My Choice

Over the weekend we at Cambridge Kung Fu had our 2013 Tai Chi Summer Camp. It was amazing! It also over one day really helped me to clarify how I see my life right now and how I see it progressing into the future.

My Tai Chi Summer Camp experience started a day late as I was finishing off the second Summer Camp we were running for the Kids Programme on the Friday. Arriving at Ferry Meadows I was a little apprehensive. The last time I had trained with these men, two years ago, I had broken down in floods of tears in front of them due to an infuriating inability to punch softly but with power. Fortunately my journey on the way down had been absolutely hilarious courtesy of my traveling partner, including getting lost on the many, many roundabouts that Peterborough has. So despite my concern of a repeat performance I felt ready to begin.

Once we were there and had gotten all of the, “Oh my god I haven’t seen you in ages how are you?”s out of the way we got down to training; starting with Tim running us through his adaptations of the first section of the endless river. Tim Waterschoot is an instructor from Belgium who, among other things, teaches Escrima and Tai Chi. He’s also been training since the age of 7 and has a wealth of experience to add into his current Tai Chi training.

What I loved about him taking us through the form were the many different martial applications he could think of for us to use with some simple movements. He also gave me some really good tips to help in my own personal development as my strength lies in making the form ‘look pretty’ and not necessarily in the more martial aspects of it.

What really struck me though was his willingness to stop and listen to me in case I had anything to add, as I had been training in Integrated Kun Tao for longer than him. It really reminded me of something I had read once telling me that there is no ego in martial arts training. Tim, as a much more experienced practitioner, was prepared to listen to me, and I, as a senior student, was eager to take his feedback and advice to improve my own training.

This realisation set the tone for the rest of the Summer Camp for me and I no longer worried about looking like I didn’t know what I was talking about, deciding to put aside my ego and settle firmly into learning as much as I could while having loads of fun.

Unfortunately that Saturday the weather wasn’t quite so supportive and we had to relocate to a nearby Martial Arts School to carry on with our training. This training turned out to be with live blades (for those not in the know, live blades means sharp! EEK!). I would be lying if I said the thought of waving a live blade around didn’t terrify me to the point where I felt rather sick, but taking a deep breath and heartily embracing the advice to go slow, I started practicing the various drills.

My partner for this particular part of the day was Kenny (also over from Belgium) and he was fantastic with me. When it comes to drills, like the ones we were running through, my main fear is that my lack of control will lead me to cut and hurt my partner. However I reassured myself that everyone in the room with me had been training with weapons for much longer than I had and that given the choice I would happily trust any of them with a live blade working with me as a partner.

Again I needed to put my ego to one side to be able to get the most out of what people were telling me. So my footwork’s good, great, but it could be better. So I’m quick, awesome, but my knife and stick control is sloppy. If I’m not willing to listen to this because I’m too attached to the image of me being a graceful demonstrator of the form, I am not going to develop at all as a martial arts practitioner. Part of the training is discovering where your limit is, where your fear and your poisonous ego lurks, staring them in the eyes, and telling them to bring it on. Once I’d done that, what we were doing was actually a lot of fun (never mind the fact that by the end of the day my heartbeat sounded like a hummingbird and I’m pretty sure my adrenaline levels were fairly unhealthy!).

Rounding the day off with a meal and a drink with everyone was just the icing on the cake. By the end of the meal I just wanted to go home. Not because I had had enough, but because my face hurt so much from all of the smiling and laughter and my heart was full to bursting from the good feelings that came from everyone who respected each other so much being together in the room.

I may be waxing somewhat lyrical about this Summer Camp, but here at ‘Fu Central’ summer is a pretty extreme time for us. I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time it was my turn to head to Peterborough; ready to see the bad in any word, in any action. But I choose to surround my self with friends and training partners who are a positive influence on my life, who bring nothing but laughter and support with them. Because of them it is much easier to make the choice to see the good, the well-meaning behind feedback given, the joke behind a serious face, the joy in the training despite the fact that it is tough and sometimes nigh impossible.

A good friend told me that it is easier to believe a single insult than it is to believe a thousand compliments. Now, speaking as one of the many, many people that has experienced low self esteem, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. But I also believe that is a choice we consciously make, we can choose to see the truth in the compliments, to take them as they are meant. We can choose to allow the insults to wash over us, acknowledge the hurt they have given and then let them go.

With my training I have two paths to choose from; stay as the graceful dancer or accept that things are going to be hard to learn and demonstrate but to do them anyway. Only one of these paths allows me to evolve and while I am sad to leave behind my dancing life I choose to evolve as a martial arts practitioner. I choose to embrace this crazy, busy, emotional roller coaster of a job, because to choose any differently is to lie to myself and keep me floating and stagnating in one spot for the rest of my life.

This job has led me down some scary personal development and I can’t lie and say it’s been easy, but it has been worth it. But it all starts with just one choice to see the good. What’s yours?