07
Jul
10

功夫课 kung fu class

So here in Hangzhou CET lets us choose from two extracurricular activities, we can either take 书法 (calligraphy) or 功夫(kungfu).  Upon hearing those options my choice was immediately apparent. I was not about to spend time in a stuffy classroom learning how to draw pretty characters. No, instead I chose the path of the warrior and vowed to spend two hours a week learning how to use my body as a fierce weapon, protecting my homeland and striking down those who dare defy me.

My kung fu classmates and I (all 5 of us) showed up to the field 7 pm on monday night ready to learn and practice some techniques. The our 老师 (teacher) spent the first 10 minutes explaining the benefits of kung fu in relation to Chinese medicine in lighting fast Mandarin (most of which I could not understand). After that, we spent a good chunk of time going over different hand configurations that can be used to inflict various types of pain to your enemy.

My favorite is this one:

which you kind of use to either peck out your opponents eyes or hit the top of their head. I think it’s most effective (chops to the neck are so overrated) and would first use this technique in any actual battle.

So after discussing these different techniques and naming the parts of our fist in chinese, we started doing actual practice. We really haven’t done anything too battle intensive yet and are really just going over the basic stances which is cool I guess.However, sitting, standing, crouching in these stances while simultaneously punching is actually really strenuous and after an hour I was definitely wiped, drenched with sweat, and ready for a shower. However, before we left on Monday night our teacher had a proposition. He thought that two times a week was not enough for sufficient progress. He therefore, proposed that we practice every morning at 6 am instead of Monday and Wednesday nights.

Everyone looked around nervously, not knowing whether getting up at 6 am would be fun (or even a physical possibility). But as soon as one person agreed, we all decided we would try getting up every morning. So come 5:30 Tuesday morning, my alarm went off, and I met my classmates to walk to the fields as everyone else peacefully slept in their beds. We go through another strenuous workout at the hands of our teacher and return to our campus excited about the possibility of learning some kung fu and improving everyday.

However, a problem emerges as CET has a limited budget and had already agreed to only fund two lessons per week. Our teacher didn’t really tell us about this arrangement and if we wanted to continue doing this everyday we would have to pay out of pocket 40 yuan per lesson. That is actually kind of expensive by Chinese standards especially considering that each person needs to pay the fee per lesson. It turned out that our teacher was sort of shadily swindling us if we continued doing this every day.

When we approached him the next day, he said that this really wasn’t a money issue and was more of a “how committed we were to kung fu” issue. I have to give him some credit, he really is an effective teacher and was getting genuinely excited about the possibility of bringing these skills back to America and spreading Chinese culture. However, he was purposefully being a little bit manipulative in leaving out the fact that we would have to pay ourselves.

So while these kung fu lessons probably won’t turn me into the next karate kid they have helped me have, as my resident director described it, a “cultural experience” in dealing with our teacher’s persuasion techniques. We all decided to not pay extra money and are just going to have two lessons per week (Monday and Wednesday mornings). Kung fu class is actually pretty fun and we are all getting pretty into it, but it was also interesting to see this class transform my understanding of how to effectively interact with some Chinese people that talk, trade, and persuade in less than clear ways.

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1 Response to “功夫课 kung fu class”


  1. 1 Michelle Kozma
    July 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Chris, I’m glad you are learning Kung Fu, if you are in a Kung Fu tournament like in the Karate Kid, film it and send it to me! Also, I hope everything is going well!


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