For the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting many different students that study Kung Fu.
In all of my encounters I had discussed our similar passion and excitement for Martial Arts and how it had been affecting our lives for the better but I have to confess I knew next to nothing about Kung Fu. I had read various articles on Kung Fu that had me at times scratching my head. I couldn’t separate fact from fiction.
At a Martial Arts History Museum fundraiser I had the opportunity to meet not a student but a Founder of a style of Kung Fu, Douglas Wong. After lightly discussing his martial arts resume with me, I concluded this man definitely knew Kung Fu. But it wouldn’t be until a few weeks later that I sat down with his wife Carrie Ogawa-Wong at Dragonfest and got my Kung Fu facts straight.
Carrie Wong (left) Kenpo Girl (Center) Douglas Wong (right)
Sifu Carrie Ogawa-Wong was just the informative woman to set me straight. She is not just a wife, mother and martial artist but is also a 2005 inductee of the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame, an author and a martial arts competitor. In 1980 she was competing nationally and was ranked number 2 female competitor in hand and weapon katas by the Star Rating System. She made a return from retirement in 1991 at the Tat Mau Wong’s International Kung-Fu Championship in San Francisco.
She has studied...
Sifu Carrie teaches Children's Kung Fu, Adult Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan, and private classes.
Some of her students include Kevin Sorbo “Hercules, the Legendary Journey”,
Lucy Lawless “Xena: Warrior Princess”
and Ryan Gosling “Young Hercules”
Carrie training with Lucy Lawless
When I sat down to talk to Carrie, I told her I had been so confused on all the different styles of Kung Fu. Carrie laughed,
“The easiest way I explain it is with cars. Kung Fu is a car and each style is a model. The styles are all different but in the end they are all Kung Fu.”
Yes apparently all cats know Kung Fu.
I confessed to her I didn’t know much about Kung Fu and what I probably did know was misconceptions. I was familiar with the fact that Kung Fu is not a belt system. I asked if societies fascination with belt systems had affected them?
Carrie explained, “When we weren’t doing regular testing none of the students ever asked about it but if you are an instructor that focuses on it then that’s what they (students) will focus on. The American society has a need for promotion, a need to show their progress.
“We had our curriculum situated were we were able to incorporate sashes very easily. I’ve found it helps the kids but... I tell my students I can take away a sash but not what you learn. What you learn becomes you and it can’t be taken away.”
There are so many different systems in Martial Arts, I asked what Kung Fu provided her that no other system did?...
She clarified, “With our style we try to stress the spiritual and physical training. I took karate first and when I took karate no one talked about breathing or inner energy. No one trained your chi.”
This was something I had read about, that Kung Fu focused on a spiritual energy. The definition of chi in Chinese refers to “air” or “breathing”. These are two different things but both are essential for a martial artists to establish an “energy,” which we transfer into power.
I frowned, the image of Kung Fu and power in my mind were conflicting ideas....
Carrie was quick to disprove this misconception, “I try to convey that the softness associated with Kung Fu is a misconception. I was the only female in the fighting class of 20 men. We had other students from other Kung Fu schools wanting to fight, so they would come and fight with us—full contact.”
After further discussing the topic, I was reminded that 10x World Champion Kick Boxer, Don Wilson got his start in Kung Fu. Doug has trained previous champions such as William Henderson and Alonzo “Lumpy” Young.
We could go on and on about the misconceptions of Kung Fu.
Perhaps some of it comes from the publicity Kung Fu receives from Martial Arts Films. Perhaps some just want to judge a book by its cover? Either way Kung Fu is not the only system or style riddled with misconceptions and delusions.
It leaves us in a quandary on what to do and what to say when confronted with these misunderstandings?
We have dedicated large amounts of time in our lives to study and as Carrie stated, that knowledge becomes us over time. As that knowledge grows we in turn become the face and representative of that system we love so much. People are naturally going to be curious of our passion and the system we are studying. The first thing we can do is not get upset or continue to pass on false information.
Smile and remember you could be speaking to a future fellow scholar.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...