Considering the cultural diversity and artistic excellence that thrive in Bushwick, it only makes sense that some of the oldest forms of martial arts are being taught by a 30-year veteran right in our backyard.
Master Sifu Lee hosts Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes at Loom Yoga (1087 Flushing Ave) daily. But beware, his classes are not for the faint of heart, or for those exercise enthusiasts who are looking to break up their Soulcycle and 305 fitness routine.
I observed his Monday night Tai Chi class. The students were intensely focused on their memorized body movements and concentrated breathing. The group moved in sync to these well-practiced routines, hungry for the next teaching.
Mr. Lee’s classes are intentionally small. On Monday only three students were present, and a class is never bigger than 30 Kung Fu and Tai Chi students collectively, at once. Mr. Lee looks for commitment in those he teaches.
“You can’t be a part-time martial artist,” he told us, “because no one would want a part-time lawyer, or a part-time doctor or a part-time friend… it’s incomplete.”
Commitment, according to Mr. Lee, means practicing daily, and using the class as a check-in and an opportunity to learn more (but not as your sole practice time for the week).
Many of Mr. Lee’s students have been with him for decades. His NYC Shaolin Kung Fu Team competes nationally and holds four U.S. titles.
Mr. Lee explains that “the system” (his teachings were passed down to him from his Master’s teachings) has to survive through the enthusiasm of those practicing it. For 1,000 years Shaolin Kung Fu (one of the oldest institutionalized styles of Chinese martial arts and the kind that Mr. Lee teaches) has been passed on by word of mouth (not by books, tapes or audible.com). The system is very complex and works only by way of master to disciple.
Now, you certainly don’t need black belt ambitions to take classes with Mr. Lee. But you will need a certain level of dedication and an openness that starts with trying to understand the (seemingly) simple things – walking, breathing, reading other people. If you speak with Mr. Lee, you’ll learn quickly that the physiological practice of Tai Chi and Kung Fu is more important than any physical capability – anticipating others, watching them anticipate you and becoming very conscious of your environment. At the very least, you will leave your first class much more aware of what is in front of, and behind you.
Tai Chi classes are held every Monday and Wednesday at 7:30pm. Kung Fu classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm at Loom Yoga Center, 1087 Flushing Ave, Bushwick. A drop-in class is $12. For more info, check their website.