Summer Intensive Training 2016   week 1  week 2  week 3  week 4  week5

There are several things that have been on my mind over the course of summer training. They include:
1. Life is Kung Fu/Kung Fu is life;
2. Kung Fu does not discriminate;
3. Only in the darkness can you see the stars

If you read on, I will explain what I mean.

Saturday, August 8, 2016: Today marks the beginning of the final weekend of our Summer Intensive training program. Over the past four weekends, we have learned almost every sequence in the Lohan Quan, and are about five movements away from completing the form. It has been thrilling, and an honor to receive this teaching directly from Shifu.

We began the day with a short run, followed by stretching. Next, the group moved through technique drills, working on front, inside and outside kicks, side press-and tornado kicks. After ninety minutes, we took a short break before continuing our study of the Lohan form.

As we drew near the end of our summer journey, Shifu’s students continued to reflect upon what kung fu meant to them. Their heartfelt remarks all warrant inclusion here.

Meeka, my amazing wife, best friend, and kung fu sister, cut fruit for the group with loving kindness every week—multiple mangos, pineapples, plums, apricots, watermelon, and cherries. As Meeka eloquently explains:

The kung fu journey has been very special for me. My husband and I found the school initially for our children. We thought it would be a place
where they could become stronger athletically and it was unique in combining strength, balance, flexibility, speed and power. Shaolin Kung Fu goes further than many other athletic activities in light of its ancient history, its spiritual origins, and its emphasis on noble values like hard work, respect, and being a good person. Shifu and Shimu are among the most noble, morally sound, hardest working and beautiful people I have ever met. I learn from their work ethic, their heartfelt words and their indomitable spirit every time I go to the school. Shaolin Kung Fu combines the toughness of being the most ancient of martial arts, with the beauty of being a true art form in its forms and grace, with the deepness and spirituality of its Buddhist-originated principles.

When I practice, it is not just a workout; it touches my mind, my gut and my heart. When I move, I feel connected to my family, to nature, to the world around me, and to times long ago and far ahead. When I am in the presence of Shifu, Shimu and all of the other practitioners, I feel like I am with my extended family in a beautiful sanctuary about to head up to the top of a magnificent mountain. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this incredible school on this beautiful journey.

College student Matthew Lobenhoffer, who began training with Shifu and Shimu as a young teen, remarked that:

While in college I physically ached to do kung fu again. I began waking up before classes, walking into the nearby forest, and training. It felt fantastic and I knew I needed to return. When I got back for the summer, I participated in the 15th anniversary class and immediately signed up for the summer intensive. I feel fantastic. Kung fu affects your everyday life noticeably and those effects I had forgotten about have made a pleasant return. Kung fu is more than what words can describe. It does wonders for your body and mind. I cannot thank Shifu and Shimu enough for helping me on this path and for making this kung fu family.

College student Ian Wong, who began studying with Shifu and Shimu while in middle school, explained that:

I've been training at this school for over nine years. Even taking classes for as long as I have, summer intensive can feel like a daunting challenge going in. I'm also studying at art college, which is another skill that takes years to develop, and in many ways, I've found the learning process is similar. In both Kung Fu and drawing there's no way around the fact that it is pure hard work and practice, and there come times when it's easy to lose momentum and confidence. It can be quite overwhelming and hard to balance everything. For me, it makes a huge difference that Shaolin training focuses on self improvement and isn't competitive. I keep coming back because intensive training feels like a bonding experience with both the students and teachers, which makes it easy to stay motivated and push my own boundaries. Kung Fu has without a doubt helped me improve and persevere as an artist outside of class.

Recent student Richard Yeung, explains that he reaped important benefits through his kung fu intensive summer practice:

Truthfully when I started the summer intensive I have no idea why I did it, or why I even signed up for it. It wasn't until I spoke to Shifu on the side and looked at why. Personally, kung fu was a physical method for me to see how good I was mentally, and how much more I can improve. But the kung-fu classes alone was no enough to satisfy my curiosity. So I joined the summer intensive hoping to find out more about myself. The summer intensive allowed me to slow down and ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on myself. For the first time I looked past my ego and was able to identify who I am...or at least have some idea of who I am.

Joshua Lewis, who has studied with Shifu for three years, stated that, “Each summer intensive has brought forth a deeper understanding and appreciation for the art. I feel very enriched, satisfied, and privileged to have the opportunity to take part in such a very enhancing program and my thanks to Shifu & Shimu for providing this special opportunity.”

Returning to our daily studies, we moved into the last sequence of Lohan, learning the last several of the form’s thirty-two movements. We then broke for Shifu’s lecture, where he unveiled his chart of Lohan Quan’s thirty-two movements, and their traditional Chinese names. It was really great to have learned the form followed by the names of the individual movements. It brought a layer of insight to everything that we had learned physically over the summer.

We broke for the day with two sets of fifty pushups.

Sunday, August 7, 2016, 8:00-11:00 am; 1:00-4:00 pm: Today marks the end of our summer Lohan studies, and the start of yet another chapter in our kung fu journeys.

The group stretched and warmed up quickly, earnest to continue practicing our form. The morning consisted of Qi Gong movements, physical conditioning, sprinting and plyometrics.

Back at the center, the group continued practicing Lohan Quan, sequence by sequence, and then in entirety. We then executed the form individually, as the group looked on. The training day concluded with Shifu telling us that he was proud of our hard efforts, and that we should continue to push ourselves to improve, along with several of the students speaking about their impressions of the summer.

After training, we had a Chinese food celebration feast, sitting, eating, and sharing each other’s company. It was a wonderful end to our summer bonding experience.

Back to three things of the things I have reflected upon this summer:

First, Kung Fu is Life/Life is Kung Fu. Recall, “Kung Fu” translates into “hard work” or “pure effort.” Living our lives to their fullest involves pure effort and hard work. Hard work and pure effort bespeak integrity, and increase our chances for contentment and personal success. This is true in our jobs, families, public and personal lives. Every breath we take, every moment we live, we have an opportunity to practice wisdom kung fu, clarity kung fu, and compassion
kung fu—to name merely a few. You can practice in every movement you make and word you speak, and there is always more to learn.

Second, Kung Fu does not discriminate. Almost fifteen hundred years ago, in the Platform Sutra, Huineng wrote, “Although people from the South and people from the North differ, there is no north and south in Buddha nature. Although my body and your body are not the same, what difference is there in our Buddha nature?” Our training exemplifies this, as our spirits shine through. We are a mixed lot of people, of all ages and races, coming together for the common goal of bettering ourselves. Everyone can participate, and everyone can benefit from training. There is no difference in our “Buddha nature.”

Finally, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Only in the darkness can see the stars.” This one is very personal to me. By the end of our journey, my left knee rendered me unable to bend into stances, pivot, or jump. I am still recovering. Although, for me, quitting was not an option, I could do virtually nothing but stand high and slowly go through the movements. I learned the form well, but couldn't push myself harder, faster, lower, or higher. I couldn’t lead, and was lucky I could even follow. I did my upright movements, as I watched my kung fu brothers and sisters executing the Lohan Quan we had toiled so hard together to learn. They were awesome. It was so moving to see people whom I have known through the years as they showed their Lohan Quan—and with it, their hearts and minds. Had I not been hurt, perhaps I would not have appreciated all of their brilliance. They are stars, and I am proud to call our school home.

In closing, I thank Shifu, Shimu, my kung fu brothers and sisters, and our readers, for sharing this journey together. I look forward to sharing many summers to come. Amituofo! Joseph A. Bondy

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