Day 48: The Man and the Retreat

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I’m going to have to go on a very brief hiatus over the weekend and will be back on Tuesday.

If I could I would type and write until I wore my fingers down to the knuckle. Writing in this blog daily has done incredible things to help me sort my emotions, move beyond the initial hurt, and remain hopeful for growth and change.

Recently I have not really thought much about the events and people involved that brought me to this point. I have been too busy looking forward and enjoying this new creative drive. It has been amazing to witness the ease with which so many words now pour from my fingers. When I started I was so out of practice that simply trying to find a message was difficult enough!

But this journey is two-fold. I have been working on taking care of my mind and sharpening the sense of my writing, observation, and reflection. It is equally important to take care of my body. To remind myself that a little sweat and a little struggle can do a whole lot of good. To feel the sun on my skin and feel the natural breeze, not the one from the office vents.

It has definitely been difficult to find a way to adapt and negotiate my way around the craziness of my work schedule. Being on the road 90% of the time nowadays I do not have the luxury of familiar surroundings and routines to keep me balanced and in check. When I am finally back home on the weekends I am so consumed with the desire to spend time with family and friends, share stories, catch up, indulge, that I lack the incentive and motivation to do otherwise.

At least Pokemon Go has me walking to hatch those eggs. And I am fortunate that almost every hotel I stay at during my travels has some form of make-do minimalistic ‘fitness center’ that I can spend an hour in each night. But it does not replace where my body craves to spend its energy and effort. An elliptical does not speak to the blood that flows through me. For that, it has been, and will always be, my martial arts.

I have been studying and practicing martial arts for the past 19 years. I spent 12 of them at one school studying ba gua zhang and I’ve spent the past three at the school I am currently in learning a system that teaches a combination of eight traditional styles (kung fu, kung soo, ba gua, yudo, tai chi, aikido, the eight fundamental weapons, and kendo separately).

Jackie Chan.gifLike many Asian kids, I grew up watching Jackie Chan films. He was the one who inspired me to start learning kung fu. My father, who studied in the Philippines, was happy to help me find an authentic school that would teach me true martial arts, vetted by practicality, philosophy, and authenticity. I was ecstatic when we found my first school, then a small group that simply rented a space from a dance studio and taught authentic ba gua zhang, an internal style of kung fu (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender). I studied there for 16 years, progressing from the children’s classes to the adult, only stopping when I had to go to college and could no longer attend regularly.Aang.gif
During my 4 year hiatus I continued to practice what forms I could remember if just to retain the muscle memory and the flexibility and strength. After college I went through a particularly difficult time relationship and identity-wise, and what helped bring me back to center was my martial arts. I sought a new school and a new teacher and found the school where I am currently. My background helped me to rise fast and my hunger after being starved for so long of new material and techniques propelled me forward.

Before I began this new job I was attending practice four nights a week and every Sunday. I would then go with a friend I made at the school into the city and continue with more practitioners in Chinatown.

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This is in fact a picture of the school where I now practice.

Martial arts has provided me with more than just a more dynamic and useful way of keeping in shape. Yes I have had to use it on occasion in the past and yes it has prepared me to be able to protect myself and those around me. But more so than that it has always provided me with a moral and philosophical foundation to living. True martial arts begins in the mind. It begins in the way you think. It has provided me with discipline, sincerity, benevolence, and bravery. Through my studies I began regularly practicing meditation. Developed a more level head. A keener sense of awareness. I admit my old school was a bit too traditionalist and isolationist. My new school is much more open and interested in other styles and schools. Through them I have been able to become a more active member of a community I did not know even existed. A community of truly dedicated and committed martial artists practicing mindful, authentic kung fu. I have been able to meet and practice with some incredibly gifted martial artists. I have developed friendships and relationships that center around one key fundamental interest and it has allowed all of us to improve with our continued interactions.

Both schools have had a regular tradition of taking one long weekend in the summer to take a retreat and focus solely on practice. It has been a yearly occurrence I have made sure never to miss, negotiating work, play, family, friends, and relationships around four days in August.

That is where I will be this weekend until Tuesday. That is what I am currently, in between paragraphs, packing for. Just the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, contact case and solution, soap and shampoo, and clothes for changing out of each day. No cell phone, no laptop, and therefore, no blogging.

This retreat is as much about the physical aspect of martial arts as it is about the mental. We will spend time meditating, practicing, practicing, and then meditating. It is a true retreat from over-stimulation and indulgence. The most authentic and traditional form of practice we can recreate. A temporary but all-encompassing immersion in the art. I don’t know yet what we will be focusing on but I am excited to learn and spend more time with my kung fu brothers and sisters.

I am looking forward to this yearly opportunity once more. I cannot wait for us to hire more people in my department so that I can spend less time on the road and therefore more time at home and at my second home, the school. My body has sorely missed the sensation of struggle and growth. My body and mind are ready, eager, and willing.

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Too bad DailyPost doesn’t give previews of the next days’ prompts though. I hope I don’t miss anything good!

See you all on the other side of the weekend. Until then, take care, and don’t forget about me!

Day 48

Man: 32 Loneliness: 16

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