Get to know the locals

Sorry for the radio silence folks, I’ve been spending a lot more time on Google+ and LinkedIn’s martial artist communities and posting there a lot more than I post here. A sad thing; this blog must feel like a jilted mistress or something.

The subject of today is getting to know your kung fu neighbors. Sure, you can crack open a phone book or look at Google’s business registries, but that probably won’t find the private practitioners who are living far from their home schools. Let’s say that you’re a guy like me who enjoys a rousing spar with other practitioners every now and then, or just wants to have a friendly exchange of skills. Let’s say that you have experiences like mine where seemingly every local club or group is intent not on sharing or exchanging skills but wanting to brag that they “can beat up the kung fu guy.”

So what is a fellow to do? Here are two little items that work for me:

1) Talk about your passion in a public place! I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from a lovely cafe, the Java Roaster. I have great chats every now and then with some of the baristas about health and self defense. One day, the barista asked me for a demonstration of Tantui, which I obliged. A few minutes after my demonstration of the first sequence of Tantui, a young man came down from the second floor, exclaiming, “Hey, I recognize that kung fu! I practice Northern Praying Mantis myself!” Thus started a ten minute conversation about Ten versus Twelve Road Tantui. Nice meeting you, Rich!

2) Practice outdoors! Not only is practicing outdoors fun and enjoyable (though I admit that practicing in sleet or hail can be lead to some discomfort), your skill becomes its own “advertisement.” Unlike, say, a bodybuilder or physical therapist where one’s own body is an advertisement of one’s physical acumen, not all martial arts practices will generate a body that makes people think, “Hey, that guy knows kung fu.” I’m often described by my peers as being non-imposing and rather reserved. People don’t typically look at me in fear or awe, is what I’m getting at, haha.

Unlike China, where folks don’t bat an eye at seeing someone practicing various manner of kung fu and calisthenics everywhere, it can be a little intimidating at first to do so in some parts of the United States. Folks generally expect to see some slow and graceful Taijiquan; seeing even Taijiquan performed quickly and dynamically, to say nothing of other forms of kung fu, raises a lot of eyebrows. I got over my nervousness quickly enough once I realized that people were actually intimidated by me when I was practicing at the local parks or gardens near campus. Some folks have complemented me on my form and application, though no one’s asked to train with me. Ah well, at least it’s known that kung fu exists in my area.

As an aside, I do enjoy practicing outdoors more than practicing at home. For one, I can really cut loose with exploding force, foot stamps, and just plain using a lot more space. Doing that sort of thing at home leads to my neighbors being a little annoyed at the walls, floors, and ceiling shaking. I suppose one advantage of practicing at home is having my trusty cat act as a coach to make sure my footwork is as agile and solid as it’s supposed to be, haha.

And think of it this way, if you’re comfortable practicing weird physical movements in the park or on the bridge, other things like public speaking will be a piece of cake. How’s that for transferring skills?

Anyone out there had any interesting experiences practicing in public?

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