At 35 years of age I was settled into this routine of work, gym, sleep and living for the weekend. To be honest, I am and was pretty fortunate. I have a roof over my head, a full belly most of the time, and I have been happily married to my best friend. But, I was lacking...something. At the time, I felt my job was tedious and that 90% of the the people I encountered on a regular basis were dolts. Plus the optimism of my 20s had long faded as I was well into my 30s having accomplished next to nothing in the traditional American sense, except earn a pretty worthless college degree more than a decade earlier. Since childhood, my self-esteem was pretty low on a consistent basis, aside from a brief uptick during my college years when I knew that I was ripe with potential. But like a #1 draft pick going pro, the years after graduation were fraught with multiple fumbles. I was pretty angry and frustrated, mostly with myself, on a regular basis. .
In the later half of the 00’s I began to enjoy watching MMA on TV. I really respected the conditioning that these athletes put themselves through, and the strength and determination that I thought they must possess in order to engage in such a pursuit. Plus, self-defense skills seemed to me like a body of knowledge worth knowing. I had gotten in a few scuffles as a child where I didn’t fare too well, and I administered one beatdown as an young adult, but even then I realized I had no real skill. So about a year before I started formal martial art training, I started watching videos on how to strike, and I collected workouts that were suggested for fighters, and I would get up in the morning before work and do these workouts; calisthenics, and rounds on the bag, hitting with my jab, cross, hooks, uppercuts, Thai round kicks, and maybe and elbow or knee. At some point the idea of training somewhere with others entered my mind, but where? There are so many schools and clubs and martial art styles in the Cincinnati area. I wasn’t sure where to start. My brother-in-law had been doing Taekwondo for about 5 years by then, but the amount of legwork involved was a bit intimidating because I did not feel it was a good match for my attributes.
A few weeks before I started training Shaolin Wing Chun, I figured it out! I had gone to the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, OH, mainly to mingle among the bodybuilder crowd, when I wandered into the martial arts section. It was fascinating to watch all these different competitions live and up close; Kung Fu weapons forms, Muay Thai fighting, Kendo/Gumdo sparring...and Filipino stick-fighting.
That was it, that was the art that spoke to me; practical, effective, and it would allow me to connect with my Filipino heritage. I also looked forward to participating in an activity that would expose me to people with like-minded values, and interests. It might be a good way to make a few friends. Soon after I got home, I searched online for any place that might teach Kali, Eskrima, or Arnis, and was pleased to find out there was a club only a couple of miles away from my house.
I called the facility and made appointment; however, it did not go quite as planned. The Cincinnati Balintawak Arnis Club DID practice at that location, but I found out that I actually called a Wing Chun Kung Fu school. I had no idea what Wing Chun was. The Kung Fu instructor was, then, Sifu John Lambert. He patiently and expertly explained his art to me, and even let me participate in a one of the drills. It was fascinating and I felt like he understood what I was looking for. At the end of my visit, I found out the membership fee and was assured that I could also train with the Filipino martial arts club at no extra charge if I signed up for Wing Chun Kung Fu. When I got home my wife, Becky, asked me how it went. Evidently, I told her it went well, because when I said that I was not going to go back because it cost too much, she said that “she had never seen me get so excited about anything in her life and that I HAVE to sign up. We would make it work with our budget.”
After much reflection, I took the first step on my martial arts journey when I signed up about two weeks after the initial visit with Sifu Lambert. I felt like maybe this was a place where I could finally feel that I fit in. More on the results of this first step and why I stayed on the path in Part 2...