To Thomas Chen (11), doing martial arts is like “fulfilling a childhood dream.” The Chinese Kung Fu movies and books that surrounded him during his childhood, as well as Jet Li, his role model, drew him into martial arts. Despite getting the chance to fulfill his childhood fantasy, Thomas says, “The more you go into [martial arts], the more you realize how much hard work it requires and how different it actually is from your fantasy. But [I] still got drawn into it anyways.”
Thomas trains three to four days per week, usually for more than three hours on weekdays and one and a half hours on Saturday and Sunday. According to Thomas, training begins with stretching and “[attempting] to do splits that [he] can’t do.” Then, he warms up with some flips and aerials. Afterwards, Thomas continuously repeats his martial arts routine over and over. “You get taught routines and you just keep practicing over and over [while] the master [looks] at you and adjust your postures and positions,” says Thomas.
Thomas warns that “it takes a while before you can see progress” in martial arts. He recommends that people should only practice martial arts if they really love it as martial arts takes years of repetitive practice to perfect. It took Thomas around 8 years of practicing basics and not learning much the first few years, to finally be able to go out and compete.
Thomas says, “Other than the fact that I can learn flips, mentality is very important [in martial arts].” He says that the sport is very different from team sports, as “it’s about enhancing your mind and body at the same time.” Martial arts is a very intense, traditional, Chinese sport. He says, “It’s like [writing] calligraphy with your body.”