What We Do

I have a memory from elementary school that is as vivid now as the day it happened. I was a kid that befriended anyone, didn’t belong to any one “click” but wandered as I pleased and I feel like I was accepted by most in this role. I remember one day at recess I was with a few friends, one of which I considered my best friend. I don’t remember the circumstances but I do remember the girls I was with started picking on another girl, calling her names, pushing her to the ground. I was young, I didn’t know what to do but I knew instinctively that it was wrong. But I didn’t do anything about it. I stood back and watched it happen with wide eyes and later when this girl reported what happened I was named as one of the girls that was bullying her. I remember being called into the office, the incident went on my report, my parents were contacted and I felt so ashamed but I also felt it was unjustified, it was not me! I didn’t do it!

This was before Kung Fu but I still had the understanding that it was wrong. I just didn’t know what to do and even if I had I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to my best friend and risk the fallout. 

When I see all the kids lined up in front of me I can remember what it was like at that age. Nothing was more important than acceptance from my peers. When I was older I remember being on the other side of the fence but it never bothered me. It just didn’t bother me if someone didn’t like me and I always knew that they’d come around or just quit. I had good friends and I felt secure in who I was. No one else could tell me who I was.

What do we teach? Too many just see the kicks and the stances and the pushups and the punches. They are only tools. The physical skills that we teach and develop are only tools to teach real Kung Fu, real self defence. In our lessons we encourage personal excellence, and make sure we acknowledge the big and little milestones alike. The words we use will never break a child or student down. We ensure we build up confidence, the real kind of confidence that comes from competence. Not the phony kind that stems from low self esteem. We teach the kids to love themselves, and if they can’t in the moment then we will for them. We temper this with a drive to always improve because no one is perfect. We’ll be excited for them at the things they achieve, especially if they’re too shy to be excited for themselves. We will accept them for who they are in each moment.

Do we teach kids how to handle conflicts and bullys? Every day. You may not hear the term or even see the dots in any given class. Given time these kids will not only have the skills to deal with conflict, but they will also have the conviction to do what is right but hard, the passion to excel at what they love, the confidence to admit and accept their faults, and the determination to never quit trying to improve. 

I know now that I was rightly named and I acted no better than the girls directly involved. It felt horrible in my heart but I did not have the skills to handle the situation. As a result I feel shame when I think about it. If a child has a similar memory when they’re an adult, I want them to be able to think about it with pride instead of shame. This is what we do in Kung Fu.

Khona Rybak

Ordinary

We all have our sense of normal. This is what makes us unique. No two people are exactly alike. Some are proficient at one thing while other people are proficient at others. Some people seem fortunate enough to be naturally adept in anything they try. Why is there this perception? It seems true, does it not? The truth is, these people are just the same as anyone else. There are things they excel at and things they suck at.

The real difference is, they engage in everything they do. When it comes to what they are not as naturally good at, they engage just a little more. They accept the fact that they are lacking, but do not settle. They ask questions, they put in the effort to truly figure out what they need to do. When they come across adversity, they do not give up, wipe their hands of it and move on to the next thing. They try and fail, try and fail. They have the confidence to keep going until they have the competence to do it well. These people are masters of their own life. They are in control of everything that happens in their lives.

Even if they are not in control in the literal sense, they make changes and adapt to minimize the circumstances that are taking the control away from them. This does not mean to control everyone's life around them, just their own. If the affect of maintaining control over their own life affects those around them, that is simply an after effect. It is usually and preferably a positive effect that encourages us all to remain calm and in control. Masters of life are ordinary, just like you and me. 

I too one day hope to be in control of everything possible in my life, it is my life after all. If I am not in control of it, how can I possibly help others when they are struggling to get control of theirs?

Dan Sollinger

Cycles - "From Chaos, Comes Order"

We set goals, we make plans and we allow for adjustments along the way. Then life happens! And suddenly we are in a state of chaos. Even with adjustments and the ability to compensate we can be easily thrown off track and derailed. Being proactive and having a solid yet flexible plan is a great start. However, even if you know that something is coming and are able to prepare, the reality while in the moment can be much different.

Chaos is a natural cycle of life. And if you were to think of chaos as being contained within a circle then there would also be creativity, rest and action. Order and even greatness can come from chaos if we follow the intended natural progression below:

1. Chaos - When we are in a state of chaos we need to declutter, clean, simplify and say no to anything that is not necessary. Doing this will help create space and allow you to move out of chaos into the next step.

2. Creative - Space has now been created for ideas. Capture those ideas by writing them down, contemplate, filter and prioritize. Pick 1 or 2 to action later and then transition to the next step.

3. Rest - Take time for yourself, let the ideas percolate and allow synchronicities to happen. Allow gratitude rather than guilt to be present. This is a very important step and is needed to help rejuvenate the mind and body.

4. Action - You are now ready to action your ideas. This is where the magic happens!

If I look at patterns of my own life I can see where I sometimes get derailed and lose some of my motivation. I often go from chaos straight to rest, skipping the creative aspect which then keeps me stuck in rest because I now have nothing new to action and I lack motivation. Many people go from chaos to creative and then straight to action without stopping to rest causing them to burnout and often ending back at chaos.

I'm excited to apply these these principles and recognize where I am at and what needs to happen next. And when chaos reigns and plans get derailed I have a new tool to add to my tool box and help guide me and get me back on track.

Namaste,

Michele Ward

Returning to the Path

It's easy to assume the infamous thought of "That won't happen to me". Anything can throw a person off no matter how solid or how committed we think we are. If you begin to take the situation for granted and fail to uphold the discipline, next thing you know your standing there like a jerk on the side of your path wondering what just happened and a key component has dissipated. A few weeks turns into a few months, a few months turn into a year etc.

This has happened to me and I never thought it would, but it did, and now I need to do something about it. I recognized that a big part of my life took a back seat to priorities that came about and for some reason I was okay with that...at the time anyway. Now I'm not okay with it because my Kung Fu is a big part of my mental and physical well being that gives me that escape, to turn all the other stuff off and take that time for me. I'm not as efficient as I usually am and my patience and tolerance is challenged, as is my physical abilities. This effect has become obvious to myself and others close to me, it's time for a restoration and a quest for balance.

That being said I need to remind myself that it can't be all or nothing. It can't be some intricate plan laid out that spikes and drops and fails to coincide with whatever comes at me. As it's always mentioned sustainability is critical. All or nothing or hammer the drive solely on the plan doesn't work and is not sustainable especially with how my work schedules tend to work out. One day at a time and keep it simple stupid will be my plan for the year of the pig and restore a very important piece of me that has been neglected, but not forgotten.

I can't even really describe how good it felt being back on the mats and working towards the restoration of Kung Fu awesomeness.  I woke up really happy and really surprised I'm not as stiff today as I thought I might be but there is no denying the gears of excellence are a bit rusty and I need a performance upgrade and a good solid review of my forms. This is a good thing.

It can very intimidating walking into the kwoon after a long absence but fortunately for me I was met with warm greetings and a lot of smiling faces, and that was really cool as it humbled me quite a bit to know I was missed and the influence my presence has on people. For that I am very grateful and wish you all a successful year. See you at the kwoon.

Brian Chervenka