A Journey of Gong Fu
Enter the Baby
This is my story to put it simply. I am going to sum up in a number of blogs the journey of what has now become ten years of martial arts. I realize that as soon as someone sees the words ‘martial arts’ or ‘gong fu’ or its western counterpart ‘kung fu’ they immediately expect the great words of a wise old master. On that note I may disappoint. I am just a student of Gong Fu although I am knowledgeable to instruct the basics concerning what I know. I have passed on a good deal of what I have learned to a few hand picked students during this decade including my own daughter. If you seek the wisdom of a master than go and find one. However, if you feel like reading about the serious hard work that is not without its ingredients of pain, blood, sweat, and the persistence of hard f*#king work that would become one man’s journey then stick around. I will not pretend to give wisdom but perhaps through my story I can inspire one or two people to do something good for themselves then this will be worthwhile.
My formal training started on January 17th, 2003, just a few days before my 31st birthday. At the time I was living in Southern Alberta, Canada, and it was about as cold a winter as it can get. Now, leading up to this I had thought about martial arts for years but I just did not know where to start. I did not like some of the external styles I had been introduced to while growing up. My body was also in a stressful situation with the lower back injury I had sustained in September of 1992. Over the years I had tried exercises to work around the damage but it was still there. I was in pain a lot of the time. My lower back swelled up like a water melon if I had to lift anything or if I just wanted to walk from one end of the shopping mall to the other. It hurt to walk let alone do anything else but I had learned to live with it as a normal part of my life.
I liked the demonstration of tai chi chuan and eventually I picked up a video of the Yang style long form which I played with for a few years. What really intrigued me was when I discovered in the late fall of 2002 that there was a sword technique that accompanied the tai chi form. I had a fascination with weaponry. So I googled martial arts stores in Calgary, AB, and chose an outlet called simply the Dragon’s Den. I sent an email inquiring about any available information concerning this style. Within a day the owner responded that there was a good video by Dr. Yang Jwing Ming on Tai Chi Sword Classical Yang Style. I wanted it so he went ahead with the order. A few weeks later it came in. I made the hour drive into Calgary to the Dragon’s Den completely excited. I did not waste any time purchasing the then sixty dollar video. I remember asking the owner what manner of sword I would use for this. I had no idea. I made the comment about going to the House of Knives store in the Chinook Mall and buying the biggest Scottish Claymore. He kind of chuckled and said that one required an actual tai chi sword. I had no idea that tai chi had its own specially designed sword. Where would I get one of those? He smiled and indicated that there were some hanging on the wall on the other side of his office. He showed me a cheap practice blade that really did not appeal to me. I had no idea they would be so petite in thickness. Their length was ideal but the width appeared almost fragile. Definitely not the broad viking or Roman weapons of Europe. He explained to me how the tai chi sword was not designed for hacking at an opponent or crashing metal on metal. At that point the owner reached to the top of the rack to pull down a silver and black tai chi sword. He pulled forth from a black wooden scabbard to reveal a very nicely tempered piece of steel. His next words resonated as he confided in me that this sword was his baby. I could tell that he meant it because it glistened with oil. The price of this one was almost a couple hundred dollars. It was a Paul Chen tai chi practical training sword. I held it for a moment pondering to make a decision. One thing kept nagging at the back of my mind. If I was going to learn the sword than I wanted to invest in a weapon that I could be proud of and not some cheap design. It took a few moments and I let the owner go about his business while queried in my own mind. I waited patiently until the gentleman was finished with his next customer. When he turned back to me I grinned and told him I wanted the Paul Chen, the one he referred to as his baby. I could tell he approved as he wrung the price up.
A few moments later I walked out of that store with video and sword in hand heading for home. I would play with the techniques provided on that VHS tape for the next four months. You may notice that I had not started my formal training yet. At this point all I had was some inspiration as well as some focused motivation but I would discover soon enough that there is only so much one can learn from a video. There comes a time in our journey of hard work and daily effort when we need some incentive to really get going in the direction we should be. Sometimes it happens in ways that we cannot begin to understand until we look back with the realization that there was a pattern to what appeared to be madness at the time. Bare with me, because there would be a key event that would be the deciding factor that made all the difference in the world.