From Part 1 and Part 2, I was beginning my beginner phase. In many ways, reality was about to hit me full in the face, often times literally, sometimes figuratively. I reached the point where most people would quit this “hobby” and move on to the more serious aspects of life. As an Asian kid growing up in the west, this very specific kind of pressure is not unusual. But I was stubborn and undisciplined, so that meant that I only gravitated towards what I loved to do. In college, that meant martial arts, with some breakdancing sprinkled into the cracks. Studies be damned, I was going to run around to get my fix in with the arts of punching, kicking, getting thrown, and getting bloody noses. This did not come without conflict though. At the start, I sincerely thought that I would not focus on martial arts anymore. I’m 18 now, time to refocus, clean slate in college, get a 4.0 GPA, go to a big grad school for… something. Make a huge impact behind a computer or get a big science award. It’s what I was meant to do right?
Martial arts was a boomerang, it always came back. Except now I was in a bigger pond with no leash. If I had to describe my college martial arts experience, it would be summarized by boxing, wushu, and capoeira.
Capoeira blew away my perceptions of martial arts in many ways. I had been aware of it since playing Tekken as a young kid, but doing it was indescribable. For the first time I realized that martial arts training did not have to be all serious and formalized. There did not have to be ritualized bowing, or rigid movement. Singing, dancing, playing instruments such as the berimbau were at the forefront of my brief experience in this beautiful yet combative art from Brazil by way of their history of slavery, shadows, and athletic competition.
After dabbling into this art, and being retrained in Wushu by someone who would become a fast friend, I was drawn to boxing. Who had inspired me? Muhammad Ali, like he had inspired so many others throughout the history of the world since his 22 year old self conquered the most coveted sports prize: the boxing heavyweight crown.
Following closely behind was Iron Mike Tyson, the smaller man who rendered giants unconscious with his blazing speed and unstoppable force.
Something seemingly simple, boxing, often scorned by traditionalists and MMA enthusiasts alike, opened my mind and enhanced my spirit. It was my first real avenue to understanding the importance of countless repetition, and persevering through adrenaline dumps facing unknown adversity. In summary, it allowed me to quell my fear of being struck and helped me discover a personality facet that sought to give back what I was meant to receive. Like capoeira, it also introduced more elements of fluidity, rhythm, and timing, making practice more enjoyable at the same time, even as the safety stakes rose.
Every serious martial artist must go through at least one time period where their mettle is tested, and this was the first, and I would say it had the most impact, time period. This was also the first time period that I began to dissociate martial arts as something uniquely “Asian”, between capoeira and boxing. The reality mentioned earlier in this post often came in form a leather fist, and it would land on my face often. Martial arts would come more into a complete circle as time and experiences came and went.