On Having Brothers Along the Path

July 7, 2021

One of the most heartening ways that I learned to love my body was through the encouragement from my kung fu brothers.

I recall a hilarious and powerful moment when I was just starting to learn Taijiquan Push Hands – a two-person contact practice that cultivates whole-body listening and teaches rooting… I was pushing hands with my kung fu brother Sean. While working to uproot me he exclaimed “Wow, your hips are like a barrel!” He must have felt my energy shrink in response to this and he immediately and enthusiastically added “that’s a good thing!”. Initially I did not feel this as a compliment! But with his added enthusiasm I realized that he was recognizing and celebrating a strength that I’d always been self conscious of, a width that I’d always wanted to diminish.

Standards of beauty in my coming of age were rather unhealthy. There was even a trend called “heroin chic” (remember the 90’s when it was cool to look emaciated?). My wide hips and big thighs placed me very far from this standard. But in my early teens I steered towards modelling, and in this industry that held thinness and low tone as the ultimate achievement for women, my self-loathing towards these bigger powerful parts of my body only deepened.

When I started training with Spiritwind, it was the first time in my life that I consistently received feedback and encouragement about my strength. I was so used to being commended on my appearance that it was a rocky road to reorient to being in touch with these parts of myself that had long been condemned. But my brothers had no filter. They would not tiptoe around. If they felt my power while we were practicing, they would call it further forth through recognition and celebration.

I am so fortunate to have so many amazing brothers who continue to inspire me, who challenge me and call upon these hidden and diminished aspects that are just bursting to be honoured in their fullness.

And I will never forget this moment with jovial, light-hearted, and straight-talking Sean: the first time in my life that I felt good about my wide hips. The first time I felt some glimmer of the power they hold.

May we all learn to acknowledge and celebrate each others’ strengths in this life. To call them when we see them.
It’s amazing what a simple act of recognition can do.

On Having Sisters Along the Path

May 14, 2021

When I first started training with Spiritwind Internal Arts, there were some amazing women at the school. Reflecting back, I now realize just how special this was…

Training kung fu with these women was magical. Their sensitivity and power was awesome. One moment they would be so soft and gentle and the next, they could turn around and unleash a torrent of ferocity – like the weather, like mother earth. Their balance of playfulness and discipline was inspiring. If competition became too intense, they’d break the ice with humour that would clear the air. This lightness was accompanied with sincerity and respect and heart.

Their energy was relatable for me. So much of my ability and inability to connect to my power was tied up in the complexities of my experience as a woman, so it was profoundly welcoming to have some women around who I felt I could relate to from that part of my being.

You see, as a girl, I didn’t grow up throwing punches at other girls. That just wasn’t done. And suddenly, for the first time in my life, there I was learning how to attack and field attacks in various ways – and with other women too! It was so much fun! And these women were fierce. I could feel the deep wells of their loyalty and values. They had hearts of gold. They were so caring and encouraging towards me, young eager pup that I was. I felt like they immediately welcomed me in as their younger sister.

Growing up watching old kung fu and samurai films, the warriors were always men. It was only later in my adulthood that I saw women warriors depicted in a strong way on screen. So it was richly transformative that when I began walking on this path, I got to train with both brothers AND sisters.

Sometimes to change patterns, we need trailblazers ahead of us to help light the way. And it helps if we can see ourselves in them in some way. My older kung fu sisters were those pioneering trailblazers for me. They lit the path with so much love, humour, and ferocity… it continues to guide me to this day.

I bow in gratitude to you, Sumi, Nada, and Leila.

On Cultivating Inner Power

May 14, 2021

So much shifted for me since beginning training with Spiritwind Internal Arts, the Internal Martial Arts school I’m part of. One particular memory is forever seared into my mind…

It was a moment, soon after taking my first discipleship test. I was walking home through a park alone after dusk. And all of a sudden I realized, I WASN’T AFRAID.

Now this might not seem unusual for some of you, but for as long as I can remember, walking anywhere alone at night was always scary. I’ve been followed and harassed in my lifetime more times than I can count – both in broad daylight, and, more terrifyingly, at night. And from conversations with my female friends, this seems to have been the norm. Our mothers taught us, rightfully so, that we ought to be on guard, that we might be under attack at any time – especially as a woman, especially alone, especially at night. I recall running home so many times, my heart pounding like it was about to jump out of my chest, as someone lurked in the shadows behind me.

Well I’ll tell you, this moment of walking, without fear, was a total revelation. It was so unfamiliar that it felt crazy. I laughed out loud.

I felt free. I felt fully in my body. I could trust my body. I felt all my senses online and capable, instincts intact. I felt my animal body, ready and calm. I was on guard, alert, but relaxed so that I could listen and respond.

What a beautiful possibility, turned reality.

For a long time I thought this fearlessness came from having a couple tools in my kit – I was confident, and back then, in my youthful gloating, I felt like I could kick some ass if necessary.

But a new perspective has grown in more recent years, a more subtle awareness of a shift that has occurred over years of practice. The realization that this embodied practice has been steadily stripping away layers of fear and victimhood that I had internalized so early, so consistently, that I barely even realized how deep it was. This victim mentality was just there, part of the core, it felt like it was me. Internal Martial Arts training has shown me a way to take care of the victim part of me. I can see her a lot more clearly now. Being on this journey of training has taught me countless lessons but this has been the biggest one – building my inner strength and power slowly and steadily, like fanning a flame to tend a fire. With consistency it grows and then one day – wow, there is some new aspect of yourself that you have been cultivating. It is the result of your work and your commitment, the result of having proper guidance and support, and it shows you that the strength is IN YOU.

I’m passionate about sharing Internal Martial Arts with women, not just because learning tools for self-defence is an essential human birthright. But because the most healing thing we can do is uncover fear, rage, mistrust, and bring them from the shadows into the light so that there is more space for our inner power to shine.