One evening Michele was a little frustrated with me, about how I never really say anything. I’m a pretty private person even with my own family, so I don’t talk all that much beyond superficial “how’s the weather?”. Well, since I had this secret obsession with wushu, and I figured if Michele really wanted to know what I was thinking of I’d let her in. I believe she thought it was a little far-fetched, again, we didn’t know people who did martial arts especially adults. So I showed her a bunch of Yuen Wen Qing clips, and the cool Compulsory Longfirst routine on Raffi’s site (with Fakin’ the Funk as the background music). I think I had that form memorized in my head before Patti showed me a year or so later.
I still wasn’t ready to fess up to Michele that this is what I wanted to do. I also wanted to loose more weight, and that was also an excuse for me to put off going to one of the wushu schools. Finally we were on some trip, and we were in some hotel room (we may have been up in Oregon for a wedding) and I think I just sort of blurted out that I wanted to do wushu like I suffered from a strange form of turrets. Again, she was a little surprised, but not all that surprised at this point since I was glued to my monitor watching clips all the time. After that I just had to decide where I wanted to go. There were a few places in the San Jose area, and I worked in Dublin so I figured it was at least feasible to go there after work, but I was drawn to either Cal or Wushu West. The Jet Li pictures on wushuwest.com pretty much sold me :).
Michele was a class at LMC where she had to visit a few different colleges, and one of them was UC Berkeley. I took the opportunity to go check out the cal wushu club. I had a hard time finding the place, I had to ask around one administrative office (they didn’t seem to know anything about it) and they eventually pointed me to the gym where they met. No one was there of course, so I picked up some flyer’s and called it a day.
After that week, emailed email@example.com and asked a few questions like if I could stop by and see a class. I got a reply back from Mike, which I assume now was Mike Chew. I went the next Tuesday after work, making my first trek to Berkeley. Turns out, it was one of those 5th Tuesdays of the month that Patti used to take off, so I sat there in the Finnish Brother Hall for two hours waiting for ANYONE to show up :) I was a little crushed, but the next day I called the phone number on the website to ask when the next class was. Patti answered, and she was very short and curt in her responses. She explained the 5th week of the month deal, and said I could stop by the next class.
There were a few other people already waiting outside the hall, Bryant and his cousin. They were both talking about The One, Jet’s most recent US movie at the time. I didn’t talk to anyone, I was still nervous about going there, and I was really nervous just GOING to wushu west for the first few years. Serioulsly, I’m such an introvert that it was a big step for me starting wushu at all. I did feel at ease knowing there were other Jet Li fan’s, and maybe they were just as dorky as I am. Finally Patti arrived, and I introduced myself as the person that called. I wasn’t used to how she addressed things, she was very short with answers and she came off a little mean at first. Hey, I’m sheltered, what do you expect. So I sat on the bench seat of the Finnish Hall and watched the beginner’s class warm up, do basics, and work on their forms. Now when I went in there, I still wasn’t sold on the place and I wanted to keep my options open. After seeing that though, I was very excited and I forgot about looking at other places. I stayed till the end, and when I started to get up and leave Patti came over and talked to me a little more. She gave me the paperwork, talked about pricing and the thing with paying for 3 months at a time (and I was very happy with the rational she had for it). I thanked her for her time and she told me to come back at the 1st of the month, which was in two weeks.
During that first year at wushu west, I would practice everything I had learned everyday after work. I was still very shy about it (still? I AM shy about it, I wont show anyone what I’ve learned in wushu), so I would wait till dusk and jog downtown for 10 minutes and find some little corner of a parking lot where I could go over the first basic forms. I would do front stretch kicks on my back patio (which at the time was tiny), I would find almost any reason to do a little jump, a kick, a front slap kick. When no one was present of course. I was like James is now :) I think it changed when Caralyne was born, and since then I’ve had a lot less time to do that outside of wushu. But when Caralyne was born wushu really helped my sanity, but there was a lot I had to deal with being a parent for the first time. That was probably my biggest peak with wushu, not peak as in how good I am, but where my excitment level was.