“I did Kung Fu too,” said my workmate.
“Which school?” – I replied with a question.
She replied – “The one on Sussex Street!”
“Me too!” I exclaimed in disbelief.
We both started laughing.
Before the advance of UFC and MMA the martial arts world was different. It was shrouded in mystery, had special rituals, and was somehow magic. Chinese martial arts in particular were infused with Taoism philosophy and offered practitioners not only a fighting system but a way to look at life and its challenges. While I am a big fan of UFC I miss the admiration for screen legends like Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris in my childhood. Endless chats about who would win a fight and if the sound of 80s kung fu movies punches were real.
Some grownup guys keep their childhood alive by collecting Batman figurines and playing Commodore 64 games. My way was to sign-up with a Kung Fu school and kick some pads. After long working days and ringing phones putting on the uniform in a tiny bathroom that also served as a changing room was like stepping into another world.
Posters on the walls showed the challenging ascension path to mastery. Stories of the old master who could send someone flying into the air with a one-inch punch through a phone book on request were told between the students. This was my refuge in a place where deadlines, concerns of the future and demanding projects did not exist. This was my tribe of mixed-together personalities, cultures and professional backgrounds.
Growing up in Central Asia and now living in Australia this also felt like home. The school was based in Chinatown and had a lot of students attracted by ads in a local community magazine. Funnily enough, I was in one of the ads playing an attacker being defeated by a Kung Fu practitioner.
Bouncing between work and personal commitments often left me out of breath and unbalanced. Practising Kung Fu gave me another leg to stand on firmly. It supported me through the highs and lows, guiding me to face issues front-on and trust the structure. It also gave me friendships that are still alive 10 years after parting ways with the school.
In a city of 3.5 million people learning that someone went to the same obscure Kung Fu school is a pleasant surprise. Knowing that at some point you were a part of the same tribe, facing the same challenges and now happened to work at the same place makes you instantly connected.
Positive moments come in many forms – an ice cream cone, a massive star shining through the clouds on a tiny blue planet or a conversation with your workmate. It makes me wonder what will it be today?