My only experience in the martial arts was a three week long experiement with kung fu. I went to the class to see what it was like and to learn about the thing that took many of my friends captive on every Tuesday and Thursday night. I cautiously entered the Chinese restaurant with my friends and proceeded into the basement where the class was held. I was not fond of the huge mirrors lining the longest wall, but I didn’t mind the incense sticks that burned in little holders around all four edges of the room. It didn’t take me long, however, to learn that martial arts wasn’t for me.
My little bout with martial arts taught me a lot about myself and a lot about martial arts. In all honesty, I expected to arrive at kung fu class and find it to be easy and mindless. I would soon learn that kung fu, like all of the martial arts, requires a level of strength and discipline that I could only dream of possessing. Each person in our class came prepared to work hard and to do this they left the troubles of their lives at the door. Entering the martial arts room meant entering a new world for them. A world that required everything and more that they had to give.
Martial arts isn’t for the physically weak, that is for sure. I left feeling pretty confident after attending my first class. It wasn’t until the next morning when each step I took sent shooting pain in every direction of my body that I realized the level of torture I had done to my body. My kung fu friends said that this level of pain was normal and that eventually my body would get used to the hard workouts and it wouldn’t hurt so badly. Unfortunately, my three weeks of staggering pain were enough for me and I never made it beyond the pain stage. Sure, I had experienced pain from sports or tough workouts before, but no pain that compared to the pain I received from an hour of martial arts.
Everyone I know who sticks with the martial arts really loves it. I guess bodies begin to crave the strength and discipline that the martial arts require and so the workouts become something to anticipate rather than dread. My friends who have continued with the martial arts have developed this amazing sense of mental fortitude as well. They are able to make it through not only the hardness that the martial arts bring but also through any hardship life presents. Their classes are a training ground that teaches them to press on and endure all that happens in life.
So, while I never stuck with the martial arts long enough to fully understand them, the things I took away from my three weeks of kung fu are lessons I will continue to ponder for a long time.