One of the interesting pieces of data I picked up from researching for this book is that “kung-fu” doesn’t mean what I thought it did, or what most Americans think it does. Kung-fu originally referred to the time and energy spent in learning something. It means “skill from effort”. So if you spend time and energy learning to dance, dance is your kung-fu. If you spend time and energy learning to write, writing is your kung-fu. Anything can be your kung-fu. The misunderstanding occurred when Bruce Lee would talk about his about his fighting style, and used the term “kung-fu” (though he actually spelled it “gung fu”), meaning it was something to which he had devoted his life’s time and energy. Instead, it came to be attached to an overall name for the type of Chinese martial art that is now so commonly, and incorrectly, called “Kung Fu”.
Things were bad at home. Madeline was in constant pain, which sent her to every pain specialist on the front range. There were other problems. She was fired from her job for failing to show up and lost her health insurance. She suffered from depression. I suffered from depression. Once, back in Madison, I came very close to killing myself. And again, after we moved to Fort Collins, I fell into the Marianas Trench. (William Styron’sDarkness Visible was a hopeful guide map to these dark times.)
Karate was the only regular feature in my life. I looked forward to it every day because when I was on the floor, I was not aware of my home situation. I’ve discussed this with other students and we agree that one of karate’s benefits is that it requires such attention as to preclude dwelling on your troubles. Although I’d been granted a black belt by Joe Demusz, one of my original instructors, the performance gap between me and the standard Karate West black belt was instantly apparent.
I just put my head down and kept coming. While the rest of my world was in free fall, there was karate, noon every day, Monday through Thursday.
Do the people who write the hybrid medium of comics who also train do it to get to a higher form of creative expression? Linguistically there is a link: The terms comic book and martial art combine phrases one would think do not work together. Why are comic book creators interested in martial arts? In that excellent Chris Sims story on Jack Kirby and that wild CIA operation, the author of the book Lord of Light was a martial arts expert.
Like most of the things in this story, [Roger] Zelazny sounds like he stepped straight out of a comic book. Not only was he an award-winning science fiction novelist with a Hugo award under his belt, he was also a expert fencer and martial artist who had studied eight different fighting styles and would later take up teaching Aikido when he wasn’t writing. Seriously, the most amazing thing about this story is that with all that under his belt, he doesn’t turn out to be a spy himself at the end of it.
Only recently did I begin to make the connection between my own interest in martial arts and comic book writing. I’ve been writing about comics since really eighth grade and from that period I’ve always had an interest in martial arts. I didn’t really get to explore it until college when I started training in Goju-Ryu Karate, but not having a car or a way to get to the dojo I dropped off. When I came home to Lake Placid, I started training in Kempo through Villari’s school. I really liked that and since then I’ve felt that is a style that has always been right for me. When I moved to New York I went from place to place, sticking to kyokushin for a bit until my graduate school schedule and finances made training untenable. Now that I’m home, I’ve picked up Shotokan and I hope to get back to Kempo if I end up back in the Plattsburgh area. So this question comes from a place where I’m trying to figure out my own link, but in my research I found something very interesting.