Today we are celebrating International Children’s Day, so as cheesy as it may sound, who do you wanna be when you grow up? A doctor? A firefighter? Or Darth Vader maybe? The beauty of a children’s mind is that it’s not contaminated with the whole grown up prejudice and doubt, meaning kids can come up with all sorts of wild ideas. Hence I really like to preserve the kid particle that I still have in my mind. BUT to answer the main question!
When I was a child, I wanted to be the lady that sells ice cream, at least I would make people happy… come on ice cream makes everybody happy 😀 Then I wanted to be a ballerina. I was somehow fascinated by all the tutus and the elegance. Finally, there it was the biggest idea of them all. Bruce Lee? Yeah, I will be like Bruce Lee.
The chance to become at least a bit like the ultimate Master came when my school was opening the new sports hall and a Kung-fu school Big Budo came over to perform a show. After the performance was over, the Coach encouraged everybody to come over to a training session, have a look, give it a try and decide if Kung-fu is something for us or not. I went and absolutely loved it. Initially the training group at my school was huge, but it shrank over time. I stayed for six years until I moved to Krakow to go to university. Years later the fabulous Coach of mine admitted – Alice, when I saw you at the first training I thought you would be the first one to quit. You looked like the geeky girl that was forced by Mum to have some physical exercises and finally take a break from the books. Well, the little geeky girl turned out to know how to punch, kick, fight, perform and win some significant titles including a three times v-ce world champion. In the whole group there were Guys who won more titles or were practising Kung-fu long after I finished but think that winning a bunch of medals and trophies over the course of six years is quite cool 🙂
What did practicing Kung-fu give me apart from the ability to kick ass? First of all, confidence. The thought that I’m able to protect myself in an hour of need is incredibly encouraging. Even now it’s always in the back of my head, if needed I can save myself from a difficult situation. Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid most of the time and keep calm when the unexpected comes. It also strengthens the character. I learned how not to give up, how to try over and over and over again until my kick is performed the way it should be.
Giving up was not an option. If you fall and at some point fall you will, get your shit together, stand up and fight. Let me tell you this, when you stand on the mat and even as a woman get kicked below the waist belt, that hurts… very much. However, there is no crying, forget the pain as the fight goes on! Any injuries? Hmmm not really apart from a strained thigh muscle, a couple of bruises and a big lip nothing major.
Secondly Kung-fu helped me to release steam, stay focused and organised. I was a very lively child, full of energy which needed a way to be let out. Martial arts were perfect for it. I was going to training at least three times a week, trained like crazy at home as well. Was eager to learn all those different kicks, poses, katas, how to swing a cue that was taller than me and not to hit myself. Man… after I learned the initial techniques, the Coach encouraged me to give it a chance and take part in championships. April 2001, got nervous standing for the first time on the mat in front of referees and surprise surprise I cocked it up completely. Nevertheless, during the next championships in December in Germany it went better… I won my first bronze medal.
The first gold came in March 2002 in The Netherlands, remember that huge joy and excitement coming with it. You know what? I wanted more. Till the end of junior high and over the whole high school time I lived from championships to championships. The year started with local ones in January, Netherlands in March, Poland/Europe Championships in April, German Masters in June, October was always a surprise – Ukraine, Netherlands or Germany again and sometimes we had something in December. It wasn’t only a mechanic preparation to show yourself from the best side, it was something more.
There was a strange positive aura when I went to training, can’t really explain it but it felt really good to be in the sports hall with your colleagues giving 100 and 10 percent. You might ask, what about school? Nothing, my grades were better than ever as I needed to organise my day to study for tests, do homework, read something for the classes and go to training. On top of that our Coach was like our second Dad, always pushing us not only to give our best on the mat but also at school. The teachers at school were also very understanding, when I was coming back from Championships from abroad on Sunday and had to go to classes on Monday. They did give me credit. However, they did ask how it went and what was the biggest success this time 😉
Thirdly and most importantly… the people you meet, make and stay friends with! The training and living from championships to championships it wasn’t only about proving to the referees who performs the better kata it was mainly about hanging out with your buddies. The happiest memories I have come from the practising Kung-fu times. Imagine, the bus was the main means of transportation when we were going with the crew abroad to take part in championships. Sooooo at least ten hours of bus ride resulted in all sorts of crazy stories that were shared, jokes which were told and all the arguments exchanged on who will be the lucky one to sleep on the bus floor. Don’t laugh, the bus floor was considered business class as it was long, flat, you could take your sleeping bag, stretch out and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
As all the trips were budget trips we were sleeping in agro touristic places, some kind of home stays or my favourite in sport halls sleeping on sport mattresses. Told ya the happiest memories I have. One time we got serious bollocking from the Coach. That was in Dalfsen, Netherlands. I convinced some Guys from the team to take a walk to the city to enjoy a nice dinner and a pint. The place we stayed at was quite far from the city. When we came back, the Coach looked at us with his incredibly angry expression saying that he was worried sick where we were. The next time when we leave the accommodation we should explicitly say where we are going, with whom and what time we will be back. Luckily the next day his anger disappeared.
Another time in Germany, the big fish of the whole Kung-fu organisation in Europe came to the championships with his beautiful, amazing, fabulous Porsche 911 and it was black… I asked him very casually if he can give me a ride as this is probably the only chance I get to ride in a 911. Guess what, he agreed! That was the absolute, ultimate bombshell experience.
The story my buddies like to remind me of most, happened during Poland Masters. My name was called like two times to come to the mat as my fight was on. The Guys found me in the checkroom eating pizza with other hungry mates. Luckily I was nearly in full gear, so I put on my gloves and ran to the mat chewing the last bite of my peperoni. Think I did win that one ;P
At some point I wish those times would come back as the amount of laughter which was exchanged is incredible. Never laughed so much as during those bus trips to and from the championships. The person that was thriving most with bringing everybody into a good mood was DN, funny is we are still in touch!
Again, as we have The International Children’s Day today, think for a moment who did you wanna be when you grow up? Even if it happened that you didn’t become a firefighter, doctor or Darth Vader, maybe there are elements of it in your daily life. I wanted to be Bruce Lee, a fraction of the ultimate Master, has stayed. Maybe my job is not related to sports or martial arts but I do utilise the strength, endurance and power I learned while practising Kung-fu.
P.S. now you also know, why years later Hong Kong has stolen my heart 🙂