TCMA: Stay the Path; Go Towards the Pain

L to R: Patrick Fougere, myself, Gary Lam; 2009

L to R: Patrick Fougere, myself, Gary Lam; 2009

I really wanted to be good at Kung-Fu.  Well, actually I should say first, I wanted to become really good at skateboarding.  I recall my father and I having a conversation about it one day after many years of practice.  "If you're not good now, you'll never get there." he said.  That hurt.  But he was right - sort of.

My father had other sayings like, "Are you a man or a mouse?" And, holding a pair of pliers, "Want me to cut your nuts off?"  Character-building stuff, you know?

If I were to take all the things everyone said to me as individual comments, they all could be taken out of context as hurtful, but it was Chinese medicine that helped me to 'zoom out' and look at the whole picture.

Most of what everyone was saying was correct if put it all together - even if the comments seemed like polar opposites.  Yin and Yang.  Two parts of a whole.

What I'm getting at is if I add "Are you a man or a mouse?" to "If you're not good now, you'll never be." I get: "Are you gonna do this thing or not?"

You see, I was a physically timid child growing up.  I hated soccer because the ball hurt (and so did the fake grass if I took a tumble). I hated ice skating because the ice hurt (and I once smashed my nose off it).  I hated skateboarding because slamming after taking on a set of stairs hurt.  I also hated martial arts because getting punched in the face hurt.  Seemingly, I had a problem.


L to R: myself, World Boxing Union champion Tyson Cave; 2011

L to R: myself, World Boxing Union champion Tyson Cave; 2011

In 2011, after 17 years of Chinese Kung-Fu, I decided to sign up for boxing training.  I thought there was no better way to get over the fear of a soccer ball, ice, concrete and getting punched in the face than, well, getting punched in the face.

To my surprise I quickly excelled with the physical demands due to my previous martial arts training.  I learned the basic motions and after a short year of training I opened up for Tyson Cave with an amateur match in front of 500 spectators.  I got to fight one more time before transitioning my primary focus to acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice, teaching and mentoring.

One of the most profound lessons I learned from boxing is that a person can actually take a lot of damage, continue to fight, and live to tell the tale another day.  I learned to work hard, but always take my rest.  There's definitely whole-life lessons packed in there.

It would take another 4 years before I actually became somewhat proficient at martial arts; 21 years is a long time to dedicate oneself to a craft, continually trying to believe that one day I would actually be able to function as the martial artist I pictured in my mind.

I truly hold, especially in my case, that it's not talent that gets us to where we want to go, or even luck - it just takes time, patience, grit, the ability to stay the path, and, sometimes, to go towards the pain.  So.  Are you a (wo)man or a mouse? ;)

Kenton Sefcik