Finding Somewhere New
Since I moved to Atlanta, I've been noticing my depression more and more. It's not as bad as it was at it's worst, but it's certainly not the best it's ever been. Something that pulled me out of that back home had been Kung Fu. I know that excercise improves mental health and the added community wouldn't hurt too. After a long search, I decided to go to Sung Ming Shu Dojo, a Cuong Nhu dojo, to reclaim an old coping mechanism.
After my first class, I cried the whole way home.
For two months, I hadn't practiced martial arts. I expected it to feel good to move my body in a familiar way, but I just felt the loss of my old studio.
In the car, I called my dad with tears streaming down my face. I couldn't help but think about how different I sounded when I called him after my first Tai Chi class. I was a new person.
Rather than feeling something, I felt the vacuum I hadn't recognized since I moved down.
While standing in the new dojo, with my ill fitting uniform, white belt, and unfamiliar movements, I realized how high my expectations were. I wanted to slide right into something that is irreplaceable.
I didn't like the feeling of starting over. Being at the bottom again. I wanted that feeling I got while sparring with my instructor, hair flying out of my ponytail knowing that he wasn't going easy on me.
I have since been to more classes, and I've learned to love it for what it is, and not what I wanted to go back to. The people are kind, there are badass women, and the lessons are marked by genuine authenticity. After letting myself mourn what I left behind, I was able to open myself up to the new life I can have.
I practiced my old forms in my living room. I could feel the rust both in my muscles and in my memory surrounding the movements. It was hard to feel that slip from me. I don't have the people of Chan's and I could tell I was starting to lose the movements as well.
My heart aches for the fluidity and power I had attained.
I try to remind myself what my instructor said to me before I left during my last class. It was an open practice and I used it to do everything I had learned: Jow Gar, Wing Chun, Tai Chi, sparring, and throwing. He joined me as I slowly made my way through Sil Lum Tao.
He thanked me for being a good student—for my focus and hard work. He could tell that I wanted to be there and to hold onto my visible determination.
I have promised so many that I would continue my study of martial arts, that I would come back to visit, that I could never quit. I came close to not showing up for my second class. But I couldn't break my promise.
I will never replace my home studio, my first practice. I wouldn't want to even if I could. I can show my new dojo my determination, my desire to fight, my desire to defend. I can show them the knowledge and spirit that I was entrusted.
As I learn the moves of the new style and settle back into the old, I can tell that this new home I've been building, is a good one.
My new dojo offers tai chi. And moving like that again was like slipping under the covers after a long day. Even though I don't remember the sequence of moves perfectly, every class my brain chisels the stone away from my muscles to free the water that had run dry since it was last loosed from my bones on the first day I first learned Tai Chi.
Though technically Georgia isn't a landlocked state, my life is. I had to dig inside myself to find the will I needed to survive. The flow of Tai Chi, the push and pull like waves, brings back life.
Driving at night in a sparkling city of skyscrapers, I know that a new spring has sprung in Georgia.