“Don’t pray for an easy life but pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” -Bruce Lee
As a kid, I was bullied a lot. I was one of six Asian kids within a five mile radius in my town. In elementary school, I was one of maybe two Asian kids in my elementary school. Additionally, I lived in an underdeveloped neighborhood, the ghetto per say, so being a minority, everyone would always make fun of me for being different.
I would be cornered by gangs before leaving school, picked on while walking down the streets, or sometimes just punched out of nowhere. Despite the harsh treatment, my father never pulled me out of that school.
That’s how my grandfather was to him so he taught me the same. Instead of pulling me out, I started martial arts at the age of 5. Though it was a slow start, I later fell in love with the sport.
Every time I stepped into the dojo, I felt special and more welcomed than I previously had at home or at school. I would go to karate practice for hours each day taking my class and watching the adult classes. Some nights, I would even sleep in my karate uniform because I felt secure in it versus my own clothing or school uniform.
With the motivation of not wanting to be bullied again and not letting my father down, I trained harder than any other student in my class. I received my black belt when I was 9, began running classes when I was 10, and started coaching at 11. Despite all of my accomplishments in the dojo, I was still loosing fights around my neighborhood.
My father saw that maybe the school wasn’t hard enough and maybe that my successes as a young coach were just handed to me and not earned, so my father sent me to a martial arts boarding school in China over the summer.
The Shaolin Temple is an ancient monetary for Buddhist monks to pray and train in the traditional Chinese martial art, kung fu. The students there trained close to 8 hours a day in the mountain terrain and were subject to brutal practices. When I saw the students at the school, I knew that I was not adequately prepared for this kind of treatment, but my father forced me to stay in that school. I started off hating it.
“Why can’t my parents just move out of the neighborhood and why can’t I just stay at home playing with my cousins or something?”
A defining moment for me at the school was when my coach came to my room to talk to me. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was scared to death. Little did I know it would be one of the most heartwarming conversations I’ve ever had.
He shared his story on how his parents were tough too and how he grew up in poverty. He grew up going to school with only 2 uniforms and a rice sack as his backpack, while working 2 different jobs to raise money for his family. His parents worked in the rice fields making little to nothing trying to support him, but some days his family would only survive on a bowl of rice for dinner. Some days, his family didn’t have any food for dinner.
After hearing his story, I realized how selfish I was. I was always wishing and finding the easiest way out of something when really I just need to work harder. Just as my coach worked hard to give back to his parents, I have to work hard to support myself and my parents.
I should be thankful my parents are pushing me to become the best. So to this day, whenever I cross a difficult obstacle, I always look back and remember my coach’s story because it’s not about praying for the easy life to get by, but life is about trying to find the strength to take on a difficult one.
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