When I walked into the Shaolin Kung Fu School for the first time, I wasn’t thinking about my health. My aim was more about self-discovery. Could I develop some new qualities to even a mediocre level, let alone a higher sash level, when I was starting with no experience and no skill? Where would any balance, any flexibility, any technique, any mental focus really come from? These would certainly not spring out from my years of “training” as a black sash in the art of Couch Potato. The only qualities achieved from that program were my remote control thumb techniques and a well developed spare tire.
Early on, I didn’t figure to achieve any health benefits, because I wasn’t sure I’d be around long. It seemed to take many weeks just to not fall over on a low stretch kick. Watching the more experienced students practice sometimes made me feel agonizingly slow and lacking in talent. The road to yellow sash seemed miles and miles long. Moving in inches was making for a long journey. I could tell this was going to be another story of the tortoise and the hare, where I was the tortoise once again. Like the tortoise, I knew I could be determined and consistent at least. However, I do believe I was sweating a lot more than a tortoise.
After about ten months at the School, I went to my doctor and had blood drawn for a follow-up to a medical procedure. By coincidence, I had baseline tests taken shortly before I started kung fu. I was curious to see how my heart and blood qualities had changed following less than a year of training. The results showed pretty big changes:
- Overall Cholesterol at 178, improved 15%.
- LDL’s (the “bad” cholesterol) at 113, improved 19%.
- Blood pressure at 104/70, improved by 19%/21%.
- Pulse rate at 52, down from 77 or 32%.
I was excited, and felt this was nice improvement, especially for a tortoise. Maybe best of all, it reminded me that studying kung fu is not a competition with others, and certainly not a race. My first year of diligent effort had paid off nicely, even recognizing my own skill level and slow starting physical condition. I was competent in many basic techniques, and shown improvement in flexibility and balance. And surprise, I had achieved much improvement in an unexpected area, my health!
By Jim Reeder, a former Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School student