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In recent days I have received a lot of commentary from close friends in regards to the advice and concepts introduced in the Pluck Those Weeds From Your Life article. A few have pointedly asked or wondered if I consider them weeds. To them I responded they are not.

I believe they would certainly know from the way I interact with them, or don’t, if I have deemed them low quality, noxious weeds. These questions and comments came from people I love and respect. They are some of the flowers in my well-manicured garden of positive life-style.

Today I would like to counterbalance the concept of the necessity of distancing ourselves from low value, toxic people by sharing my ongoing experience of positive connection and high value found in my own network. A community I have the privilege of being included in is the Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu school in Boulder Colorado. The environment of the school is a stellar example of high quality and positive people in my life.

My Kung Fu school is a spectacular assortment of people. Recently, on the last Saturday in July the members of the academy all converged on Denver and the eighteenth annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. With families in tow, we set up three canopy tents and a multitude of chairs and tables. Parents of young students set out a lunch spread consisting of home made Chinese food. There was plenty of lunch, snacks, beverages, and desserts for all.

Dragon team parading at 2017 CDBF

 

Middle aged students, myself included, brought spouses and children too young to participate in the school. Young adults without children as well as empty-nesting older students all came. Some students brought their significant others. One student’s cousin who was visiting from Chicago was invited as well. All of these people came to witness and participate in our performances and the subsequent camaraderie at the festival.

The school set off the festival’s official opening by parading our dragon through the park grounds past vendors and food trucks. We paused near the main stage where a Buddhist monk told the story of the first dragon boat race to the crowd. It was the story of how a man’s drowning led to many different people rowing their boats together. The were all racing out to sea to save him.{1}

We continued the parade to the lake where the dragon boats were lined up. We witnessed blessings over the festival. We saw dignitaries, paired with members of our academy, dot the eyes of the dragon heads on the boats, as well as the eyes of our own dragon. The dotting of the dragon is symbolic with the bringing the dragons to life.

We performed our dragon, lions, & Kung Fu for the crowds. In the brief periods of rest between the sets we mingled and bonded with one another. These people I have never had the time or chance to get to know surrounded me and it felt like family. It felt right. These high quality individuals shared their families, their stories, and time with my family and myself.

 

Dragon Boats

 

Our class structure it is an entirely different experience. We have only brief moments of interpersonal connection. I don’t know the occupation or non-Kung Fu hobbies of the majority of the members of this amazing society. Our entire focus during class time is on our martial practice and our physical feats.

We all share the same goal of acquiring as much knowledge of our discipline as possible in the eight hours per week school is open. I currently attend about six hours of class per week, broken up into three nights. Additionally, many of us carve out extra time to participate in the traditional nine man dragon, the two person lion dance, and sparring sessions that account for an extra two to three hours per week. This is an immense time commitment in such a busy modern world.

It is a great equalizer. I am significantly outranked by thirteen and fourteen year old girls. I share the floor with a ten year old and sometimes practice two person sets with him. There are senior students in the class who are also senior citizens.

During classes students participate in intense cardio conditioning as well as bone hardening exercises for the first hour. For the rest of class until its conclusion we practice two person contact forms, or continue hammering out the last form or skill we were taught.

There is little time for more than the exchange of brief greetings and pleasantries before class. We have to spend the entire two hours intent and focused on what we are doing and learning. There is no verbal interpersonal connection. If we are busted talking, fooling around, or lacking focus we will be punished with sit-ups, push-ups, or having to run laps around the building.

 

Kung Fu performance at CDBF 2018 (me messing up my Eagle Claw and my chamber hand)

 

Despite the stringency found in our discipline, my fellow students all coexist within the established expectations of respect, hard work, and discipline. The rigidity keeps us focused on the martial skills we are attempting to learn.

The time I dedicate to Kung Fu means less time I can dedicate to my family. It means less time for rest and relaxation. It definitely means less time for my writing and other hobbies and passions I hold dear. If I would like to connect with my classmates outside of the class setting I need to take more time out of my already bursting schedule. My classmates are worth it, but the cost is too great most of the time. Even when presented with opportunities to connect most often I must politely decline.

We all must make difficult choices about who and how much time we can afford to spend with others.

Being involved with Shaolin Hung Mei is a wonderful commitment and experience that I choose to be a part of. The times in the past when I put the equivalent amount of energy into the maintenance of relationships with low quality people provided me no gained value. Most likely it amounted to a negative sum in the emotional, social, and financial aspects of my life, unlike that which I receive from being a part of my Kung Fu school community. My classmates and I participate in class content and happy knowing it’s an amazing place without low quality people.

 

Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu circa long ago in New York

Shaolin Hung Mei summer 2017 in Boulder, CO

{1} The drowning man was not saved

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