Kung Fu Spirit
I resolve to abide by and to perpetuate the philosophy of Kung Fu.
In the last three editions of Fu for You, I’ve been retelling the Academy’s rich history through the perspective of an old wooden cabinet that was housed in the Kwoon for many years. I’m taking a pause from my Memoire from an Armoire column to reflect on one of the most important aspects of Kung Fu: Spirit.
While writing this, our monthly theme is Spirit. The first eight themes of the year derive from the eight lines of our Student Creed (found on page 4 of the Student Handbook). The Creed is a timeless piece of wisdom written by Sigung Bob Schneider that serves to keep us focused on how to make the most of our journey as a Kung Fu student. The final line is: “I resolve to abide by and to perpetuate the philosophy of Kung Fu”. The “philosophy of Kung Fu” has been the subject of many books; I think it boils down into one simple concept: Spirit.
The best definition of spirit for us is “a force or principle believed to animate living beings.”
As a Kung Fu community, we share the goal of cultivating a positive spirit within our membership. There are many simple, sometimes subtle, and practical ways we strive to achieve this goal.
Developing spirit starts upon entering the Academy. The instructors and I consciously take time to greet everyone in a friendly and respectful manner. The expectation from students is that they return this show of respect by raising their hands with the shaolin salutation and simply saying “hello” (using proper titles). This point of etiquette (also instituted by Sigung) is an essential first step for students of all ages in bringing a proper attitude to the Academy. The mindful greeting is part of socializing effectively and one of the ways we develop confidence. I implore parents to support us in this practice, which can positively impact your child’s development.
Another important show of spirit that Sigung taught us was the response students use during classes. If students (again, of any age) are asked to move somewhere in the Kwoon, they should reply emphatically, “Yes Sigung/Sibok/Sifu/Sir/Maam” and move swiftly. This also applies if instructors ask call and response style questions where the most positive answer is “yes”. For example, when asked, “Does everyone understand?” the reply is “Yes Sigung.” (Side note: if you don’t understand, we provide ample opportunity for clarification during classes 😋). The point of the call and response is to encourage mindfulness and good spirit. This practice is common in traditional Shaolin schools, where terms like “Amituofo” are regularly shouted out.
Coming out of the last very challenging couple years and as our Academy enters our 35th year, attention to how we can bring good spirit to our community is more important than ever. Many aspects of our day-to-day experience are out of our control, however, the attitude we choose to take is within our control. Make an effort to animate your life with excitement and enthusiasm!