Bernice L.





Chinese Kung Fu is a bit of a dying art. Both traditional kung fu and the contemporary sport of wushu had presence across China and Hong Kong, producing some of the most iconic Asian films of the late 1900s. Though the practice existed throughout all of Asian American history with Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans, it was Bruce Lee who popularized the sport in the United States. By the 1970s, black communities ended up being the top consumers of kung fu cinema. This era also jump started a wave of non-Chinese Americans learning and training it diligently.

When I was 8 my mom left me behind at a random kung fu school with no explanation, just in time for the kids’ wushu class. I absolutely hated it. Three years later I was spending 5 days a week in that place, training with a couple dozen people I considered family. My parents couldn’t get me to quit even when they tried. This place was rich with traditions and knowledge that almost all other Asian Americans I encountered knew nothing about. Across my 8 years there, hundreds of people came and went — and only a handful of them were of Asian heritage never mind Chinese. People of all different backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities lived by ancient Chinese values while learning the centuries worth of history behind the martial arts they practiced. This school in some random suburban town was keeping a piece of Chinese culture alive in a non Chinese community. As a kid it never occurred to me what a feat this was.

When I was 16 I went to my last competition ever, in Emei Mountain, China. By then, my school was permanently closed down, we were severely burnt out, and I accepted that I was at the end of my run. This competition blew my mind. It reignited a spark that I’d forgotten about for a long time. 53 countries from all over the world were brought together by one rare but culturally significant sport. It brought out athletes from across the world. Even though it was supposed to be a competition, it felt like a celebration. It was a week full of passion and spirit and endless devotion for Kung Fu. This was pure appreciation for something I began to take for granted. I will never forget how it felt to be immersed in an environment with so much love and respect towards a historical art form.

How do I show love for my heritage? By showing admiration to these communities of martial artists, who keep the history and culture alive.