As you can imagine, Karate Kid had just hit theaters that weekend. It was a massive hit, so every boy was understandably a copycat of Ralph Macchio. It looked silly to me, or even downright stupid, because they were trying so hard to look menacing, fierce, or strong. Trying was the operative word, because to me they looked the same as when little girls play dressup and wear their mom’s dresses, pearls and pumps as they pour themselves some imaginary tea.
The other boys were annoyed at me for looking smugly at them. Why don’t you try it, they taunted me. I just shrugged and said you guys all look crazy waving your hands and kicking your feet in the air like that. Oh yeah? Then wait for Bryan. He’s gonna kick your butt! I was still unfazed up to this moment because I didn’t have any clue who Bryan was. Little did I know that our first meeting would light that fire in me that to this day keeps me passionate about Martial Arts.
A few minutes of bantering went by. Then somebody tall and lean came inside the room. I looked at him, admittedly with a lot of curiosity. Why do the other boys revere him so much? What’s up with this Bryan character?
Hey Bryan, my brother shouted. This one here thinks what we’re doing is stupid. I swear I could see the twinkle in my brother’s mischievous eyes as he was indeed setting me up for a trap.
Bryan looked eerily calm, like the judge who’s about to deliver a death sentence. Maybe my mind was overthinking or playing tricks on me. But by this time I was a bit scared of Bryan.
Would you like to try a simple sparring match? Bryan asked. He was still being suspiciously calm. I got more afraid and simultaneously more curious. I inched closer.
Yeah, go ahead and try to hit him! The boys were egging me on so naturally I was pressured to engage and make the first attack. I lunged towards him with all the strength and force that I could muster. But before I knew it, he was able to avoid my attack and was behind me. He then kicked my left leg, which sent me to the ground, wincing from the pain.
What the heck was that?! I asked. I was so amazed by his quickness and skill. But more so by his humility and graciousness. He didn’t lord over me and make me feel dumb about my wrong move. He wasn’t rambunctious or obnoxious about his victory as the other boys would have been. There was a certain maturity about him that really impressed me. It was definitely admirable.
I wanted to be like Bryan.
After that, I talked to Bryan about Martial Arts. He shared that he started at an early age, 7 to be exact. Ten years later, he still enjoys it and plans to continue on with it because it has already been a part of his life. He couldn’t imagine himself without it. Wow, I thought to myself. All that skill and strength, but he manages it without seeming arrogant. I couldn’t help but ask Bryan why he was the way he was.
Martial Arts isn’t about trying to be better than others. You don’t obtain these skills for the sake of comparison or external validation. It’s a personal journey that you take towards knowing yourself better. How far you can push yourself to your limits, and finding an inner peace that goes along with the discipline and determination that the sport requires.
By this time my jaw was on the floor.
He spoke with so much wisdom and maturity, much like the all-knowing yet soft-spoken instructor that we usually find in Kung fu movies. But he wasn’t being comical or over-the-top with his calm demeanor. It was coming from quiet confidence within.
Now, almost twenty years later, I remember that encounter with a certain fondness. When Bryan kicked the wind out of me, I inhaled a new, refreshing breath. After that sparring session (if you can even call it that), I came home with a strong desire to take up Martial Arts. Not for the fame or glory, skill or strength. But because I wanted to have the same internal confidence that Bryan had. I wanted to be that self-assured, committed, disciplined, and passionate. And to this day, these are the same reasons that surround my passion to continuously do martial arts.