First, a test. Who can name the movie?
Shifu: Let us begin.
Po: What? Uh... I don't think I can do all those moves right away.
Shifu: [chuckles] Well, we'll never know unless we try, will we?
Po: Well, maybe we could start out with something more at, you know, my level.
Shifu: And what level is that?
Po: Uh... level zero? How about that, level zero?
Shifu: [chuckles] There is no such thing as level zero.
Po: Well, what about that?
[He indicates a small dummy]
Shifu: That? We use that for training children, and for propping the door open when it gets hot. But, if you insist...
Yes, of course that is Kung Fu Panda, one of my favorite kids movies of all time. Oh, all right, one of my favorite movies, period. I cannot think of kung fu without thinking of this movie which is of course a total insult to the Chinese martial art of kung fu. And, as I learned recently, it is only a short time ago that the term "kung fu" was used for other than a description of any study or practice that takes time, patience and energy to complete. And that perfectly describes the martial art.
When we moved here in July, I brought my kids to a number of test classes including kung fu. One of my kids has been asking to do kung fu for about a year, but I couldn't find a place in Brazil that would teach kids younger than 8. My son was at the time 6 years old; he is now 7. We found a kung fu place in Concord called Wah Lum Kung Fu, about 20 minutes from here--I sent a message which the owner, Andrea, immediately answered and welcomed us to do a test class in early September when the semester started.
The kung fu "palace" is in a warehouse. It is among building contractors and who knows what else tucked behind a Stop N Shop strip mall just over the line into Concord. We walked in and were immediately greeted by Sifu Evan who is the kids teacher on Tuesday. He kept the kids from checking out all of the swords lined up along one wall, but of course that was the major appeal of our first look.
Sifu Evan is a wonderful teacher for kids--with humor-laced comments interspersed with strict discipline, he keeps around 12-15 kids quiet and inline for an hour while learning balance, strength and aerobic exercises. It has done wonders for my son's concentration--while he can't do everything asked, he does try. In recent weeks, they are starting to learn to use stick-fighting, punching gloves and to run through a circuit of physically-demanding exercises.
|My instructor Andrea and Sifu Evan, my son's instructor|
But I digress from Kung Fu Fit. While I was watching Nico, I saw a sign for a new class being offered there called Kung Fu Fit. I have never done martial arts but after dropping off the running wagon after injury, sickness and let's face it, pure laziness, I wanted to try something new to keep me in shape. And Sifu Andrea explained her creation--it is a fitness class with stretching, strength-building, aerobic activity, balance and many moves adapted from kung fu. And I said: I've got to try it!!
And I loved it. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I trek up through gorgeous farm and woods-lined roads for an hour-long Kung Fu Fit (KFF) class with one other student and our teacher Andrea. The other student is a yoga instructor and she can really hit more of the moves than I can. I am (or was) level zero.
We spend the first 5 minutes of class rolling around on some cylinders that manage to find the most sore parts inside and outside our legs. If you don't know what an illiotibial band is, that is one way to find out in the most painful (good pain, my friends) way possible. Then we do lots of lunging and skipping and aerobic activities. It is, in a word, fun.
After stripping down to cooler clothing, we stretch. I love this half-way mark stretch. We do some kung fu-ey type moves with punches and mantis fingers (don't ask--I look like I'm doing the hang-loose sign--coordination is not one of my best features) then lady curtseys and lots of horse-posing. You know: looking like a cowboy who just got off a loooooooong ride.
|Horse pose. Image credit: tribesports.com|
Then we do about 20 minutes of circuit training--usually four to five stations that we go through and do pull-ups or push-ups or rolling stuff around and leg lifts and it is great energy and tough work. But so much more fun than free-weights, you can't believe it. And we chat and laugh and groan. It is the most fun I've ever had before not being able to move the next day.
Yeah, so the day after the first class I pretty much walked like a 120-year old woman. I'd say 100-year old woman but my great-aunt is 100 and she moves much better than I was the first day. There are muscles used that I didn't know existed. A really wonderful workout for building arm, leg, back, stomach muscles. Not to mention that you have a bit of mental work as you concentrate on getting the feet in the right place, leaning weight over the correct leg, not falling into a giant puddle onto the ground.
The biggest challenge of all: not becoming the panda. The first day I left class I was so hungry I stopped at the local supermarket and bought a loaf of olive bread that I devoured on the way home. Now I'm learning to eat a bit better before heading out the door.
If you're in the area, and want to join us, we'd love a few more students. We'll let you start at level zero, even. Check it out here: http://www.wahlumconcord.com/
|photo credit: wikipedia|