Gung Ho and Kung Fu

"You know that place in the back of Tai Tung where the old Kung Fu Federation used to be? Anyway there was the office back there, and that;s where the Gung Ho boys used to hang out. My brother was in it and all my friends were too so I would hang out there with them."

"Why didn't you join?" I asked Fred. (Not his real name.)

"That's a good question." He took another sip of tea. "I was all ready to join, it was my freshman year in high school at Brookline high and all my friends were joining. In fact we had already had this meeting and my name was even entered into the book. It was early November. And I went over to Teddy Bear."

"Teddy Bear was this arcade where everyone hung out and if you didn't know Teddy Bear, than I'm sorry you didn't grow up in the city. Everyone knew Teddy Bear. Anyway, I went over there with a bunch of friends and I talked to the bouncer over there. Big Persian guy. And I said, 'You know, I'm getting ready to join soon.' and he says, 'Why do you want to do that?'

"I was taken aback. I mean 'What do you mean?' All my friends were joining. Of course I was going to join. It was that whole peer pressure thing. So he asked me, 'Do you think of yourself as a leader or a follower?'
I thought about it, and I told him, 'I think of myself as a leader.'"

"'If you think of yourself as a follower then go ahead and join. But if you think of yourself as a leader, then don't do it.' he says. Then I said to him 'What if I work my way up the ranks and get to the top?'
He laughed and was like, 'Yeah get in line.' So after that little pep talk, a little later we were all together and they were like, "C'mon let's go up to the club it's time." And I was like, 'I'm not going.' My friends all looked at me like I was crazy. "What you mean you're not going?" And I just shook my head and said, "You guys g one without me."

"Now do I regret not joining? But in the end, it didn't really make a difference anyway. I still hung out with all of them all the time. So in a way, it's like I'm a member without being a member."

What about Kung Fu?

Fred laughed. "You know. I never really was into any of that growing up."

I thought this was strange because Fred was a well known practitioner and I mentioned this.

"I got railroaded into it. I had a friend Jimmy, who tended bar and he was always coming into the restaurant after his shift. And he asked me if he knew of any could Kung Fu places around. I said, 'Hey you're in Chinatown take your pick.' But he wanted me to take him around. So we actually went over to you guys, Woo Ching, but at the time you guys were still partnered with Lei Fahn Fung. And Bog Mike was there. And I love Big Mike.... now, but I didn't know him at the time. And well it just didn't seem like a very inviting environment."

I laughed at this because a lot of my friends coming into the school in the past had mentioned something similar. (Though I didn't feel that way obviously)

"So then we walked across the quad to Bo Sim Mark's And then we asked some questions dadada but then when they mentioned the tuition $160.00 a month. Jimmy's mouth dropped. And so we kept going. So we went over to Wah Lum and for this reason or that, none of the school's were really fitting his criteria. I was like, 'Jimmy, w've been everywhere.' But I remembered one more place I had heard about from a friend by chance. This guy told me he worked out at the gym in Teradyne and I was like, 'Whatever.' but I decided to take Jimmy over there now."

What is a good price as a consumer, by the way? (I wanted to know because I teach as well, but have never been financially successful when it comes down to it.)

"I'll get to that," Fred said smiling. " So we go to Teradyne, and actually the guy who taught there had a restaurant, Gyuhama, and it was one of the very first if not the first Sushi restaurants in the Boston. But his restaraunt as a business concept was AWESOME." Fred said with wide hand motions. "During the day, they would have a very traditional menu and the waitresses would where the traditional kimonos. But then, around 10pm half the wait staff would disappear and then, literally, a switch was flipped and there would be disco lights and music and it became like a club. And then the waitresses would return with tight T-shirts and miniskirts and the menu was different, like a hip more modern version."

"Anyway we didn't know that yet. But we could see the people practicing with their Gi's on and very intense and into it. And so someone came over and we said 'yeah we would like to know more about what you're doing here.' And you know they gave me the run down, Black belt 5 years dadada... and so we asked, 'How much?'" Fred paused.

"'They said, 'Ten bucks a month!'"

How did he make money?

"He didn't need to make money because he had the restaurant! He taught just because he was passionate about Karate. But he had schools in all the Universities and a lot of other places too. So anyway, Jimmy was like, "This is the place!" And I was like "Good luck to you then." But he says, "You gotta do it with me! Think about it. We'll get in shape, we'll learn to kick some ass, and its only 10 bucks a month!"

"So anyway I tried it out with him and I really liked the teacher. He would always take out to his restaurant afterward and so I try to repay those favors now. And I stuck with it. And now I do Kung Fu but it all started with Shotokan at Teradyne.... and would you believe it? Jimmy quit after 3 months!"

#Chinatown Blog