"I Know Kung Fu" - Keanu Reeves

This month marks my second year as a practitioner of the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun Kung Fu. I have since climbed the ranks to the burgundy sash, and am hoping to reach black before the end of the year - fingers crossed. In the wide world of Kung Fu though, I'm pretty sure that my skill level is in the bottom 1% of all practitioners while I imagine Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chao Yun Fat, and Donnie Yen are in the top 1%.

I've had quite a few people ask me to explain why I practice Kung Fu (and have also had people mistakenly ask me why I practice Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, etc.), so, I will take this opportunity to do so.

In Chinese, the term "Kung Fu" simply means "skill", whereas "Wushu" means "martial art", which is a specific branch of Kung Fu. Wing Chun is the branch of Kung Fu that I practice, which translates to "Fist of Spring Chant". 

The main principle behind Wing Chun Kung Fu is to be as absolutely efficient as possible. Wing Chun has far less to do with strength and much more to do with sensitivity, solid structure, and targeting vulnerable regions of one's opponent. I'm totally down with this philosophy, since physical strength is not one of my strong points (no pun intended).

Having put quite a bit of time and money into Kung Fu school, I've wanted to test to see if I had actually attained any worth-while skills, and have occasionally asked people bigger and stronger to spar with me. Since my older brother has always been at least 20 pounds heavier than me and an inch or so taller, he was logically my first choice. After never winning a single fight with him growing up, I challenged him last year to a few rounds of light sparring, and to my utter shock, beat him three out of three times.

My next challenger was a tattoo-covered, motor-cycle riding, super muscular ex-MMA cage fighter, who looks to be about 40 pounds heavier than me, who also practices at the same Kung Fu school, but is a few ranks lower than me. He and I sparred for a couple hours, and again, to my surprise, we were practically an even match! Talk about a confidence booster.

The awesome thing that I'm finding about Wing Chun is that the less energy I exert and the more I focus on technique and sensitivity, the better I become. As with any other skill though, I've found that once I reach a level where I feel pretty confident, I realize that I'm still lightyears short of where I want to be. But, after two years of grueling practices and bruises, I feel like I've earned the right to be like my buddy Keanu Reeves and say "I know Kung Fu".

By Jonathan Earley
Published: Oct 05, 2011