Another amazing Chinese New Year Banquet has come and gone. Logan and I have attended every banquet since he first joined kung fu 4 years ago and we have always enjoyed the evening and come away inspired and motivated.

If I had to pick a favourite part this year it would have to be the lion/dragon dance along with the I Ho Chuan demo. Second would be the speeches by the candidates which Logan and I always find inspiring every year. Being a member of the sheep team this year was especially memorable because I was able to contribute to hosting this event as well as performing in the demo and the lion/dragon dance.

Performing in the Dragon dance was especially difficult for me. The physical exertion combined with some extreme anxiety at times created challenges for me. Add in a lower back issue 2 days prior to the banquet and I almost had to call it quits. Without the help and support of Sifu Brinker as well as numerous team members, I would not have been out on those mats come banquet day to perform the dragon dance.

I was first inspired to learn the dragon dance through the success and accomplishment of past team members and yet at the same time the idea of 9 people joined together with everyone relying on each other to succeed and accomplish a common goal was terrifying. Not measuring up and letting the other team members down was my biggest fear and a huge contributing factor to my anxiety. And yet it was that same team as well as others that pulled together and provided the necessary help and support to all that needed it. We really did have an amazing sheep team this past year. Thank you to all!

Congratulations to Sifu Krebs, Sifu Fuhr, Sifu Vanderham and Sifu Csillag on your new black belts. Also, congratulations to Sifu Vantuil and Sifu Regier on your black belt promotions. Thank you to Sifu Randy Langner and Sifu Yitzik Csillag for all your hard work and dedication to the dragon dance. We couldn't have done it without you. And congratulations on receiving black belt of the year Sifu Csillag.

Enjoy the year of the monkey!

Michele Ward

Alabama Reflection

I am a very fortunate person. I could spend a day listing all of the things that I have to be grateful for just in this past year. When I really think about it, I've had so many amazing opportunities, and I've also been lucky in the people I've been able to spend my time with.

We've been talking in the I Ho Chuan meetings a bit about Alabama. I sit and reflect about our trip there all the time. There's something special about a place like that. Sometimes I feel as though  it's there as a constant reminder of how lucky I am. Not only that, but it also reminds me often of how important empathy is, and compassion, and I try to apply those thoughts to the things I do every day.

I met some extraordinary people. I met them and it made me realize that they ARE extraordinary but, not because of a cape that they wear or because they're famous. They're extraordinary because they're just like me in so many ways. Just regular people, working towards their own personal mastery. And that is something that is really amazing to see. That, in itself, is worth the trip. That is the kind of person I'm working to be. And it's incredibly inspiring. 

Melanie Beckett

Difference Between Honesty and Integrity?

I was once asked during an interview "what's more important, honesty or integrity, and why?" Wow, sounds like a total 'trap' question. Is there a right answer? Is there a wrong answer? I hate these type of questions. Interviewers love messing with us don't they? On the surface it's very difficult to answer as we all value both of these traits. During the interview I panicked and choked out some cliche, ambiguous answer about how they are both equally important. But I couldn't get the question out of my head.

After doing some thinking on it, I believe I've answered it for myself at least. For me, honesty comes down to how we react to people, situations, and circumstances. If we're asked a question, or presented with a discussion, we can choose to answer honestly or not. Honesty is shown by how we communicate, how we respond, how we behave when the spotlight is on.

Integrity is.... different. It must be spontaneous and organic, it comes from within. It's how we relate to the world when no one is watching, when no one is asking, when no one is checking. Integrity is a higher, more sophisticated form of honesty in my opinion. It's quite easy most of the time to respond honestly when confronted with a given situation. It takes much more discipline and willpower to act with TRUE integrity when it's just you and the universe. How many of us would act the EXACT same way if we knew no one was watching? Or do the same quality job at work if we had no boss, no supervision, no accountability?

Personally, I find honesty comes without much effort. But having true integrity is somewhat like a "mastery" of honesty. It's an ongoing, ever evolving quest, just like mastery in Kung Fu, or mastery of anything.

Make integrity an active thought while you go about your day. Not just to strive for it, but to give yourself the recognition you deserve when you act with true integrity.

J. Kirkman

"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised" Chinua Achebe

It's In You

Guided structure is great, as it provides preconceived assurance with answers to the unknown, nudges you in the right direction, it provides a known disciplinary action (holds you accountable), without a lot of personal thought and or effort involved. It really doesn't allow for full application of effortless effort, it may lead one towards learning about effortless effort. But once the guide is gone...what's the answer from there?

When full recognition hits home that our journey is fully in our hands no matter if there's a written out agenda followed or you are heading out solo, with only yourself to keep up the momentum. We are really on our own all the way and that our journey/ life no matter the structure is truly in our own hands...we have the choice to ask for help, we have the choice to do push ups, we have the choice to blog, we have the option of eating food that is beneficial to our bodies or not. Obtaining clarity to all of that when we veer off is a different animal.

Saturday, was a day of enlightenment for me. It's difficult to explain, but there was a realization that no matter what the structure that is laid out in front of me, no matter the situation, it is all up to me; I am 100%!accountable for my actions and results. No matter what sort of challenge lies in front of me, it's in my hands, there are resources, but it's all up to me. 

Advancement is not so much about being taught, it's about learning. A self taught attitude is the mind set (still humbled and willing to accept assistance) that I feel I need to take to the forefront, rather than that of expectations of guidance to further myself. I feel this may open my mind to learn more about my ability and find further internal confidence and strength...which can truly only be discovered by myself. 

There comes that time when self enlightenment and seeking within is required to find the answers, but first is the realization that it's been coming from within the whole time. 

Darcy Regier