Monday, November 3, 2008

Orange Crush

It is no longer an object of fancy for your humble Narrator; I finally got the call to the big leagues, to wear the orange robes, and no, I couldn't wait to try them on, as evidenced by the photo above. :)

It has been a mighty struggle for me, especially from the time I blew out my knee to not passing erluquan during testing six months ago. Well over a year had transpired since I finished erluquan, and I had to find ways to understand why I needed to be in Level 1 for another six months after not being elevated to Level 2 this past April. Of course, one can always polish and refine what one has learned, and one can become stronger, but the challenge also became a mental one.

Mainly, I had to fight to maintain my motivation. This was not about going to class and having Shifu motivate me with his barking. Rather, this was about me pushing myself, in spite of myself. I have witnessed several of my dearest friends who started after me get to Level 2 ahead of me, and while yes, I know it's about the individual journey, and not comparing yourself to others, most of us have enjoyed success in our lives largely due to a competitive sense. I wanted to be able to train with my brothers and sisters, learning new things together, like we used to. I admit to feeling traces of jealousy at times when hearing my fellow dorks discuss new moves. I felt bad for feeling simultaneously proud and envious of them for progressing through subsequent Level 2 forms while I remained stuck on erluquan. And so, when I cried like a baby after last certificate ceremony, it was for a multitude of reasons, none of which were hugely attractive.

But I had to keep reminding myself that I'd get there eventually. Maybe it'd take me a little longer than others, but I needed to keep plugging away. While I was recovering from my knee injury and couldn't train and missed my friends for two months, I remember thinking, geez, I can't wait to train kung fu again. Just to be able to caijiao and mabu again with my peers would be a wonderful thing! And it goes to show that it's not about how high you kick, or how fast you fly, but that you're doing it, and you try and try again to do it better. The action is meditation itself -- it's not about what you're doing, necessarily, but the doing itself.

We see people come to train at Temple with varying skills. Some so very amazing and lithe, others needing much training. But we judge not how well people do in terms of ability, but how hard they try, vis à vis their expressions of chi. I hope, for me, that ability to express my chi never dries up. As long as I can move my body, I hope to keep moving forward.

Thanks to all of you who've been so supportive. I am so glad to have had you along for my ride. All week long before yesterday's ceremony, I promised myself I wouldn't cry again, yet surely I did, but at least this time they were tears of happiness. I was one of the first Kung Fu Dork bloggers to write; I am the last of the bloggers to move to Level 2, and to that, I say, better late than never!

So, in five minutes, I shall depart my laptop, and jump on the subway, for what will be my very first Level 2 class, which promises to be scary and fun and challenging. I cannot wait to train harder, to learn new things, and to continue forth with the next chapter of my journey of getting to know myself.



  1. we need to make more pumpkin desserts to go with the uniform

  2. It's not the destination, but the journey and it sounds like you had a wonderful one. Congratulations and I'll see you Level 2 Wednesday!


  3. Congratulations Ellen! You made it!

  4. Funny... I read this on Saturday and thought... I'm sooo glad we don't have testing at the Graz ST! Then I went to training to find out they had testing that day in Vienna, and we're going to be testing soon, too... And thanks to your posts, I think I'm less scared than I would usually be...

    Congratulations on level 2 robes!

  5. I have to be honest Ellen I was tearing up too at the certificate ceremony. I know how hard your struggle has been. I watched over the past year how you trained as hard as you could until your knee reached it's limit and then you stepped to the side of the training floor and did your physiotherapy exercises. It's so frustrating knowing that you are capable of so much more than your body is allowing at present.

    I had knee surgery years ago that forced me to stop training too. I remember my dreams being littered with Kung Fu fighting, as I layed around icing and elevating, as if my recovery were manifested in a KF warrior fighting for honor and redemption. But the only thing I could do was ride a crappy stationary bike for a few minutes everyday. After several months I went back to my school to pick up my training where I left off. I nearly broke down in tears the first time my knee buckled because it wasn't stable enough yet. I tried a few more classes after that but I new my ambition would probably only result in reinjury, so I put my dreams to rest. I left me school and doused the fire inside.

    It wasn't until much later that I decided to visit my old sifu's teacher in Boston. A master who we would visit for seminars twice a year and who sent his top students to our school for seminars. Just being in his presence feeling the his humble yet overwhelming chi rejuvenated the fire inside me. I realized that training was and is a part of me and without it I am not whole.

    I started training on my own, brushing off the cobwebs on my memories of class and exercises - stance training, strength training, balance training. In so doing I noticed that my knee had found its strength which fueled my fire that much more. It was at this time that my path in life lead me to NYC.

    I knew even before I finished unpacking I needed to find a new master and I knew exactly who it would be...

    That test for you as it was for me was not just a test of how well we had practiced our forms or basics, it was a test of our will and our utter inability to give up on ourselves.

    So if along our journey I tear up a little the first time you land a xuanzi or stick a xuanfengjiao its because I know how many leg raises and ice packs and hamstring curls its taken to get you there and I couldn't be more proud.

  6. thanks for all the nice comments, everybody! i certainly would not have made it without you.

    and lucas -- wow! thanks for the super long, very sweet comment -- we have lots to be proud of, and i look forward to sharing the trials and tribulations of level 2 with you.