What is the Kung Fu Life?

The Kung Fu Life emerges from deliberate and consistent practice. It is the outcome of developing the Kung Fu Habits that lead to the best possible version of yourself.

While this is a true statement, it is also relatively dense. Let’s break it down by looking at this idea of the “best possible version” of yourself. This goal of self-improvement can be called the Growth Mindset. When most people seek to grow and improve their lives through Kung Fu training, they often seek three outcomes: to be Fitto be Focused, and to be Fearless.

The outcome of being Fit may mean losing fat or gaining muscle, building strength or flexibility, or simply developing the functional capacity to do whatever activity they want to pursue. 

The outcome of being Focused typically means improving concentration, boosting creativity, eliminating mental chatter, and controlling stress. 

Becoming Fearless is to become confident in your ability to overcome adversity and courageous in your beliefs and actions.

These are potent outcomes and worthy goals, but a goal without a plan is just a wish. Achieving any desired goal requires a process. You can accomplish a short-term goal with a simple process: to lose weight, follow this diet; to build big biceps, stick to this upper-body workout. But long-term goals — especially life-long goals — require cultivating systems of change and adopting productive habits.

Since ancient times, Kung Fu masters have perfected systems of training that yield astounding results. The monks of Shaolin became legendary for their physical fitness, their mental focus, and their incomparable fighting skills. These styles and systems of Kung Fu evolved around disciplined practice over time or the cultivation of elemental Kung Fu Habits.

This level of commitment takes work. To develop Kung Fu — literally: high-level skill — requires developing transformational habits. And most of us have had mixed results with trying to build new (good) habits or to stop old (bad) habits. Setting a desired outcome is a great target: lose weight, stop smoking, etc. Establishing a process — investing in healthy meals, or scheduling time at the gym — initiates action and progress toward that goal. But something deeper often determines whether we stick to our new habits or slide back into our old behaviors.

The difference is identity

The most effective way to change your habits and achieve your goals is to focus on who you wish to become. To lose weight or build strength, focus on becoming a healthy person. To stick to your daily workout plan, focus on becoming an athlete. To develop the fighting skills of a Shaolin monk, focus on becoming a martial artist. 

Your identity emerges out of what you repeatedly do. Every repetition of a habit reinforces that self-image; every practice is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. The most practical way to evolve who you are is to change what you do.

In Kung Fu, this process is known as Goi Sin (改善) and means continual improvement. This mindset is perhaps better known by the Japanese term Kaizen. It is the mindset of Shaolin monks and samurai alike, and in the modern age, it is embraced by business leaders, entrepreneurs, and high-performers in every field.

The mindset of continual improvement requires you to continually upgrade your habits, edit your beliefs, and deepen or expand your identity. 

When you operate at this level, you live the Kung Fu Life. You embody the concept of continual improvement. You can no longer tell where Kung Fu ends, and Life begins.


What Does This Have To Do With T-Shirts?

To become Fit, Focused, and Fearless (the outcomes), you must train and practice (the process). Your commitment to the process determines your progress. The most practical way to solidify your commitment is to tie it to the vision of who you want to become (identity). 

And we reflect who we are in the t-shirts that we wear. That guy in the Under Armor t-shirt is an athlete. The girl in the Namaste t-shirt is a Yogi. The guy wearing the Mossy Oak tee is an outdoorsman. And the person in a Kung Fu t-shirt is living the Kung Fu Life.

When you slip on a Kung Fu t-shirt, you set an intention. You remind yourself to practice, to relax, to problem-solve. You wear a hint to stay mindful or a nudge to stay on course to your True North. It can also remind you to avoid bad habits or old behaviors that may slow your progress.

Wearing a Kung Fu tee is also social. It may trigger questions like, “Isn’t Wing Chun a British band from the ’80s?” Or you may find yourself saying, “Yes, there’s a Fight Club in Tokyo, but I can’t talk about it.” The designs are meant to be conversation starters as much as anything else.

The t-shirt is simply an outer expression of an inner commitment: to be Fit, to be Focused, to be Fearless — to become the best possible version of yourself. And it helps to be able to point to that little plum flower symbol and say, “I know Kung Fu.”