How To Change (A Tire)

daily kung fu  Last night, driving home from teaching, my mind filled with ideas, I cut too sharply on a left turn, and bumped over a curb. The mishap arrived with an explosion of sound, followed by a consistent galug-galug-galug as I limped through the last two miles of my trip. My wife, Debbie, and I have a promise of full disclosure, so when I walked in the house, I said, “I think I broke the axle.” Since it was late and dark, we had dinner and decided to look at it in the morning.

The morning light brought some good news: no matter how dire it had sounded the night before, all I had done was blown the left front tire. No big deal: we had a never-used spare in the trunk, and the equipment to change it. The tire iron and the lift had come with the car, which meant they were not top of the line, and I soon found myself struggling with levers that were too short, and tire irons that fit sloppily over the lug nuts. What was a martial artist to do?

Like many tasks in the mundane world, this one could be approached with a bit of kung fu ingenuity.

In this moment, instinct said “kick” and that’s what I did. But because of the angle and sloped curb I needed to pick  a toe-out stomp kick, the downward stomp that also keeps the knee from danger.

“What is Kung Fu?” There are lots of answers, but the short and sweet one was demonstrated to me years ago by Sifu Ron Lew, who performed the mime of someone reaching for a can on the upper shelf. You know, it fell off the shelf (that’s NOT the good Kung Fu part) and instead of reaching up to catch the can as it fell, Sifu anticipated its route and caught it with an inverted grasp, the shortest path possible.

We are mammals, we play with things, I’m sure that we just can’t resist the playful skills we find in the bridge between this  Kung Fu art and daily life.  You change a martial movement and find it perfect for lifting a chair (push down first). We become, as one very famous teacher said, engineers of movement.

Your list of such possibilties is endless. Just like mine. Sure your kung fu is evident when you wield that heavy kwan, spinning it over your head with smooth intent; but you also demonstrate it when you side-step that rake in the shadow, circling an opponent’s leg waiting to trip you up; or pluck that ripe Meyer lemon from the tree without shaking off the others.

Kung Fu trains mind and body, the challenge of the world becomes a puzzle and its solution. As I reattach the tire, I am reminded that Kung Fu exemplifies the Taoist saying, “The extraordinary is in the ordinary.”



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