On Saturday, I attended “Carrie Ogawa-Wong Day” at the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank. Master Carrie has been my sifu since I started training at White Lotus Kung Fu, and I couldn’t imagine a better teacher. I’ve studied kung fu, Tai Chi, and weapons with her for years. She’s an incredible martial artist — her forms are perfection, her fighting technique is terrifying, her fitness and flexibility are astounding, and she’s amazing at actually explaining everything.
More than that, though, she cares about her students. When I’ve been absent for months at a time, she emails to make sure I’m okay. Not to harangue me into returning, but to check in and see how I’m doing. And when I do want to come back, there is never ever recrimination, questions about why I was absent, or guilt of any sort. I am welcomed back unconditionally, as if I never left. She makes White Lotus feel like a home, and she has made me truly understand the concept of kung fu as family.
During the event, a whole bunch of Big Name martial artists spoke about Master Carrie, expressing their admiration and genuine affection for her as a martial artist and as a person. Tears streamed down my face during Master Jennings’s speech, and again during Master Carrie’s.
For the the last two years, I haven’t been attending kung fu. Do you want to hear my excuses? I have so many of them: my job, my nascent novel career, my new community commitments, my ongoing health problems, my money issues… excuses piled atop excuses, only some of which really kept me from martial arts.
But being with my kung fu family on Saturday made me feel whole again. I didn’t realize how much of myself had been missing until I had this reminder. I came home from the event in a glorious, sun-filled mood, in love with the world. I knew then that I had to return…no matter what it cost, no matter how many excuses piled up. Martial arts — and specifically my family at White Lotus — are just too important to my spiritual well-being.
Martial arts has never been far from my mind and heart, whether or not I’m attending class, but now my body is getting back in the action. Last night I went back to Tai Chi for the first time in years. I paid my dues, bought a t-shirt with the new logo, and committed to making my happiness a priority. After my travel in April, I hope to return to kung fu and weapons, too.