Aprill Shepherd

1st Degree Black Belt

My martial arts studies began with karate classes in the student center at Georgia Tech. This style did not hold my attention, as I had hoped, so I began looking for another style to study. I found an instructor teaching Hung Gar kung-fu and studied with him for several years while I finished my Bachelor's degree and landed my first job. I let a job transfer to Detroit bring my martial arts studies to a halt. It was another 13 years, a career change, and a move to Lexington before my martial arts studies would begin again. It has been my honor to study Shaolin-Do as a student of Elder Master Bill Leonard.

In the past, a reasonable amount of hand-eye coordination and athletic ability have enabled me to catch on pretty quickly to new sports and activities. It did not take long to reach a level in Shaolin-Do where these abilities no longer provided an advantage. Although athletic, I'm not particularly flexible and this has demanded some extra attention. When I become flustered or overwhelmed, I tend to confuse my left side and right side.

Interestingly, the limitations I experience are more mental than physical. Shaolin-Do is an amazing full body workout that pushes your body to the limit and helps you to discover muscle groups previously unknown. If that is what you take out of your studies, you have gained something. Every time I set foot in class I discover that the physical side only begins to scratch the surface of this art. If you can get out of your own way, past the mental limitations, there is so much more you can take away from your studies — confidence, stamina, humility, patience, increased health, a sense of well-being, and resistance to negative influences.

My intention with each class is to leave everything at the door of the dojo and spend my class time free of the outside world. I must confess that this is difficult on several levels. I have trouble being patient with myself, giving myself enough time to learn new material. I struggle with the thought that my natural athletic ability will see me through and that perhaps I don't need to practice EVERY day (laziness). Each class and each practice session test my memory and mental focus. If I bring outside worries into class, my ability to perform and learn suffers. I am not aware of multi-tasking in Shaolin-Do; only focused mental attention. Much like life, when my attention is divided, my efforts suffer. Shaolin-Do classes, when done properly, are a moving meditation.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I have resisted letting Shaolin-do in outside of class and practice. Ironic that I wish to practice this art the rest of my life, yet I attempt to keep it compartmentalized and separated from my everyday life. I am learning that I get more out of class and life when I lighten up; take time to reflect on what I have learned and what I have yet to master; and practice focused mental attention. Upon second thought, I see that Shaolin-do HAS seeped into my everyday life, and that is a VERY good thing.

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