Bianca Mohan describes her journey to becoming a kung fu black belt, how kung fu training has helped her learn how to direct herself through life. Below is an account of Bianca’s journey.
I will always remember my very first adult Kung Fu class. It was weapons day and we all had an opportunity to practise our weapons forms before a mini demonstration in front of everyone at the end of class. This was the first time I’d ever watched a black belt train. My jaw dropped to the ground when Si Hing Nick Zarmakoupis practiced his sword form- I was in absolute awe. It looked so strong and so graceful. The first thought that came to my mind after watching was. “I’m going to do that one day. That is going to be me.
I started Kung Fu when I was quite young and feel that through my years of training, each grade I have earned has taught me a little more about the dedication and hard work that should go into training and has helped me mature at both a personal level, and improve my skills in Kung Fu. I have come to understand the importance of having a positive mind-set and developing correct technique in order to continually advance my skill level. Over time, it has been drilled into me by my instructors and as well as through observation, that a kung fu black belt should look perfect every time. A kung fu black belt is a representative of the school and as a senior student helps to guide and inspire the younger students.
Having gained a better understanding of what is expected of a black belt, it has become more than just the colour of the sash. I have realised that the black belt itself is simply just a physical entity … to be honest I could very easily go to spotlight, buy some black material, sew a red stripe onto it and call it a day! But it would never hold the same meaning as a martial artist who has wears a black belt that he or she has earned. It is a symbol of hard work, of all of the pain and sweat, (and maybe even some tears) you put into your training to achieve this standard of martial arts practise- a representation of the time, energy and effort you have invested into becoming a better version of yourself.
Training for my kung fu black belt has probably the biggest challenge I have had to face in my martial arts journey so far. I believe that my own perception of what it means to be a black belt has really driven my training to another level. I have been able to shift my focus to more advanced aspects of my training, for example, paying more attention to my breathing, working on my rhythm in my forms or targeting highly specific points. I found that training for a senior grade has also taught me to go back to basics when I am struggling. I remind myself that I shouldn’t lose sight of what my basic techniques are, as that is where all my advanced techniques evolve from in the first place.
One of the hardest things I have had to do while working towards my kung fu black belt is to develop the skill of directing my own training and becoming self-motivated. When you are told after the warm up to “go to the corner of pain” it’s quite intimidating! All of a sudden the format of my practise is left up to me. After regularly training within a group or team, it comes as a shock when suddenly I am in the position to decide what I need to work on, and determine where I need more practise or what techniques require improvement. I will attest to the fact that being self-driven or self-motivated is not always easy. There are most definitely times when I have felt like I wanted to give up, actually given up, or I don’t feel I’m executing the technique correctly. However, this has taught me to actively think about the technique I am working on, and use the knowledge I have acquired through my training to self-correct- an important skill to have.
One aspect of my involvement in Kung Fu that I think has helped to shape my journey to coming a black belt has been the opportunity to be an assistant instructor for the kids’ class on Saturdays. Through teaching the kids, I have gained an insight into the various styles of learning, and how to find different ways to pass on the knowledge I have learnt throughout my own training. This has also prepared me for my black belt, as I feel I have developed skills which enable me to assist not only with the kids, but also to help to guide and motivate adults at a beginner and intermediate level.
For me, this journey has only just begun. There is so much more I have yet to learn, both at a personal level, and about Kung Fu. I believe that training for my black belt has been a challenge I have had to take in order to help me advance to the next stage of my martial arts practise. I will continue to broaden my skills and knowledge in Kung Fu and I know that everything I have learned through this experience will help me to be a better version of myself, not only within Kung Fu, but in everyday aspects of my life as well. I have become stronger person both mentally and physically, and am very thankful for the support I have been shown from my instructors Sifu Craig Rayner and Si Jie Joey Baful and for the opportunity to begin to self-direct my aspects of my training.
I would like to thank Sifu Craig and Si Jie Joey for the effort they have put in to help me achieve my kung fu black belt, and to my dad, brother and mum for their help and support.
Bianca Mohan, Murrumbeena Kung Fu