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Wing Chun Und Sprachschule

Practicing splits
When I first left Stuttgart, I was very nervous for many reasons. What if my next au pair family didn't work out? What if I didn't like my new class as much as I loved my old classes? Would I be able to find friends and a church so easily again? Would I even enjoy the rest of my time? 

These are such silly worries, I know. But looking back, I realize I was more stressed than I let myself acknowledge. And my health was not good at all. I've never had a problem finding things to do and people to do them with. And yet the first two months in Germany really upturned my confidence for a time. 

That was good, by the way. It's wonderful learning and growing, especially once the pain is gone. 
I didn't even fully realize how poor my health had become until I saw this picture taken with my new German classmates. I had become very quiet and reserved, with little motivation to share with others. I told myself it was because I felt so much peace. Which was true. I was so at peace with myself ... but only in so much that I could hardly stand to be around the world and their conflict. I cared little for my clothes and my eyes were heavy and puffy in all pictures. 

I realized I needed to make use of my last four months in Germany and not simply get through them. 
I had come to learn. I would learn and live. 

And so I did as much as possible to break that out of that "peace" and find life again. 

I decided to do something crazy, something I'd always wanted to, but never thought I'd have the nerve to do. I signed up for a martial arts that I'd had a fascination with for years; I signed up for Wing Chun. 
Settlers of Caton with German class. Teacher is at the end of the table in the black blouse. There were way more students than what we had show up on this night.

Random German class I attended with some other au pairs
We loved going to extra classes when we could. Once we even drove an hour to go to a special event our german teacher hosted, where everyone was forced to discuss in German. There was food, which we au pairs loved, and then we were some of the younger ones, so we were asked tons of questions. Everyone seemed so enthused about what I had to share about homeschooling—I always looked for an opportunity to share about unique things with my limited vocabulary ;) 
Why did I worry about finding friends? These were two of my favorites that I still keep in contact with. 
It was a change for many reasons. 
I do not wear pants. 
I am not super free with being physically free around people. I have issues with hugging people, and though I'm extroverted, I do not like being touched by people I do not know well. I tense, I freeze, and I want to hide. 

As much as I like trying new things, I also like being safe. 
This wasn't really safe in my books. I would be driving to my lessons, I would be hanging out with men, and I would be wearing pants. I would be doing many, many things that were outside of my comfort (but not outside of my conscious, mind you). 

And yet, I wanted to take the lessons. And so I began searching for a place. 

Surprisingly, there were many studios all over the place. I found one immediately and emailed the guy in charge at once in a mixture of English and German. He responded, and offered me a free lesson (I'd been told this is normal). But then I found out the lesson was a private lesson, and possibly not at a studio. I have a bad feeling in my gut (something I rarely get) and contacted a woman who I know is heavily involved in martial arts. She said the first message made her "spidey senses" tingle. I hadn't had any concerns until one of the last ones. She said that I request more info about the location and if others would be around. So I did. The guy immediately grew angry and called me immature and that I had disrespected his character. I did feel bad, but at the same time, I felt he should understand as a self-defense instructor. But because of it all, I decided not to go. Who knows if it would have been bad, but my au pair mother helped me find a place that ended up being closer. 

This place also gave me a first free lesson, but it was in a group setting and in a school gym. So the atmosphere was much better. 
Knitting while waiting for Wing Chun
When we went to check out the first lesson, my au pair father brought me. I wasn't going to stay, as I had no clothes, but a girl there offered me her extra clothes. And so I participated in my very first martial arts early December of 2019. I remember feeling very weak but enjoying the lesson immensely. 

Shortly after, my au pair father took me to buy clothes for future lessons. As we were shopping heatwaves passed over me and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open and not double over. Instead of driving to my next lesson, I went to bed and slept for the rest of the day, and the following night. I'm not sure what happened, but I hadn't felt so terrible in a very long time. 

With all these things together, I realized it was time I not only worked on doing something with my time in Germany but on returning my health. I found some dance workouts and started doing them every day. I stopped eating bread as much as possible and started eating eggs every day. I went outside for fresh air whenever possible. I tried not to stress when that was possible. I found ways to laugh and make others laugh. And I danced. 

Every day, even above my writing, I prioritized an hour or more to locking my room door from the children (or having them join me) and dancing. I remember feeling very weak and exhausted at first but always exhilarated. 
Slowly the fogginess in my brain that I'd mistaken for peace disintegrated, and joy for life resumed. I saw art once more, and my desire to add to the world and not simply pass through returned. 

And my Wing Chun lessons were such a joy! I loved everyone, especially Marcella and Eva, the two girls who I fought with the most. I loved the teacher, and the cleaning lady. I enjoyed moving my body in new ways. I enjoyed stretching my mind to understand the German, and exchanging conversation in English and German. 

Sometimes it was freaky having my neck grabbed, or being tossed around. Sometimes my nerves actually did panic when someone "attacked". It was always a joy when my nerves responded with the appropriate tactics ... though often I had to do it over and over and over. 

The lessons were so cheap; only fifty euros a month. On my last lesson, the teacher asked if I wanted to do anything special for my last time. I said I loved it all, and so he taught us something new: defending with our eyes closed.  The attacker would move at us slow motion, and we would react only with our pressure, giving in to the pressure, so not to fight it and waste our own energy, but to have the pressure take its full course and fall away on its own. That was beyond lovely. 

Once the teacher asked me how we might defend ourselves in USA. Always wishing to offer a clever answer, and knowing Germans have a weird awe of guns, I raised my fingers, pointed, and said, "Pow!" 

Everyone laughed. 

And so then the teacher showed me what to do if faced with a gun or knife, if I had neither, or what to do if I had one or another. First, with the gun, he said, "If I have a knife and you have a gun, where will you shoot me?" 

I pointed at his hand with the knife. 

He said, "No. You miss and then you die. You live only if you kill me."

I hated it, but he then spent the next few minutes restating this lesson over and over, asking what would I do, and then telling me, no, my only option was to kill him. 

His favorite lesson though was this, "Run!"

And he would make us run, and do all sorts of exercises. 
This is a picture of our last night. Ironically, it was their last lesson, too, because after that COVID shut everything down. There were usually a lot more people present, but not this night. I'm sad especially that the young Asian boy who I fought with a lot isn't pictured. The teacher is in the striped shirt. 

Eva, the girl in the blue tank top was the one to loan me clothes at the very start. She was very interesting to discuss things with—she loved to ask my about my views on science and global warming and Christianity, and though we didn't agree, we have some fun conversations. 

Marcella, the girl beside me, is the one I fought with the most. She seemed very level-headed and very sweet and kind and open to other opinions, yet strong in her own. Very motivated and driven to thinking about others. A good soul. 

Wing Chun and my German classes happened two nights a week, the one and then the other. On Mondays I often had to sit an hour between. I would knit and listen to an audiobook, or talk to the cleaning lady. 

When I first saw her, I remember being scared to use my German, but I tried, "Ich bin auch Putzfrau." I am also a cleaner. I told her.

We talked about family, work, life, Germany. She told me she was from Russia, which surprised me. "Deutsch ist nicht dein Muttersprache?" German isn't your first language?

She laughed and said no it wasn't even so good. Just goes to show how poor mine was because I thought she was native. 

On my last night, I got a selfie with her, too, and we exchanged emails and numbers. 
It was a very sad night. I gave cards to my German and Wing Chun teachers, said goodbye to so many lovely people, exchanged so many numbers and emails, and took many pictures.

And what is Wing Chun, some of you will still be asking? It's the most artistic martial arts ever, in my opinion. If you'd like to see what it looks like, check out the movies IP Man

I've been looking to do Wing Chun again since coming home, but can't find any classes nearby. So I will probably choose another martial art. But whatever I do, I will always be glad that I used those last few months fully, pursuing language and health and cultivating memories and friendships that will impact me for the rest of my life. 

This is why I say, when you travel, don't go for conventional, but go for something of deeper meaning; something that will test your confidence, extend your comfort zone, and leave you feeling as if you have indeed grown. 

Whether it means visiting Berlin simply for thriftshops, touring a concentration camp because of a German man you're obsessed with, traveling to Munich to learn Wing Chun, and hanging out with Mexicans in Deutschland, or making your own unconventional adventures, I think you'll find as I did, that what makes traveling gorgeous isn't all the touristy parts (which hold a beauty of their own) but the path that isn't even yet unbeaten, because it's waiting to be made by you. 


  1. Ahhh!!! I love the IP Man movies. :) My brother is a second-degree black belt in Karate, and then the pastor of one of our churches in IN is actually a Wing Chun teacher. And then a friend of mine is also a Wing Chun black belt. So it's cool to hear about other folks learning it as well! (And in Germany - how cool!!)

    1. Some of the best movies! There were lots of Wing Chun studios in Germany, but there isn't a single one in MT ;/ So I'm gonna have to find another martial arts to love. Not sure which one.

  2. Wing Chun sounds cool. I've always thought marshals arts so cool. I know there is some sort of studio in our town, but it's not Wing Chun. :)

    1. Funny thing, I never really was interested in martial arts that much until I discovered Wing Chun. And yeah, I looked, but I don't think there are any Wing Chun studios in Montana at all ;/

  3. I'm so glad everything worked out and then you got to try new things.
    Wing Chun sounds like fun.


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