Our happy-ness is so conditional in our busy lives. I would be happy if I only had more money, more free time, a person to share my life with, something to eat, some place to go, and so on. Think to your own experiences and you’ll know that in some way, we all crave fulfillment and it does result in some amount of unhappiness to think that what we do and the people and things around us are not actively making us happy.
Read that last segment again: “… not actively making us happy.” Whether we like it or not, there is the primitive person inside of us that manages our attention similar to that of a toddler who must be entertained at all times, lest he or she get into some manner of trouble. To that point, many great theories about our attention have been generated such as those who structured Sesame Street or magazine learning, assuming that attention spans were ridiculously short and must be constantly fed with stimulation or those who structured Blue’s Clues or repetitive learning, assuming that attention spans were amazingly complex and that learning is developed through repetition and altered approaches.
In either case, fulfillment and happiness tend to be fed similarly over time. So what does that have to do with Kung Fu? A lot actually. We will not do something long-term that does not fulfill us or make us happy. Look to numerous diet trends that we have tried and failed at. Look to the billion dollar industry of fitness and healthy living that succeed and fail regularly. Look to religion, although there are many who shudder at my even correlation of religion as a trend, but the reality is that it suffers from the same attributes that the others do: If it doesn’t make people happy, people will not adopt it long-term. Even addiction recovery must bow to this singular attribute to keep the victims healthy and safe.
Why would anything in this spectrum need to be adopted for a long-term? Simply enough, to change habits, change attitudes, and change lives. Nothing really happens instantly, although we’d really like it to. Weight loss takes time, just like it took time to gain every pound. School and college take years to grow our minds and build skills. Growing up takes years. Why should we deny that Kung Fu or Tai Chi should likewise take years and deliberate effort? Thank you for the illusion, Matrix: “I know Kung Fu!” Kung Fu and Tai Chi use our entire body in motion with stances, blocks, punches and kicks. In uses our mind in learning repetitive motion to train our muscles, patterns of breathing and even recognizing the patterns of those we might face for self-defense and sparring. Really good Kung Fu is built from years of attempts and excellent effort in repetition. However, the best practitioners we know are the ones that are happy to do it. Would Van Damme, Norris, Lee, Wallace, Liu, Hung or Li have those amazing moves if they hadn’t practiced them thousands of times? Doubtful. Why would they do it thousands of times? Because either the practice made them happy or something resulting from that practice made them happy, made them fulfilled.
This is typical for all things, but the positive things we generally have to pursue willfully rather than being lured into repeatedly. Initially, did that cigarette make you feel good? Perhaps, after a coughing fit, you felt the rush of nicotine, but over time you despised the look of the stains on your teeth and hands, the stale smell of smoke on your clothing and the fact that your hand felt empty without something in it whether you it was lit or not. Still, you were fulfilled with that thing in your hand, that familiar thing on your lip, that taste you craved, that feeling you needed sometime desperately. It made you happy and you defined happy-ness in a way that you were not happy without it. To that point, the most successful smoking cessation I’ve ever seen is the person who becomes deathly sick and the experience makes them specifically unhappy with the very presence of cigarettes, even vomitously ill at the suggestion of them.
In my own experience, I have failed to adopt a thousand things that could have made me healthy. Okay, maybe not a thousand, but at least a few dozen. I disliked treadmills, running, weight training and biking because they didn’t engage my mind. I disliked education because it didn’t engage my body. I love Kung-Fu and Tai Chi because they engage all of me and it will likely for years. Every time I go to class, I learn something about myself, how far I can push my body, how I can use it better, how the body moves, why it moves better a certain way, how it feels when it moves the right way, how well I can feel about my attempts whether they are easily successful or hard won. My mind is even changed about how I feel about people around me and what I can do. I do not fear to fail in my attempts because I fail and succeed so frequently in class and always strive to do better. I feel more motivated to work on it outside of classes.
I found happy-ness in Kung Fu and Tai Chi like I’ve never found in an activity before and I’ve dragged my family members into it now. If they love it, they will adopt it. However, that is an adoption they must make for themselves and if all is well, they will have long-lives to decide what they will choose to make them healthy and happy. I hope you will give it a try to see if this can make you happy. It will make you healthy and you will grow, but only you can decide to be happy and what activity will deliver fulfillment. I feel confident in stating that Kung-Fu and Tai Chi are my “happy pills”.