Wing Chun for cowards

At Kung Fu class tonight I was forced to conclude that I really am a pacifist. Or at least a coward. Even if someone were trying to rape me or murder my baby or perpetrate some other excusable motivation for self-defense bordering on vengence, I can’t imagine actually hurting anyone on purpose.

Skipping all ethical discussions for the moment, this makes studying a martial art really weird. As you’d expect, none of the instructors gives the impression of violence, just power, and the focus of the classes is always on defense and response, rather than attacks or abuse. And it’s all fascinating and efficient and really cool, and has lots of side benefits for mind and body.

But it’s still absurd to me, even in this responsible context, to learn how to elbow somebody repeatedly in the face and then knock them out with a blow to the back of the neck. Wing Chun is all about overkill; this kind of exercise comes up a lot.

I think I’m happy that I don’t actually want to punch anyone in the face, ever. My concern is only with how to stay motivated to kick hard and train my muscles to respond to any opportunity to break an attacker’s elbow. Because I do want to get good at this, for some reason. I’d rather learn Kung Fu than soccer or distance running or whatever.

Actually, I have a second concern, too: to stop laughing awkwardly whenever I realize what we’re about to learn, and stop needing to give my partners little pats to reassure myself that we’re cool. The “I’m not actually trying to hurt you” disclaimer is supposed to be covered when we bow to each other at the start, and I’d like to get into that “we have an understanding” mindset. But I can’t settle on an understanding. Everything we do in class sets off major cognitive dissonance in my mind: “Why would I ever even pretend to do this to someone?” vs. “This is so awesome!”

My bow/disclaimer needs to include something about how I’m about to enter a strange altered state induced by my rich inner life.

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