“So…This Washes Off, Right?” – My First Tattoo & Reminding Myself of My Goals 6 Months In

It’s been 6 months…that went fast! I remember when I first had the idea of coming to train at Maling Academy that I would be happy if I lasted half a year, so I’m thankful that not only have I lasted, but I really enjoy my lifestyle here. However, this does mean that I do not have long left, so I wanted a momentum to always carry with me to remind myself of the positive thoughts, feelings and ideas that have been catalysed whilst training here, in an effort to live a better life back home. That momentum is a meaningful tattoo!

Why a tattoo? I’m a snob when it comes to tattoos. I’ve never had one before and never really wanted them. It’s because I see so many people with random shit tattooed on them, with symbols/logos/words that they don’t even know the meaning of. Or I see that generic tribal tattoo that guys have on their shoulder and arm, parading it when on holiday with the other 10 guys that have the same tattoo for no reason. For me all parts of the tattoo should mean something to you (and only you), the design should be personal and the place you have it done also means something to you. I would be using a tattoo to both celebrate reaching this far in my training, but also as a reminder for when I am not here. That reminder would be what I have tattooed. 

From my first grading here the positive feedback from Master Du was that I had good spirit, a good fierceness into the moves. My master (Wang) has also said this throughout the forms I complete. I have also heard this throughout different parts of my life; whether it be when making a speech in public, or when I was part of a street dance crew, feedback suggested there was always an air of confidence emitting from me. This is a part of me that I had honestly lost sight of before I got here. I had been concentrating in Qi Gong and Tai Chi classes to find this feeling again. When I feel like I may have nothing else, I can depend that in me is this ‘spirit’, this level of effort that differentiates me, and this can see me through some potentially tough times. This lead me to finding an appropriate Chinese sentence for my tattoo ‘Shàngwǔ jīngshén’, which means ‘Martial Spirit’.

Headmaster Bao overlooking my Tai Chi moves while I try to find the feeling

Before I got here I saw pictures and videos of previous students getting a tattoo done together, and thought this would add to more of a meaning to the tattoo idea. Like a tradition. Glad that Matt was going to get a tattoo with me. He has gone through some ups and downs here, overcoming some great personal hurdles leading to him greatly improving, so I felt that we were both marking our bodies for a good reason. Tattoo brothers! We got this done in the Lady Square area in Xinyi. Mona was with us so that there was no mistake on translation of our tattoos (the biggest fear!). First they show you a few different fonts of the writing. I jokingly asked to see a version in ‘Times New Roman’ or ‘Wingdings’, but I think that font-based-Lol went over the tattooist’s head. He then printed out some sizes to see what I thought looked best on my body. A trace version was then transfered to my body that he would use to outline and fill in. I was comforted by the fact there were stages to see what it looked like and make changes. So I was all set. Characters all lined up exactly where I wanted to them. 

Shàngwǔ jīngshén fonts – The Tattooist getting everything perfect for me

Let’s do this! Unfortunately the shop didn’t not have a chair to lie down on! I had to sit on a chair that elevated me by sitting on tattoo books, and leaning on a pillow #budget. The needle gun went in…and it was…OK! On a pain scale it went up to about 3 out of 10, but the most uncomfortable feeling was my arse getting more numb than a Linkin Park song. I was dreading the one nearer my ribs (heard that hurts alot!) but shockingly it was the lower character on my spare tyre that was more of an annoying prick than Jaden Smith!

Needle about to go in for the first time

Half way done annnnddddd my arse had gone to sleep

Martial Spirit has a big history that you can look into separately. Mona gave me a book with like 10 pages (front & back!), but there was one thing that resonated more with me. It’s the energy of martial arts that is so engrained into everything you do, no matter if you are studying Kung Fu or not. The energy is constantly running through you; the power, the flow, the idea, and if you acknowledge this then you can accomplish anything with true balance. Yes, the martial arts energy reflects on me because of what I am doing, however the spirit can energise me in everything I do, especially when I go home and re-join the working world.

Shàngwǔ jīngshén – How raised my tattoo looked when it was fresh off the needle

Matt’s means “strive to become stronger”. He had a tattoo done before so he was coaching me through this, although I think it twinged him a bit more than he thought as so he asked me to play Michael Jackson on my phone to distract him (he is a BIG MJ fan!). 

Matt looking bored while Coach Peter goes in for a deep look

A few Smooth Criminals later, he was done, and they also touched up his other tattoo. All this costing each of us just over £30. Bargain!

Matt & Me all tattoed up and seeing if our Shaolin training had revealed any ab muscles!

All done! Matt, the tattoist and myself in front of the “hall of fame”

Adding to the mix Master Wang last minute decided to get a tattoo! Him, Mona and Peter were there watching, and so while flicking through a book he convinced himself. He was pretty secretive about it, saying we could leave and he just had a question to ask the tattooist…next thing you know he arrives at dinner with a dragon on his pectoral! 

Master Wang – Dragon emblazened over his heart

My tattoo is not to look cool (that just happens to be a side effect);

It is on me as a permanent reminder that I have something running through me that I am naturally good at, so that I can break down any barriers that present themselves in the future. 

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