Sifu Sarah Gawley, Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

by Sifu Sarah Gawley

Youth Student’s Corner

You sit down with your legs crossed, back straight and close your eyes. Slowly, you take a deep breath in, then let it out. Every student reading this can tell me exactly what you’re doing: meditating. But what is that exactly?

Meditating is focusing your attention on what you’re doing at that moment and absolutely nothing else. We try to clear our minds of all thought so that we can just be in the present moment, or in other words, be here now. There are a variety of ways to meditate.

Everyone should be familiar with the way that we practice meditation in class. You try to keep your thoughts only on your breath going in and out, either by repeating the words “breathe in” and “breathe out”, or by imagining your breath going in your nose and out your mouth (maybe air you haven’t breathed in yet is red and breath that has left your body is blue). Personally, I picture pulling my rib cage up and my lungs getting bigger as I breathe in. Don’t try all of them at once though! Pick only one and focus on that – focusing on a single concept for longer periods of time is hard work and trains your brain.

A lot of elements of meditation are similar to paying attention in class (school or kung fu). Things can distract you, like a noise off in the distance, or the desire to scratch an itch. In meditation, we encourage you to put aside those thoughts and keep your mind trained on the single thought of breathing in and out. In class, we also want you to ignore those urges and focus only on what Sifu is telling you to do. Right now, it might be something as simple as holding a closed stance – it doesn’t seem like a big deal if you fidget, right? But you should train like it is real because someday you may need that focus to safely train with weapons as a whole class – if one person steps out of line, they’ll be in the way of another person’s weapon!

There are also other ways of meditation you can try on your own if you want to expand your focus. One neat exercise you can try on your own time is to lay down flat and close your eyes. Start from the top of your head and relax all the muscles under your hair, just like you’d unclench your fist. Next, work down relaxing the muscles on your forehead, eyes and eyelids, cheeks and mouth. Spend at least five seconds relaxing each body part before moving on to a new one. Keep going until even your toes are relaxed, like your whole body is a giant noodle that’s been cooked way too long!

Remember the second rule of concentration: Focus your mind! Kung Fu may be about punching and kicking, but the most important body part we develop are our brains.