Inspired by Kung-Fu

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Readers have asked me why I named my blog “Inspired by Kung-Fu”. I will answer that question by telling you about why and how I got into martial arts.

“Kung-Fu” was the first word my parents memorized to explain to friends and relatives what kind of “sport” I was doing. This was in the late 70’s, and at that time martial arts in general were still unknown.

Even today, after so many years training in different martial arts, “Kung-Fu” remains the term used at home to explain what we do in our spare time. During this very unfortunate COVID-19 time for all of us, my mother came to me a few days ago and asked me, “Franky!”, “…I wanted to ask you, how is your Kung-Fu teaching doing? Are you allowed to practice despite this pandemic?”

Why the term “Kung-Fu” stuck with my parents more, I cannot answer you. I also asked them several times, and they themselves did not know. Maybe it is because just when I started with Wing Chun training, the big Kung-Fu wave started in our country, and the first Bruce Lee movies were shown in the cinemas.

My first great love and Judo!
Maybe my parents stayed with the word “Kung-Fu”, because as a young man, I tried different things, and it was too exhausting for them to always remember the new fighting styles and masters! My father also used the term “Chinese boxing” whenever his friends asked him about it. He often told me that he liked Boxing as a small child. He would often wake us up in the middle of the night to watch the Boxing matches with Mohamed Ali & Co. on the TV. My father had heavy hands for his stature and light body weight. Anyone who dared to play “hand wrestling” with him most likely did not have a great experience, because his hand squeezing could be extremely painful.

My martial arts experience, now nearly forty years long, began with Judo because I wanted to score points with the youngest daughters of one of our neighbors at the time. She was my first “big” love. Iris was her name, was incredibly cute, with long blonde hair and beautiful water-blue eyes.

My time in kindergarten therefore became a great time for me. Consider that I got to sit next to a beautiful girl and spend my free time with her in Judo practice, instead of soccer practice. In our neighborhood 95% of the boys played soccer and I could not stand this sport even then; so, I was doubly lucky!

The black man scared me to death!
One a late afternoon after school, when I was not older than 6 or 7 years young, I was while walking homeward, suddenly an ugly, tall and only half-dressed man appeared in front of me, who wanted to show me his jewels (you know what I mean by that!). I was so shocked that I immediately run away. When I got home, I jumped into my mother’s arms and told her what had just happened. My mother tried to calm me down, but it was not that easy.

Later that evening she told me that I was not the first child in our neighborhood to be molested by that half-naked monster. That same evening, my father came home from work a little earlier, and immediately wanted to know from me what exactly had happened. As it seemed, the man was known in our neighborhood. The next day, after dinner, my father decided to pay the fiend a visit.

I still remember that from our balcony, I could see my father, with a friend of ours, entering the house opposite. Shortly after, we heard a police car, and not much later we saw an ambulance coming. At that same moment we could only imagine what had happened, but I never asked my father about it. I can only remember that shortly after that the guy disappeared from the neighborhood from one day to the other.

After this unfortunate episode in my life, martial arts training, or as my mother just called it, “Kung-Fu”, became an obsession for me. Every cinema and TV movie I had to see, every martial arts magazine I had to get, and yes even every Asian restaurant I had to visit. Asia, especially China and Japan, became my best and most important allies.

Ajarn CHAI SIRISUTE – my Mentor in Martial Arts

And that is how I met Miyagi sensei!
During one of our long trips in the summer vacations, when we were once again on the way to Sicily by car, my father was in a hurry to reach his parents’ house. For some time, my mother had been begging him to finally stop the car so we could get something to eat and go to the bathroom. But my father had his own schedule, so it was up to him to decide when and where to stop the car. But then suddenly the moment arrived, and finally he stopped at a next big gas station.

My mother, my brother and I, started – holding hands – to reach the restrooms as quickly as we could. At the main door, we were stopped by a lady who oversaw the restrooms. She would not let my mother go in with us “boys,” so my mother turned to me, gave me my brother’s hand, and said to me, “…go in quickly now and you take care of your younger brother!” But that was easier said than done!

My brother Demetrio, then without any Ninja knowledge known to me, had left within seconds. No one mastered the “art of disappearing” as well as he did and could drive anyone crazy looking for after him. I could tell so many stories about that, but that is for another time.

So, we entered the men’s room and as soon as we were inside, we were looking for a free restroom. Suddenly my brother went off by himself and I could not find him again. Shortly after, I heard someone calling my name loudly. It was Demetrio in one of the toilets at the end. He was trying to open the door again. He had locked it, afraid that someone else could get in. He started asking me to open the door for him, but obviously I could not do it from the outside!

What I did not realize was that there was an elegantly dressed gentleman standing behind me. He had overheard the whole scene, and at one point he told me in Italian, almost without an accent, to tell my brother to stand far away from the door. I looked up at him and I saw an Asian man. As soon as my brother confirmed that he was standing at the very back against the wall, the man kicked the door open and a moment later my little brother jumped out.

While joyfully hugging Demetrio, I looked up to see if I could see the man who had just helped us. But unfortunately, he was no longer around us. Since much time had passed since then, my mother asked me at the exit what had taken so long, and I told her the small but exciting story. Then she immediately began to examine my brother from head to toe to see if everything was all good with him.

As we walked back to the car, I just thought that unfortunately I had not thanked this Asian gentleman for his help. But I also thought how cool it was to know that you can help others by a simple “Kung-Fu kick”.

Strike first, strike hard, no mercy!
During the fifth elementary school, we had moved from the town center of Kloten to the higher Nägelimoos. However, I had to wait until the end of the end of the old school year to be able to change in the nearer school.

On the way to school my friends and I were constantly harassed by an older boy. The whole thing started harmlessly! At first only verbally, but then he became more and more aggressive and soon physically. He was not only ten years older than us, but incredibly tall and heavy, a true bully!

End of December on school New Year’s Eve, the last day of school before the Christmas and New Year’s vacations would start, we celebrated this day with a big party, with lots of fun, games, and music. At that time, this was a “tradition” that, to my knowledge, no longer exists. The graduation party started sometime early in the morning. The kids would go out into the street and make a lot of noise and allow themselves some wild jokes, such as “throwing” old bad smelling eggs against windows and doors, or wrapping cars with toilet paper, and so on. By the way, this could also be one of the reasons why they stopped this “tradition”.

On that mentioned early morning, when we had had our fun and were now finally on our way to the school party, we had to walk through a darker boulevard with almost no lamplight burning. Suddenly the bully jumped out of the darkness and shouted around. I think his intention was not only to scare us to death, but also to take away our stuff we had baked for the party.

But he had not counted on my spontaneous reaction: as he was now standing in front of me, I kicked him so hard between his legs that the guy immediately fell on both his knees and seconds later landed with his face on the floor. My classmates had the idea to take away all his things and run away. I was so surprised by my own reaction that I felt like I had been standing next to him for minutes. I watched as he looked at me and asked not to hit him again!

My first steps in Wing Chun Kung-Fu!
Few months later, when I finally changed school, I was also closer to my old friends and schoolmates. My best friend Antonio Stella, who had moved away from the town center a while earlier, I had not seen for a few years, and now we met again. On my birthday, when we were at my home celebrating, I showed Antonio my new room that I shared with my brother. I proudly showed him my Judo suit and I was about to grab him tightly by the sweater with both hands when he reacted in a flash and knocked me away with a series of chained punches to my chest and I end up with my back on the wardrobe. I intended to impress him, but within seconds, he had control of the situation and the show! I just stood there and asked him what it was, and very cool he just said “Kung-Fu”!

It only took a few days, and I did my first trial training with Sifu Mischa Geiger, a master student of Sifu Rolli Krauer, the founder of the first Wing Chun organization (KARK) in Switzerland. Thanks to my friend Antonio, who not only showed me Wing Chun and therefore became my (still today) Si-Hing (older brother), but I also discovered about Bruce Lee, his movies and opened me the door to Asian martial arts in general.

The martial arts training and at that time in particular Wing Chun Kung-Fu awakened me the urge for more knowledge and intensive training. I spent numerous hours studying Wing Chun and later other martial arts, which also motivated me to travel to countries to meet and study with different people, cultures, and philosophies.

Inspired by Kung-Fu!
I must admit the TV series with David Carradine named “Kung-Fu” with the story of the traveling Shaolin monk, increased my interest in Asian martial arts and philosophies. It was late summer or early fall when the German television (ZDF) started this then new series. Every night when I went to bed, I thought about how cool it would be to be able to travel all around the world with “Kung-Fu in my hands”.

A few years later, on a mission not to find someone specific, but to learn from the best masters, after a long training trip in California, I met a nice Spanish girl. After living in her small apartment for a while, we decided to afford a bigger place together.

While I was gathering and packing a few things from my parents’ house for the new apartment, my mother came to me and handed me a box. In it she kept for me various things from my childhood. Some old books and magazines, as well as various photos from my school days, my first Judo-Gi and some patches from various martial arts schools I had attended as a young child.

But in the box, there was also a German martial arts magazine from April 1973 with Bruce Lee on the cover, which immediately caught my attention. I remember thinking, “…strange, I was only four years old at the time! I wonder who owned this magazine? Who had bought it?”

So, I asked my mother, but she too did not remember who had bought this magazine. She did remember, however, that my father had the habit of taking all kinds of magazines home with him after work. On the weekends he spent a lot of time reading. In this way he wanted to learn the German language faster, because his own mother tongue was Italian.

Jeet Kune Do – Sifu JERRY POTEET visiting our Vacirca Academy in Zurich, Switzerland

From Kung-Fu to Jiu-Jitsu and back!
I teach since 1989 together with my brother Demetrio. Since then, we run two (separate) training groups (schools) that have (almost) nothing to do with each other. We also do not force students to take both programs, since personal progression and goals of the individual is important to us.

But our way of teaching Jiu-Jitsu and Kung-Fu is quite similar because our Kung-Fu benefits from our Jiu-Jitsu knowledge and vice versa, our Jiu-Jitsu from Kung-Fu. Doing martial arts takes a lot of courage, perseverance, and passion. These are, in my opinion, three of the most important attributes that a money-hungry person will never possess. Maybe for a short time, but on the exceptionally long way, such people will stop and look for new simpler ways to reach their goal.

I am someone who by nature, always looks forward and can adapt well to the times, but without ever losing sight of my mission and vision. We must remain true to ourselves if we also want to remain upright and faithful to our teachers and masters. Today, many are looking for “new things”, but in my opinion, there are not really any to be found. Today, many try to develop something new, but everyone who seriously practices martial arts, must admit that everything is already there, and have been always there. We can change the “packaging” and put a new name and label, but the content is the same.

In this sense, I wish you everyone to stay healthy and strong!
-Franco Vacirca

Published by Franco Vacirca

Martial arts and self-defense instructor since 1989, Consultant, Author, and Public Speaker. My goal is to teach Gracie Jiu-Jitsu the way it was intended to be taught, for self-empowering. I am based in Zurich, Switzerland - but I teach around the globe. I consider myself a Visionary Entrepreneur.

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