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Hello poets,

When we think of martial arts, we think of kicks and fast powerful punches, not poetry. In my decade or so of studying Kung Fu under Sifu Ron Mohr of the Hong Sing Kwan Ying Do school I learned quite the opposite. Martial arts is about control, control over one’s body, mind and opponent as well. The rigorous training is more than physical, it’s full of self reflection, the acquisition of knowledge, even poetry.

In Kung Fu, poetry provides the mnemonic for the myriad of moves in the forms ( the choreographed routines that allow the rehearsal and perfection of each step, punch and kick ) . We learned blocks named “parting the horses mane”, “waving hands through the clouds”, or “cat chases mouse”, punches like “flower fist”, or “dragon claw” or “seven star stance”. Poetic verse allowed the many possible combinations to be memorized and rehearsed.

Poetry for martial artists can tend to the dark. Full of self reflection and analysis for the martial artist needs to observe closely and see clearly for when two men cross hands, anything can happen, even up to death.

I present to you a poem by Bruce Lee, famous martial artist and philosopher:

Who Am I?

Who am I?
That is the age-old question
Asked by every man
At one time or another.

Though he looks into a mirror
And recognizes the face,
Though he knows his own name
And age and history,
Still he wonders, deep down,
Who am I?

Am I a giant among men,
Master of all I survey,
Or an ineffectual pygmy
Who clumsily blocks his own way?

Am I the self-assured gentleman
With a winning style,
The natural born leader
Who makes friends instantly,
Or the frightened heart
Tiptoeing among strangers

Who, behind a frozen smile, trembles
Like a little boy lost in a dark forest?

Most of us yearn to be one,
But fear we are the other.
Yet we CAN be
What we aspire to be.

Those who cultivate
Their natural instincts,
Who set their sights
On the good, the admirable,
the excellent,
And believe they can achieve it
Will find their confidence

And, in the process,
They will discover the true
Of him who looks back from
the mirror.

As a Chinese friend used to tell me, Bruce Lee would often say “Let you limit be no limit”.

Today I’d like to hear how you faced or transcended a limit, and if poetry helped. Thanks for stopping by.