I Killed the Fun in Kung Fu

grumpy-face

I could feel the Tiger Mom in me emerging recently as I started hovering over the boys’ Kung Fu classes.  I would glare at them when it looked like they weren’t concentrating, frown at their happy chit chat with friends, and scold them during breaks to do better. The other day my younger one turned to me before class and mumbled, I hate Kung Fu, I don’t want to go.  And yet… that very day during lessons, I noticed how much higher their kicks were, how strong their ma bu was, how many stances and movements they have memorized, and how they hung out after class to rough house with their classmates.  And it dawned on me… my 8-year old didn’t hate Kung Fu at all!  He hated how I made him feel about himself when we were discussing Kung Fu!

The weird thing is, I can absolutely observe the huge improvements they have made… even as they resisted my pushing and internalized my criticisms. As much as they dislike the hard work of Kung Fu, we can all see how much stronger and more flexible they have become.  My older one told me that he didn’t like Kung Fu, but he liked the results.

Time to make Kung Fu fun again… time to see Kung Fu masters in action.  So, we watched Stephen Chow’s silly nutty Shaolin Soccer (subtitled no less), laughed at all the outrageous and exaggerated antics, got excited at the Chinese words they recognized and pointed out how to use Kung Fu in soccer.  We had fun!  Next, I let our Shifu know that I would no longer watch or critique my amazing boys while they were in Kung Fu class.  He concurred that parents can put an awful lot of pressure on the kids and it can turn them off of something that is such a great life long practice.

Note to self: time to retire Tiger Mom!

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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.

Cheating on Day 2 of My New Lifestyle Plan

Yesterday, the TV died.  My enabler, my partner in crime, the Entertainer, my distractor from my goals… the time kill.  It died.  It just went poof.  It passed on. It was certainly its time, but it could not have come at a better time for me.

Couple that with falling asleep next to the boys at their bedtime of 8:30 pm, really, I’ve just bypassed the hardest time to resist the cold leftovers calling out to me from the fridge. So, Day 2 is done. Check!

But then my friend texts me this!

So tell me more about this new lifestyle plan of yours?  Diet and exercise? I’m finding the diet part real difficult.  Getting greedier as I age and harder to work off.  Often feeling unmotivated though I know it’s good for me.

Oh dear! How do I help someone find their motivation about diet and exercise when those very words are what I have been feeling guilty about for over 10 years?! This Kung Fu Mum journey is all about finding a lifestyle all of my own that fits me, my schedule, my interests and my (un)motivation. A peaceful and healthy lifestyle. A lifestyle that isn’t slowly killing me… So here’s how I explained my New Lifestyle Plan:

Step 1: Choose You

Just make a decision that you don’t want to be where you are now.  Just choose that.  Wallow in it.  For as long as you need.  Stop judging yourself for feeling [exhausted, without willpower, unmotivated, flabby, put your own this-is-as-low-as-I-go adjective].

Say, nope, I don’t want to be here.  I don’t like this.  This is not me.  It’s not good for me and I don’t like it.  I choose not to be here. But here I am. This is where I start. Just make the decision. Don’t rush into an answer or a plan or a panacea, just focus on this decision that you’ve made.

Step 2: Drop the Judgment

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a rebel in a weird way.  I don’t like being forced to do what I don’t want to do and so when I’m forcing myself to do things that I don’t want to do, I sabotage it like mad. Or I start noticing how everyone else keeps presenting me opportunities to not do what I’m supposed to do and then I just keep coming up with great excuses why I can’t do what I’m supposed to do.

No judgment. Just acknowledge that it is what it is. I’m here. This is where I am, this is where I start. I’ll be THERE in a year.  That’s where I’ll be. But not right this moment.

Step 3: Remove the Barriers

Kung Fu just presented itself as something I knew I would love to do.  I love that it’s part of my Chinese heritage. I LOVE that I would look badass if I did it right (c’mon… Bruce LeeJackie Chan)!

My Kung Fu class happens at the same time as my kids’ Kung Fu class. Which means that when I wake up Saturday mornings and I lay there in bed wondering what excuse to use so I can legitimately get out of going to class, really, I have none. Totally no excuses. I have to go. Then once I get there, my kids are watching. They watch me quit, they watch me try, they watch me hold my stances, they watch me sweat… They watch me. I have no choice but to do my best.

Step 4: Celebrate the Milestones

I know there’s a goal.  Just come back and see me in a year.  You won’t recognize me.  But right now, I’m just loving the journey. Instead of holding up my goal to judge my inadequate self (because that’s how I’m going to look at it), right now I’m just embracing where I am, I’m respecting my reality, my challenges, my weaknesses… my limitations.

The first change, and it totally snuck up on me (even though I had yet to FULLY COMPLETE a class), was when I walked up two flights of stairs without hyperventilating. So I celebrated that milestone.  Don’t get me wrong, lots of set backs too (still eating like there was no tomorrow), but I grabbed on to that little win. And it motivated me to do better.

Step 5: Slow and Steady Like a Mountain

Bad habits are funny.  They are habits for a reason. They got there because it was the easy thing to do.  Then they get difficult to budge because they get wedged into your lifestyle and other habits. I find that even if I manage to make a resolution like I mean it, those tough changes don’t last and they snap back with a vengeance, like Oh yeah? Thought you could get rid of my that easily? Here I am, back again, twice as bad! So after doing that for years and years, I’m learning from my Kung Fu instructor: “It took you years to get here, it’s not going to get fixed overnight. Slow and steady like a mountain.”

As I slowly build my strength, I will start doing my Ma Bu (horse stance) in a way that prevents anyone from budging me.

horse stance-00023

I cheated a little today… but I made it through Day 2!

 

Milestones!!!!!!!!!!

Woot woot!  This is a class of firsts.  After 3 months of sweating through Beginner Kung Fu class, I hit a bunch of milestones today and I am sooo unbelievably excited.

I had already noticed that in my normal day to day, I could feel tiny changes to my body that were shifting me towards my goal of health and strength (for example, I’m not huffing and puffing horribly going up a couple flights of stairs). But I had still been finding class hard… Every morning on the day of class, I still habitually wonder if there is a good excuse why I shouldn’t go to class.

The first milestone I hit was during warm up when we ran around the room.  This was the first time EVER that I didn’t slow down or stop or walk.  I ran the whole thing!  I ran the WHOLE thing with the class!

My second milestone was during stretches.  Instead of getting crazy foot cramps every time a stretch pushed my foot a bit further than it was used to being pushed…  no cramps!  no Charlie horse!  not a single foot ouchy!

My third and most exciting milestone is that I didn’t once wonder how far away we were from end of class.  I didn’t think oh, we’re halfway through, just get through the next half.  I didn’t sigh and think, oh man, I have to hold this just a bit longer. I didn’t go aargh, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. I didn’t do any clock watching.  I just lived in the moment, leaned into every task and did my very best.

Sure, I’m still too fat and I’m definitely not yet in shape, but I know that I’m on track.

Wait until you see me next year!

Excuses, Excuses… No Excuse!

I’m a working mom.  I have a full time job that pays for our needs. Sadly, I don’t bake lovely cookies with my children or home school them or plant beautiful things in the garden with them.  Lacking the patience and calmness that most of my stay-at-home counterparts possess, I’ve always known that I was going to be a working mom.  That’s not to say that I don’t try to spend quality time with my kids. In fact, my 8 hours away from them a day probably ensures that I can be my best self around them.

However, this lifestyle gives me great excuses for not taking better care of myself.

Oh, I had such a hard day, I’m too tired to do anything but veg in front of the TV until I crawl into bed.

Well, I didn’t really eat lunch, so that’s why I’m starving at 10:45 pm and need to hoover in all the leftover fried rice.

If I’m not at work, I’m dealing with the children.  When can I possibly find time to work out?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to do better: eat better, sleep better, handle stress better… I care an awful lot about the physical and mental health of my kids, but find it hard to do the same for myself.  It’s been difficult to have the where with all or head space to get with a program and then stick with it.

After we found our Shaolin Kung Fu class, I noticed that I would bring the kids there and then sit there for an hour and a half… I wasn’t working, nor was I spending quality time with the kids… So.  When our Kung Fu instructor set up adult beginner Kung Fu classes for the same time… I no longer had any excuses not to do the work!

I found Kung Fu!

Finding Kung Fu

Growing up Chinese means that Kung Fu isn’t alien to me.  The Buddhist concepts are as close to what I would consider religious or spiritual guidance I can accept as anything I’ve ever experienced.

My children are a product of a mixed marriage and I have not been diligent about teaching them Chinese.  I have felt a lot of guilt over the past few years, having children that aren’t perfectly bilingual in English and Chinese, but my excuse is that I function best in English and I’m giving them the best me.  Since my mother once told me that a problem is not really a problem if money can fix it, I decided that I would try throwing money at the problem.  Google is my friend.  For whatever reason, the Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute came up when I Googled “Mandarin children Toronto”.  I sat up with excitement about the thought of my boys fighting off bullies with moves from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh or Sammo Hung.  Finding Mandarin classes will be my next project, I thought to myself.

At the time, the boys were reluctantly taking Taekwondo.  They never quite took to it and it was such a chore getting them to go to class every week.  I relished the thought of telling my parents that I was putting the kids in something so very Chinese in heritage.  I was delighted from day one: at their trial session, they rushed in with gusto and it has been such a chore getting them to go home after an hour and a half of their tough kung fu work out every since.

We found Kung Fu!