Kung Fu Virtue of Strive

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Today I joined a distinguished group of brothers and sisters. I joined the instructor program at our School to help develop a deeper appreciation for and understanding of Shaolin virtues. Today is the first day of the rest of my life striving to improve myself and to contribute towards better health for my community.

Funny how I got on this path.

I’m really just a mom, a recovering Tiger Mom if I am to be honest. I just wanted to get my kids into something good for them. I just thought, gee, I’m bringing them to a martial arts class every week, if only they ran an adult class at the same time, I’m here anyway, might as well. I just wanted them to practice with their class more than once a week so I started bringing them in twice a week. I just wanted to offer my help to the kids class for that second day. And then BOOM. I find myself signing up for the instructor program and I am now a Junior Assistant Instructor!  Me, little ole beginner me.

At the instructor workshop, Master Dao served us traditional Chinese tea and then we each selected a Shaolin Virtue to focus on. I selected Strive, or the Shaolin Virtue of continuous improvement: having the willpower to always work on being better at everything: physical strength and flexibility, mental strength and openness, emotional maturity and calm. I have much to work on and I am looking forward to becoming a better version of myself, moment by moment, step by step, day by day: a better mother, a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister, a better aunt, a better friend, a better colleague, a better me.

Striving is not about winning.  Striving is about being earnest.  Striving is about stretching. Striving is about doing my best.

Today I focus on: Strive.

Back from Hiatus

Never again!  Never again am I ‘taking a break’ from Kung Fu classes. What was supposed to be a decision that should have alleviated scheduling commitments to lessen stress this past summer has turned out to be a slippery slope back to bad habits!

This summer, we decided that we would take a break from our weekly Kung Fu classes, you know, to leave weekends open to go do other things (some quite legitimate things).  However, as a total beginner Kung Fu practitioner, I really need my weekly class to keep me motivated and on track.  Without it, I did not have enough self-motivation to do my meditation, stretches and forms… Luckily we started up again this September and my body remembered enough to get me back on track.

I’ve already told my instructor that I want to be that 80-year old woman who can do Kung Fu and the splits.  (The good news is that I’m almost able to do the splits!)

 

Good Stress, Bad Stress

Like cholesterol, there is good stress and bad stress.  Bad stress brings fear (of failure) and disruption (to your health).  Good stress on the other hand, comes from challenging ourselves, which in turn, helps with our development and growth.

The boys have been going to their Kung Fu summer camp this week at the Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute.  Initially, they were a bit stressed by all the practice and how hard Shifu was pushing them.  Then, two days into it, something clicked.  They felt stronger, more focused and leaner.  They were proud of their stances, they were fast and strong and eager to perform!  The stress brought out the best in them.

For me, as a new driver (at 46 no less!), I noticed that I was feeling stress when driving on the highway.  Initially, I didn’t realize that my body was stressed.  When I noticed it, I became aware of how much I was concentrating to do the right things: merging, watching the big truck in front of me, checking for pedestrians, slowing down…  A few days into it, something clicked.  I felt more aware, more confident and more focused.  I was proud of how much I improved, and at the same time, understanding that it was still going to take a great deal of practice to be a good driver.

Good stress: makes you better!

Bad stress on the other hand comes from toxic relationships, lack of constructive communication and constant unknowns. Bad stress causes frustration, anger, confusion and ultimately hurts our health.  There will always be unknowns in life, but we all need to work harder at improving our relationships through communication… or removing ourselves from relationships that hurt us.

Bad stress: makes you sick!

It is up to us to see what kinds of stress we are under and how to address them: rise up to the challenge and develop… or get out of the situation quickly!

Film Review: The Angry Birds Movie

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Today the boys and I watched the Angry Birds Movie. I thought for sure that it would only be a fun experience for my little avid gamers and that I would be rolling my eyes through it all, but surprisingly, it was a movie with heart (on top of the obligatory doo-doo-doo-doo Angry Bird diddy and mandatory slung-shot birds knocking down green pigs).

The story starts with Red having an anger problem, so he was made to take an Anger Management class with a new age yoga instructor voiced by the very funny Maya Rudolph. Ironically, I’ve been spending the past year working on controlling the anger that I experience when I’m under the daily stresses of being a working mom. So when the story got to the part where his anger was celebrated, I had to take a pause and figure out how I felt about that as a moral of the story for my young boys. Do I want them to think that acting out in anger is ever right?

After a few moments of mulling, I realized that the answer was a resounding YES!

Taking your anger out on innocent people is not right. That needs to be controlled; we definitely all must have some self-discipline when it comes to that kind of anger. But anger directed at the right things can motivate us to do heroic acts.There are many things for us to be angry about in this world… and taking a stand, being a leader… risking ourselves to do what is right, is a message I’m cool with. I think I’m going name this Anger Discipline: be angry with what is wrong with the world then do something about it.

There were lots of funny little bits and pieces – I could hear the boys giggling (and even laughing aloud) through it all. The violence was pretty much reflective of anything any Angry Birds player would have already seen… so it’s not excessive, maybe goofy from time to time. Plus Peter Dinklage’s Mighty Eagle’s old school music was an extra bonus for this 40-something mama!

3.5 stars outta 5

It Was a Cold and Wintery April Day

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Under normal circumstances, on a freezing Saturday afternoon, I would much prefer to stay cozy in my nice warm house, maybe read some books, clean the washrooms, or do some blogging. However, it was already well into April, it was sunny, and it was time to get serious about getting outdoors again. So, the boys and I muddled through. First we got out the bikes.  Wouldn’t you know it, Aiden’s bike was too small for him, Alec wanted to scooter instead of bike and my bicycle hadn’t been touched in (we won’t mention how many) years… it needed a lot of pre-work to get it road ready. So we went back home and tried again. The boys got out their scooters and I dusted off my rollerblades… and we took off! Well, my 46-year old ankles protested quite loudly and the boys by then decided that they wanted to play in the big park – too far for my rollerblading sore ankles to allow. So we turned back again.

One complained about how cold it was, how numb his face was getting, and how much better it would be just to go home. The other one complained that if he and I went to the park, the other one would get to play video games at home, which of course would be totally unfair.

I couldn’t help it, I roared at them and declared that we would all dump everything at home, we would get warm hats and scarves, we would walk over to the big park, and darn it all, we would play in the park!

We first popped into the recreation centre and played a bit of ping pong to warm up. Then we went to the playground.  It was full of optimistic kids and parents.  We ran around, pushed each other off the balancing thing, and climbed stuff. We had a LOT of fun!

Thanks Kung Fu for giving me back the energy and inclination to run around outdoors in the freezing park! Next goals: 1) Get outside every day regardless of weather, and 2) Rollerblade around the lake!

That Was Then, This Is Now

Now halfway through my second term at Kung Fu class, I can look back over the past 6 months and say, ooh, I see some good changes!

Relationship with Food

Then: I used to literally be on a SEE FOOD diet.  I mean it.  I see food, I want it.  I see food, I eat it.  I see food, it calls to me.  By name.

Now: Since starting Kung Fu, I’ve managed to break my terrible habit of raiding the fridge around 10 pm for leftovers and eating surreptitiously with one ear listening for my husband’s footsteps coming down the stairs. My meal portions are still largish, but I am proud to say that I no longer eat after dinner.  It’s just ‘not something I do’.

Relationship with House

Then: My relationship with the disaster zone I call home has changed.  As soon as I saw the mess that faced me when I came home from work, I would roar at my husband and the kids: Why are there socks here? Why am I stepping on legos? Why is this pile of papers still here from 3 weeks ago? Why is there dust on this shelf? Why am I the only one who cares about cleanliness around here?!?!?

Now: After half a year of beginner kung fu and a little meditation, I can honestly say that my anger button has retreated slightly.  I still want to roar and on occasion I still do roar, but the thoughts that go through my head are more like: aw, dinner smells great, hey, the boys look so happy, ooh, the laundry is done! maybe I’ll do some organizing or cleaning this weekend.

Relationship with Saturday Morning

Then: Once upon a time, I dragged myself out of bed to get the boys to their Kung Fu class.  When I first started my class, I would wake up each Saturday wondering if I had a good enough excuse to skip class, but I really couldn’t because I had to get the boys to class and my commitment to their health was a priority.

Now: I eagerly look forward to the torture that our instructor wants to put us through. I do my best and I don’t compare myself to others in the class.  As a side note, we are getting new students every week, young, in shape and strong classmates.  They push me to be better.

Relationship with Class

Then: I was so embarrassed all the time, not being able to finish class without sitting out, not being as good as I knew I could be. The thoughts in my head were all about how badly I was holding back the class and how slow I was and how hard I was breathing when I should be in better shape…

Now?  My instructor called on me to lead one of the lines!  She reminds me that my stamina has improved. When she says “if you feel this is easy, push yourself” and I feel like I can, I lift higher, I jump higher, I hold longer, I go lower… And if I can’t, I just focus on getting myself through class in one piece!

Relationship with My Clothes

Then: Nothing looked good on me.  My 200+ pounds poked and rolled and flabbed no matter what I wore.  Even wearing all black couldn’t hide how out of shape I was.

Now: I have lost those first (last in first out?) 10 pounds over the past 6 months.  But more importantly, my clothes fit me better.  My goal is no longer about losing weight, but to feel good about walking into a room with a confident smile and whatever clothes I’m wearing.  I can wear shoes with higher heels without hurting at the end of the day. I can wear a skirt without feeling ashamed of my body. I can look forward to a time when I love the way I look.  Not there yet, but I’m on my journey there.

Relationship with Me

Then: I came last. Every. Single. Person. Came. Before. Me.

And now: I make sure I get my me time.  I make sure that I like myself.  I make sure that I speak to myself with a little kindness and respect.

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

Rarely have I enjoyed a sequel as much as I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 3 when we went with our Kung Fu school to the movie theatre. Despite absolute goofballness (or maybe because of it), I am a fan of Jack Black. He was once again charming, flawed, earnest and kind, a reluctant hero who comes through. Some great actors, including Angelina Jolie, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman and Jackie Chan voiced the other main characters and put their kung fu energy into it, or should I say Qi Gong? They were serious when they were supposed to be and brought perfectly timed comic relief.
Without giving away any spoilers, I have to say that there are two scenes I love:

Protagonist Po shutting down the supernatural villain Kai with a flippant “chitty chitty chat chat, chitty chitty chat chat, chat chat chat”… He just wouldn’t let Kai have a word in edgewise.  He shut him DOWN!

A humbled Po leveraging the strengths of all the pandas in the village… He realized that by letting people do what they are good at and then shaping that instead of turning people into what they are not, you get a much better result. It was a lot of fun to watch.

It was a fun movie with some great kung fu moves, some emotional moments (let’s just say we had tears in our eyes) and a fantastic moral of the story at the end.  A worthwhile afternoon spent with the kids, popcorn and all the kung fu families.  I highly recommend Kung Fu Panda 3.