I'm about to have another birthday very soon. Not a big deal. In fact, I'd rather people not mention it to me, cuz then I have to be all nice and say, "Thank you," and then they expect me to say it to them when they have theirs, as if we're part of some special club or something. We're not unique and individual snowflakes. Everyone has them. As for me, I'm about to have my 31st. After 25, when your car insurance gets cheaper, there really isn't another important one until 40. Some think 30 is a big one, and I can see why it could be, but personally, it was just another day. I was ready to be out of my 20's long before, because having an office job by 25 took a lot of the party lust out of me. Or maybe it was because I moved away from the Angry Midget. Ryan, if you're reading this, you owe me a new liver. Thanks to you, I lost mine in the tunnels underneath the University of Northern Colorado. And I don't want your liver, motherfucker. You're a doctor. Fine me one that hasn't been playing 'Whiskey Sponge.'
But all of that is neither here nor there. The reason I bring up age is because someone brought it up to me yesterday. First, some background. I studied a form of kung-fu called Wing Chun for about a year and a half, but my teacher was certified to teach both Wing Chun as well as an old form of Kali called Pekiti Tersia, and he decided to quit WC and focus on Pekiti. I felt abandoned, but I couldn't blame him for his decision. Martial arts is truly a journey, and his took him down a different path. Needless to say, other than a two-month try at a form of Praying Mantis, I've been out-of-practice for about two years now. But I've been feeling the internal itch once again, and a different itch from the one I get every few months or so.
So, I went to observe a Shaolin Long-Fist class this past Sunday morning. I've always been interested in the different Shaolin styles, and supposedly, Long Fist is great for tall people. I'm 6'3'' and lanky, so I thought it would be a good place to start. I e-mailed the master at a school not far from me, and asked if I could observe the 11:00 class, and he said, 'Absolutely. Wear a white t-shirt, loose pants, and comfortable shoes. First class is free.' So I showed up, and I see the master, and four children, all around ages 8-12. Yeah, the 11:00 class was a kid's class. That's not what the schedule on his website said, and he didn't mention that in his e-mail. So there's strike one.
Then, he talked to me for a few minutes during a break. 'How old are you?' I said, 'I'm about to be 31.' He paused. 'Ohhhhhh. Yeah. Shaolin style has a lot of jumping and fast movements in it. I don't usually teach anyone 40 or older, since the reaction times are slower, and the flexibility isn't what it used to be.' Puzzled, I repeated myself. 'I'm about to be 31.' He responded with, 'Yes, and you're not too old right now, but Shaolin is better to learn and practice when you're younger.'
He then proceeded to mention two other styles that are taught at his school. One is a lot like Wing Chun, and if I wanted to learn more Wing Chun, I have other places I could be going to learn it. I'm ready to try something different. I told him that long before he mentioned the similar alternative. The other style is Tai Chi. Now, if someone told me 'Hey man, Tai Chi is actually a good martial art. It can be used for relaxation and breathing control, and if you speed it up, it's a solid style that can hold its own with other forms of kung-fu,' then I'd have been a little more jazzed. But after telling me that I'm too old for Shaolin kung-fu, I took it as a bit of an insult. Granted, this guy was in his mid-50's, so it's not like he was being ageist, but I saw the people leaving the Tai Chi class before the Kid's Shaolin started, and the average age in there was late 40's.
When I turned 30, I didn't buy a Corvette, or jump out of an airplane, or start playing paintball. It was just another day. And yet, I didn't feel old until I walked out of that dojo. Was I really too old to practice a 'physical' martial art?
Fuck that guy. Just because I'm not going to become a grand-master of a style doesn't mean I shouldn't study it. I'm not trying to make a sequel to 'Hero' in my back yard; I just want to learn a martial art. If all he wants is a room full of children that he can play 'Catholic Priest' with, or to slap them upside the head and say things like 'Don't think! FEEL!', then he won't be getting my time or my money.
I'm gonna find someone who is willing to teach this not-even-middle-aged dog some new tricks. Stay tuned...