On Saturday night my Kung Fu academy came together to celebrate the promotion of my instructor from Sihing to Sifu. This promotion is a huge achievement (think sous-chef to head chef.) To become a Sifu one must have a fourth degree black belt or higher and make notable contributions to our academy and our art. Above all this, you have to be specifically tapped by Master Tat Mau Wong as worthy of the title.
To celebrate his achievement, a banquet was held in my Sifu’s honor. A few days prior, an instructor approached asking for participants to aid in a kung fu demonstration. I get scared stiff when performing in front of people, but realizing it’d be great practice for my black belt pre-test, I agreed to participate.
When it came to my turn on Saturday, I stood in front of the 75 people or so in attendance and vigorously began the five animal form.
The five animal form is really fun. It progresses between crane, tiger, panther, dragon, and snake. The most challenging aspect of the form is that it has very distinct sections that all seem to start in a similar manner. As such, it’s easy to skip a section. During my practice before hand ,as my adrenaline rushed, I kept screwing up two moves after a sweep. I practiced what I could, but in no time at all I was called out to do my part.
Amazingly, I proceeded through my two most problematic locations without a hitch and as I swung around for the last section I applauded my memory… only to find that I had distracted myself enough to completely forget that last section. I froze for a moment and then made up my own ending of the form.
Those who weren’t black belts didn’t know that anything truly went awry. Those who were black belts sat puzzled. It was humbling, intimidating, and great practice for my test down the road. I’m pleased that I didn’t show the error, though disappointed that I caved under pressure.
The rest of the night went great. Our instructors gave speeches commending Sifu Ostrow. It was heartwarming to hear the devotion and pride in their words. Our oldest student, Bert, spoke especially well as he talked about his experience at a number of different academies. In Bert’s 40 years of training in various martial arts, Sifu Ostrow stood as the single most impressive teacher he had encountered. While I don’t have Bert’s experience, I know it’s true that Sifu Ostrow has unparalleled patience in the classroom, a “tough-empathy” outlook on training, and great appreciation and grasp of Choy Li Fut Kung Fu.
For those in Connecticut interested in pursuing a martial art, I strongly recommend the Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy in Middletown. Sifu Ostrow and rest of the head instructors at the school are wonderful to train with and excellent at teaching.