Juggling

Nope. I can’t juggle. I actually can barely catch a ball. However, I do juggle tasks and priorities all the time. Same goes for my personal training, unfortunately sometimes it has to take second or even third place in line of what needs to get done.

When the Sifu Test was approaching, I was in kung fu mode 24/7.  I even visualized my forms before sleeping!  Not that I don’t practice my kung fu consistently, but as I have mentioned in previous posts, my year is scheduled out according to my work schedule, and I go from there. This weekend, O is at a 4 day fitness summit learning a bunch of fun fitness things. So for these few days, the priority is taking care of his fitness clients and coaching his classes.  At the same time, I also have to make sure that the kung fu and tai chi classes are covered, as we also have most of our instructors out of town on vacation. This is actually pretty easy, because it was scheduled a while ago.  The tough part is when a wrench is thrown in my perfectly planned schedule.  This is what often happens with my personal training and wellness habits.  I admit there are times when I have run myself so ragged, it was a detriment to my health! I do not recommend this.  When someone tells me they have kids or too much work that prevents them from eating right or working out, I always ask: What is it they always say on the plane? (What? No one listens to the safety talk right?) Well I do, and they say: Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others! This is so true. How can I expect to help my family, cook for O, teach my students, and get work done if I am not taking care of myself?  I am basically writing this out to remind myself that it is important to eat, sleep, work out, relax, and enjoy life. So how do I do it?  Juggling!  I basically make sure that the priorities are always being rotated. (It’s the only juggling I think I’ll ever be able to do)

In tai chi we teach the philosophy of the yin and yang, the balance to life. single whipI try to follow this principle with every little thing. If I am on the computer too much, I set a timer to walk away and get off the screen. If I am eating too many delicious foods, I make sure that I am working it off at kung fu, walking extra on vacation, or making better choices the next day.  If I am feeling guilty from eating delicious foods, I remind myself that it is ok, and reiterate to myself that I can enjoy it… and feel good about it. I am sure you will notice by now that I talk about food and eating a lot.  Good food brings me joy!   So think about what brings you joy, accept it, be thankful for it, and then keep on juggling.

2017 Test Weekend
Matt, Hiep, Torsten, Oscar

The kids are all grown up!

When people ask me how long I have been teaching, and I say over 25 years, I often get a confused look.  Perhaps because I look so young! ha.  I wish!

I often think about age and experience and realize those two numbers represent entirely different things.  Just because someone is ‘older’, doesn’t make them more experienced in things they haven’t practiced.  Just because someone is ‘younger’, doesn’t mean they don’t have experience.  Reading those lines back is confusing, but basically… you know, the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover!

I have the perfect story for this that dates back to… oh maybe 18+ years ago.  I was attending the Yee’s Hung Ga tournament in New York, and had brought my students with me.  My friend was a male Sifu from Yee’s and we went to meet an uncle of one of my students.  When we arrived, the uncle immediately ran over to my friend and shook his hand exclaiming how happy he was to meet his nephew’s Sifu.  Embarrassed, my friend said, “No, no, I’m not his Sifu, she is his Sifu.”  The uncle did a double take, because as you can imagine this was about 18 years ago, so I looked even younger (lament), and I was a she, not a he!

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2017 Test Weekend – Lady Sifus
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2008 Test Weekend – Lady Sifus

 

 

I always laugh at these situations, and don’t get too offended, because this is the stereotype I have dealt with my whole life.  I am really proud that in the Wah Lum system there are several female Sifus and a good number of female kung fu practitioners.  My father is always really proud of this fact as well. *Girl power!*

Post instructor certification weekend, I’ve been doing a lot of ‘thinking about the old days’.  Perhaps this is because I had 2 students from my earlier demo teams testing together this year. (Matthew Martin of Wah Lum of Raleigh and Hiep Dang of Wah Lum of Portland)  It was a double take for me to watch them both testing together after all these years.  This was Matt’s 3rd test and Hiep’s 1st test.  I cannot believe how quickly time goes by.  On top of it all, they were fight partners and teammates for a long time.  I never imagined they would both be testing to become a Sifu and that they would even produce students of their own one day.  As I don’t have biological children, I imagine this is what a parent feels like when their kids are all grown up!  I’ve been through so much with these guys, been to their weddings, been through hard times… and now they have decided to follow the path of becoming a Sifu.  They have chosen to propagate and share Wah Lum with others.  I am proud.

I am really proud of the growth of the entire Orlando branch of the Wah Lum tree, the students that have studied with Sifu Tu Truong and I at the Temple.  Antonio Guerrerio of Wah Lum of Brasil, who has been traveling back and forth to the Temple for the past 20 years.  Torsten Landau of Wah Lum Germany, who has been spending his summer training with us for the past 9 years. Last but certainly not least, Oscar Agramonte, my husband who has taken the word partner to another level with being not only my husband, but my partner in Wah Lum.  (not an easy task)

I look forward to watching them grow as instructors and meeting their students. I look at all the members of the Wah Lum family and am overwhelmed by the growth of this tree with so many branches.  All from the seed that my father planted.  He took the teachings of his Master and brought it to the USA to share with the world.   I like to remind my students that they are part of something so much bigger than just the classroom they are standing in.  Somewhere in the world there are others lining up to ‘bisan‘ and start their kung fu class just as they are.  How cool is that?

Torsten, Matt, Hiep, Antonio
Torsten, Matt, Hiep, Antonio

 

 

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What is a Sifu?

Some people ask me what my typical day is like?  Nothing about my life seems very typical, but I do have a routine.  Usually, my routine is filled with the thought of show planning, trip planning, or scheduling for the Temple.  However, on the ‘off season’ (who am I kidding, there is never an off season at Wah Lum) I do have some conventional days.

A normal day would be waking up around 8:00am, doing some exercises, making a fabulous breakfast,  (have I mentioned I cook?), and then getting started on my ‘work’.  A lot of people think all I do is teach kung fu.  If it were that simple, I would be a stress free and happy individual.  For those of you that own your own business out there, you know how much this entails.  Looking at the bigger picture, I also have meetings and collaboration with the other schools in the Wah Lum system.  Sometimes this includes traveling to different schools and doing seminars, shows, events, etc.

I could ‘complain’ about all the boring business work I have to do, but instead I thought I would share some of my reflection about the Sifu Test a couple of weeks ago.  A lot of people think that the test is just showing your physical capabilities.   The test is more than just an evaluation of your skills.  Yes, we do a LOT of forms, weaponry, and application, however a deeper part of the test experience is the camaraderie, the philosophy sessions, and spending time learning more about one another.

I highly recommend anyone in the Wah Lum system read the RED philosophy book of translated lectures by Grandmaster Pui Chan. In this book, he reveals the SECRET OF KUNG FU!  Just kidding.  Well, not really.  I’ve read the book several times, and each time I read it I learn something new.  Whenever I read about the traditions or the philosophy of kung fu, I take away something new.  When I read it in preparation for the test, the main passage that struck me this time, was the definition of a Sifu.  Here’s an excerpt:

“It is possible for you to get married and get divorced several times in your life.  However, once you become a disciple of your Sifu, the relationship is binding for the rest of your life….We know a lot of incidents in the karate circle where a guy get his black belt, then he leaves the school, has a quarrel with his instructor and open up his own school…. to the Chinese the relationship between a Sifu and his students is binding for the rest of his life. When you become a disciple, you promise to take care of your Sifu for the rest of his life…The same way as you would treat your own parents, that is how delicate and involved the relationship is between them.”

I’ve read this several times over the years, and each time I read it, I am a little sad.  This was a lecture from the 70’s, and at that time, my father was just starting to develop advanced students.  In the 1970’s, he had only seen examples of other styles that had disrespected their Sifu, and became self proclaimed Grandmasters of their own style.  The worst part of the ‘creation of the own style’ isn’t just the disrespect and lack of true understanding of what being a kung fu practitioner is, but that they don’t actually ‘create’ anything.  They are still using the teachings of Wah Lum and even doing the exact same forms.  Some people think once they learn Wah Lum it is ‘theirs’ and they have the ‘right’ to do with it as they please.  Kung fu is personal.  Each practitioner has their own relationship with kung fu.  While one certainly has the right to develop their kung fu or tries to be a better practitioner and person, one does not have the right to propagate and teach kung fu without permission from their Sifu.  My father structured what was already an incredible kung fu system with the ability to grow.  However, being as open as he was in teaching all who wanted to learn (many of you have seen this part of his story in the documentary Pui Chan: Kung Fu Pioneer) he also encountered those that would disrespect the system, the teachings, the lineage, and worst of all their Sifu.  It is interesting to me that those that leave their Sifu think they know more than their teacher to the extent that they are now the Master!  How little they seem to understand about traditional Chinese kung fu!  Everyday we recite the teachings on the Wah Lum kung fu altar.  I try to live by these principles in the classroom, but also in my daily life.  And yet, there are some who just throw it all out the window and try to preach to others what they do not practice.  I get so frustrated, and never understood how or why my father would continue to be so open, and how he could continue to share his beloved art after the repeated disappointments by students.  He told me, “I know who I am, and what is right; they know who they are.”  I am learning to accept this as ‘the way’ and the right way…but the other side of me wants to yell to the world who they are, and what they are.  I am still learning.  I am still a student.  I will keep trying to practice control.

So, what does it mean to be a Sifu?  My father always says, it is more than a certification, and more than just having students call you Sifu.  I listen to his teachings and I learn more as time goes on.  To me, being a Sifu is living by the principles instilled in me by my Sifu, and trying to uphold the true tradition.  I will treat my Sifu as my parent and take care of him for the rest of his life.  However, I know I am lucky, because I have the best Sifu of all time that actually is my parent.

 

Disclaimer: Remember, I do not claim to be a writer. Ignore and excuse grammar issues! Thank you!