Learning Kung Fu in London’s Chinatown
It’s not just political. It’s personal. Kung Fu and me go way back. My earliest memory in England was watching David Carradine as the Shaolin monk on the run in the 1970s American TV series Kung Fu. The image of him lifting the urn and receiving the brand of the dragon and the tiger on his forearms haunted me throughout childhood and adolescence.
There was nothing toxic, stupid or macho-masculine about this painful looking rite of initiation. This was Kung Fu. Something spiritual, something holistic, something more than just a pastime or a 1-2-3 system of 30-day self-defense.
What hooked me next on the Kung Fu path was a book by Douglas Wong called “The Endless Journey”. What struck was its title. If I were to do something like Kung Fu, it would have to be an “endless journey” for it to really mean something. Aged 13 and small change, I bought the book, tried to teach myself a few moves but soon gave up.
To learn, I would have to go to class and be instructed properly. There wasn’t any Kung Fu at the local sports centre. Just Karate, Jiu Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do, and I wasn’t much interested in the pajama-suited fighting arts of Japan or Korea. I wanted to learn Kung Fu. And the logical place for that was Chinatown in London’s Soho district.