Wrap it up. I’ll take it.

So I went to kung fu class this morning. I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since I moved to Tulsa. I have no idea how I managed to make it almost three years without setting foot on a mat. Guess it’s like any addiction: You’re OK as long as you stay away from it completely, but as soon as you get another hit, it’s all over. ;)

After some initial stretching and a few crunches and push-ups, we went right into stances, blocks, rolls, and falls.

A lot of the moves are the same things we did in karate, except they have different names, but there were a lot of stances I hadn’t learned yet, and some of the blocks were different.

One major difference is in the way we hold our hands: In karate, we usually kept our hands in fists so we were ready to punch the snot out of an attacker. In kung fu, we keep our hands more open — often in sort of a tiger-claw position — so that’s a big thing I’ll have to remember.

The best thing about this morning: I finally got the hang of forward rolls. My new sifu (instructor — the Chinese equivalent of sensei), Chris Johnston, made me do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over until I got them. And I didn’t get to start from a kneeling position like we did in karate, either. I had to dive right in from a standing position. Scary. Awesome, but scary. And as soon as I got the hang of rolling over my right arm and shoulder, he said, “Good! Now, try it with the other arm.”

D’oh!

I didn’t do that quite so well, but I intend to move the furniture out of the way in the living room and devote part of next week to left-handed zempo kaitens. (I don’t know what we call them in kung fu, but that was what they were called in karate.) I don’t do weakness, and I don’t do fear. Both got the best of me this morning, but that’ll be the last time I let that happen. If I can’t work through those claims by myself, I’ll just cheat and call a practitioner.

If anybody in Tulsa is looking for a good place to work out, this class meets at noon Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays behind the QuikTrip at Southwest Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West. It’s in the strip mall up behind the QT. Sifu Chris Johnston and his wife used to hold classes over on Sheridan, but they live in Red Fork and got sick of driving all the way across town for class umpteen times a week. The new location isn’t “officially” open, but Chris says anybody who’s interested is welcome to come in and work out for free. Once he finishes remodeling the new space, he’ll start charging for classes and holding more workouts per week. In the meantime, you’ve got a primo chance to come in and see whether kung fu is your bag.

I found martial arts to be a very liberating sort of thing. Besides being a terrific workout, it gave me a lot of confidence. Ron was laughing about it today, remembering how different I was before my first lesson. I spent 25 years scared of my shadow, afraid somebody was going to attack me. After about three lessons, I was sort of hoping somebody would try something stupid so I could test-drive my latest kick.

A few years later, I’ve mellowed considerably, but I’m still the one who gets up to see what went bump in the night. These days, I’ll certainly respond to an attack with prayer … but as far as I’m concerned, if somebody tries to hurt me, there’s no reason I can’t recognize his innocence as a child of God while he’s lying face-down on the ground with his arm pinned behind his back, waiting for the cops to show up. My practitioner assures me that we always have the right to restrain error. Beating the poor schlep senseless just for the fun of it would be considered conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist, but dealing with an emergency in a sensible manner is certainly not out of line.

Emily

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4 Responses to Wrap it up. I’ll take it.

  1. Matt says:

    Falls are very important and no martial artist would be complete without them. Keep up the good work mate!

  2. Dan Paden says:

    Hmmm. I live just down the road from where Mr. Johnston taught on Sheridan. He is, if I’m not mistaken, a long-time student of Ray Hildreth, a licensed instructor of the Hung Gar system under Buck Sam Kong, the head of that system in the Western hemisphere. You should find it interesting.

  3. Dan,

    Just read your blog entry on the subject. The Shaolin-to-White-Crane-to-Okinawan connection would explain why there’s so much overlap between what I’m learning now and what I learned in Joe Finchen’s combat karate class in Belleville, Ill. Joe trained us in a style that was principally Okinawan, but he threw in a healthy measure of judo and dashes of aikido and good old-fashioned American brawling, just to make sure we were ready for whatever happened to jump us in a dark alley.

    (He also took great pains to make sure we all had sense enough to stay out of dark alleys in the first place. He was very big on common-sense prevention — for instance, when we heard about a serial rapist who was going around town threatening his victims with a knife, Joe taught us some techniques to disarm a knife-wielding attacker, but he also pointed out that every one of the rapist’s victims had left her doors and windows unlocked, making herself an easy target.)

    Matt,

    Falling is easy. It’s rolling when you hit the ground that takes some getting used to!

  4. Dan Paden says:

    Glad you found it interesting. I’ve inflicted several posts about martial arts–and one book review–on my readers in the last several months. That they were greeted largely with silence has been no surprise–almost everything I write is greeted with it–but I’ve always hoped that my li’l scribblings on the subject would be of some interest to someone.

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