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A Tale of Two Weekends

I’ve been meaning to write a recap of my training weekend in Boston with my Si Hing (older kung fu brother), Sifu Bob Rosen.  However, we had a little storm named Irma come through and kind of threw things of track.

Weekend 1

The Labor Day weekend was time I had designated to do my personal training.  A little ‘me’ time!  As I stated in previous posts, even instructors have to test, and maintain their material.  One of the vows that I made at the last test was to spend more time training with my peers, which meant that each year I would go to Boston to connect with my Si-Hing Bob Rosen. (I also tried to get my Orlando brothers to go too; Sifu Tu joined me on this fun weekend)  The end of the year was quickly approaching, and I saw an opportunity with the holiday weekend.  It turns out to be great timing for Sifu Bob because he closes the school to clean, fix, and regroup for the fall.  I know many of you are imagining really crazy ‘secret’ kung fu training that might have taken place; consisting of levitation, flaming weapons, etc.  Sorry to disappoint.  I like to go over fundamentals and delve deeper into my understanding of the forms.  We collaborated on ideas for self defense applications, technique, and practiced advanced forms that we rarely teach.  (so ok, some secret cool kung fu stuff)  I am so appreciative to fullsizerenderhave such incredible kung fu brothers that are willing to spend time with me.  I learn so much from them and feel fortunate to have such knowledgeable brothers.  Sifu George couldn’t make it this time, but he will definitely join us next time.  The Orlando crew often gets together though, and hopefully we will be able to train more often.

Per tradition, after training you eat!   Having lunch in Boston chinatown is special for us because it is so nostalgic.  I love being in Boston because it makes me feel closer to my father, knowing I am walking the path that he once walked everyday.

The best part about being in Boston? I do not have to ‘worry’ about my students.  😉  We all love teaching, but we also love kung fu.  Once you become a Sifu, personal training time requires strategic planning and prioritizing.  I had to travel all the way to Boston to get away!  I know people often think… “but you are at the Temple all day! You can train when there are no classes.”  Unfortunately, that is not my reality.  Running the Wah Lum Temple and the Wah Lum System consists of many administrative tasks, meetings, planning, etc. It is certainly a challenge and hard work on a daily basis.  But then again, that is kung fu too.

The last part of the trip consisted of a little bit of official business, but it was something I was excited to do.  I visited two new locations while in town. Wah Lum of Quincy’s brand new location and Wah Lum of Taunton’s relocated building. So proud of our growing Wah Lum Family!

 

A fun interlude for the weekend was an event at Paper Asylum, Pete K. of Wah Lum of Boston‘s pop culture store.  I did the Mulan appearance bit: signed autographs and took photos with fans.  They had a fun cosplay group out there to add to the Disney theme.  Confession: My favorite character is Ariel, and her asking for my autograph was pretty amusing.

 

Weekend 2

On my way back to Orlando I heard the news of the gigantic storm headed our way: Hurricane Irma.  I usually try to keep calm during storm warnings, because while one has to be prepared, it doesn’t help to panic.  I returned on Wednesday evening, and there was no water or gas, and the city was madness.  I started imagining scenes from Mad Max… and decide which character I could be.  First I had to decide which film… well, let’s say it’s the most recent one for our younger readers.  Obviously, I am Furiosa (based on the name alone), and O is the guy hanging off the truck playing the electric guitar. ha! Ok, I digress.

The storm grew and intensified, and by Friday I was a bit concerned… but Friday night, it started to ‘shift’ and the projections of a category 5 hurricane splitting Florida in two suddenly changed.  It veered west.  Not great either, but a better scenario for several parts of south Florida.  Then Cuba intervened.  I think if it hadn’t hovered over the northern coast of Cuba for a bit, we would not have been so ‘fortunate’.  I know several areas in Naples, the Keys, etc. had major devastation, but imagine a category 5 making landfall versus the 4/3 that hit us.  By the time it got to Orlando, it

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Jerk Salmon over egg papparadelle with spinach and tomatoes.

had lost some strength, but still made an impact.  Yes, we were without power.  (Oh no, the world is ending we have no electricity!)  However, we had running water, and that was fine by me.  O and I had a lovely candlelight dinner on Sunday, as I had a butane stove to cook our meal.  Not too shabby for a hurricane powerless meal?

 

The winds were howling at 3:00am on Monday morning, and I knew Irma had arrived.  My anxiety wasn’t for my home and possessions, but for the Temple.  I always worry about the Temple (as does my dad).  The steel building could’ve been gone in an instant, had a tornado decided to take it away. (we get a lot of tornadoes when there are hurricanes) We img_4149prepped the Temple the best we could, but honestly there wasn’t a lot we could do except hope for the best.  In 2005 during Charley we got lucky because a tornado came through and tore up the street.  Had that tornado decided to be a few feet over, the Temple would’ve been gone.

I’m certainly not trying to diminish the devastation that so many have felt, with 82 fatalities, and over 60 billion in damages and counting.  My heart goes out to all who have lost their loved ones or homes.  I can’t even imagine being on Barbuda as 90% of the entire island is now destroyed.  I was just in lovely Saint Martin earlier this year, and my heart goes out to them especially.  I feel fortunate.  I am so lucky to be in Orlando where we always seem to ‘just miss’ the wrath of the storm.  Yes, there was some damage, and yes, I was without power for 5 days.  But I had running water, food, and was able to borrow generators to keep my food from spoiling.  Inconvenient?  Yes.  However, seeing the images of entire homes leveled or floating away reminds me of how fortunate I am compared to others.  The Temple survived another storm.  We feel that the bamboo and our ancestors always protects the building.  The bamboo is flexible and sways with the wind versus causing any resistance or fighting against it.  This is something I am also trying to be better at.  I need to learn to be flexible… to flow with the wind… and hopefully I will endure as the Temple has.

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Our starfruit tree from my first blog post was a bit shaken, but we img_4235quickly gathered the salvageable fruit to share with others.

Featured image above is my ‘mantis signal’ that I sent out when the storm started.  We lost power and I started doing shadow puppets. Oh what fun.

 

 

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.

Kung Fu at Sea

Kung fu at sea is challenging. Even though we are on a relatively large ship, the movement of the ship can be felt while walking, sleeping, and most notably while training. I have always loved the sound of the ocean. It is calming to me. When we are on cruises, we usually get up in the morning to work out on deck. The sound of the ocean, the img_2351endless horizon, and the fresh air make a nice training environment. I’m a pretty private person, so I dislike the gawkers that pass by and watch or even try to take photos like we are an exhibit. I ‘politely’ let them know that it is impolite to do so, and then we resume our training.

One of the biggest physical challenges at sea is doing bai fut sow. img_2357
Holding your horse stance and rooting while the ship is moving is a special challenge, but it is fun. O and I mostly get laughed at by my father, who is often on the sidelines stretching or jumping into 360 img_2295
sweeps as his ‘warm up’. It may seem odd that I get some of my best kung fu training in when I am not at the Temple, but there are no distractions here…. No phone calls to take, no one to ask questions about the ‘karate’ we teach, or even those that still think we are a Chinese restaurant.

We used to bring our weapons on board, before all the strict security measures. Now we aren’t allowed to bring our swords with us, but we img_2341did smuggle in a fan and a retractable stick. Since the Sifu test is around the corner, we are using these few weeks to prep for the test while there are no distractions. The Sifu test is always a stressful time for all of the Sifus in the system. Every 3 years it is mandatory for all the instructors to re-certify. It is an extraordinary weekend of kung fu, fellowship, and fun. I enjoy getting together to brainstorm and share ideas, but mainly it is a family reunion. Since most of us live far away we don’t stay in touch as often as we like, and the test is the perfect opportunity to catch up. This year the test is the largest in history. I’ve been preparing the schedules, seminars, and test format while I’ve been away. It’s funny to be on ‘vacation’, but working as much as I do at home. I have to admit, I’ve gotten more kung fu training done in the last week than the last month! So I guess in order for me to get more training in, I will need to go on more 27 day trips 😉

Any suggestions where I should go next?

Performance Training

I spoke with Sifu Antonio a couple of weeks ago, and he told me how excited his students were for the Wah Lum of Brazil Grand Opening.  It was a special treat for them that Grandmaster Chan and other Wah Lum Sifus were attending.  He was wondering what we would be performing at the show, and I confessed that because of Chinese New Year, we had not planned out our performance.  As much as I loved performing growing up, I am actually fine if I do not perform these days.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why I don’t often feel motivated to perform, but part of it is that I enjoy seeing the next generation step up.  I am excited to see what the youth and newer generations put together creatively and how they execute their forms.  Throughout the CNY celebrations I sometimes considered performing if we were short on help, but then I would see the kids really flourish and push themselves to the limit. (we call it CNY pride)  So, I opted not to perform during CNY.  I learn a lot from observing and it helps me become a better teacher.

Of course it will be an honor to perform at the Grand Opening in Brazil on behalf of the

Sifu Tu with the double edge sword
Sifu Tu with the double edge sword

Temple and to be a part of this great celebration.  Sifu Tu will be doing his famous double edge sword, Sifu Oscar a mantis form, and I still hadn’t decided what to do. I will also begrudgingly admit that I often don’t decide what I am doing until I am on stage!  Improvisation is a big part of my repertoire.  Good or bad, it definitely keeps me on my toes.

Do I recommend this route?  Certainly not!  My method for training students is to drill and drill and drill their performance routines until it is engrained in their brain. It may seem odd that I do not want them to do as I do, just do as I say!  I worry that makes me a hypocritical teacher, but then I realize I had to create my own system for performance training.  Although my father was always there to guide me, I had to do the majority of my performance training on my own.   I had to drill and drill and drill until I got it right. I was also fortunate that we had a lot of live shows to gain experience. I’ve spent entire summers performing kung fu shows daily at theme parks. Not many other martial artists have had this experience. Ultimately another reason I have a flare for the dramatic, is I take after my teacher, Grandmaster Pui Chan. No one performs like he does! I have seen masters through the decades from all over the world, and while many have incredible kung fu, none of them have the showmanship like my father. Even the other masters always comment on his performances. In addition, he is always performing. On the streets in Brazil, or on the cruise; he starts talking to anyone who fish-pondshows interest, and immediately he is on stage. If they are lucky he does some kung fu moves for them too. Through these experiences, I learned the art of performing, and
not just the art of kung fu.  They really are 2 different animals!  (I never had animals growing up, except for the fish at the Temple, but they hardly count as pets right?)

 

My students are fortunate that I developed a system for producing entertaining shows.  I don’t often compliment myself, but I do believe I can put on an exciting show.  Instead of having to discover these techniques on their own, I am there to guide them and essentially give them short cuts.  Some might say it isn’t good for them, and that they should discover things on their own, but then I see them perform and realize they are much better performers at this stage of their training than I was.  In having to figure it out on my own, my progress was slow.  My hopes for my students are for them to surpass me by trillions and gazillions!  In order to do this, I combine my experiences to give them what I hope is the best system of training for their progress and growth.  Although I have been doing this a long time, I am still learning.  I am pleased that the crowd is always happy at our shows, and my goal is to always improve and challenge myself.

 

Watching the kung fu show in Rio de Janeiro that was led by Sifu Antonio was such an inspiration. I was thrilled the moment they stepped on stage. img_2316The music, the uniforms, and the performance resembled shows I have produced in the past. I was so happy to see that this has carried over all the way in Brazil! Sifu Antonio and his students captured the essence of my Wah Lum kung fu performance style, and it was excellently executed! Kudos to everyone who performed!

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It is such a unique thing to realize that all over the world, Wah Lum students are doing the same classes we are doing at the Temple, and now to see them perform the same, was a special moment for me. It makes me unbelievably proud, and it was pleasure to share the stage with my Wah Lum of Brazil family. Congrats again to Sifu Antonio on a successful grand opening and for all of the hard work these past 20 years to make the school what it is today.