Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Love Kung Fu

What do Kung Fu and singing have to do with each other?  Well, for me ... a lot!!

When I watch a singer, I don't care so much about the issue of body size or shape.  But there is something I care about.  I need the person who is performing to be able to move with a certain amount of grace and ease.  I believe that physical conditioning of the body affects the singing itself, but in addition, the physical conditioning of the body  makes a difference in the way the energy of the singer comes across from the stage or singing platform, and how it reads to the listener.  Even when a singer is just standing and singing, I believe that physical conditioning helps them to appear well as they stand before the audience.  As an audience member listening to a singer, I am having a bit of a kinetic experience of that performer, so I feel it if they seem tired, or their feet are hurting.  It breaks the spell of the music for the singer to be showing any signs that they are experiencing physical strain or discomfort. or fatigue.

Well, according to these preferences of mine, I believe I should be getting myself  in condition for singing.  A lot of singers believe he same thing and there are many forms of physical activities that can keep a singer's body in good condition for performing.

I heard this over they years, and now that I have experienced it, I believe it wholeheartedly:  You will be successful with exercise and fitness if you find an activity you love.

Well, I found an activity I love in what for me was an unlikely place ... Kung Fu!

When I was growing up, I belonged to a family who valued fitness.  We were very active.  We went on family bike rides, went once a week for family swim at a YMCA that we belonged to.   We golfed together.  My Dad put a chin-up bar in the doorway for his four daughters, and I often found him doing pushups in the living room.  We were enrolled in gymnastics classes and encouraged to play sports in school.

But something happened after I got married and had my first child.  I gained a tremendous amount of weight - over 100 pounds.  I weighed 270 pounds at one point.  The most horrible thing about it was that I also had abandoned movement.  It was really scary losing all that ability of my body.  I couldn't even bend over to tie my shoes.  My feet and joints hurt constantly, especially when I was trying to fall asleep at night.  I experienced shortness of breath when climbing stairs.  It felt really awful.

As so often happens, it is through the love of our children that good things come to us.  I really wanted my daughter to have the wonderful experience of being active and fit that I had when I was young.  Yet, I didn't want to just dump her in some class and say, "here, do this physical activity, it's good for you."  I wanted her to see me enjoying movement as well.  So, I began to look for some kind of mother/daughter fitness activity we could participate in  together.  I had in mind something like ice-skating, or some kind of yoga class or something.  I never would have thought that it would be mother/daughter fighting!

My daughter brought the idea of Kung Fu to me.  Her friend, and her friend's mother were taking Kung Fu class together.  I barely knew what Kung Fu was.  I knew it was some kind of martial art, but didn't know how it was different from the karate my son had taken.  I looked at the school, and decided we could pair up and do it with the other mother.daughter team who we were friends with.  Why not?

At first, I thought it was kind of pretty.  I had taken ballet when I was in college and really loved it, so I saw the whole thing as something kind of pretty, like dance.  It was a good workout.  I could consider it an exercise class.

Even though I had dropped down from 270 pounds, I still was large, and starting from a de-conditioned state was very difficult for me.  There were many times, while performing the conditioning exercises, that the instructors would look over at my very red face and my huffing and puffing and ask with great concern "Mrs. Frescamari, are you okay?"

It took me a whole year to realize that I was learning to fight!  Me?  Learning to fight!!  I never fought anyone in my life.  In fact, I avoid any kind of conflict.  A girl once bullied me by telling everyone in the school she was going to beat me up.  I was terrified during that period of my life, and even took to walking to school because I was afraid to meet that girl at the bus stop.

Well, my conditioning has improved beyond my wildest dreams.  I am still one of the "slow" ones in the class.  Even though I have moved up to the advanced class, I see many people with lower belts and intermediate level who are way more fit and conditioned than I am.

I have learned, first and foremost from this experience, however, NOT to compare myself.  I focus on "intention" not "results" (as a fellow singer-friend says it).  I work at my level and work on what I need.

We have even had the opportunity to get up and perform the Kung Fu in front of each other, which is helping me overcome stage fright, and helping me to acquire stage presence, stuff that is valuable to people who like to get up and sing in front of people.

Here is me doing Long Fist II.  If you want to see more of it, you can go to Frescamari's Practice Room for some silly stuff -- like the outtakes.

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