I started in martial arts in 1991, at age 35, with my older son. We ended up (mostly by chance) at Marschke's School of Tae Kwon Do (TKD), led by Master Charles Marschke. I loved all the fancy kicks, forms, sparring, board-breaking, and the wonderful friends I made at the TKD school. My younger son soon joined us, and the three of us trained together for several years, were all awarded black belts, and I became an instructor at the school. During this period I was also busy earning my Ph.D., while continuing to teach full-time at the University, so the almost daily "family vacation" at TKD became an essential outlet and stress reliever for me. As I became more mature in my Tae Kwon Do practice, I started exploring what other martial arts had to offer, through workshops, demonstrations, and some private lessons. I began to seek a deeper understanding of my internal energies, and how to better integrate the internal and external. And while TKD had helped me learn how to move, I sensed my own need to balance that with stillness, both in my martial arts and in my life.
In 1996, at age 39, I joined the Vermont Kung Fu Academy. From the minute I joined the KF academy, I knew that Kung Fu was the art I wanted to study for the rest of my life, and that there would be no limit to what I could learn from it. This feeling has further intensified as we have increasingly incorporated the study of Yin Style Bagua Zhang into the school. However, because of my many close friendships at Marschke's TKD, it was very difficult for me to leave the TKD school altogether. For several years I actively participated in both the KF and TKD schools, and even went on to earn my second and third degree black belts in TKD, although my participation steadily decreased in TKD as it increased in KF. During the year I spent preparing for my black sash testing in KF (2002), I ceased regular practice of TKD altogether so I could focus all my energies on my KF. In 2003, I joined the staff at the Vermont Kung Fu Academy, teaching classes in both Shaolin Kung Fu and Yin Style Bagua Zhang.
Shortly after I joined the KF school, my hips unexpectedly began to rapidly deteriorate from osteoarthritis (due to developmental hip dysplasia). I continued to train as best I could. In 1999 I received bilateral hip replacements. I now modify my KF practice accordingly to stay within my permanent restrictions. Because of my hip problems, many of my family and friends assumed that I would have to give up martial arts, and suggested that I find another form of exercise that would be easier on my hips. Although this advice was well intentioned, it reflected a complete misunderstanding of the role of KF in my life. My kung fu is way more than just a form of exercise for me--it is an integral part of who I am and is not something I will ever cease to do, although the manifestation of my practice will undoubtedly constantly change as I age. In my practice, I am continually confronted with many things in myself that I work to overcome, on a variety of levels--in some ways, my physical limitations are the least of these challenges!