Returning to Kung Fu

The past year and a half has been one filled with experience and trials. I found myself lost in life. The passion that once drove me to succeed had waned and I became frustrated with myself and the little I felt I accomplished. Without knowing what direction I was headed in, I decided to take a new approach to life. I took a break from everything that was familiar around me and left my home in Canada.

It was a year of therapy and growth, and of much needed self-reflection. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. How else can I justify my absence from everything I hold dear.

From the day I started packing my bags to the moment I took my seat on the plane, I was filled with anxiety and uncertainty. I had no idea what was awaiting me. There’s no way I could have predicted what was ahead of me. The mountains of research I had done and the references I contacted, none of them prepared me sufficiently for where I was heading.

A new life, a new beginning

I stepped off the plane showing confidence on the outside, but filled with trepidation on the inside. To those I encountered, I seemed overconfident and a little too proud. But it was just a farce. What they couldn’t see was that I was simply a girl far away from home, from family, and from everything familiar.

None of my emotions were allowed to get in my way though. I had to overcome whatever doubts wondered into my mind. There was a purpose for me traveling to a new country. A reason for this sudden change.

You know that feeling of being trapped and in this stale state where nothing seems to ever change or move forward. That’s what I was feeling for months before I made the decision to move. I wanted to break out of that rut and move forward with my life and career.

And that is how I found myself teaching English in South Korea. If you follow me on instagram @kungfugirlfighter, then you may have already seen a few posts from my adventure.

Keeping up with practice

For many reasons, I didn’t want to give up my practice. I struggled and fought hard to get to a certain level of kung fu. There was no way I was just going to let that all go away.

While in SK, I thought about joining Hapkido or Taekwondo, but it just didn’t turn out. I didn’t want to travel too far to go to an English speaking class, and my almost non-existent knowledge of the Korean language wasn’t enough to sustain me through a class. Alas, I had to balance my workouts and force myself to practice on my own. It worked out for a little while at least.

Facing my biggest struggle

Okay, yes. I admit I fell victim to laziness. I didn’t always want to practice and the temptation of Netflix was too strong. It was only a few months in before I lost my drive to continue.

I was alone, tired, confused, and often questioning my life decisions. Fall was nearing it’s end and winter was bringing in a chill in the air that I was actually not accustomed to. This state of sadness lasted a several weeks. I didn’t like that feeling and I’m always annoyed at myself when I think about how I let it drag on for so long.

It took me a while before I was able to identify the cause of my funk. Like everyone in the world, I had my list of complaints. I kept getting sick, work was hard, there was nothing to do, etc.

Shortly after my birthday, I realized what my biggest problem was. The problem that started everything, and from which other problems built on. I was lonely. I didn’t want to practice, because I had no one to practice with. I didn’t want to go out, because I didn’t have anyone to go out with.

My solution: join a club!

As easy as that sounds, it took me a while before I found a club that actually had people I was excited to see. A club that made me want to travel a long distance to get to.

The first club I joined was a hiking club. It worked well to keep me active. But the club that really got my heart pumping and forced me to push myself was the running club. Both of these clubs were good and meant for expats in SK, but there was a significant difference that I noticed almost instantly. Here’s where the difference is between the two clubs…

The hiking club had a lot of members of varying ability. During the hike, we all mostly walked together. This meant that we mostly went at the pace of the slowest member. There was also a high turnover of members within the club. Sometimes I saw familiar faces, but many times, there were a bunch a people I didn’t know and never became close with.

On the other hand, the running club had members that had been part of the club for years. You could always count on seeing many of the same faces. They also challenged you quite a bit more. They would join races and train at all different paces. Your friends might slow down and run with you, but they were always pushing you to your limit.

I regret that I didn’t keep up with my practice of kung fu during this time. But running with my new friends gave me a similar drive and challenge that I got from kung fu. My endurance returned.

Self-reflecting on my time use

I don’t see my experience in SK as negative. While I didn’t do much for my practical kung fu skills, it did allow me to be more aware of who I am. A heavy aspect of kung fu is self-awareness and finding the inner peace within you. Through this time, I was able to learn to become more independent and a stronger individual.

I will always be one of those people who has a million thoughts flitting through my mind at once. But now, I am able to focus on one thought at a time a little bit better. I am also able to make more decisive plans.

My most important lesson

Life abroad was like a test. It was very similar to taking a survey and narrowing down your options. I had to figure out the type of person I want to be. And for me, I was able to come a little closer to that answer. As practitioners of kung fu, we are not immune to normal human internal struggles. I fought my battle and I feel like I’m coming out the victor. I have a clearer image of what I want. It’s all a matter of whether or not I can discipline myself to get to where I want to be.

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