August 28, 2013
You are eleven years old and one Saturday instead of going to Kung Fu classes you decide to skip it and go play football with your friends. As you kick the ball around, run from one end of the concrete pitch to the other working up a sweat, you are carefree having the time of your life. Life could not get any better.
Then from the corner of your eye you spy a familiar figure, someone you recognize, someone with the power of authority. That someone you realize upon second glance is your father.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw my dad looking down at me from the street into the sunken car park where I was playing football. That was me being caught red-handed on a cold Saturday afternoon in London, missing my classes to play football with my best friends and other guys from the neighborhood.
My dad had signed me up for Saturday classes about six weeks ago.
"Son, you need to be able to take care of yourself, this is the rough East End and one must learn how to fight," he rationalized.
I was actually quite keen to join and went along happily attending classes every weekend. I would forego playing tag, football and other games with my best friends for a couple of hours every Saturday to learn the art of self defense and fighting. This weekend however my friends cajoled, goaded, teased and urged me to not go to classes. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure and using my kit bag as a goal post proceeded to play football.
So seeing my dad made me gulp and I thought, "I've had it, I'm done for," as he beckoned me over to him without saying a word or raising a hand in gesture.
"Why are you not at Kung Fu classes?" he asked. I could feel my ears burning and my friends watching me made me want to sink into the ground and disappear.
"Err! I just wanted to play football and didn't want to go to class today," I mumbled as I looked at my feet.
"I never, ever want to see you miss Kung Fu again, I will let you off today, but from next week you will go to every class without fail," he stated, and with that he carried on walking to wherever he was going. I went back to my football game and having explained to my friends what had happened carried on playing.
However, I decided there and then that I would never miss another class. Of course there were the odd classes that I did miss due to illness or a reasonable excuse, but I never missed a class of my own volition. I persevered with my training and my Sifu a fellow Bengali called Maruf, took a liking to me and taught me well. In return I became a dedicated and loyal student.
So through all the fights, the twisted fingers, busted toes, torn ligaments, bloody noses and bruises I kept at it from 1981 to 1989. Each year I would partake in one exam and each year I would pass to go through nine sashes in that period. I fought fights and got beaten and others I won unanimously. I taught junior students and I trained with Black belts.
I was my Sifu's star pupil, becoming his first student to achieve Black belt in 1989, which made him an extremely proud teacher. The exam to attain my Black belt required the demonstration of a set of movements, followed by set sparring where no blows are struck. This was followed by breaking bricks and slates with bare hands then kicking wooden planks in half.
Then came the fights. There were three 3-minute fights. One-on-one, one-on-two and the finale was me against a senior Black belt. All of these fights were performed with only gloves, foot-guards, gum-shields and groin guards.
At the end of it, my lips were busted and bleeding I was bruised all over and I was exhausted to the core. Yet when the results were announced and I had got my Black belt every pain, every drop of blood and every tear was of happiness and exhilaration. At the exam my dad was not there, nor were any of my friends just my Sifu Maruf and my fellow classmates. Maruf came and gave me a huge hug and lifted me straight off the ground.
When I got home my parents were very proud of my achievement. I have to thank my dad for making me stick to my classes.
If there is anything I learned from my years of Kung Fu was if you start something worthwhile stick to it and finish it, be committed. Secondly, never give up, no matter how hard, tough or unexciting the work may be keep at it. Thirdly I learned self-control and discipline in all areas of life, especially how to use peaceful methods to resolve conflict. Last but not least the rewards for achieving a worthwhile goal are priceless.
This story is dedicated to my dear Sifu Maruf who died a few years back, killed in a car crash in Bangladesh. May you rest in peace, you were my first role model.