deal with any situation.
You may say, “Well, it’s just a punch and a kick. You’re just jumping up and down. It’s just exercise, right?” And I have to say, “No. It’s far more than that.” Those who are not active participants in the martial arts may not understand this. Only through active participation can you see what martial arts training is really about. It’s really about enriching yourself, fortifying yourself, making yourself strong enough, resilient enough and pliable enough to withstand the storm that we call life. That’s what training in Kung Fu is all about.
From the very first day that you step on the training floor, your inner strength will be tested. Your body and mind will scream, “Get me out of here!” because the rigorous training is not pleasurable. I’m not having a drink or going out for an ice cream cone. I’m doing knuckle push-ups on a concrete floor, sitting in rigorous stances for minutes at a time, being asked to throw hundreds of kicks and punches. My willpower and resolve are being tested. No one likes this at first, until you do enough and you overcome yourself. Then you start to gain that pool of inner strength. You find an energy that you’ve never had before.
Challenging yourself through training in Kung Fu actually provides you with a basis for the inner strength to face the challenges of daily life. When you’re challenging yourself, you’re making yourself grow. You may perceive it as self-torture but it’s not; it’s self-preservation. Kung Fu training becomes your survival mechanism, much as it was a survival mechanism for our ancestors. They had to use Kung Fu in a physical fight for survival, but now it has become a spiritual tool for us to learn how to survive.
Everybody has stress, regardless of their age, regardless of their socio-economic background, regardless of their education. Everyone needs a way to deal with this stress and work through it. One of these ways is through Kung Fu, because you’re challenged physically, mentally and spiritually. The practice gives you a valve to release the pressure. It makes you happy from the inside out.
The student may not understand why they feel happy after training, but they do, because Kung Fu touches your soul in a way that nothing else can. Through the practice, we turn inward to help ourselves grow, training ourselves to become stronger and better than we ever were in the past. This is the true gift that we give ourselves by participating in and practicing this art that has been passed down to us from our teachers. As time passes, and you continue to strive and put in hard work, you will see even greater gains. Even through times of challenge, you will be able to surmount all that is put in front of you and rise up to a higher plateau. You will be able to see far beyond whatever you had imagined before. The challenges and adversities in front of you are actually helping you to move forward and higher than anyone else can see. That’s the real gift that Kung Fu can give to you, and that you give to yourself through your training.