I spent two hours last night tearing through every bit of pack-rat nonsense I’ve hung onto since grade school. I found everything from my middle school BFF’s only squeaky-clean discipline card to my award-winning 4th grade short story about a poet and a dragon.
Why did I submit myself to dust, belly button lint and mouse droppings for two hours?
To find my inner tiger!
My senior year of high school, I decided that I wanted to get fit, learn some self defense and have a little fun. I joined what was then called Tiger Kung-Fu Academy (now Zai Martial Arts Academy). It was a huge part of my life until I started college the next year. I joined a leadership program that involved advanced classes, assisting instructors in beginner classes, and even teaching after-school programs for elementary school kids.
I also did Chinese Lion Dancing (mostly the cymbals, but sometimes I got to be the lion’s butt) and weapons demos, such as the Golden Dragon Fan form.
Yeah, that’s 18-year-old me in 2001. That was me ten years ago.
I’ve missed martial arts, so I decided to sign back up. It’s part of my quest for mastery, which is the same reason I’m training for a marathon. In a few years, I’m going to be 30, and I want to stick with something long enough to get really good at it. My brother used to say, “If I had spent half the time I wasted on World of Warcraft doing something productive, I could have a black belt by now.” (I think he’s redeemed himself, by the way — he’s a pretty kick-ass sheriff’s deputy with a beautiful family.)
Besides, who can argue with functional fitness — strength, flexibility and self defense?
I walked in today as they were starting their Little Tigers kids’ class, intending to sign my ass up for a white sash, start over from scratch.
“So, have you done martial arts before?” the instructor at the counter asked.
“Actually, I used to be a student here. Like, ten years ago.”
“Oh really? That’s pretty neat. What rank were you?”
“I think I had just started my purple sash*.” (Actually, I was about halfway through it — that’s why I had to dig through all my crap yesterday, I couldn’t remember for sure what rank I was!)
*Purple is like 3/8ths of the way to black, so it’s not terribly advanced or anything. In the words of the instructor at the counter, “That’s when you’re starting to think you know something about kung fu!”
I didn’t feel very purple at the time. I stuttered, and my hands were cold, and I was anxious about whether any of these guys were instructors 10 years ago and if they’d be offended if I didn’t remember their names. I couldn’t even remember what the first basic form was called, let alone how to do it.
It’s Ng Lun Ma, by the way. This is the feet-only version:
Anyway, an awkward chat with Sifu (sifu is to Chinese martial arts what sensei is to Japanese ones; he’s the head instructor and owner of the school) and a few pages of paperwork later, and we’re pulling my uniform from the wall.
Sifu grabbed a purple sash.
“Uh, Sifu,” I protested, “it’s been ten years. I feel like a beginner. I don’t know if I deserve this.”
“You earned it,” he said. “Next week, let’s schedule some private lessons to get you up to speed. You’ll pick it back up fast.”
All I can say is, I’m glad I found my notes. I might spend most of this weekend practicing on my own so I don’t look like a total noob next week.
Also, how weird is it that I can refer to stuff I did 10 years ago, and I’m still more or less referring to my adult life? Getting older is strange.