Long before there was anything called CrossFit I was practicing the martial arts.
By a strange series of coincidences I came to befriend Master Pan Qing Fu, the “Iron Fist” one of the greatest and probably the most famous of Chinese Wushu (Kung Fu) Masters of his generation. Former Chinese National Wushu Champion, former anti-triad gang-buster, Film star and Head Coach of the Chinese National Wushu, Team Master Pan was an elemental force and people and scripts traveled from all over the world vying for his attention.
And we would just hang out in his study. Occasionally I tried to learn from him but was admittedly never very good. Master Pan had Presence with a capital “P”. Actually, strike that. He had PRESENCE. If you met him, you would not forget him. His eyes alone were fierce enough to scare off danger and his heavily calloused fist could pulverize brick.
It is rare to meet someone who has pursued mastery with a single-minded focus and when you do meet such a person, whatever their domain of expertise, you will discover an uncommon depth of wisdom. If you have the opportunity to meet such a person, listen to their words carefully and try to remember them.
Master Pan shared a Chinese proverb: “If you want to taste sweet, you must first eat bitter.”
Being young I had no appetite for bitter. I had never applied myself to any endeavour long enough to acquire any particular skill. I understood what he meant but I didn’t really UNDERSTAND what he meant. Not in a way that was meaningful.
Interestingly it was not through martial arts that I learned to eat bitter but through CrossFit. And perhaps that is why I love it so.
We live in a world where everyone wants results and they want them now. But very few people are willing to work to achieve said results. We don’t possess the discipline to deny our appetites, the commitment to follow through on our resolutions, the tenacity to train through our excuses. We want to taste sweet but refuse to eat bitter.
Those of you who completed Chelsea this week have had a taste of bitter. But it was just a taste. CrossFit has many more bitter dishes to serve. But for the first time in my life I haven’t shied away from bitter. For 10 years now I have sat at the CrossFit table and asked: “Please sir, may I have another?”
And as Master Pan predicted, after all that bitter I have come to taste sweet: the sweetness of loving the body I live in, the sweetness of exceeding my expectations, the sweetness of hard-won success, the sweetness of traveling that sparsely populated road toward mastery.
I eat bitter every day in our little box on Dunbar Street and because I do, my life tastes sweeter than ever I imagined.