Kung Fu literally means hard work, but that doesn’t deter those attracted to the martial art. The skills learned, along with the mental challenge and benefits of physical fitness, are what draw people of all ages to the sport.
David Sierra, 62, has been involved in Kung Fu off and on since his college years. After retiring from Texas Parks and Wildlife after 39 years, he found solace in Kung Fu.
“It just fascinates me — the whole concept, the skill and the history of the art,” Sierra said.
He performed his first black belt test two years ago on his 60th birthday. Getting to that level took about 4 1/2 years. Two years later, he earned the Level 1 black belt and is training for the second level black belt.
“Very few people do that,” said Brandon Jones, owner and instructor at Tyler Kung Fu. “Most people obtain their black belt before the age of 25, if they start out young.”
Potential black belts must undergo a series of difficult challenges over a few years. It includes performing empty hand forms, weapon forms, running three miles, sparing with other black belts for an hour and a horse stance for five minutes, which resembles a squatted position.
“What makes David significant is that wasn’t necessarily a goal of his when he started,” Jones said. “Over the years, he accepted the goal that he wanted to take the black level.”
Jones is a Level 5 black belt, earning the title of Sifu, which took about 13 years to achieve. In the style Tyler Kung Fu uses, there are 13 levels, from white to red belts, before one can obtain their first black belt. Jones still trains with a Dallas-based master teacher every three to four months. Of at least 200 students, Jones has two Sifus and nine black belts in his organization.
Black belt is a goal for many, but very few of those who sign up for Kung Fu will achieve it.
“It’s still a very prestigious thing to do,” Jones said. “Very few people do it. It’s not that it’s so difficult. It’s just that it’s a commitment.”
The former wildlife biologist had been going to the facility but didn’t make a commitment until his wife gave him a certificate for two month’s worth of lesson as a birthday gift.
It was a perfect solution to avoid falling into a post-retirement rut.
“People retire, and they sit down and that’s it,” he said. “(My wife) wanted me to have something after I retired, and this is what we decided would be best for me to keep active.”
Sierra said the key to remaining active in the later years is to just get up and move but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
“The whole trick to staying fit is to do something you enjoy,” he said.
Sierra has taught youth and adult classes at Tyler Kung Fu Fitness for more than a year.