Even if they don’t stick with martial arts forever, hopefully kids will look back on their training with fondness and be able to access physical and mental tools that they can use to make their own lives better. So if you want your kids to be strong, well behaved, and grow up with the right moral values and steadfast confidence, Kung Fu training is one of the ways to do this.
Form is a “multi-vitamin,” constructed by ancient masters who had immense amounts of experience with fighting, both in actual one-on-one combat and on the battlefield. Imagine the mindset of refugee generals, commanders and soldiers reflecting back upon their battlefield experience. At that time, fighting wasn’t from a distance; it was one-on-one, up close and personal. These were battle hardened veterans recounting what they had learned, trying to distill it into a vitamin pill that someone can take and learn from. This was their nuclear weapon; they weren’t just going to give it away. They hoped the practitioner would be intelligent enough to be able to decipher the form and take off the encryption. This is the origin of form that many people do not understand.
Forms provide multifaceted levels of training. Like peeling the skin off an onion, learning form has many layers. Form allows the practitioner to train basic postures, stances, and methods of attack and defense. Another layer is training through breathing exercises (Chi Gung) that allow you to access your power through the breath. In addition, form forces you to do movements in a range of motion that you may not normally do. Most people are not astute enough to be able to separate the different types, or layers, of training involved in form. What is used for physical conditioning, for internal training, and what is the actual martial component? To discover these different layers, the practitioner must spend a lot of time studying the form and be under the direction of a competent teacher.
Most practitioners that want to learn Asian martial arts can’t understand because they are trying to understand an eastern art with a western mentality. You have to be able to change your mind or you will only learn the esthetics without being able to grasp concepts. Many look at form like a dance movement. They lack the mental imagery that’s required to be able to see the physical martial language behind every movement. In a movie, the director has to see every character’s role clearly. You must do the same in your study of the form. The characters are the various techniques, body positions, angles, types of force (hard or soft, linear or circular) and how they interplay with each other. The interplay determines how you’re going to use your technique. The form is an extension of the practitioner’s mindset.
A form is like a song. As the art of Kung Fu is incredibly broad in spectrum and technique, it’s difficult to practice each movement separately; there aren’t enough hours in the day. Therefor, the ancient masters put many movements together into a form that was easy to remember. It is easily carried forward, practiced and passed on, like a song that gets stuck in your head. This allows the practitioner to remember, study and practice many techniques, all rolled up into one convenient package. As you continually practice your form, it gets internalized, and hopefully over time it becomes instinctive and reactive.
Form is a multi-vitamin from the ancient masters. But a multi-vitamin cannot replace all your meals. In addition to training form, the practitioner must work on all aspects of Kung Fu, from two-man training to sparring to striking sand bags, etc.. As one aspect of a multi-faceted art, training form is a method to study and deepen your understanding of Kung Fu.
For centuries, the Chinese culture has used Kung Fu to train people in mind, body and spirit, yet many of today’s martial arts schools overlook the mental and spiritual aspects of training. They sell only the “look” and the “kick-ass” part of martial arts but ignore the philosophical and disciplinary component. Because of this lack of education, and saturation by the media with other forms of martial arts, people today don’t understand what Kung Fu is.
Many teachers and students get caught up with the physical and forget that Kung Fu is a pathway to self-empowerment. The physical aspect of the art is actually a very small part of Kung Fu. It’s an art of the mind, of the body, and of the soul. When you play Kung Fu, you touch your soul.
Kung Fu has many philosophical and spiritual benefits that other physical exercises don’t have. Some of these benefits include increased focus, self-awareness, self-confidence, self-respect and self-discipline. So many of these benefits include the word “self” – why? Because your Kung Fu practice forces you to come face to face with your “self.” This is not always easy, but it is always worth it. The self-knowledge that you gain through your practice allows you to become a better version of yourself.
Kung Fu pushes you, challenges you and focuses you so that you can empower yourself. While everything else in our modern society tries to deflate you and bring you down, Kung Fu practice elevates you to where you’re supposed to be, where you deserve to be, so you can enact your true potential. Find the best version of you, through the practice of Kung Fu. What are you waiting for?
The reason why Kung Fu is so amazing is because everyone can do it. When I say everyone, I mean everyone – from little kids to soccer moms to business people to captains of industry. Kung Fu is not restricted by age, gender, background or physical or mental capabilities. It’s open to everyone. It’s so broad in its spectrum that anyone who practices it can come away with something that’s good for them. When you practice Kung Fu, you feel like, “I did it, and I feel good about myself.”
I can’t promise that you’re going to become a Kung Fu master in 90 days, but if you train only two or three times a week, after a few months you will feel happier, healthier, more aware and more focused than you ever have. You will become more toned and fit. You will become stronger in both mind and body. You will be challenged and feel happy with what you’re doing. The Kung Fu practice is a vehicle for you to better yourself.
Whoever you are, Kung Fu is for you.