Feature photo by SHINEZ Photo
I started taking Kung-Fu classes because my husband said we didn’t have any mutual hobbies besides making fun of strangers. Sadly, this was true. From the yuppie in the North Face vest to the hipster with the oh-so-ironic tee shirt, no one escaped our rapier sharp barbs. Beyond mocking pedestrians who seemed to take themselves too seriously, we shared no hobbies.
I don’t know which one of us suggested Kung-Fu lessons, but the proposal stuck. I priced out several options and we settled on Wrigleyville’s Chinese Martial Arts. There we were promised we would be educated in Seven Star Northern Shaolin Praying Mantis Kung-Fu.
The days before our first class, I wasted hours constructing elaborate daydreams starring myself as a Kung-Fu master. I foiled a would-be mugger with cobra-fast movements and left him writhing on the sidewalk, clutching his ruptured testicles, as I strutted away to an imaginary soundtrack worthy of my prowess. In another, I was commissioned by a super secret government task force meant to rid the world of evil masterminds bent on hellish destruction and riotous anarchy (you know, the usual). At first, I’d refuse to participate but when the Southern-accented general told me they had kidnapped my husband and were holding him at an undisclosed location until they could confirm my cooperation, I had no choice but to suit up and use my bare two hands to stomp out the rebel forces. “When this is done,” I’d growl to my superior, “I’m coming back for you.”
Reality set in about five minutes into my first class. Turns out, Kung-Fu is hard. In fact, it’s way harder than it looks.
The studio was bright with butter colored hardwood floors and walls lined with mirrors like a dance gallery. There were also several stands positioned through out the room containing gleaming spears, swords, and other dangerous looking instruments. I couldn’t wait to learn how to jam one of those spears into a bad guy and made a note to myself to find out the rules about carrying swords on the L.
I quickly found out that they don’t let you near the weapons on the first day. They do make you run. A lot. They also make you perform dozens of kicks, lunges that last eternities, and abs exercises that make you ache for days.
I should probably back up and mention that I’m not much of a gym person. I’d rather get cavities filled than work out and the happiest you’ll ever see me is couch-bound and half-way through an episode of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ with my hand stuffed inside a can of Pringles. Five minutes into my first Kung-Fu lesson, I was sweating like pig in a fur coat. Afterward, I was embarrassingly sore. The first week or two I’d often found myself lying on the bathroom floor, trying to summon the strength to shower (or at least not throw up), vowing to never go back there.
The funny thing is, in spite of all that punishment, I did keep going back.
It started getting easier. Suddenly, my legs could hold the poses longer and the quick movements of the characters came easier. Perhaps most impressive of all, I could actually touch my toes. Sure, I’m not (yet) ready for the elite Special Forces task squad of my daydreams, but I’m getting that much closer. Plus, I have my eye on a pretty sweet looking duster that would be perfect for slow motion fight sequences.