We had a Saturday Seminar on a style called Xing Yi or Xingyiquan, an internal Kung Fu style like Tai Chi, but much more aggressive because it is also a military style developed by a celebrated Chinese General named Yue Fei. At the end of the two-hour session of exercises to develop inner energy, Sifu Romain ended the class with a "board-breaking" session, a type of application of focusing our complete energy, which we had just learned from Xing Yi. Sifu always tells us that our study of Kung Fu is not measured by breaking boards like so many other martial arts insist, however, just as his teacher did for him once, he wanted to give us the opportunity to experience breaking boards. When Sifu called for a volunteer, I raised my hand not knowing precisely what it entailed.
I imagined the experiences I had watching Tae Kwon Do demonstrations when I was in high school. I imagined I was going to "Karate-chop" the board in two, that maybe I would succeed and maybe I would not, since it was my first time ever trying to break a board. Then Sifu demonstrated how we had to break the board: 1) The fingertips had to touch the board the whole time 2) The board would be broken with the palm of the hand. I immediately realized that this was not a test of strength, but rather one of the mind. It was about mental focus and faith, yes faith in something that is not easily quantifiable.
I walked to the board with a single-mindedness that it was possible and if focus and faith is what is necessary then I have what it takes. I closed my eyes, focused my thoughts, I visualized my palm going through the board and to the floor like Sifu instructed. The fact that I had two friends visiting the school that day did not cross my mind. Everything disappeared and a split second later the board was in two pieces, and the class applauded.
Here's the interesting part: I was surprised! Elated! Changed! I come from a very metaphysical culture. Believing the unseen is not difficult for me, but to experience faith becoming manifest in a very "real," tangible experience was life-changing. When some more advanced students tried it and did not succeed, then it was confirmed that this was not a test of strength nor experience. When the youngest member of the class (he must have been 10 or 11) accomplished it, I knew it was a test of faith and concentration. The youngest of our classmates said it best: "It doesn't matter how old you are or how big or small you are, you can do anything if you put your mind to it!"
It got even better! My friend, Claire who was visiting and who joined class that day got to try. She has never had a Kung Fu class before. She broke the board!
Breaking one board in the way we had to do it required a momentary suspension of our minds linear way of making conclusions. In the moment that I saw the short distance between the board and my suspended palm, it became very clear that force of a conventional kind was not going to do the trick. I had to summon a will from inside and in the moment of truth dispel all doubt and fear. This goes far beyond the breaking of boards. It became real to me that the way I had approached challenges was indeed real. Believing always that there is a way to resolve problems and accomplish goals even when faced with what appear to be insurmountable obstacles is no longer a romantic ideal that I aspire to. It is simply the way I do things and it is right!
Because of this realization, I taught some wonderful lessons after that class and I had some further realizations. As Kashu-do Studios begin developing into something fuller than I had originally imagined, I will need this kind of single-minded focus. The kind of focus that makes me realize that any major enterprise requires many hands and help from other sources. This kind of focus, frees the mind to reach beyond barriers of thought and planning into a realm of discovery and spontaneous manifestation.
Sifu Romain, my teacher, has a way of opening doors whenever we feel boxed in. Kung Fu, practiced with faith and purpose and focus opens doors we did not even know existed. I feel always that I am growing in the presence of this wonderful man. He helps me to reaffirm that what I bring to a lesson or performance goes far beyond my knowledge and accomplishments. It is the spirit of possibility that transforms my tangible skills into something more limitless.
I am empathic and it hurts to see some of my students allow the nay-saying culture of the music business to manipulate their minds, even temporarily. It is so easy to be negative! To be positive is to take responsibility for the certainty of achievement. It takes far more courage, far more strength, far more patience, far more faith to see the path to achievement in the face of the illusion of a negative reality!
My reality begins with a vision...