Modern lifestyles make it hard to stay healthy. Office chairs gelatin-ise our asses wholesale, while we wince at the silent but scathing mockery of stairs. Perhaps answers lie in the past - in methods tried and tested for centuries.
In a quiet, unassuming building hidden in the leafy suburb of Parkhurst, ancient styles of Kung Fu have been dutifully preserved and are offered to anyone looking to push limits. The Chinese Martial Arts and Health Center (CMAHC) teaches two synergetic styles of Kung Fu in addition to Tai Chi and Chi Gung - a meditative breathing art for vitality and self-awareness.
The centre incorporates training techniques and a fighting system originating in Shaolin Temples, adopted and refined by a Sung dynasty Emperor to train his armies and faithfully developed for centuries down a long line of Masters to the present day. The school traces its lineage back well over 1 000 years, important to consider in a time where many 'certified' martial arts trainers acquire their skills from Grandmaster YouTube.
The regimes develop over time, so students of all fitness levels can join. Starting with basic exercises, students eventually move to more exotic and rigorous methods, challenging body and mind. The fighting system is diverse, incorporating empty hand forms, animal-based styles popularised by Kung Fu flicks, and even weapons training.
But martial arts isn't all kicking ass and splitting logs with your skull. It exists to cultivate vitality, discipline the mind, develop spiritual awareness and, ultimately, as a path to knowing yourself and your capabilities. The centre, with a branch in Fourways, has been teaching students these qualities for over 27 years.
The atmosphere at the school changes over time. A junior student's skittish phase gives way to the realisation that the centre is more than a training ground. As you progress over the years, the vibe becomes more like that of a large family. An unusually sadistic family whose idea of love hinges on countless burpees, sit-ups and near-chunder moments of endurance, but a family nevertheless. One whose goals are the continuity of its heritage and the self-advancement of all its members. There's love under every bruise and drop of sweat ... I think.
Because it's a long-term (read: life-term) commitment, martial arts can be hard to dedicate yourself to. For those simply wanting to stay in shape and not develop monk-like fortitude or fists of tempered iron, the Center offers Pilates and 'Fu-Fitness' classes, as well as a new self-defense course. So if you're tired of squeezing between tribal tattooed hard-bodies and that flabby old Italian guy in the sauna at your local gym, try the ancient way and sign up for two free trial lessons.
by Dennis "bAsterd Aijent" Dvornak