Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday's Workout - A Cultural Exchange

For most Americans not of Asian decent, there are three ways that they get their first experiences into Asian culture.

1. Dining in Asian restaurants.

2. Having been stationed in the Far East while in the military.

3. Training in a martial art.

I fell into the third group. I started out with Kung fu and Korean Karate before I drifted into Zen, Buddhism, Taoism, Yoga and into certain aspects of Asian pop culture, particularly films, comics and animations.

Martial arts can be a glimpse not only into different cultures, but different times. It's fun to think about how kung fu practitioners once used their skills to fend of pirates, bandits or to protect the Chinese people from the oppressions of the Manchus during the Ch'ing Dynasty.

During today's workout, I met someone who is very knowledgeable about the historical and cultural aspects of martial arts, particularly Chinese kung fu.

I contacted Brad Berry last week when a friend and training partner, David Somers, sent me a link to an ad in Craig's List seeking other Hung Gar practitioners. I contacted Brad and told him about myself and the two guys who taught me what little Hung Gar I know - Anthony Chan and Don Weiss.

I was a little disappointed that Brad didn't know the Tit Sin Kuen (Iron Thread Fist Set). That's sort of the Holy Grail of Hung Gar Kung Fu. In fact, Brad only knew two sets - the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen and the 10 Killing Hands. The latter, he'd forgotten due to lack of practice and he is relearning through a DVD.

But Brad reminded me that in kung fu, quality is more important than quantity. His training in Hung Gar is very applications-oriented, and includes a lot of qigong. He also took very good notes of his training and demonstrated some strong basics.

Lastly, he has a wealth of knowledge about Asian cultures and languages. In addition to learning Thai and Laotian from his teenage friends, he's learning Cantonese from his wife, who grew up in the Chinese community in New York. He talked my ear off about the nuances of all three of those languages, as well as some aspects of Chinese-American life.

Okay, so I still won't learn the Tit Sin Kuen. I did find a good training partner who is also very educated about Chinese language and culture.

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