The Responsibility of a Martial Artist

by Kimmy Squiers

Hi. I’m Simo Kimmy and a Lo Si (assistant to Sifu) of West Coast Wing Chun, a Wing Chun Martial Arts school based in Long Beach, Ca.  I grew up with four brothers in my house, but somehow I was the only one in my family ever interested in learning martial arts.  I think I became interested in learning a martial art because I felt vulnerable.

Without going into explicit detail about my childhood, suffice to say I grew up feeling completely powerless.  With no blame to any of my family members for events that happened, I became a victim.  I was timid and shy and though I was the youngest and only girl and very loved and adored, I, at times, felt unimportant and definitely overshadowed by circumstance/s in my family.   And because of these unnamed events. I also felt so powerless that I for a very long time felt like I really had no right to breathe air or to exist.  I never felt like I didn’t want to live, but instead felt like I shouldn’t take up space.

So, I became fascinated by women and men with power.  I adored the superheros of my generation – I loved Wonder Woman so much that I used to dream that I could jump really high like her and could beat bad people up.  Then later, Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer became my heroes.  Then, I discovered martial arts movies with Bruce Lee and then, Jackie Chan.  These characters had real power, they weren’t victims like me or others in my family.  No one could hurt them.  They were untouchable.

I wanted that. To be untouchable.  To be so full of power and magic and strength that no one could hurt me or the people I love.  I would wish so hard that lasers could come from my hands and eyes.  (I am just lucky I didn’t jump down a flight of stairs thinking I could fly like Peter Pan like my brother did.) And I dreamt I could spin and kick and punch my way to happiness.  I spent days dreaming of having these powers.  But to the outside world, I was shy and sweet.  I imagined myself She-Ra or Xena, the world saw me as a Disney Princess.   In in the midst of chaos and strife, I felt helpless.

And to some extent, I was, because I felt that I was. But I was also helpless to a certain extent because I am a woman, the weaker of the two sexes.  Often society and women try to pretend that woman are just as powerful as men, and although that may be true in social or political arenas or even familial situations, it is mostly untrue in a physical sense.  The vulnerability of others in my family who were severely abused, heightened this sense in me.

For years I did nothing constructive about this helpless feeling I felt.  I tried to gain a sense of control and power by acting out through bulimia or destructive relationships.  Eventually, however, this brought me to an unhappiness so deep that my only option became to change myself and how I viewed the world.  Instead of taking the same destructive path I had grown accustomed to, I began a new journey of self-love and personal growth.

Eventually, I became a healer, an energy worker and a massage therapist.  In  a way, I did become a superhero.  Chi flowed from my hands like webs flew from Spiderman’s.  I felt like I could help change people’s lives for the better and that began to help me feel more empowered.  This was very satisfying for a while, but eventually I began to resent healing others and grew tired of always giving, giving, giving… while I felt empty inside.  I struggled with being the “caregiver,” a roll that was expected of me as a woman.  My insides were screaming, “What about ME!”

When I began training in Wing Chun Kung Fu, I did it for myself.  I had no aspirations to protect my family or friends.  I was a Superhero with an identity crisis.  Not exactly a villain, but definitely not a Super Friend.  I just wanted to be a bad ass – The Bride in Kill Bill.   I wanted to feel powerful on the outside.  The kind of powerful that would make me feel like I could take care of myself.  Like I could walk to the grocery store at dusk without worrying about someone attacking me.  And that was enough at first.  The problem is that the art of Wing Chun transforms you.

It develops power from the inside out.   Your spirit somehow becomes transformed and healed by the process of learning the art.   Although, we learn Chi Kung, a form of meditation and gentle moving stances that help build internal energy, it is the process of learning Wing Chun, how to fight, that actually quells the turmoil and violence within you. It is the Yin within the Yang. The soft within the hard.

But really, it is more than that.  Recently, I had an experience that helped me understand the transformation that Wing Chun  seminates.  A few days ago, I left work with my boss at 11 p.m.  We were quickly approached by a man who seemed unstable, like he was on drugs.  He asked for directions to Ocean St., so we assertively gave him directions to Ocean, sending him off in the opposite direction.  My boss told me to come with her to her car (as mine was in the direction we sent the guy) and told me she’d give me a ride.  We began to walk in the opposite direction.  The man turned and began walking in the direction we were going asking if he could get to Ocean this way.

We both knew this could potentially be a bad situation.  My boss was assertive in her tone, but backed away from the guy, as she told him he had to go in the opposite direction.  I was also assertive in my tone and calmly positioned myself between the man and my boss.  I was far enough away where he couldn’t hit or grab me, but close enough to step in and attack him if I needed too.  Thankfully, the man gave in to our assertions and took off down the street in the opposite direction.

You see, I felt healthily scared but confident that I had enough training behind me to effectively deal with the situation if it turned physical.   I understood that a fight is unpredictable (especially with a drug addict), but I also trusted all of the training I had endured.   I didn’t feel powerful so much, but I felt confident.  And I knew then and forever more that there are those of those who train for these moments like that and those that don’t and that it is the responsibility of anyone who knows how to fight to protect those who are more vulnerable.  It is up to us to keep peace and very often the internal power we develop during training is enough to do just that.  People sense our vulnerability as they sense our power.  But if it is not enough, we must end violence as quickly and effectively as possible.

Though I once thought that learning a martial art was for me and me only,  I was completely mistaken.  There is no “me and me only”.  We are part of something greater than just us.  And as individuals, as we develop power, we are also develop a great responsibility.  Once a certain level of skill is reached in martial arts, you are no longer learning it for yourself, but for your family, friends, neighbors, and even for people you have never met.  You learn it for the betterment of humanity.

Ip Man’s Code of Conduct

REMAIN disciplined – uphold yourself ethically as a martial artist.

PRACTICE courtesy and righteousness – serve community and honor your family.

LOVE your fellow students or classmates – be united and avoid conflicts.

LIMIT your desires and pursuit of bodily pleasures – preserve the proper spirit.

TRAIN diligently and make it a habit – maintain your skills.

LEARN to develop spiritual tranquility – abstain from arguments and fights.

PARTICIPATE in society – be conservative, cultured and gentle in manners.

HELP the weak and the very young – use your martial skill for the good of humanity.

PASS on the tradition – preserve the Chinese art and its Rules of Conduct.

Ip Man understood this concept.   Bruce Lee even said,  “There is no opponent. Because the word ”l” does not exist,” and also “Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”  They both understood that everything we do, we do not just for ourselves but for the whole of ourselves.   Perhaps even that we are not just the individual, but something much greater than that.

I had known this on an intellectual level for a long time.  However, this experience with my boss outside the restaurant helped me learn it on a visceral level.  I didn’t think twice about  protecting her if I needed to – we were the same, she and I.  And ultimately we are the same as the man who was lost (in more ways than one) and was potentially dangerous to us.  Bruce Lee also said, “When the opponent expands, l contract. When he contracts, l expand. And when there is an opportunity… l do not hit…it hits all by itself (shows his fist).”

So, now, after my path with Wing Chun, I not only feel like I have a right to breathe air and take up space,  but I feel that I am the breath, the air, and the space.  I am everything and everything is me.

I’d love to hear your comments and feelings about this blog.

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7 Responses to The Responsibility of a Martial Artist

  1. abdul says:

    That is incredible, most of the stuff you talked about in there is relevant to me. Great blog Simo hey that drug addict is one lucky guy if you know what i mean haha.

    • ipmankungfu says:

      We all have more in common than we realize, but for some reason we always feel like a problem in singular to us. This is why we must share our stories more. Together, we can be, accomplish and do anything.

  2. Alan Farmer says:

    Hi Kimmy, I just read your blog, and wanted to tell you that I think it is refreshingly honest. You reveal personal things to illustrate your points, and that in itself takes a different kind of courage from that you showed in making sure your boss remained safe. I wholeheartedly agree with all the sentiments you express so well.
    Best wishes, Alan (a fellow Wing Chun practitioner from GM Keok’s Association in Scotland)

  3. ipmankungfu says:

    Ah, one of the places I crave to visit…Scotland!

    Alan, thank you for your feedback. If any portion of my story resonates with someone, then I am so happy. I have been through a lot in my life and if my story can help others, then it gives those experiences an even greater purpose! :>)

  4. radtana says:

    We are all, the same. As you have put it, greatly and very candid. So stoked to have met you Kimmy, and so glad that we are all connected in this big family.

  5. Hi Kimmy,

    You write from the heart, you share a great deal of yourself, thoughts, feelings and emotions. What really shines through is your passion for Wing Chun which is inspiring. All of your thoughts on oneness resonates. I study in Scotland with Alan Farmer (coincidence, Alan and I have not discussed your blog) and our late Sifu MasterTom Hamilton always reminded us that we are all wingchun brothers and sisters, you will be welcome in Scotland anytime.
    Take Care

  6. Calvin chua says:

    Nice perspective, I totally agree and have felt the same way too. Wing chun does grow in us. Calvin right across the globe in Malaysia. Representing the wsl ving tsun.

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