I love what Chris Rock says in introducing Eddie Murphy at the SNL 40th Anniversary: "When I was young, comedy wasn't work...comedy was something that got you sent to the principal's office." This comment resinates with me, resurecting memories of a younger version of myself enjoying more than anything else--more than scoring touchdowns...game willing three point shots...family vacations to the beach...I would include falling in love, but laughter has always been such a pertinent and valuable component there that I hesitate to address the two entirely seprately--simply knowing that something that I did caused either one person, or even better, an entire auditorium of people to break down laughing against their wills.
Even during times that could have been deemed inappropriate, there was something about laughter that convinced me in my soul that it was OK to pursue. That it was forgiven. That it was pardoned by a higher power because of its deep spiritual significance (or at least that is what it felt like to me). As long as the relative antics didn't harm, offend or hurt anyone--as long as they were unanimously appreciated--serving a detention (or perhaps quite a bit more than I'd prefer to admit in this public medium) due to a well received act of comedy was an honor. The accolades and joy that one received by spreading smiles and drawing giggles from his/her peers were well worth the time spent playing paper football (oops, I mean detention!).
Some people will never relate to or understand this, but the rush that laughter can bring to some of us is one of the greatest that nature can provide human beings. I believe that laughter has spiritual potential and I believe that it brings people together. From the time that a baby is born until the time that baby is grown and married, there is rarely a thing more genuine, appreciated and desirable than a true smile and an uncontrollable laugh. Somewhere along the line I was told that I needed to grow up, and at some junctures in my life I thought I was beginning think along that line as well. But time after time I found myself defining much of my day, much of my experience as a human being, and measuring the fulfillment of my days by laughter. It is something I was never willing to part with.
If you look on Urban Kempo's web site, we emphasize four things: Fitness, LAUGHTER, Discipline and Community. What kind of martial arts school emphasizes laughter on the first page of their web site? I'm pretty sure that Urban Kempo is the only one, but please feel free to do the research on that. Indeed, it is a marketing risk to do such a thing. But I don't care--once you become a student in our school, you'll come to realize just how integral it is to your overall experience. It lightens the spirit, breaks down boundaries, and brings people together. To me it is a community building essential. It brought us together as kids and it continues to bring us closer together as adults. I can't imagine my world without this precious gift. Nor would I assume that many of the Urban students could either. I would have created one strait up boring place to be!
Nobody really ever wants to grow up. I mean sure, we wanted drivers licenses and then we couldn't wait to be 18, and then it was 21. But growing up is one of the most challenging things for any of us to do! We enjoy the liberties of childhood way too much to let go of them so easily, which is one reason why you all bring your children to Urban Kempo--to learn discipline, respect for authority, how to follow directions...you know, all of those things that smoothen the path towards adulthood! But how much have we really let go of that? Just as a kid doesn't quite grasp why he'd stop playing with his legos to go to piano practice, sometimes I don't want to put down my book and go to work! This brings to mind a recent post I saw on Facebook. It was a picture of a dog laid out on the floor with a caption reading, "I can't adult today. Please don't make me adult!" (Staci if you're reading this, that was very well placed on your page!) Clearly, I'm not the only one that feels this way!
No kid wants to stop playing, and neither did I. Hence, the greatest hat trick of life--recreating childhood under the umbrella of Shaolin Kempo! To quote one gentleman and good friend of mine who knows me and my teaching style well enough to peg it so acutely, "Even with adults, he displayed an impish character that disarmed people and reduced inhibitions. In other words, it made them like children..." (see https://mykemporomance.wordpress.com/…/a-toast-to-michael-…/) It should go without saying that my life has been given meaning through the experiences of the people that come to my dojo to sweat, learn Kempo, and have the opportunity to feel like children again, even if only for an hour or two out of their day. It certainly keeps my spirit youthful and my heart open amidst the rugged realities of our adult world.
Returning to Chris Rock, he elaborates: "When I was young I didn't think comedy was a job...comedy wasn't work...comedy was something that got you sent to the principal's office...and then I saw Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live and it changed everything...not only could comedy be a job, it could be a career. Not only a career, it could be the coolest career ever." I can't help but to relate to the comedian's vision here--to make a career out of comedy. To take that childhood sensation and elongate it throughout life, and better yet, to extend it to other people. Even better yet, to share it with other people!
I don't want to give the impression here that my dojo is one big comedy show, as if you're going to walk through our doors and see a clown bouncing around in lobby. I understand first and foremost that people come to Urban Kempo with goals in mind, and I go the necessary lengths in order to keep a professional tab on those goals. As far as I know, I am the only Kempo instructor in the region receiving direct training and mentoring from one of the highest ranking Kempo Grandmasters in the world. I work inside the dojo six days a week and teach upward 70 private lessons and 12 group classes per week. I do the adult grit behind the scenes like paying the bills, changing the filters, making Costo runs and of course, working out. Just as comedians endure sleepless nights, hungry stomachs, and penniless days on the road to their destinies, I understand and have lived through the sacrifices necessary as a martial artist to carve out a place for Urban Kempo to exist in Northern Virginia--not a simple feat I assure you, albeit one I'd be willing to fight for 100 times over. I can be as serious and focused as one needs to be to survive in a cut throat, strange and unpredictable world. But I won't be affected by it. Urban Kempo's lighthearted student body and its collective personality is my key to ensuring that. I know for a fact that many of my students identify.
The personalities that enjoy and contribute to the laughter that is so inherent in Urban Kempo keep me forgiving, soft hearted and always believing in the good in this world. Urban Kempo is more than a martial arts school to me--it is a necessity that keeps my spirits closer to where they should be. And LAUGHTER, above all else, I think contributes to that end more than anything.
To me martial arts means a lot of things, but first and foremost they are here to help us live happier and healthier lives. It is set apart from most other activities because of its interactive nature, which lends itself to that community element that I've thrived in my whole life. Laughing has always been my best medicine, and it is something I've never been able to accomplish in measure on my own very well. It has always taken a group of us!
Thank you Urban goers for the magic that continues to be a part of my life!