I first became aware of the martial arts around age 6 or 7, watching Captain Kirk's karate chops, samurai swordsmen on ABC's Wide World of Sports, and the TV series Kung Fu. Around the same time I saw an ad in the back of a comic book that promised I could learn Kung Fu for only $7. The illustration showed a muscular man with a woman in each arm, and that looked pretty good to me, although I was a bit suspicious about the low price.

My first look at the reality of training came from a book by Masutatsu Oyama,Vital Karate, which showed "incredible feats an ordinary person could not dream of", like splitting a watermelon with a spearhand, chopping off the top of a standing bottle, or breaking a stack of roofing tiles with the knife edge of the foot. The book also detailed the Karate practitioner's training regimen, and showed self-defense scenarios.

My martial arts training began in 1981 in a small Kung Fu class in Rochester, NY. We gathered weekly and went over some basic exercises, a few of which I still do today at the VKFA. My training continued more formally in 1983 when I joined Duteau's Shaolin Kung Fu Wu Su Academy in Rochester. I was always more interested in Kung Fu than other martial arts, and this was a traditional Chinese Kung Fu school. Sifu Duteau studied under Grandmaster Alan Lee of the Chinese Kung Fu Wu Su Association. The staff at Sifu Duteau's school was very respectful and disciplined, and Sifu Duteau's dedication to teaching this traditional art form was an inspiration. After the first practice, I couldn't even lift my hand to my face. My muscles had never been used this way, and I was hooked. I had found my home for the next four years. We drilled the basics--stances, strikes, self defenses--as well as an extensive stretching and conditioning regimen, all of which completely changed me physically and mentally.

I moved to Vermont in 1987 and tried out a few other martial arts schools until I found Sifu Arthur Makaris in 1988. Since then I have focused on learning forms, and continued with the comprehensive, holistic conditioning regimen that Chinese Kung Fu offers. The Academy opened its new location in 1994. It was a dream come true for us, to have a permanent home after years of training in gyms, schoolyards, dance studios and backyards. I have enjoyed watching the Academy grow since then, and am honored to be able to work with new and experienced students, sharing what is closest to my heart--this discipline, this art that has so thoroughly changed me. I know I will be practicing Kung Fu my whole life, and look forward to improving my skills and deepening my understanding of all that our training offers--physically, mentally and spiritually.