I’ve been training in martial arts over three decades, pretty much my entire life really. I have tons of memories, but here are a random few.
I remember what it was like to be the first one to step onto the canvas of the improvised mat at Pong Ki Kim’s in the dead of winter. You stepped lightly, then jumped around a bit, then finally got used to it. It was like that every day, every winter, for many years of my life.
I remember sparring in that school in summer. We had no ventilation except for the open windows, which opened into a back alley. We didn’t wear mouth pieces, most of the time I forgot my cup. I wore “shin pads” which were thin cloth pieces of crap which never protected my feet or shins. It’s probably why I have such hard shins today.
I remember walking up the stairs of the Chan Family Association in Chinatown to train with Chan Tai San the first few years I was training with him. There were old guys smoking in the stairway. The second floor was a gambling joint. I’d walk all the way to the top, hoping the door was open. If it was, I’d step inside and always smell incense. Then, regardless of whether Sifu Chan was there, I’d begin, and wait for my classmates to arrive.
A few years later, we trained with Chan Tai San in Brooklyn. We went to a church and worked out in their yard. I’d always come home covered in dirt and grass stains. I remember doing a “deih tong” set, rolling and not doing it correctly, knocking the wind out of me, and the weird thing Sifu did to restore me.
I remember that somehow we acquired space at the NYU student center to do demonstrations, and despite none of it was official we did 3 or 4 demonstrations there. We were all in our 20’s and just did stuff. It was sort of stupid and pointless, the crowds that showed were always small, but we had fun.
I remember being at NYU and some guy challenging me to a “challenge fight”. Again, probably totally illegally, we used a room at the sports facility and there was blood and fun… and one girl who had a nervous breakdown watching it.
My life was anything but normal, but it was quite fun. And it’s still fun every day pretty much, thanks to the martial arts